Does a healthy lifestyle make you a better gamer?
Why the top pro players are getting fit.
Just as professional footballers have come to realise that sinking six pints of beer on a Wednesday afternoon probably isn't the best preparation for match day, so some pro gamers are feeling the benefits of a healthy lifestyle during tournaments. Sure, the lack of physical activity in eSports separates competitive gamers from athletes, but players such as Samayan ‘BlinG’ Kay and Nick 'XLNC' Ward have found that following a fitness regime has helped them focus during practice sessions that can be as mentally exhausting as traditional sports.
When you're playing games for 12 hours a day, it's easy to slip into bad habits, but eating fast food and not getting enough sleep can result in lethargy, mood swings and poor performances. To improve their form, many players practise even more, but it is the quality of practice sessions rather than the quantity which is important.
There has been no research on the relationship between healthy eating and gaming ability, nor is there much demand for it, yet pro Starcraft 2 player Samayan ‘BlinG’ Kay is convinced that his fitness plan has improved his performances.
“There’s no question for me that a healthy lifestyle reduces fatigue and helps concentration levels,” said the Team Dignitas player. “I definitely feel I’m more alert throughout the time I'm practising and can stay that way for longer compared to times where I slip away from keeping active and start to binge out a bit.
He added: “I keep things the same pretty much all year round regardless of if I have tournaments upcoming or not. I workout 5-6 times per week, usually eat 6-7 relatively small meals throughout each day and drink about a gallon of water on top of that.”
And Samayan acknowledged that he's not the only one. Many of his peers consider it a way of life and beneficial to their pro gaming careers. "Most players I know that are competing at the highest level are already exercising or doing things to lead a healthy lifestyle, but if they weren't I'd say definitely start as it really does improve the quality of practice you have and also your mindset as a whole.”
Of course, aspirations of becoming an elite athlete to rival marathon runners or triathletes aren't on the agenda, but exercise certainly pumps more blood through the brain. For Call of Duty player Nick ‘XLNC’ Ward, nutrition and exercise help him feel motivated in the build up to tournaments. Well known for his meticulous fixation on perfecting his game down to the angle that his thumb rests on the analog stick, he tries to adopt an equally scientific approach in terms of his health.
“Gamers can be obsessive and I definitely fall within that category," said the Basic player. "I enjoy it though; healthy living is difficult to maintain but it has almost become a passion that I’m never going to give up. To an extent, I’d like to think gaming introduced me to this lifestyle because I’m always looking for ways to fine-tune my game.
“Working out releases frustration as well as helping to keep myself in shape. But nutrition is the real battle. When I eat well I feel better and more positive. A few years ago, I’d snap more easily at the silliest things. And not so long ago I was notorious for moaning in online sessions. But after a short stint with BasiC, and my teammates helping me realise the moaning had to go, I found it a lot easier to cut it out from my game and create a habit out of it, whereas before, no matter how hard I tried, it always stuck with me.”
Nick belives that a healthy lifestyle not only improves his mood but his reactions, too. “My attitude and reactions are the benchmark 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!”
In a one on one moment, that split-second, knee-jerk reflex for the crucial first shot could be the difference between winning a championship and being an also-ran. The benefits of a healthy lifestyle for pro gamers haven't been properly researched, but we know that improving the small details is hugely important in any sport. If pro gamers are saying that a healthy lifestyle is improving their play, who are we to argue?
Well, you could argue with @Loco if you like! If you think keeping fit and healthy doesn't make you a better gamer, that is...
Find out more about the lives of pro gamers:
- eSports unfold: a day in the life of Gotaga