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Green smoothie and herbal tea

Drugs, coffee, energy drinks? Find out this student´s secret to getting a 1st

Interview with Tina Gogna

Girl shopping

Have you ever wondered how some students manage it all? They successfully juggle a part-time job, internships, being President of a huge Society and achieve top marks in their degree. On top of this, they maintain a great social life and healthy lifestyle habits. We´ve all wondered what their secrets are. Are these people enlaced with some super-human DNA? How do they achieve all of this?

Meet Tina. She recently graduated from the University of Leeds with a 1st in Information Technology. During her time at university, she was a Sales Assistant for Ted Baker and also worked for Apple. She was the president of the Yoga Society, Leeds University´s largest student-run Society, and a School of Computing Representative. Oh, and she also taught an IT course for women at the university throughout her final year.

How did she do it all without compromising her health? Let´s find out her secrets. Tina, tell us:

  1. What is your number one tip for having enough energy to tackle busy periods?
    Green smoothie and herbal tea

    Nutrition. The food that you consume has a massive impact on your energy levels and your mind and this is scientifically proven. Foods high in sugar will inevitably invite a sugar crash and ultimately leave you feeling fatigued. Eating the right, wholesome foods can keep you awake and energised. It is not as hard to fit in everything you need to do when you are filling your body with energising and satisfying foods. When you are really busy, reach out for antioxidant-rich superfoods such as Matcha, which provide you with an abundance of energy in comparison to coffee. Coffee causes spikes in insulin levels and ends in a crash. Matcha has 1/4 of the caffeine and is very energy-boosting, and its effects can last as long as 7 hours! This is because it enters and leaves the body very gently.

  2. What was a typical day in your diet whilst you were at University?

    I am a vegetarian and I like to be inventive with my food so it was always different, but in general I would have:

    Breakfast – Green smoothie with a large bowl of porridge with fruit. If I was in the mood for something savoury I would have had eggs, avocado & rye bread or a Spanish omelette. I like to add a variety of powerful superfoods such as spirulina, maca or lucuma to my smoothies. Maca in particular is excellent for your energy levels as it increases stamina; even athletes use it for peak performance. I add it to my smoothies and porridge as it adds a delicious nutty taste.

    Snacks - I liked to mix my snacks up in order to keep a varied and balanced diet. I generally liked munching on walnuts, cashew nuts and almonds, but also fresh olives or hummus with red peppers!

    Lunch – A big salad. I always included as many vegetables as possible and usually added avocado, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, superfoods, and nutritional yeast. I also liked to pick up a smoothie or juice nearly every day from a café/restaurant called Filmore & Union in the city centre.

    Dinner - Brown rice or quinoa with loads of veg.

  3. How did you resist junk food, unhealthy snacks and energy drinks?
    Vegetarian burgers with mixed vegetables and beans

    I watched inspiring documentaries such as Food Matters and Hungry for Change and read health blogs and medical journals which kept me well informed on how junk food can have a severe impact on your mind and body. If you are eating wholesome, pure foods on a day to day basis, your taste buds will become acclimatised to them whereas if your diet consists of foods high in sugar and fat, you will crave these foods because you are consistently being over-stimulated. Junk food makes you feel as though you are getting full physically, but your cells are actually starving as you are just feeding your body empty calories. Remembering these facts always motivated me to stay away from junk food.

  4. What would be your advice to people who still want to make healthy choices when they are stressed or tired?
    Girl retreat pose

    Prepare in advance and remember that you can perform at your optimum if your body has sufficient nutrients. Of course, there will be times when you physically do not have the time to shop or meal prep due to deadlines: therefore find a few local cafés or restaurants that sell healthy food and make sure you are still getting your nutrients. Be careful of cafes which may sound healthy superficially. Always ask questions such as: do you prepare your food freshly in store? Are your ingredients organic?

  5. What about exercising? What do you eat before and after a workout?
    Rye bread, hummus, olives and mixed vegetables

    I like to have loads of carbs before my workout to give me a good amount of energy. I generally have a meal with quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato. After my workout, I like to have a meal high in protein in order to replenish my muscles with amino acids for protein synthesis. I tend to have tofu, Quorn, lentils, beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and leafy greens such as spinach. I generally eat 3/4 times a day as I work out 4/5 times a week. In addition to that, I drink BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) whilst I train which keep me going through my workout. I also found that having an inspiring workout partner helped me feel more motivated.

  6. Do you have any tips for eating healthily whilst on a student budget?

    Cooking at home and meal prepping is much cheaper than eating out. Buy all of your non-perishable products such as superfoods, peanut butter, coconut oil and grains in bulk, and purchase your perishable products from a reasonable local grocery store or farmers market.

  7. But Tina, I guess you need something more than just good nutrition to achieve all that. How did you organize your time at university so that you managed to fit all of your extra-curricular commitments in alongside your studies? Girls after a hot yoga class

    Do not study all day long. I was able to avoid doing this by sticking to a schedule and ensuring that allocated study time was used to work solidly, and the rest of my time was devoted to other activities that I enjoyed doing. For example, in final year I enjoyed doing extra-curricular activities such as being President of the Yoga society and going to the gym or cooking and therefore I always made time for them, so that I was able to make the most of university life. I also made time for doing things which inspired me and therefore kept me motivated in the long-run. This included teaching a 6 week ´Code First´ on HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript course for women studying at Leeds University.

  8. How do you stay focused and motivated whilst studying and working out? Gym selfie

    Set goals; make a plan stating why you want to achieve those goals and how you will alongside a realistic schedule and milestones which you monitor regularly. I liked listening to motivational talks on YouTube and TED Talks, as well as reading books on psychology and success. One of my favourite motivational books is Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. In terms of working out, remember that exercise releases endorphins which are good for you and alleviate stress. You will need a break from your studies and have a balanced lifestyle in order to do well. Start early and sleep well but most importantly, don´t forget to enjoy yourself.

  9. If you could tell your 1st-year self anything, what would it be?
    Yoga retreat pose

    Never feel the need to follow the crowd at University. You are unique so set your own path, indulge in everything around you and don’t miss any opportunities or have any regrets. Do what you enjoy, as you only have a limited time at university, so spend it wisely and pick up as many skills as you possibly can. Keep your circle positive, and hang out with people who inspire you.

    Check out Shoptimix's Energy Shopping List to discover how to cope with your day-to-day dutties

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