Last week we ran our second Foundation Summer Camp, a collaboration with our friends over at Marsh Sports (I.M Marsh). It was a great success with us being fully booked for the entire week.

We had some wonderful kids come into the dojo and all of these students were pretty much new to the world of martial arts so there was a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders to make sure that by the end of the week we had given them the best possible start. We knew we could do this but also knew from previous experience that there was one thing in particular that can undermine what we’re trying to achieve.

When we talk about what we do you might sometimes hear us use the word Budo. This has many interpretations but generally means ‘The Martial Way’. We see it as a holistic way of defining what we do, from how we carry ourselves, how we interact with others, how we train and crucially, what we eat.

We ran our first summer camp for Marsh Sports last year and like this year the sessions were nearly three hours long. This means we need to have a 10–15 minute break half-way through. Last year we noticed that most of the children had brought snacks with them to eat during the break and for the most part these consisted of chocolates, sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks. What we saw very quickly in those sessions was that as we settled in to the second half the general mood changed considerably. The attention span and overall behaviour of the students in general had degraded, the number of times we had to ask students to listen raised considerably and it became much more difficult to engage the group as a whole because of this.

We saw the impact these sugary, sweet snacks made and decided to do a bit of research. We wanted to see if there was any scientific data that could back up what we had seen, if these snacks could really modify behaviour or if there were other factors at play.

There is lots and lots of data out there. We noticed a great deal of articles debunking the myth of the sugar rush and hyperactivity in children which was our first idea but we quickly realised this wasn’t a case of hyperactivity based on sugar sensitivity. This was a change in behaviour and the ability to focus.

What we were seeing was behavioural sensitivity based on significant metabolic changes. We were seeing sugar overdose. So what does this mean? Well, when blood-sugar levels rise too high the body will respond by producing large amounts of insulin to sweep the sugar into the body cells. This causes the body’s blood sugar levels to drop quickly which can result in sluggish almost drowsy children.

We realised quite quickly we needed to document what we were seeing, to ensure it wasn’t a bias on our part. We decided that for this years summer camp we would run a week long observation.

The Observation

The setup was very simple, we had an observer, an instructor and roughly 20 students. Each day was split into two halves (pre and post snack). In each half we recorded the number of disturbances. A disturbance was defined as the instructor asking a student to sit still, listen, stop talking etc. basically anything that interrupted the class.

Day One: The Baseline

We didn’t have control over all the factors but did need to establish a baseline, so on day one we allowed all the children to eat whatever snacks they had brought along. While we were delighted to see some parents had packed pots of fruit and healthy snacks we still saw the majority eating chocolates, sweets and drinking fizzy drinks.

On day one we saw around 8disturbances before the break with well over 40 after it.

Days Two to Five

Throughout the rest of the week we introduced our alternative snack, this comprised of cucumber, sugar snap peas, grapes, strawberries, apple, kiwi, carrots and cherry tomatoes.

On days where the kids were given the healthy snack we saw an average of 10 disturbances before the break and 19 after it. That’s a 75% difference in behaviour.

Okay, some thing to be aware of with what we observed. First off this is purely objective, based on our own observations. Another thing to be aware of is that having the baseline day at the beginning of the week (with a new group of students) could have skewed the figures slightly in terms of overall behaviour. A group of new students is likely to be more challenging on the first day as they are not aware of what we expect when it comes to behaviour.


Whether you believe the results or not It’s really important to be aware that what we put into our children plays a huge part in their development both physical and mental. When it comes to added sugars the government recommends children should have no more than 19g a day (aged 4 to 6 years old), and no more than 24g a day (aged 7 to 10 years old). When you consider a single bag of Haribo Starmix (160g) contains 47g of sugar or that a single can of Fizzy Vimto contains 30g of sugar you start to see how easy it to effectively have your child overdose on sugar.