Note: This article is part of the How to win a Hackathon series.

The experience of hacking for 48 hours can be quite a thrill, but don’t let that excitement get the better of you. It’s still important to take care of your health while hacking away, and failing to do so could leave you at less than your best.

Several studies have shown that going without sleep, even 24 hours without it, can leave you impaired in the same manor as being legally drunk. To make it worse, the first part of your brain to degrade is in the part of your brain that is most crucial to thinking. You can read more about that online, for example here.

Be sure to get some sleep during the hackathon. I recommend 6 hours each night. Doing so will help you be far more efficient during the other 36 hours you are hacking. Better to lose 12 hours to sleep, than operating at half capacity for the last 36 hours.

If you need energy during the hackathon, don’t eat sugar. Sugar will sap you of all your energy once its quickly burned in your bloodstream. Since you’ll be sitting most of the time, you won’t need many carbs at all. Be sure to eat a high protein diet and drink enough water. If you need a special lift, I recommend the sugar free Monster drinks. I drink the Lo-carb and the Tea+Lemonade several times a week. Both give me a noticeable lift in energy but never result in the lethargic “crash” typically associated with spikes in energy because they contain little to no sugar.

If you need to take a break, do so. A focused mind at 100% is better than one at 70%. During our last Rumble I reached a point where my brain was in a state that simply could not continue processing anything. Thankfully I was able to take a break with my teammate to the nearby mall (where we had strategically positioned ourselves in a hotel room we rented for the Rumble) and simply walk around the mall to get out, and get clear. By the time I returned I was refocused and ready to go.

If you want your brain to function on all cylinders like a finely tuned race car, proper care and fuel is required!