Gamers aren’t exactly known as health-conscious. Urban Dictionary’s definition
of “Gamer Diet” is: (A diet) consisting of nothing but snack food, like potato chips and trail mix, and soda or energy drinks.”
That isn’t that far off point of what gamers typically eat. For a while, nobody paid any attention to what a gamer diet was or what was consumed. Why would they? Gamers don’t need to stay lean, build muscle, or run fast. Gaming
requires almost no physical exertion, so why would their nutrition matter?
It matters a lot. Not just for a gamer’s body but their mind as well.
Food is the fuel for your body. If a body depends on low-quality fuel (junk food), a breakdown of mental and physical health is inevitable. In other words, there’s no way gamers are performing at their best on a diet of Doritos and Mountain Dew.
As science continues to validate the impact of diet on both physical and mental performance, many competitive gamers are changing their eating habits and liking the results.
Competitive Call of Duty player Nick “XLNC” Ward, in an interview with Red Bull, said focusing on eating well has not only improved his mood but his reaction time as well.
“My attitude and reactions are the benchmarks of a good diet. They’re sharper and it even allows me to concentrate on other areas because I know I can rely on my shot. When you just start out, it’s easy to put it down to a placebo effect but now I’m convinced that it plays an important part in my ability, especially on the day. If only I could keep it up more often!”
Nick is one of many high-level competitive gamers who has started eating healthy to gain a competitive edge. So what’s the optimal diet needed to up your game?
Scale Your Diet To Your Needs
Atkins, keto, paleo, vegan — supporters of these diets all claim theirs is the healthiest, but it’s not that simple. Everyone has different nutritional needs. While gamers generally share certain traits, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet plan.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t certain guidelines gamers should follow, but because people vary so much, nutrition has to be scaled based on a couple of factors.
Gamers can spend a lot of time sitting, often between 8-10 hours at a time. This lack of activity means gamers are burning fewer calories, which means they need to eat less or exercise more.
The more active a person is, the more calories they need to maintain their weight and stay energized. A gamer with a high-calorie diet may not have to change the amount they eat, so long as they’re getting enough exercise. On the other hand, if a gamer eats very little, exercising will only increase the number of calories needed to maintain their weight.
The key is tying portions to your activity level. Those who exercise a lot can consume more food without feeling bogged down and tired. However, those who rarely exercise should take smaller portions if they want to maintain their weight. This doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want; the quality of food matters just as much as the quantity.
General Guidelines For a Gamer Diet
Generally, consuming excess carbs will only slow your mind and mind. This doesn’t mean that you should necessarily go low-carb, as carbs are our main source of energy. Carbs are sugar, meaning they are broken down as glucose, which becomes fuel for your body.
The issues arise when you eat too many carbs, particularly starchy carbs (bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta) responsible for spikes in Insulin. Insulin spikes are when your blood sugar levels skyrocket. You get a temporary burst of energy, followed by a sugar crash.
This is also known as reactive hypoglycemia.
Many people struggle to metabolize a sudden influx of starchy carbs, resulting in mental fogginess, weight gain, and trouble focusing.
If you can, limit your starchy and refined carbohydrates. The best option is to eat healthier. Try to eat more complex carbohydrates like legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These complex chains take longer to break down, giving your body more energy in the long run and keeping your mind sharp for the next match.
Despite what you may have heard, most fats — in moderation— aren’t bad for you. Trans-fat is awful for you, that much is true, but polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats are healthy and even necessary for cell and hormone development.
Trans-fats usually appear as hydrogenated vegetable oil and lurk in everything from pastries to french fries. Trans-fats, especially for people with sedentary lifestyles, increase the amount of artery-blocking LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. An abundance of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.
Healthy sources of fat include avocados, olive oil, fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines), and nuts. When consumed in moderation, they can provide a more stable energy source than carbohydrates and potentially improve your mood. Avocados and nuts, which are rich in B vitamins, are especially good for the gamer diet, as both decrease stress and boost energy.
Proteins are the body’s building blocks. Their vital nutrients repair muscles and tissues, elevate mood and provide long-lasting energy. Both plant proteins and animal proteins are healthy when enjoyed in moderation.
Athletes and other highly active individuals require more protein than the average person because they are constantly breaking down and rebuilding their bodies. Protein is calorically dense, meaning a moderately active person will need to watch their intake of meats, cheeses, and nuts. You don’t need to have meat with every meal.
It’s also important to make sure your protein is of high quality. Lunchmeats, sausage, bacon, beef jerky, canned meat, and other processed meats loaded with salt cause high blood pressure. It’s no secret that these processed meats are a factor in many forms of cancer.
Sugar and Junk Food
The undisputed public enemy #1 of dieting and good nutrition is the over-consumption of refined sugar and junk food. Aside from the energy crash associated with high-sugar diets, sugary foods also hamper your concentration, cognition, and focus — all of which are essential in gaming.
A study from Oxford University
found that feeding rats a high-fat diet caused them to perform poorly in a maze experiment when compared to rats eating a traditional diet. If excess sugar even slightly decreases brain function —affecting your reaction time, decision-making, and overall mental clarity — anyone serious about competitive gaming should avoid it at all costs.
If you’re craving sugar, fruit is a great healthy alternative. While is mostly sugar, fruit is also packed with fiber, which helps the sugar to digest at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm you and cause a crash.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The majority of what you drink should be water. Addiction to sugary beverages like soda and energy drinks will negatively affect your body both after the short-lived sugar crash and later on when you can’t focus.
Everyone, regardless of physical activity, should be drinking at least 30-50 ounces of water per day. Some studies suggest you should be drinking a number of ounces equal to half your weight each day. Whatever you drink, just know that hydration is important. Dehydration can cause a host of problems including headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.
Even mild dehydration
— defined as a 1.5% loss in normal water volume in the body — can negatively impact a person’s mood and cognitive function. Anyone can fall victim to mild dehydration, even someone who spends most of their time in an air-conditioned building.
The Optimal Gamer Diet
Finding a gamer diet that works best for you will take some time and experimentation, but there are guidelines for the day-to-day.
First, it’s important to eat 2-3 hearty meals a day. Some nutritional experts recommend eating 5-6 small meals a day, but that could increase your appetite. Sometimes, we’re so fully immersed in the action, finding time to prepare three healthy meals can be a struggle. Try to have three solid, nutritious meals per day.
In each meal, about half your calories should be from carbohydrates, as carbs grant you the energy and focus to up your game. To be clear, this doesn’t mean the majority of your plate should consist of rice or pasta. Most of your carbs should come from oats, grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
About one-third of each meal should consist of healthy fat: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. The most common sources of these fats are avocados, oils, meats, and nuts.
The easiest way to incorporate healthy fat into your gamer diet is to cook with olive oil. A gamer diet with the right amount of fat will keep you energized throughout the day even after your body has burned through the carbs.
Protein, one of the most over-consumed nutrients, should also be about one-third of every meal. Again, your protein intake doesn’t have to come from meat or animal products. Vegetables such as broccoli, lentils, and beans (especially black beans) are full of protein. Otherwise, stick to quality meat like poultry, grass-fed beef, and lean fish.
Remember to stay hydrated. Being dehydrated will wear you down, but drinking lots of water makes you feel happier, healthier, and less sluggish. Try to drink a gallon of water a day or at least a minimum of 30-50 ounces.
The truth is, adjusting your diet is hard. Give yourself some slack. It’s okay to a have a few cheat meals as you ease into a new diet. What’s most important is that your new habits are sustainable. Don’t treat your nutrition like a fad, make it a lifestyle.
Follow these gamer diet tips, and you’ll be at the top of your game in no time!