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Video games are nothing new. They’ve been around since the late ‘50s. In fact, a very brief history lesson for you. It’s been speculated that a nuclear physicist named William Higinbotham created the first ever video game in 1958 called “Tennis for Two” .
Video games have evolved greatly since then. Various genres have emerged; ranging from action/adventure like Red Dead Redemption to sports-specific games like Madden and MLB The Show.
Just recently, however, the term “E-Sports” has been thrown around. What exactly is an “E-Sport” anyway?
Well, a study from the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior defines it as:
“An area of the game scene in which computer game players specialize in a specific game, form game teams (clans), compete together in tournaments, and meet at so-called LAN (Local Area Network) parties.” .
Sounds like a sport, doesn’t it? Sure, it may not be as physical as a traditional sport such as hockey or football. However, this doesn’t change the fact that it is still a sport, which is a competition between two or more individuals or teams that require particular skills in order to succeed at the given task that the sport necessitates.
Despite this explanation, it still may surprise some people that E-Sport competitions require immense preparation to play at a high level, just like any other sport. This includes proper training, nutrition, and yes, supplementation.
Gaming requires taxing cognitive abilities such as a heavy cognitive workload, visuospatial skills that help us perceive, recognize, and manipulate visual stimuli, as well as an enhanced attention span, among several other cognitive abilities . Because of this, we want to enhance our abilities as much as humanly possible in order to give ourselves the edge over our competition.
Without further ado, here’s a list of 8 supplements that will help you get that mental advantage over your competitors!
Related: Our list of the best rated nootropic supplements
8 Helpful Supplements for Professional Gamers
This one’s a no-brainer, and you might be taking it already. But let’s find out exactly why it’s a great choice.
We all know that caffeine wakes you up. That’s a given. However, there are several other variables that we should look out for when testing the effects of caffeine on the brain. In one double-blind study, caffeine was able to significantly improve a key variable in gaming; reaction time . Plus, this was only shown at 75 mg, which is slightly less than the amount of caffeine in a small 8 ounce can of Red Bull.
Another variable we should be on the lookout for is perceptual memory. Basically, this is the ability to differentiate ideas, concepts, patterns, and individuals and to be able to categorize them .
One caffeine study examined this variable by testing caffeine against napping and a placebo. What the study discovered was that caffeine was able to increase this type of memory at a dose of 200mg better than the napping and placebo groups could. 200 mg is about the amount of caffeine in a 5-Hour Energy Shot .
How Much To Take:
The key here is not to take too much caffeine in order to avoid common side effects such as jitteriness and anxiety. I would suggest keeping your caffeine consumption under 200mg every 4-6 hours at the most.
However, trial-and-error is the best method in which to discover your tolerance, as caffeine tolerance is highly individual and can be quite unpredictable.
Related: Our list of the best rated caffeine supplements
Strange name, I know. Despite the funky name, this stuff is actually quite fascinating in what it’s been able to do for the memory of Alzheimer and Dementia patients . Unfortunately, though, it hasn’t been proven to be all that successful in the memory department for us younger gamers.
BUT, what does seem to improve in younger age groups are blood pressure and cortisol levels. When we get stressed, as we often do during tense moments in sports, our blood pressure rises, in part due to what’s often touted as the “stress hormone”; cortisol.
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands during times of high stress in order to prepare the body for dangerous scenarios that may damage the body’s integrity.
However, in modern society, this really isn’t as necessary as it once was, now that we live in civilized societies that are well-fed, among numerous other reasons as to why we’re not nearly as “primal” as we once were. Because of this, the excess release of cortisol can inhibit our abilities to perform well in the gaming arena, such as impairing our memory and focus .
In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, 70 young volunteers were put through both physical and mental stress testing (static exercise and memory test respectively) . It was shown that when Ginkgo was administered, blood pressure and cortisol were drastically lowered compared to when it wasn’t given to the subjects.
This is very beneficial for gamers because if you are able to keep your stress levels as low as possible during a competition, then memory will be significantly improved, allowing for greater focus to be placed on your actions.
How Much To Take:
Take 120 mg about 1 hour or so before your training or competition. It only needs to be taken once per day and can safely be taken every day, even on non-competitive days to keep blood levels stable.
Related: Our list of the best rated ginkgo biloba supplements
You’re probably aware of how fish oil is a good supplement for overall health, especially for heart and cholesterol health. While that’s all fine and dandy for our general well-being, what we are primarily interested in is its ability to improve another type of memory; working memory.
Working memory is commonly referred to as short-term memory. It is responsible for the temporary holding of information and allows us to make quick, reasoned, and guided decisions that reflects in our behaviors .
In one study that examined working memory, volunteers were given 2 grams of DHA (a type of fish oil) per day . The researchers used a verbal working memory test that has been validated in many studies that came before it; associating DHA with improved working memory.
Essentially, the test requires subjects to monitor a series of letters on a screen and respond when a letter is identical to the one that preceded it one time ago, two times ago, or three times ago, with varying time intervals being used.
The group who took the fish oil performed much better on this examination over the course of the 6 months than the group who didn’t take it. The researchers in this study believe that fish oil possess this cognitive-enhancing quality due in part to its anti-inflammatory effects.
However, further reasoning as to why fish oil works in this manner has yet to be conducted.
How Much to Take:
Using 2 grams is a good place to start. The preceding study used 2 grams. But to note, this was of DHA alone, not EPA.
DHA is one of the two primary types of fish oil present in most supplements. These are the Omega 3s that you commonly hear about. However, in the study, since subjects used only DHA, I would only use that, as the addition of EPA was not proven to enhance cognition and working memory in the study.
You can find DHA supplements in isolation, as well as the traditional combined DHA and EPA fish oil supplements in most vitamin and health food stores, as well as on the internet.
Try saying this one 5 times fast. It’s quite the mouthful. But you’ll be thankful when you take this supplement, as it has been proven to improve both accuracy and calculation speed in as little as 2 weeks! . These skills improved 13% and 20% respectively compared to the placebo group. For a supplement, that is very fast amount of time to witness results.
No matter what the genre of the game being used in competition is, both accuracy and calculation speed are very important in succeeding in the world of gaming and E-Sports. Whether you’re playing a first-person such as Call of Duty or the newest NHL game, having great accuracy will enable you to improve your firing precision or your wrist shot skills.
How Much To Take:
The preceding study utilized the most commonly used dose of 400mg. Although they split it up into two different dosages, this is not necessary, and you take it all in one dose if you wish.
Related: Our list of the best rated phosphatidylserine supplements
Bacopa Monniera (Brahmi)
This supplement, also known more simply as brahmi, has proven to show significant improvements in learning rate, memory consolidation, visual information processing, and even anxiety when compared to a placebo group . However, one must be very patient when taking this supplement, as it takes up to 12 weeks in order to witness these effects.
In layman’s terms, this supplement will help you to learn quicker, be able to more efficiently store short-term memories into long-term memories, better interpret visual information, and even help you to calm your anxiety during times of high stress . It’s pretty obvious that all of these skills will be quite useful to you during times of intense competition.
How Much To Take:
Take 300mg daily for 12 weeks. It’s very important to stick to this regime for the long-term, as these effects take quite a while to become apparent.
Related: Our list of the best rated bacopa monniera supplements
Why does it seem like the best supplements are the ones that are the most difficult to pronounce?
There are two important variables that this supplement was able to not only help out with in a positive way, but they both work hand in hand. The ones I’m talking about here are fatigue and cognition.
First, let’s talk about fatigue, or should I say anti-fatigue for that matter. In the year 2000, researchers conducted an interesting study on the mental performance of young physicians during overnight shifts . What they discovered was that they were able to reduce the fatigue of the physicians by an average of 20% in as little as 2 weeks as illustrated by something called the Total Fatigue Index, which is a validated measure of fatigue in the scientific literature.
As stated earlier, this goes hand-in-hand with the enhanced cognition effect. Because of the anti-fatiguing effects of rhodiola rosea, the physicians were able to drastically improve their performance on whatever work-related tasks they were working on at the time.
Another study proves this point even further, as just 5 days of supplementation in military cadets, again working night duties, was able to significantly reduce fatigue and even improve overall well-being. This led to the cadets improving their mental work capacity relative to the placebo group .
How Much To Take:
These studies used dosages ranging from 300-600mg of Rhodiola Rosea. Usage of any more than this has not been any more effective.
Related: Our list of the best rated rhodiola rosea supplements
For those of you worry-warts out there, I’ve got the supplement for you. L-theanine is one of the main active ingredients found in green tea, alongside caffeine, which we discussed earlier.
In one study, both a visual attentional task as well as an audio-response test were administered. Also, self-reports of anxiety were given by the subjects by utilizing a validated instrument called the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).
The results that they gathered were of decreased heart rate, enhanced visual attentional performance, and improved reaction time, primarily among those who scored high on the anxiety inventory .
Unfortunately, the results were not that significant when it came to low-average anxiety individuals. So I wouldn’t bother with this supplement if you don’t seem to suffer from competition-induced or even a form of general anxiety disorder.
However, for those that do, this supplement is a god-send. It allows for you to calm down without being sedated (being induced to sleep essentially). With this increased calmness, it allows for high-anxiety individuals to improve those key variables of reaction time and visual attentional performance.
How Much To Take:
200mg is the optimal dose here. It can also be paired with caffeine for a synergistic effect that allows for the wakefulness effect of caffeine with reduced chances of side effects such as anxiety and worry.
Related: Our list of the best rated l-theanine supplements
Ginseng has become an increasingly popular supplement in the nootropic (cognitive-enhancing) world. Panax ginseng, sometimes referred to as the “True Ginseng”, is the most well-researched type of ginseng, so that is what we will base our analysis off of.
Results of one particular study showed notable improvements in the scores of two well-known cognitive tests in the psychology realm; the Serial Threes Subtraction Task and a Rapid Visual Information Processing Task. All the subtraction task is is that the subject has to count down from 100 by counts of 7.
Both of these were taken along with a mental fatigue visual scale. Along with the improved cognitive scores, the subjects felt much less fatigued according to the mental fatigue visual scale .
How Much To Take:
Take 400mg in order to see the greatest amount of cognitive benefits.
Related: Our list of the best rated ginseng supplements
Wrapping It All Up
Well, there you go, 8 supplements to help you take your gaming to the next level and take home the title! In summary, here are the most important variables that these supplements will help improve:
- Reaction Time
- Perceptual Memory
- Working Memory
- Visual Attentional Performance/Information Processing
- Learning Rate
- Memory Consolidation
- Calculation Speed
Now go out there and win it all!
ⓘ Any specific supplement products & brands featured on this website are not necessarily endorsed by Zachary.
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About the Author
Zachary MacDonald is a fitness professional with a Master’s Degree from The University of Tampa in Exercise & Nutrition Science. He is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), as well as an amateur bodybuilder in the National Physique Committee, the world’s largest amateur organization of bodybuilding! Email Zachary.