I want to start this post off by emphatically stating; I am NOT a Nutritionist, Dietitian, or a Doctor of any kind. So I will not be telling you what you should or should not consume, or the quantity. However, I do want to analyze how caffeine or energy drinks can effect your performance in eSports.
Caffeine and eSports are forever intertwined. From drinking a ton of soda while playing in our living rooms, to where we are today with major brand sponsorships from Monster and Red Bull. For a lot of us it’s our go-to whenever we start playing. For others it’s just part of their every day life. Regardless of your reason, can you confidently assess the impact it is having on your performance? Are you aware of when it’s aiding you or hindering you?
With those questions in mind, let’s look at the effects of caffeine and the way it correlates with performance.
A General Overview
After researching hundreds of scholarly reviewed articles, the general consensus is there is no definitive understanding of the effects that caffeine has on cognitive performance. There are too many variables to truly give an answer. A persons health, age, or diet can play a factor. The tests used during the experiments don’t reflect that of a competitive eSport. Not to mention a lot of articles just contradict each other. However, there are some facts that we can go off of.
I Feel A Tingle
One thing we absolutely know about caffeine is that in the “proper” doses it can improve mood and reduce fatigue. Improving mood is crucial when competing. It can help reduce the amount of self evaluation that is put into every micro decision. Keeping you calmer, while still being alert. Reducing fatigue is fairly obvious to any caffeine drinker. When we need to stay up late to study, or wake up on our way into work, caffeine has a positive effect.
However, caffeine alone doesn’t truly effect your cognitive performance. Combinations of caffeine and glucose (sugars) have been seen to improve cognition. By how much is still up for debate. Which is why you don’t see every eSports competitor drinking an energy drink before, during, or after a game. It’s not a make for performance. However, it can be a break for your performance.
…And Now I’m Crashing
We have all been there. You are absolutely zooming, and then the crash hits you. Fatigue, headache, irritability, you name it. Studies show that too much caffeine, glucose and other ingredients can cause you to completely reverse the once positive effects of caffeine. Actually reducing cognitive performance, mood, and energy.
The tricky part for avid caffeine drinkers, is that we have the ability to build a tolerance for the effects. Meaning we need to consume more than a casual caffeine drinker to gain it’s effects. This mental and chemical blurring makes it much harder to be aware of how it’s impacting your performance. Sometimes you’ll drink some before a game and feel a boost, other times nothing, and sometimes you can feel your focus narrowing.
Why Is This Important?
Having a general understanding of caffeine and it’s effects can help you hone in on it’s impact on you. If you believe you have to drink an energy drink before you compete, or you won’t be at your best, this may convince you otherwise. It’s possible that the caffeine has altered your decision making at times, and you weren’t aware of it. Attributing it to just playing poorly.
Putting these things into perspective adds a layer to your performance, and consistency. More and more we are seeing huge pushes in the nutrition side of eSports. Being aware of your caffeine intake will put you a step ahead, and help you find balance. Especially when you consider the positive benefits it has, and your able to utilize them.
Years ago I worked an overnight job. Sometimes seven days a week. After working all night, I would drive out to tournaments and compete. At that time, I was drinking a lot of energy drinks, and they would get me to the alertness level I needed to win. However, after leaving that job and returning my sleep schedule to normal. I kept the same routine on my way to every tournament. Not realizing the effect it was having on my performance. My focus would narrow, I wouldn’t be able to adjust as easily, and I would lose my tournament endurance. Not all the time, but most of the time. Once I discovered this issue, I switched my drink of choice and my frequency. I immediately realized the difference, and my performance changed along with it.
For me, I stick to Coffee these days.
Hopefully this information brought you some awareness and helped you look at your relationship with caffeine differently as it relates to competition.