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Nutritional needs unique to competitive gaming

Electronic sports or esports is a form of video game competition that was virtually unheard of by the general population until the late 2000s; but since then, has grown so rapidly that it will soon to be part of Olympic competition. The last few years have seen especially robust growth in all areas including the number of players participating, the number of spectators watching the games, and the market monetary growth.  According to research by SkyQuest Technology, the esports global market was valued at USD 957.5 million in 2019, and by 2021 had grown to USD 1.08 billion, an increase of over 10% in two years. [1] It is expected to reach a value of USD 2.8 billion by 2028. By the end of 2022, the spectator audience is expected to reach 532 million. [2]

Dedicated esports gamers are true athletes, yet the nature of their sport presents a unique set of nutritional needs that are quite a bit different from the traditional athlete. They may game for 10 or more hours a day, often with few if any breaks, leading to less full-body exercise and diminished time outdoors. They spend time practicing for competitions or in gaming with other players or teammates. Unlike traditional athletes, esports participants may remain seated in one position for extended periods of time, engaging in more of a mental workout than a physically active one. However, esports can have the same effect on heart rate and release of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Cortisol is called the “fight or flight” hormone because it helps our bodies cope with sudden stressors or life-threatening situations. Though beneficial in the short-term, continuous release of cortisol can cause fatigue, chronic inflammation, anxiety, and diminished cognitive functioning. Conventional foods and strategic supplementation that help sustain mental and physical energy during competitive events and provide immune and inflammatory modulating support can be of tremendous benefit.

Participation in esports also requires a prolonged focus and concentration needed to rapidly interact with changing movements on a video screen but can cause gamers to blink less frequently causing dry eyes, eye strain and headaches. This impact on vision is compounded by blue light LEDS used in most digital devices. Animal studies and limited human data indicate that prolonged exposure to the high energy from blue light can cause damage to the cornea and retina of the eye, perhaps eventually contributing to the development of cataracts or macular degeneration. Supplementation with nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids to help maintain healthy tear production, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin that are known to help protect the integrity of the retina and macula, can help offset some of the potential damage from blue light exposure.

In addition, most gaming requires the use of a computer mouse and/or a keyboard and involves repetitive hand motions to control movements on the screen, leading to disorders affecting the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the hands. A general anti-inflammatory diet, along with collagen rich protein can help support the body’s self-healing and reduce inflammation around overworked tissue.

An ideal diet for esports enthusiasts should focus on lean, high-quality protein with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, similar to other sports diets. Gamers should drink plenty of water and strive to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance. They may not want to spend the time or effort in carefully planning their meals and dietary supplement regimen, so there is a need for products that can provide beneficial combinations of nutrients to fill in the dietary gaps.

Beverages are probably the best format for efficiently delivering multiple nutrients that gamers need to give them the edge in competition, but many of these nutrients are fat-soluble, limiting their use in most beverages. Often, they are also limited by poor absorbability through the intestinal wall. Fortunately, innovative technologies have been developed to facilitate the inclusion of fat-soluble ingredients into clear liquids. VitaSperse®/VitaDry® from 3i Solutions (a Stratum Nutrition technology partner) is an exceptional technology for dispersing fat-soluble ingredients into water-based formats. VitaSperse has already been shown to enhance CoQ10 absorption and efficacy in human clinical trials. [3] CoQ10 is a human indigenous antioxidant enzyme that is critical for cellular energy throughout the body and could be a worthwhile addition to an esports formulation.

VitaSperse® technology has also been utilized to add antioxidant carotenoids, such as astaxanthin to clear liquid products. Astaxanthin has the benefit of being able to cross the blood-brain and blood-retinal barrier, providing critical antioxidant support for both the eyes and the brain. Additional carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin that are particularly beneficial to the eyes could be easily included in a formulation. Currently, 3i Solutions is running bioaccessibility studies at Ohio State University on carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, employing VitaSperse and VitaDry (powdered) technology. Preliminary data is beginning to reveal promising results under simulated digestion, demonstrating 5-10 times greater bioaccessibility compared to control nutrients delivered in gelcaps.

The addition of omega-3 fatty acids to a formulation for gamers could provide general anti-inflammatory support as well as critical support for dry eyes. A plant-based multi-omega, such as Ahiflower® seed oil would be the perfect choice as it contains a balanced blend of critical omega-3-6-9s. Ahiflower could also be added to a beverage product using VitaSperse technology.

The unique nutritional needs of competitive gamers are just beginning to be revealed, but the knowledge and technologies are available now to meet those needs, enabling esports to continue to expand for years to come.

 

References

[1] SkyQuest Technology Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

[2] https://newzoo.com/insights/trend-reports/newzoo-global-esports-live-streaming-market-report-2022-free-version

[3] Miles, M.V., Horn, P., Miles, L., Tang, P., Steele, P., & DeGrauw, T. (2002) Bioequivalence of coenzyme Q10 from over-the-counter supplements. Nutrition Research, 22, 919-929.