Why is Nutrition Important in Esports

If you’ve been looking at our Esports Career Skills Programme for Young Learners, you may have noticed there are sections of the course dedicated to health and conditioning. You may ask – if players are only sitting down playing video games, why is nutrition important in esports?

This is an understandable question if you think of video games as simply having fun on your own or with friends – but at the highest competitive level, often with huge prizes at stake, esports participants seek to gain any possible advantage when it comes to concentration and mental performance. Proper nutrition helps players enhance their reaction times and reflexes, which are vital in competitive gaming.

If you work at a desk in an office, for example, you will understand how illness or low energy levels can affect the quality of your output. Now just imagine the pressure of a stadium full of screaming fans, eager to see whether a series of micro-decisions lead to your glorious success or crushing failure.

Contrary to some stereotypes around gaming and health, high-level esports requires players to have a solid cognitive function, physical and mental health, stress management, and sleep quality – all of which can be greatly improved with a strong nutrition plan.


Physical and mental conditioning: the link

As a Commonwealth Games gold and European Games silver medallist in esports, Emma Rose has spent a lot of time thinking about the link between physical and mental conditioning. She’s gone from 23 stone to 15 between the tournaments (and impressively is now down to around 10/11!).

Why is Nutrition Important in Esports? Emma Rose aka Emzii explains.

“I was sick of seeing how I looked on camera and feeling out of shape out of breath and just unfit or able to focus”, she told us. “I would drink 4 or 5 cans of energy drinks a day (sugar-free, because that makes it okay, right?) endless snacks and crisps, and I would crash very hard either mid-game or directly after a game.”

Emma (known as Emzii in online gaming circles) decided to seek help from a professional.

“Between the Commonwealth and European Games, I worked with a coach who helped me understand the importance of physical and mental wellbeing, which let me ditch the fizzy drinks and bad snacks for something more sustainable. I also felt a lot better in myself personally which meant I was able to come across more active on camera and put on better performances, which then in turn helped my mental wellbeing”.

Emzii has openly fought depression and mental health issues, but says that with regular exercise and a good diet – allowing for the occasional treat – her moods have become a lot more manageable.

“Mental state is a huge part of what we do. When you win the highs are incredibly high, but the lows are equally as low. You don’t need to be adding a sugar or caffeine crash onto that”.


Healthier snack examples

Ensuring you stick to a balanced diet, and making sure you get the necessary vitamins and nutrients, can improve concentration and cognitive functions – which will allow you to perform better and than if you fill up on crisps and chocolate.

When we asked for her favourite healthier snacks, Emzii focused on three examples:

  1. “Fruit – Apples and Bananas are my favourite. Good instant energy without the crash of any artificial sugar, also they taste great”.
  2. “Popcorn – Healthier for late-night snacking during a gaming session. Same great flavour but is a lot better for your body!”
  3. “Nuts – A good source of proteins for your body and tasty snack compared to something pumped full of sugar (in moderation).”

The World Health Organisation recommendations a balanced diet across vitamins, minerals, water, protein, carbohydrates, fibre and fats. Useful further reading on getting a balanced diet can be found on the NHS’ ‘Eatwell Guide’ page. Other benefits of a balanced diet include weight management, delaying onset of illness or disease later in life such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, career longevity, and increases in focus, reaction, time, mood and concentration.

Of course, one more advantage of eating well is that it makes it much easier to exercise!


Why is exercise important in esports?

Fnatic League of Legends pro Martin “Rekkles” Larsson told the British Esports Federation: “I think in the beginning of my career, I just thought if I played 16 hours every day for a whole year, I’d be the best player. But I think these days that’s one of the worst things you can do.”

Sitting for a long time can increase your cortisol levels (the hormone that controls your blood sugar levels, and regulates metabolism), and make you feel stressed. That’s why it’s important to block time out to move around and stretch – making sure you get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day will reduce your cortisol levels, and improve mental and physical wellbeing.

Of course, practicing a lot is important, but without taking the time to focus on your wellbeing, doing it too much can actually be detrimental to performance. We are all increasingly aware of the connection between physical and mental health – and how one can support the other. For optimum success, players should aim to look after their bodies and minds.


What are the unique challenges esports players face?

While there are endless educational and training choices for people who are looking to improve their nutrition, and general health, our Young Learners Programme, in partnership with the British Esports Federation (based in Sunderland, UK), focuses on the specific lifestyle and mindset changes required for an enthusiastic esports athlete to achieve their potential.

“Finding time for fitness is the important thing” said Emzii. “Especially during competitions as depending on how well you do, or your personality. You may have a lot of extra commitments such as media, fan interactions, or sponsorship meetings. For me, I found if I went to the gym first thing in the morning it would set me up for my day. I’d eat better and be more active throughout the day, which had a direct correspondence to my in-game performance.”


So, is Nutrition Important in Esports?

Hopefully now you understand that the answer is a big ‘yes’! If you are interested in learning more about nutrition, conditioning, or developing a career in esports – look no further!


The Esports Career Skills Programme

For two weeks starting on 28 July 2024, players between 12-17 years old can boost their gaming skills and gain the personal tools required to explore career opportunities within the thriving esports industry. Find out more here!