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New research highlights the importance of nutrition and sleep for the cognitive performance of esports athletes

New research highlights the importance of nutrition and sleep for the cognitive performance of esports athletes

New research indicates that sports athletes tend to have suboptimal eating habits, low levels of physical activity, and poor sleep quality. The study published in frontiers in nutritionindicates that athletes can enhance their cognitive performance by improving their nutritional intake and sleep habits.

Esports is a fast growing industry with a large global audience and revenue, and Esports athletes undergo extensive training to compete at a high level. The researchers noted that improving nutrition, physical activity and sleep are important factors for improving the performance of traditional athletes. However, limited research has focused on these aspects in sport athletes.

Previous studies have explored the effects of individual micronutrients such as creatine and non-nutritive substances such as caffeine on cognitive performance, but a comprehensive understanding of the impact of nutrition on athletes is lacking.

said study author Stephen E. Richman, associate professor of kinesiology and sports management at Texas A&M University.

“Top athletes have been shown to have some enhanced cognitive abilities but knowledge has been limited in elite athletes where you might expect these elite athletes to have superior visual processing abilities. In addition, the perception of a player’s lifestyle would not fit the lifestyle normally associated with elite athletes but There has been limited information about the behaviors they actually display.”

The researchers recruited 119 participants (103 males and 16 females) who were into eSports. Participants were classified as professional, elite, or enthusiast athletes. To be eligible for the study, participants must be between the ages of 16 and 35 and have acceptable vision. Participants reported playing games an average of 6.33 days per week, with an average of 4.82 hours spent gaming in one session. The most popular type of game was action (eg Fortnite) and adventure games (eg Hello).

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Feeding tracking was performed using automated 24-hour self-administered diet recall software (ASA24). Participants were asked to record their food intake for 10 days, and the data was used to estimate their energy and nutrient intake. The registered dietitian reviews nutrition reports and provides feedback if needed.

To monitor physical activity and sleep, participants wore a LETSCOM Smart Band on their non-dominant wrist. The Smart Band tracks steps, heart rate, and sleep patterns. Participants were instructed to wear the device for at least 8 consecutive days.

The researchers also performed a test of visual cognitive performance using Neurotracker X (NTx) 3D software. Participants completed 20 cognitive training sessions over 8 days. The training sessions involved tracking several moving objects in a virtual 3D space. The researchers measured the participants’ speed threshold, the level at which they correctly identified target objects, and assessed their cognitive flexibility in sustained training sessions.

The average food intake of the athletes did not meet the criteria for a nutritious, well-balanced diet based on the USDA Dietary Guidelines. Participants consumed fewer calories than recommended, and their intake of certain micronutrients, such as magnesium, zinc, folate, omega-6, omega-3, vitamin D, and choline, did not meet recommendations. On average, the participants consumed large amounts of fat and sodium, which can have negative effects on cognitive performance.

In terms of physical activity, the researchers found that the esports athletes achieved an average of only 3,941 steps per day. This is well below the CDC’s recommendation of 10,000 steps per day. Participants also did not engage in moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity as recommended.

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The sprint athletes had shorter overall sleep periods, averaging 7.42 hours per night, and poorer sleep quality. Their sleep patterns were characterized by later sleep onset and sleep disturbance.

The cognitive performance of eSports athletes, as measured by Neurotracker X (NTx), was not significantly higher than that of normal individuals. “We were surprised that the visual tracking performance in elite/professional gamers was similar to the general public,” Riechman told PsyPost. “We thought their performance would greatly outpace the general population and be comparable to professional athletes.”

More importantly, the researchers also found that dietary factors and sleep health are associated with cognitive performance. It was found that participants who consumed the recommended amount of protein (0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight) performed better on the NTx sessions than those who did not consume enough protein. Participants who met the recommended intake for riboflavin, phosphorous, vitamin B12, and selenium did significantly better.

Participants who reported feeling sleepy showed impaired cognitive flexibility. This indicates that improving sleep quality can enhance cognitive performance in sport athletes.

The findings provide evidence that “lifestyle does indeed affect cognitive performance,” Richman said. “If a professional/elite gamer wants to perform better, this article provides a guide to some of the things they can do. With increasing revenue and competition in the gaming world, not many are taking advantage of some great tools to improve success.”

But when examining the relationship between physical activity and cognitive performance/flexibility, no significant associations were found. Physical activity levels had no significant effect on cognitive performance in this study.

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“There are limitations to a study that was conducted remotely and was not controlled in a lab, although we have made great strides in doing so effectively,” Reichmann said. “In order to prove that our lifestyle factors make a difference in performance, we must conduct a controlled experiment in which we try to improve one or more of these factors to demonstrate that performance has improved compared to a control group.”

the study, “Nutrition, lifestyle, and cognitive performance in athletesWritten by Gina B. Goulart, Logan S. Aitken, Saman Siddiqui, Marisa Cuevas, Jacqueline Cardenas, Karen M. Beatard, and Stephen E. Richman.