How to Eat Healthier During Intense Gaming Binges
We've all been there: you're a few hours into a heated session of a game that you're absolutely immersed in when your head starts to hurt, and your stomach feels empty. You know you need to eat something, but don't want to tear yourself away from the game.
When you eventually get a chance to take a break, what do you do?
If you're anything like me, you forgo water in favor of coffee and grab a bag of Combos instead of taking the time to prepare real food. While this may not be detrimental in just one day, these kinds of eating patterns will have a negative impact on your overall health, and ultimately, your gaming career.
I'll be blunt with you: eating healthy can be difficult. If you're in the middle of the most difficult campaign of your life, it can feel downright impossible. However, with a little preparation and some smarter choices at the grocery store, healthier eating can be made possible with a few small changes in your routine.
I sought out professional advice from a real-life gamer
Kevin Martenson is an avid gamer and NASM certified personal trainer. I sat down with him to discuss some strategies specifically tailored to help gamers achieve better nutrition. Kevin is currently playing Final Fantasy XV, World of Final Fantasy, and is "finally getting around to The Last of Us."
Kevin shows off a picture of his gaming space
According to Kevin, two of the main nutritional concerns for gamers are "making sure you have enough carbs to keep your energy up and your mind sharp" and having "plenty of water to stay hydrated and alert."
"I know I should eat better, but what are my options?"
1. Preparing meals ahead of time
When you're in the midst of an intense gaming binge, Kevin emphasizes the importance of eating balanced meals or snacks "every two or three hours." He explains how regular meals improve your metabolism and reduce your body's rate of fat storage, which is important when you're remaining sedentary for hours on end.
"Whether you work out or not, it's beneficial to really have a balanced diet, making sure to eat protein, carbs, and fat with each meal. The percentages of each are different, depending on your health level and fitness goals, but you definitely need all three, despite what every fad diet might tell you."
Prepping your meals ahead of time is a great way to get regular meals in while you're conquering your foes. Simply make your balanced meals ahead of time and store them in sealed containers and reheat them during your breaks. You can make extra and store them in the freezer for longer periods of time if necessary.
Chicken, sweet potatoes, and green beans that I made. Kevin approved!
2. Substituting junk with healthier snacks
Snacking is important to keep your blood sugar up between meals. It's also good for when you simply can't get up to eat a whole meal and need to sneak bites when you can. According to Kevin, desserts and other sweets are okay too, but in moderation.
"Low butter popcorn is a good idea instead of anything from the chip family. And they're relatively clean so you don't have to worry about your friend getting sweaty orange dust caked around all of your buttons. Nuts are a good source of healthy fat. Just don't go too crazy with them. For example, a serving of almonds is 28. Raw veggies with hummus works too."
"Limit junk food, especially sugar, and you'll be able to prolong gameplay without crashing," he stated, "I can safely say from experience that eating an entire tub of frozen cream puffs is not a good idea."
3. Trying meal replacement shakes and bars
For protein shakes, Kevin says that "calories should be 150 or less with 20 to 25 grams of protein per serving."
"Most people are lacking in protein, compared to carbs and fat. So this is a quick way to get that in your system when mixing it with water. Mix your protein powder with milk to slow down the protein absorption to feel full longer. It's a good way to keep you from wanting to over-snack."
For those looking for something more substantial that feels more like real food, Kevin recommends protein bars "for more of a meal replacement and actually having something to chew." However, protein bars usually have higher levels carbs and fat than shakes, so he encourages gamers to check labels and get bars with lower sugar and saturated fat. He also warns that while bars are better than not eating, "actual healthy food is almost always a better way to go."
4. Make healthier choices when eating out or ordering in
Not all of us are going to prep meals or go out and buy protein powders. But if you absolutely won't make the change in the kitchen and at the grocery store, there are ways to make healthier choices when you order take out or get delivery. Reducing fat by forgoing creamy sauces or cheese is a good way to cut calories, as well as controlling portions by splitting a large meal into two smaller ones.
However, Kevin believes that it is extremely important for gamers to implement at least one or two of the previously mentioned options above in order to stay mentally and physically at the top of your game.
"I don't really think there are good ways to go out to eat. You can order food without cheese, get sauces on the side, or order from the light menu, but at the end of the day, it's better to make the effort to eat right at home. It's cheaper," he says.
If you need the motivation to find a solid workout routine to go along with your healthier eating habits, check out this GameSkinny article on why gamers should work out!