Like any cognitively demanding task, gaming, particularly at an elite level, can be an exhausting exercise, both physically and mentally. While the importance of rest and recovery for conventional athletes has been well established, and is a cornerstone of modern approaches to training and development, in the relatively new world of eSports, there seems to be less of an emphasis placed on the importance of a considered, strategic approach to rest and recovery. This oversight might well be responsible for an alarming trend identified in our emerging industry: burnout and other mental health issue in highly skilled gamers.
What impact does gaming have on the mind and body?
Gaming is popularly perceived to be an intellectual pursuit; certainly, when compared to the physical demands of conventional sports, this assessment may well seem accurate. However, it is important to recognise that esports do in fact entail significant physical demands, especially during longer sessions.
Physical stresses associated with gaming include:
Posture - sitting at a desk for long periods of time can be detrimental to musculo-skeletal structures.
Strain injuries and chronic - Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), as well as other chronic pain conditions, have been linked to gaming.
Dehydration and malnutrition - the frenetic pace of online play, coupled with long playtimes, leaves little time for adequate nutrition and hydration. Over time, this can lead to serious health consequences.
Eye strain and vision problems - improper screen positioning and brightness has been shown to have detrimental effects on eye health.
In addition to the physical demands of gaming, there are a number of cognitive impacts:
Mental fatigue - The extremely complex nature of contemporary e-sports is demanding on a cognitive level, this depletes neurotransmitters, which can only be replaced with adequate nutrition and recovery time.
Sleep disruption - sleep is vital for neurological and physical health. Research has shown that excessive exposure to bright screens can detrimentally impact sleep duration and quality.
Stress - As a high intensity, high stakes activity, gaming can be stressful - especially for those of us who depend on esports for income. The rise of streaming services like Twitch has compounded this issue - every success and failure is broadcast to the world, which can cause anxiety and stress for some streamers
Personal impacts - gaming can be time consuming. To achieve high levels of play, athletes must necessarily make trade-offs in their personal and social lives.
How does inadequate rest and recovery impact gamers?
Unlike the acute impacts which can be seen on the minds and bodies of conventional athletes - for example marathon runners or soccer players - the demands which esports and gaming place on our health tend to be more chronic in nature, developing over a long period of time.
Failing to address the impacts listed above often leads to long term health problems which can be difficult to identify in their early stages. These can include:
- Burnout and other stress disorders
- Nutritional Deficits
- Chronic Dehydration
- Weight gain or weight loss
Given the chronic nature of these issues, it is important to take a proactive approach to mitigating their impacts. The easiest way to implement this approach is devising a rest and recovery strategy.
Mental and physical recovery
An important distinction to make when discussing rest and recovery is the difference between mental and physical recovery. For many gamers, breaks between play periods take place at their desk. While this might be convenient, it is sub-optimal. Many of the physical and mental impacts of gaming are associated with sitting at a computer, rather than gaming per se.
Mental recovery involves removing yourself from situations with a high cognitive load. Activities like reading, watching a movie, playing with a pet, or engaging in other hobbies are all great ways to allow your brain and nervous system to rest and recover.
In a similar vein, physical rest and recovery strategies don’t necessarily need to be completely passive. Active recovery in the form of walking, conventional sports, yoga or weightlifting can be a great way to allow your body to recover.
That being said, excessive physical exertion can lead to over-training - so be sure to allow for pure rest days, in which physical exertion is kept to a minimum.
Short term and long term recovery strategies
While these proactive steps will be the cornerstone of your long-term recovery strategy, there are times when you need to focus on a particular facet of recovery. For instance, after a particularly gruelling tournament or raid. Short term recovery strategies are focused on alleviating a specific issue - for example, massaging a sore back or allocating extra time for sleep after a long play session.
The key to avoiding the long term impacts of inadequate rest and recovery is to develop strategies that deal with both short term and long term impacts. Take the time to listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to step away - a short rest period at the right time can help to avoid longer term issues down the road.
Supplements and nutrition
The secret to maximising the efficacy of your rest and recovery periods is providing your body with the right building blocks that it needs to restock neurotransmitters, replace electrolyte, repair tissue and maintain cognitive health. Legion supplements are designed for gamers, with these properties in mind. Delivering a well researched, carefully formulated blend of amino acids, vitamins, nutrients and supporting compounds in a delicious, convenient format, Legion supplements are the key to optimal rest and recovery.
The best way to expedite your rest and recovery process is to provide your body with the building blocks it needs while you’re gaming. This allows you to mitigate some of the physical and cognitive impacts of your sport before they happen. Legion HYDRATE+AMINO is formulated with this in mind. We already know that optimal hydration is key to immediate success, but it is just as important for your long term physical and mental health.
While rest and recovery are vital to long term success, there’s one big problem. It’s boring. As elite athletes, we want to be back out there on the playing field, developing our skills and taking names. REST+RECOVERY by Legion is designed to minimise the duration of your rest and recovery periods, while maximising their efficacy.
Supplements like GABA, Zinc and Mucuna Pruriens help you sleep better, for longer. L-Theanine (especially when combined with GABA) is a proven anxiolytic that can help mitigate the restlessness which caffeine often imparts.