It’s been a long day. You just started massage therapy school a couple weeks ago, and you’re already exhausted.

To reward yourself after another day of anatomy and physiology (which is always a headache,) you grab some cold pizza out of the fridge. While you’re at it, you figure you might as well grab those chips on the counter. Oh, and maybe that soda from last night.

In the moment, it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of carbs and fats. But what if that’s why you’re always tired? What if that’s why it’s hard to focus, even though you’re passionate about becoming a registered massage therapist?

Turns out, you can improve your academic performance by tweaking one thing: nutrition.

What does “good nutrition” look like?

When you hear “eating healthy,” you probably picture oats, acai bowls, and tofu. But if you’re going through massage therapy school, you might not have the time or money to research, prepare, and buy elaborate keto meals.

Luckily, eating healthy doesn’t have to be over the top. Canada food guide recommendations simplify nutrition into your grains, protein, dairy, fruits, and vegetables intake, all of which can be adapted to your food preferences. For example, their daily grains recommendations are 3 to 5 servings for women and 4 to 8 servings for men. Three cups of popcorn count as a serving of grain.

As much as you love coffee, Canada’s food guide also recommends limiting caffeine. Other than that, try to limit your processed foods (full of sodium and sugar,) processed meats, and trans fats.

What are the academic benefits of good nutrition?

While having carrots on hand rather than chips may not sound appealing, the benefits are well worth it. Research shows that eating consistent meals (as opposed to snacking or skipping meals) with natural sugars (i.e. fruits) is linked to higher academic success.

Another study shows that students who have breakfast 5 days a week and don’t frequently eat fast food have significantly higher GPAs. That’s because a diet of highly processed foods leads to fatigue and doesn’t give your brain the nutrients it needs for optimal performance.

When you give your brain and body the right kind of food and the right amount of food, you’ll find that you have more energy, an increased ability to focus, and better sleeping patterns. All these factors contribute to better academic performance, so you’ll feel good inside and outside of the classroom.

To Sums Things Up

Treating yourself to a sugary snack every once in a while isn’t the end of the world. But basing your diet on those USDA recommendations will make sure your body is getting everything it needs to fight off illness and stay energized.

Your brain will also thank you. Stimulants like caffeine will fire up your neurons in the short run but becoming reliant on caffeine to get schoolwork done will not maximize your potential. Adjusting your nutrition will improve your memory, keep you focused for longer periods of time, and mitigate the effects of depression and anxiety.

On your journey to becoming a registered massage therapist, good nutrition will carry you far.