The big advantage of brain nutrition and sports performance
Did you ever stop and wonder how big a part your brain and cognitive function play when competing in sports? In some sports it is no doubt more than in others. There are many ways to attain a keen mind, and nutrition, one of the most impactful ones, is gaining more and more attention as people are beginning to realize its potential. Here are a few examples of sports where a well-oiled brain can have a substantial effect on your performance. Sports where for instance a stable blood sugar can lead to a determining advantage whether you are a Formula One superstar like Lewis Hamilton, or a more casual competitor looking to best your buddies. If competing in mentally demanding sports like the below, you might want to experiment and find out how the right brain nutrition can promote your overall sports performance …
Our first entry is Motorsport as a whole, whether being on two, four or more wheels. As long as there’s a powerful engine involved. Motorsport is a very mentally exhausting sport, where a single moments distraction can have fatal consequences. Therefore, it is important to keep your brain and blood sugar steady. Especially in motorsports where the attention span must be at peak for anywhere between one to two hours at a time, like Formula One races.
Even more extreme are endurance races. In endurance races a team of drivers must take turns driving as far as possible in a given number of hours. A stable supply of energy from a sensible diet is an obvious factor here since it takes the utmost concentration to drive hours on end without missing a beat. A good brain diet also factors in when you need to rest. For instance, while your co-driver has taken the wheel, and you are recharging before taking another stint, ideally you want nutrition that can not only help resupply your energy stores, but also nutrients that can help you relax mentally. The last thing you want is something that keeps you jacked and jittery while trying to recharge.
In terms of sports, golf is almost an all-day event. 18-holes on a golf course can take several hours to play. So, it is important to treat your body and brain with proper nutrition when traversing the golf course. Albeit at a relatively modest physical intensity level, the sheer length of a golf match makes it a fairly demanding activity. Especially because top performances require utmost concentration when swinging or putting. You want to make sure to keep a steady supply of energy to both your body and brain, so prioritize strategies for keeping a stable blood sugar for several hours straight.
Hydration should also be a priority to deliver a better sports performance. The last thing you want is dehydration, as this is associated with both decreased physical and mental performance. So be mindful of what you drink, and obviously do not overdo it, as that might end up causing another type of … distraction. Also, worth keeping in mind is that certain foods/supplements can actually increase nervousness (e.g. caffeine), which for some can be a very limiting factor. Others (e.g., lavender) on the other hand have been shown to promote relaxation.
Ask yourself which mental factors affect your game (exhaustion, concentration, jitters, nervousness etc.), and biohack your way out of it with the right natural nutrients. Keep in mind that even minor improvements matter if you want to be the best that you can be.
3. Shooting sports:
Few athletic disciplines demand more concentration than shooting sports. A single millimeter’s imprecision due to shaky hands can completely ruin your score. This goes for all the different shooting sports. Whether it is 50 meters on a shooting range, skeet shooting or the shooting rounds in biathlon. It is simply that marginal. So, when you are shooting, you definitely want to think about choosing the right brain nutrition to improve your sports performance. You do not want to be shaking due to low blood sugar. You do not want jittery hands due to caffeine. What you do want is something that rhymes with a clear and relaxed state of mind, so using nutritional science to guide you towards that should be top of the agenda for all the ambitious gun/rifle slingers out there. With a carefully planned diet you give yourself the best odds of remaining calm and minimizing exhaustion when practicing competitive shooting.
After the success of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix in October last year chess received a giant popularity boost. All the big, online chess platforms increased their traffic exponentially mainly because of the Netflix-phenomenon. A normal chess match can last for several hours, while online games most often are speed chess games, where each move is an impulsive decision.
A chess game that lasts for hours is highly demanding on the mind, and your brain spends a considerable amount of energy. Keeping your brain’s energy supply steady and using the concentration-boosting properties of certain phytochemicals (aka. functional nutrients from plants), not least many polyphenols having acute effects, can no doubt give you an edge. And do keep in mind that in real life a balanced diet is a much healthier alternative to Beth Harmon’s preferred remedy in The Queen’s Gambit.
Finally, we have esports. Esports is a relatively new sport compared to the above even though competitive gaming has been around far longer than the term esports itself. In spite of that, it already has a huge practitioner and follower base, and now poses a substantial part of the gaming industry, which is larger in size than the music and movie industries … combined!
As esports continue to grow year after year, so does the number of tournaments, prize money, pool of competitors and general aspirations of many gamers all over the world. Amongst the most ambitious esports athletes the classical sedentary pizza-eating, coke-sipping stereotype is all but completely vanished, having been replaced by a more conscious type of athlete. An athlete recognizing the importance of a holistic approach to performance and health, despite his playing field still being a metaphysical arena that is largely only impacted by the mind and of course quick yet precise hand-eye coordination. With so many contenders vying for top spot, the smallest of margins can mean a world of difference, so no wonder brain nutrition is gaining increasing attention as a means to an end in esports.
But which nutritional factors to consider in esports?
Although the various games differ a lot in their nature, they pretty much all have the same underlying sports performance criteria. They all require a high degree of mental performance and mental endurance when performed at an elite level. Like with the above sports, make sure to keep a stable blood sugar. Don’t let your energy supply run low, but don’t spike your blood sugar either – you don’t want to deal with an insulin surge while trying to be your sharpest self. Also, despite caffeine being a mainstay in esports nutrition, its common side effects like jitters, brain fog, energy crash and nervousness can affect your game negatively. Keeping cool in the clutch is an art in and of itself, and whether you are simply a natural or not, you might want to add nutritional biohacking to your arsenal. After all, grinding hours on end is not the only way to improve your sports performance, choosing the right brain nutrition might be the ammunition FTW!