Nutrition and Supplementation in Gaming: The Ultimate Guide
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Proper nutrition is critical to an athlete’s performance, focus, stamina, and recovery. Field sport athletes have known about the importance of a proper diet for decades, but only recently has the same attention been given to the eating habits of eSports athletes, or nutrition in gaming. While much debate has raged over whether gamers really qualify as athletes, research studying esports athletes have noticed elite individuals complete up to 400 movements on the keyboard and the mouse per minute. That’s roughly four times as much as the average person! (1)
What’s more, both hands are working independently and simultaneously, placing intense demands on coordination, reflexes and the brain’s processing capacity. From a physical activity standpoint, gaming is fairly sedentary, as individuals can spend upwards of 10 hours sitting in front of the screen.
This lack of activity means the number of calories a gamer needs each day will be less than that of a person of similar height, weight, and age participating in field sports. Maximizing micronutrient density is paramount at mealtime, as there’s little room in the diet for empty calories from hyper-processed foods. This means that the days of fueling marathon gaming sessions on sugary energy drinks and salty snacks are over. For heightened focus, lightning-fast reflexes, and cognitive flexibility, eSports athletes require high-quality, nutrient-dense foods. These will supply their bodies with the essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids needed to support the intense cognitive demands of their sport.
Here, we discuss some nutrition basics to help aspiring e-athletes as well as some of the best performance-enhancing supplements that they can incorporate into their diet to help level up and dominate the competition!
A New Wave of Energy
GFuel has targeted the gaming community for years, but like energy drinks, formulators know they need something new and innovative to gain widespread consumer use. Now that the “energy” market is more than Monster, Red Bull, Rockstar and 5-Hour Energy, the definition of an energy drink is now being refined. In fact, “energy drink” may segment into “Gaming drink” as GFuel enters the category along with Mountain Dew’s “Gaming Fuel.”
In this guide you’ll find everything you need to know about which nutrients and science-backed supplements will help you reach peak performance… and why.
CALORIES for Gamers’ Nutrition
The main reason we eat food is to give our bodies energy. Calories are a measure of the amount of energy each particular food contains. Each of us has a unique number of calories that we require to maintain our current weight. If we eat more than this, we gain weight, and if we eat fewer calories than our bodies require, we lose weight. The calories a particular food contains are determined by its macronutrient composition. Macronutrients are the main nutrients that comprise the food we eat, and consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Protein supplies the body with valuable amino acids it requires to build and repair your tissues (muscles, hair, skin, organs, etc.). But that’s not all. Your body also uses protein to help deliver nutrients throughout the body, create hormones (like adrenaline), and synthesize neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are important chemical messengers in the brain that allow for communication between neurons. They play key roles in our ability to focus, move, create, problem solve, learn — each of which is important to performing at an elite level.
The best protein sources are the ones that contain a “complete protein”, meaning they provide sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids our bodies require. Examples include beef, poultry, pork, dairy, eggs, quinoa, and pea protein. Processed meats (sausage, bacon, canned meat, beef jerky, etc.) should be limited as they often contain added fillers and preservatives as well as high amounts of sodium, which have been associated with high blood pressure.
Carbohydrates supply the body with glucose (sugar) — the primary fuel on every cell in our body. While carbohydrates have taken a beating in recent years, they can provide the body with a steady infusion of energy, readily used by all cells of the body, especially those of the CNS. The thing to focus on is consuming the right types of carbohydrates as well as the right amounts. Consuming too many simple carbohydrates (like the refined sugar in energy drinks and candy bars) creates large spikes in blood glucose levels. This causes a large release of insulin in the body to shuttle the glucose out of the blood stream. This can lead to reactive hypoglycemia — low blood sugar that occurs after a meal, which makes you feel sluggish, lethargic, and “foggy headed.”
By focusing on healthy carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you provide the body with “slow-burning” energy that avoids the peaks and valleys of cheap sugars. Complex carbohydrates contain fiber which promotes a healthy gut and supports digestion. Proper digestion is important for competitive gamers as any type of GI discomfort can be very distracting during competition.
Fat is an incredibly rich source of energy for the body as each gram of dietary fat supplies nine calories of energy. It’s an ideal source for those times when you’re not engaged in extreme physical activity, and it also serves an important critical role in hormone production, joint health, and the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Similar to carbohydrates, fat has had its fair share of detractors over the years, but truth be told, we all need some fat in our diets. Healthy sources of dietary fat include avocados, olive oil, fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel), nuts, and seeds.
For much of the past 10 years, sugar has garnered the ire of nutritionists, fitness professionals, and medical practitioners, and for good reason. As a population, we consume too damn much of it. To make matters worse, refined sugars have been crammed, dumped, and shimmied into just about any and every type of food on the market, making it virtually impossible for the average person to avoid it. The issue with sugar? It’s devoid of micronutrients, spikes blood sugar, wreaks havoc with energy levels (which ultimately impairs performance), and contributes to obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and various other chronic diseases. Sugar also isn’t very filling, increasing the likelihood that you’ll overeat and gain weight.
The bottom line is that if you’re interested in performing at your best mentally and physically as well as supporting long-term health and wellness, you want to limit sugar. If you’re craving something sweet, opt for a piece of fruit, which helps satisfy your craving for something sweet while also supplying a bounty of micronutrients, fiber, and water.
The final dietary component to optimal gaming performance is hydration. Our bodies are 60% water and our bodies use water in countless biological processes. As such, maintaining adequate levels of hydration is vital to performing at your best. Research has shown that even minimal dehydration (as little as 2%) can significantly reduce your performance.(2)
Beyond performance, insufficient hydration can also lead to a number of other problems including fatigue, impaired focus, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and headaches — none of which are ideal when gaming. Health authorities typically recommend an individual consume half of their body weight in ounces of water every day. Note that the more physically active you are, the more water you will need to consume to make up for that which is lost via sweat.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS in gaming?
Proper nutrition lays the foundation for a successful career in gaming and as such, you should always strive to obtain as many of your essential vitamins, minerals and assorted other nutrients from whole foods. That being said, having the right supplements, and using them at the right time, can certainly help boost performance as well as recovery. For years, the “supplement” of choice for gamers has been energy drinks, containing a proprietary mix of caffeine, B vitamins, and taurine as well as an overflowing helping of refined sugar. While these beverages tasted great, they only supplied short-lived energy and did next to nothing for enhancing performance.
Compound Solutions has stepped forward to offer a superior solution to the enhanced energy and cognitive demands of gamers around the world. One that seeks to go beyond the short-lived benefits of caffeine, by providing longer-lasting energy along with increased feelings of mood, motivation, and focus. Our solution is three-part and starts with an ingredient that synergizes fantastically with caffeine – TeaCrine®.
TeaCrine® is a chemical cousin of caffeine found in kucha tea, that boosts energy in a manner similar to caffeine, but slightly different. While caffeine takes a more direct (harsh) approach to boosting energy levels, TeaCrine® takes a more subtle means to enhancing alertness and wakefulness via allosteric modulation of the adenosine receptors. This alternative approach to antagonizing the body’s adenosine receptors provides energy that is smoother and longer-lasting than caffeine absent of jitters, edginess, or crash common to every gamer’s stimulant of choice.
Even better is the fact that TeaCrine® isn’t habituating — meaning you don’t get used to it. You get the same boost in energy, mood, and focus day after day without having to continually up the dose. And, if you still want to have caffeine as part of your daily routine, you’ll be relieved to know that you still can, and you may actually derive even greater performance benefits from the combination of caffeine + TeaCrine®.
Research has documented the synergism that exists when combining the two ingredients when it was found that the combination of caffeine + TeaCrine® led to improved time to exhaustion, reaction time, endurance and cognitive function over either supplement used alone.(3)
Dynamine™ is another naturally occurring ingredient that stacks well with both TeaCrine® and caffeine to provide a full-spectrum sensory experience with quick onset, but long-lasting energy, mood, motivation and focus. Recent studies have found that supplementation with Dynamine™ led to improvements in energy, alertness, productivity, and motivation to perform mental tasks.(5)
Researchers also investigated the effects of combining Dynamine™ with TeaCrine® and observed significant improvements in subjects sensory experience without alterations in resting heart rate or blood pressure.(5) Due to this, Dynamine™ (as well as TeaCrine®) both can be taken to help increase energy, focus, and performance, but will not adversely impact your heart, or your ability to go to sleep.
goBHB® is a ketone body that provides a source of clean-burning energy preferentially used by the brain (it’s preferred even over glucose!).(6) This makes goBHB® an ideal fast-acting brain fuel alternative to glucose (the primary source of “energy” in energy drinks) for those seeking increased mental energy to perform cognitively demanding tasks, like those experienced for multiple hours by gamers.
- Deutsche Welle (www.dw.com). “Science Shows That ESports Professionals Are Real Athletes.” DW.COM, www.dw.com/ en/science-shows-that-esports-professionals-are-real-athletes/a-19084993.
- Barr, S. I. (1999). Effects of dehydration on exercise performance. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology = Revue Canadienne de Physiologie Appliquee, 24(2), 164–172.
- Bello, M. L., Walker, A. J., Mcfadden, B. A., Sanders, D. J., & Arent, S. M. (2019). The effects of TeaCrine ® and caffeine on endurance and cognitive performance during a simulated match in high-level soccer players, 6, 1–10.
- He, H., Ma, D., Crone, L. B., Butawan, M., Meibohm, B., Bloomer, R. J., & Yates, C. R. (2017). Assessment of the Drug-Drug Interaction Potential Between Theacrine and Caffeine in Humans. Journal of Caffeine Research, 7(3), 95–102. https://doi. org/10.1089/jcr.2017.0006
- Stratton, MT, et al. Effect of Dynamine™ With and Without TeaCrine® Over Four Weeks of Continuous Use on Cardiovascular Function,and Psychometric Parameters: A Pilot Study.
- Cox, P. J., Kirk, T., Ashmore, T., Veech, R. L., Griffin, J. L., Clarke, K., … Clarke, K. (2016). Clinical and Translational Report Nutritional Ketosis Alters Fuel Preference and Thereby Endurance Performance in Athletes Clinical and Translational Report Nutritional Ketosis Alters Fuel Preference and Thereby Endurance Performance in Athletes. Cell Metabolism, 1–13. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.cmet.2016.07.010
- Vandenberghe, C., St-pierre, V., Courchesne-loyer, A., Hennebelle, M., Castellano, C., & Cunnane, S. C. (2017). Caffeine intake increases plasma ketones: an acute metabolic study in humans, 458(November 2016), 455–458.