Confession: I love video games.
While I don’t have as much time for them now as I once did due to the hectic schedule of being a full-time college student, working dietetic technician, and entrepreneur, I still enjoy them.
Back in the day, dare I admit I used to play them during every ounce of free time I got. Skyrim and League of Legends were as they say “life”. Yes, I am a dirty league of legends player, don’t hate me. I almost was gold once… and then I dropped down to bronze because what is free-time?
Basically, I get it. I get the draw of wanting to be good. Of wanting, no needing, to be one of the best.
I get it because I was there once.
And as corny as it sounds, you can do anything you want. However, you might be sabotaging yourself through your lifestyle habits.
That Gamer Life
I know the life of a gamer. It’s a life characterized by convenience. After all, when you’re trying to become pro (or just entranced in a game) you don’t necessarily want to make time for cooking.
I mean, people in general just struggle with taking the time to cook. Convenience foods are a staple in many American households. This is not a secret.
Hot pockets, frozen pizza, canned soup, chips, soda, energy drinks, and maybe a glass of milk or juice here and there. Sound familiar? What do these foods all have in common? The ability to be made in under 5 minutes and potentially scarfed down in the same amount of time.
I get it, I do. It’s about maximizing your time. Why spend 10-30 minutes cooking a meal and then another 10 eating, when you could do it all in the time-span of a super long loading screen?
Let me tell you why.
Convenience foods aren’t going to cut it
You might think that saving this time is doing yourself a favor. More free-time, after all, means more time to practice your skill set or improve your character.
But ultimately, this way of eating is doing you more harm than good.
Now before you scoff, hear me out.
Do you want to become good? Good enough to live stream on twitch? Good enough to maybe even become pro? That means you have to be doing what other people aren’t. You have to stand out from the millions of people who want to be pro.
And I can bet that most of those gamers who are clocking in that practice time aren’t all eating for optimal brain power.
When you’re playing video games, your brain does a lot of work. You’re scheming, focusing, anticipating, and reacting quickly. All things that require your brain to be functioning optimally. Right?
Set yourself apart by giving your brain exactly what it needs to destroy the competition.
What will set you up for success?
To put it simply, a healthy lifestyle.
Notice how I said lifestyle and not a diet. I say lifestyle because this needs to be your new way of living. Prioritize your body and brain so that it can prioritize your focus and reaction time when you game.
Here are some quick and easy actionable steps you can take to optimize your brain power for gaming.
Proper hydration is vital to your body functioning properly.
In fact, your cognitive performance can be negatively impacted if you’re dehydrated (Pross 1). Dehydrated adults can experience worsening moods, sleepiness, and impairment of their wellbeing (Pross 5). None of which is helpful to you becoming a professional gamer.
I mean the brain is made up of 80% water so it would make sense that maintaining adequate fluid intake would help with maximizing brain power.
So drink up and start crushing the competition!
You’re probably groaning right now. This isn’t what you want to hear right? But in all reality, it’s what your body needs.
Exercising causes the body to release endorphins. Specifically, it causes your body to release the endorphin dopamine, which works to help energize you and improve motivation. Both of which are important for successful gaming.
Now you don’t have to go to the gym and put in hours on the treadmill in order to be adequately active.
Finding an activity that you enjoy and gets your blood pumping is important. Especially if you’re going to be making being active a new part of your everyday lifestyle. Try out walking, yoga, running, hiking, swimming, weight lifting or anything else that sparks your interest.
Balance your diet
Eating a balanced diet is important for fueling your brain.
A balanced diet involves a variety of macros and a variety of micronutrients.
Macronutrients are macronutrients because the body needs them in large quantities (think cup and gram sized amounts). This means that you need to be making sure that you’re eating a balanced variety of all of them.
Micronutrients are nutrients that are required in smaller amounts. They are found in the foods that provide us with macronutrients. To get a variety of micronutrients we need to make sure we aren’t eliminating groups of macronutrients or food groups in general.
Eliminating a food group could be eliminating a source of a nutrient that you can’t find anywhere else. If you do have to eliminate a food group make sure you speak with a Dietitian about what that will entail in order to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need to stay nourished.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure your plate is 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 grains. Don’t forget your fluids either, make sure you’re drinking milk or water with your meals too.
Eat for Focus
On the topic of eating a balanced diet, you’ll also want to eat foods that promote focus.
Here are some key nutrients/foods you’ll want to consider:
The Essential Fatty Acid Omega-3
Omega-3 is thought to be good for focus and memory(think salmon, fortified yogurt, eggs). It plays a role in rebuilding the brain and promoting the overall health of the brain.
Specifically, DHA is thought to be vital in brain development. DHA is only found in seafood, thus it’s vital to make sure you’re incorporating seafood into your diet.
Worried about mercury poisoning? New research is showing selenoenzymes found in fish protect the body from mercury poisoning.
So increase your seafood intake without fear.
Packed full of antioxidants, a modest amount of caffeine, and the amino acid L-theanine, Green Tea can benefit your cognitive function.
In a review conducted on 49 human intervention studies of the impacts of caffeine and L-theanine, researchers found that “caffeine mainly improve[d] performance on demanding long-duration cognitive tasks and self-reported alertness” (Dietz and Dekker).
Meaning that drinking green tea can improve your ability to perform and focus for long periods of time. Long periods of time such as the ones you’ll endure while video gaming.
So boil some water and brew yourself some tea to give your brain a boost!
Dark Chocolate contains a Magnesium. Magnesium is involved in relaxing the muscles and in energy production. Both are vital for gaming as you don’t want to be rigid or tired while gaming.
Additionally, chocolate contains antioxidants that help protect the body’s cells from oxidative stress. Theobromine is one of the compounds found in chocolate that acts as an antioxidant. Theobromine has a mild stimulative impact on the CNS, thus providing the body with a more gentle energy boost than caffeine.
Just like everything else in the world, moderation is key. However, don’t completely eliminate chocolate from your life. A few squares might give you the boost you need before a game!
Berries are packed full of antioxidants that help prevent oxidative stress. Foods rich in antioxidants are good for a variety of things, however properly nourishing your body and protecting it from oxidative stress.
But most importantly, berries might be a great way to boost brain power!
Eggs show up on this list again! Perhaps one of the most affordable and underrated protein sources, eggs are found to be a good source of choline. Choline can help boost brain power. Choline can be converted to acetylcholine, which plays an important role in memory and mood.
Like mentioned before, keeping your mood as stable as possible and your mind working optimally is vital to owning your competitors.
What might a diet including these foods look like?
Here’s a super flexible and broad 1-day meal plan to give you an idea!
Scrambled eggs (with chopped peppers and mushrooms) with a cup of green tea
Berry Watermelon Fruit Salad
Brown Rice Bowl (made with a protein, vegetables, and maybe half an avocado)
1-2 squares dark chocolate and some fresh berries
Roasted Salmon + Roasted Veggies
Brain fog is the enemy and when your body isn’t moving and your blood isn’t pumping through your veins, in creeps in the fog.
The same goes for not feeding your body the right foods. Eating real foods and avoiding eating tons of processed foods could give you a competitive edge.
So do yourself a favor and prioritize physical activity and a balanced diet. Your gaming career and body will thank you.
Pross, Nathalie. “Effects of Dehydration on Brain Functioning: A Life-Span Perspective.” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 70, 2017 Supplement, pp. 30-36. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1159/000463060.