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The Importance of Nutrition for eSports Athletes

Just like any other type of athlete, what you put into your body has a major impact on your overall performance. To get the most out of your gameplay, I’m going to discuss the importance of nutrition for esports athletes.

Proper nutrition has been shown to aid in improving mental and physical performance – two components that are vital for esports. These two components can be broken down into cognition, focus, and reflexes which are all key to gaming performance. These key performance attributes are affected by five major factors: the types of food you eat, when you eat those foods, the amount of food you eat, blood sugar levels, and hydration.

The types of food you eat are critical to optimal [esports] performance.

Processed foods with artificial ingredients aren’t going to don’t give you the nutrients your body and brain needs. Foods that are high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar are also foods that should be avoided. When making food choices, keep fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and meat at the top of your list. These foods offer vital nutrients that provide you the energy to perform at a higher level for a longer amount of time, without leaving you feeling sluggish so your reflexes stay sharp.

Along with eating the proper foods, it’s important to consider the timing of your meals. Eating a big meal right before a competition is not the best idea. Instead, focus on eating a big meal 2-3 hours before a competition. If you get hungry, snack on some healthy foods like an apple or banana. This will ensure your energy levels remain stable without any discomfort while you’re playing. Any discomfort caused by food can break your focus when you need it most.

The third factor is the amount of food you eat in a day. For the best results, you want to get about 60% of your calories from carbohydrates, 10-15% from protein, and 25-30% from fat. This ideal ratio gives you the right amount of nutrients that your body needs.

Don’t worry about counting calories, just make sure you’re balancing these key food groups throughout the day so you have the energy you need to perform, as well as the nutrients you need to recover from the stresses of competition.”

Now let’s talk about the toll sugar takes on your body. If you were to eat a cheese pizza and drink a regular soda before a match, that’s a ton of sugar. Sugar, particularly simple sugars, lead to a spike in your bloodstream. This quick spike will lead to a big fall – leaving you tired, both physically and mentally. In other words, you will need to consume more sugar in order to maintain your energy levels. The result of this is poor mental and physical performance, as well as an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes and obesity. To know which foods will keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable, we have the glycemic index to help us.

The glycemic index is a list of foods that indicate how much they affect blood sugar levels. Foods like high fructose corn syrup (ex: candy) have a higher GI while foods like apples will keep blood sugar levels more stable. The best time to consume healthier foods that are high glycemic would be in the morning or after a workout. Other times (especially before a big match); you’ll want to stick with more stable, lower glycemic foods.

Hydration is the fifth, and arguably the most critical factor we’ll discuss today. A recent study from the University of Barcelona found that being dehydrated by just two percent impairs performance in tasks that require attention, motor function, and immediate memory skills. All those brain functions are essential for optimal gaming performance. I’d recommend drinking plenty of water throughout the day and avoid consuming soda, milk, coffee, and other drinks that provide no hydration benefit.

As esports continues to grow, nutrition is becoming more prominent for many top teams and college esports programs. Many top esports organizations are employing professionals like nutritionists to improve the performance and health of their players. Unfortunately, most players do not have access to these kinds of services. However, if you are looking to get an esports scholarship, become a pro, or just improve your game, then it’s time to start setting up good eating habits. Along with this article, I have included a free Game Day Nutrition Plan that will help you do just that.

Jake Middleton
@JakeAtESPL

My name is Jake Middleton and I’m the founder of esports Performance LabLLC. I have been working with gamers and doing research for the past few years in esports performance. I have a bachelor’s degree in exercise & movement science from Missouri State University and I’m a certified exercise physiologist and a certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine. I’m an avid gamer myself, ex-competitive Halo player, huge Game of Thrones fan, and I live in Kansas City, MO.

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