I love gaming! I always have and during Toronto’s latest COVID-19 related lockdowns, the new-gen console and major title releases and DLC packs, I’ve been gaming more than ever and my triathlon pre-season training is completely on track!
Many people are baffled by gamers and they’re usually at the brunt end of stereotypical comments about physical inactivity or a diet consisting largely of take-out foods, soda, snacks and energy drinks. This is something I’ve never understood because office workers don’t get the same type of criticism or scrutiny yet their lifestyles are largely the same. So as a gamer and someone that’s also been forced to work fully from home because of this pesky Pandemic, I thought it would be the perfect time to share my health tips for a full day of working and gaming!
Ok, let’s talk about physical activity DURING a gaming session!
Whether you’re working/ gaming from mouse and keyboard or gaming with a controller, you’re most likely sitting in a chair, hunched forward. Staying in this position for too long can cause excess strain on your neck and back. For me, strains and pains in my body will really distract me from either working or gaming and I find simply stretching every hour to be the MINIMUM to keep my body in an ergonomic position for long periods of time. My optimal is fitting in a light workout DURING a gaming session.
I do this by keeping a list of 5 exercises and some minor equipment nearby my desk or gaming chair – resistance bands and a small weight. I then rotate through all those exercises for 10-15 reps at each loading/ wipe screen or every 15 minutes! Depending on the type of game you’re playing you’ll fit in a big workout! I typically rotate through:
Meal Prep and don’t skip meals
If you’re anything like me, then your mind can get lost in work or a gaming session and you can forget to eat. Irregular meal timings can cause blood sugar fluctuations which can drive mindless eating as well as affect your ability to focus. Fluctuating energy levels shouldn’t tell you that you need caffeine, it should tell you that your meal timings are off.
Many gamers and office workers usually take fluctuating energy levels as a sign to reach for an additional cup of coffee or energy drink. Unfortunately, excessive caffeine intake can really mess with our REM sleep cycles and impact our body’s Cortisol’s (Stress hormone) levels. I also find that my reaction time is better but my in-game performance is much worse with too much caffeine – similar to excessive caffeine intake in athletes – increased physical output with decreased processing/ mental processing time.
Knowing this about myself, I have to protect myself from self-sabotage as I wouldn’t want a gaming session to negatively impact all my triathlon training, so my answer – meal prep.
I always make sure I have a full day’s worth of food prepped up before huge gaming sessions or work days with giant client loads. This way I don’t panic or stress out about not having enough time to cook. I also set alarms to remind myself to eat. This way I’m set up for success and I’m not sabotaging my workout recovery!
This one might seem obvious but its really not. Many Office Workers and Gamers have purposefully stayed dehydrated during working or gaming hours out of fear that the urgency of needing to pee will distract them from gaming sessions or workflows. Additionally, many people don’t realize how important it is to stay hydrated during the winter. This is because things like indoor heating or humidity changes can really dehydrate someone quickly.
Hydration is important not only to have the body and brain to function optimally but it’s also important to recognize how the body will create cravings if it's dehydrated.
If the body is dehydrated, the thirst response isn’t directly triggered, it’s indirectly triggered by increasing cravings for salty and fatty foods in attempt to dry out the mouth to get you to hydrate. You read that correctly, if the body is dehydrated it tries to dehydrate itself more hoping that you’ll drink water instead of just directly stimulating the thirst response.
Nothing is more distracting to me during a gaming session or work hours than a craving for anything. Its hard for me to focus and I hate the growing cravings for Doritos because the cheese is gonna get stuck in my controller! So instead, I keep a bottle of ice cold water next to me and aim to finish to before my next meal!
Get away from the screen
This is one of the most important things for me, to get away from the screen.
When I’ve been bit by the productivity bug or when I’m about to complete a really hard mission, it’s so easy for me to want to reheat my food and eat it while I’m gaming or writing blogs posts or chart notes.
We always want to be fast and efficient, but then that was a pre-COVID19 world. Now that the world has been forced to slow down, let’s take more time to find better balance in our lives and slow down to reduce the stress of that pre-COVID grind and not have as much distracted eating in our lives!
Getting away from the screen also helps with eye strain, especially at night time!
Speaking of night time, I ALWAYS make sure I cut off all screen-time at least 1 hour before bed to reduce blue light stimulation, allowing my body to get ready for sleep!
So I hope these tips help you out as much as they’ve helped me for the past 15+ years gaming and recently working fully from home. Now if only I could get my hands on a Playstation 5 so I can load up Destiny 2’s Deep Stone Crypt or get ready for Cyberpunk 2077, I’ll be set for the rest of this lockdown and until this winter is over!
Ben Sit, RD, Sports Dietitian, Gamer
President of Evolved Sport and Nutrition
Complete Lifestyle Management