Curiosity › Science › Biology and Medicine › Can eating food shortly before playing video games affect your performance?
Tagged: Brain, Cognition, Metabolism
This might seem like a silly or dumb question and is not relevant to my school work, but it would be interesting to find out as it is related to me playing video games at an almost professional level. I have recently found out that some high-level professional video gamers will play important matches intentionally on an empty stomach to be able to perform better. I have also experienced this where I eat a large meal shortly before an important match and will perform not as well as I would do on an empty stomach, such as playing a match at 1 pm where I have not eaten the whole day. I have searched up online to see if this strategy is a legitimate way to enhance performance or just a silly placebo idea. My (uneducated) idea as to why this is a thing could be the idea that your brain is in use when digesting food therefore potentially decreasing your reaction speeds and other performance factors to do with the use of your brain. I have yet to find a proper answer to this but wondered if someone educated to do with this on this forum could answer. Also if this is all true, how long before a game should I not eat if I was to use this method to enhance my performance?
You are right. After eating, your body prioritizes digestion and the blood flow is concentrated at the core instead of the brain. This, of course, has a negative effect on the performance of any task done, when compared to the same in an empty stomach.
An interesting take on this is reported here (paywall). In a nutshell, this particular study assumes that the brain might perform better on an empty stomach as humans characteristically have evolved to have a focused brain for our inherent need to acquire food. In mildly starved mice, the hunger hormone (ghrelin) seemed to affect their cognitive abilities.
On the other hand, consider psychological factors too. There is an inherent connection between your gut and the brain. Emotions of an individual have a greater effect on their performances. If you are hungry, you might feel anxious. This change in the mood can adversely affect your performance too.
But maybe some people would play well under anxious and stressful conditions. And some may not. And after a full meal, some may find it relaxing and they perform better.
I am afraid, I don’t have a definitive answer. I play Battlefield (not professionally though). Personally, I’d prefer to play in a relaxed mood after eating or when I am mildly hungry. Maybe you can experiment with full, mildly starving, and empty stomach situations and find the right strategy.
I play FPS, Battlefield mostly, from 8 PM to 10 PM. I have found that I play better right before dinner time. During that period, on CTF and rush rounds, I find myself aggressively focused, serious on the lead, and my reflexes are pretty good. After dinner, I just feel relaxed and unfocused. If I choose to play after a meal, I’d rather idle on a defensive line with support or recon class.
So it might be a placebo that makes my brain work more and focused on a reward – dinner. Also, as mentioned by @san, it could be the hunger hormones activating my brain to be more focused. So your guess is right. Mild hunger is likely to improve a gamer’s performance. But I cannot say the same for coding though. It’s the other way for it. Compared to coding, gaming doesn’t demand huge brainpower.
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