If you’re a gamer, you’re always looking for a mental edge. You want to improve your reaction time, your focus and energy level. But you are probably going about it the wrong way. Gaming tests your brain/body connections. It requires a lot of hand/eye coordination. You can create a competitive advantage by getting your mind into the zone and staying there for a longer time than your competition. The top step of the podium isn’t about raising your performance. It’s about maintaining your performance when everyone else is falling away.
In many ways, gaming is like competitive sports. Experts now agree that mental fitness is as essential as physical fitness. We’re used to pro-athletes touting the importance of everything from the right breakfast cereal to the best shoes. We are only starting to talk about helping gamers achieve a competitive mental advantage.
Today’s top gamers are busting through old stereotypes. They’re not staying up all night eating junk food. Gamers who win consistently have the best mental and physical fitness. They are beginning to train like traditional athletes. They use full body training to improve their reaction time, get quality sleep and eat right to optimize their cognitive function.
In fact, the entire gaming industry is taking note of the importance of mental health for peak performance. The International Gaming Summit on Mental Health, recently held October 10-11, 2019 in Toronto, brought together executives and developers from some of the leading game companies. The goal was to strategize about innovative approaches to support the mental health of gamers and game company employees.
USE THIS THREE-STEP SECRET
Like many gamers, you may be focusing only on stimulants, such as caffeine, to prepare for competition. Caffeine is effective for energy, but too much can make you feel so amped up that you’re irritable, anxious and tense. Therefore your performance becomes worse! You don’t want to be over-excited because that can lead to mistakes. Caffeine alone won’t do it for you. To be in the zone, you also need relaxed alertness so your brain can do its work in a calm, focused, engaged manner.
Here’s how to get into the zone and stay there:
- Eat a healthy snack to balance your blood sugar levels. As with many of my peers in sports nutrition research, I have turned my focus to the brain to maximize performance. What you put into your body is what you put into your brain. Avoiding energy spikes and crashes can help to keep your mind performing optimally.
- Add a stimulating component to excite brain energy. This can be something caffeinated such as coffee, tea, energy drinks or soda. Be careful because you can easily get too much of a good thing. Drinking too much coffee or some energy drinks can lead to excessive beta brain waves, which can make concentration and focus difficult. Any more than about 200mg of caffeine (one Starbucks Grande drip) at one sitting, or 400mg per day, can lead you down the road of elevated tension and irritability as well as poor focus and sleep quality.
- Balance your caffeine intake with L-theanine. This is an amino acid naturally occurring in green tea. It’s available over the counter as Suntheanine. It encourages your brain to make alpha brain waves. It gives you a mental advantage by helping you to achieve an alert, relaxed state that enables you to engage and connect with your game. There’s no need to give up caffeine entirely. Caffeine and L-theanine work in different parts of the brain. You’re activating your “do work” beta sensor with caffeine and your “calming” alpha sensor with L-theanine to put yourself in the zone. The result of the caffeine/L-theanine combo is smooth, balanced energy and focus. L-theanine also decreases the jitters and nausea that sometimes come from consuming too much caffeine. Aim for a 2:1 ratio of caffeine to Suntheanine L-theanine.
What’s really exciting about this new area of better brain nutrition for better performance is that it’s something that can benefit all of us. Whether you’re looking to maneuver a drone, outpace the competition during a distance run, advance to the next level in a video game, ace an exam or impress the boss at work, being focused and in the zone will make the difference between standing at the top of the podium or staying in the middle of the pack.