Preface: I'm a 4'th year medical student with a passion for self-improvement and optimization. This includes my IRL skills as well as my gaming. How to improve faster, how to be more efficient with my time, how to reach new heights, feel and play better; these are the things that interest me and I try to find ways to do it through science. Some of you may have seen my previous posts on Meditation and Flow. You might have also noticed that I post on multiple competitive gaming subreddits. I do this because these are games I personally enjoy, have coached and/or have competed in and also because these tips and tricks are not title dependent. Everyone can benefit and even apply it for things IRL. I want to keep learning so please hit me with your own discoveries, tips and tricks. I'm genuinely pleasantly surprised with the responses and the chance to meet like-minded individuals!
This is the 2nd part of the three-part framework for Accelerated Learning (Purposeful Practice, Body and Mind). If you read the first part here you will be happy to know this one is much simpler but just as important. If you want to skip the science then just read the What to do to improve section of each part.
- Physical Activity
- Reaction Time
- Reaction Time is a measure of the efficiency of the central and peripheral nervous system.
- This paper showed just 30 seconds of intense exercise decreased RT from an average of .303 to .268. That is an 11.5% improvement.
- Research on auditory reaction time pre/post exercise on 30 young volunteers shows 7 minutes of exercise immediately decreased reaction time.
- Another study on eye-tracking reaction times found a decrease of 50 milliseconds and improved cognitive performance by 14%.
- This short term benefit is mostly mediated by increased blood flow to the brain and peripheral systems. The increased heart rate and blood pressure through stimulation of receptors such as B1 allow for the increased blood flow, oxygen supply, and nutrients which result in increased performance.
- Higher overall fitness levels are "associated with better inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility". This means better focus, task switching and reduced RT. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01298/full
- Going to plug this interesting one in here. The immediate effect of slow deep breathing on reaction time. "Among the whole study population, significant decrease (p<0.001) in reaction time was noted (90.35±13.96 msVs 76.68±9.90 ms)".
- It is defined as " the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses".
- BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is a chemical essential to neuronal plasticity (learning), neurogenesis, neuroprotection and even help against obesity. Decreases in this chemical leads to neuronal loss and diseases like Alzheimer, Parkinson, etc. Interestingly it’s been shown to affect the hippocampus an area of the brain that is most commonly associated with memory, learning and spatial navigation. BDNF primes the brain to learn better and faster.
- One single bout of exercise increases BDNF levels in blood by 32%
- This incredible paper showed how mice who trained "showed faster acquisition and better retention". Not only that but mice who were lazy were able to recover 50% of their decline after starting exercise. "Voluntary exercise ameliorates some of the deleterious morphological and behavioral consequences of aging".
- E-sport athletes have shown to have the cortisol (the adrenocorticotropic “stress” hormone) levels of a race car driver.
- Chronic stress has been linked to a decline in cognitive function as well as reducing the size of the hippocampus. It also gives anxiety, increases irritability, affects concentration and increases muscle tension.
- Exercise reduces stress and it also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators (runner’s high). Serotonin is also released which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. It is produced primarily in the gastrointestinal system but also in the brain by a serotonin factory in the Raphe nuclei in the brainstem. It makes you feel happier, calmer, more focused, less anxious, more emotionally stable.
- Those with ADHD improve focus with exercise.
- What to do to improve
- Exercise at least 3x a week. Aim for 30-45 mins minimum. If possible do it before practice.
- Do a short exercise routine (5-7 min) before practice. Examples include: push ups, high-knee jog in place, squat jumps, exercise bike etc. This all depends on your level of fitness. Come up with something you like and can stick to it. Gradually increase the intensity as you get more comfortable.
- Between matches do 30 seconds of exercise but make sure it is of high intensity
- Wake up, game, sleep, repeat. We tend to do this often, play to till the break of dawn, sleep 5-6 hours, feel exhausted and then do it again. This hinders your performance immensely.
- Sleep deprivation causes neurons to respond slowly, fire weakly and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual. These effects were studied on visual processing and it showed that it took longer to encode information and translate visual input into conscious thought. Also, it decreases the assortment of relevant vs irrelevant visual stimuli. Working memory is also affected. Any useful information you need to recall and integrate into a decision in the game will be hindered. This means poor short term memory, reaction time, or vigilance; and degraded mood.
- When we’re underslept, our body is experiencing a need for sleep, a need to stay awake, and a need to perform tasks. These competing drives interfere with our attention from moment to moment, leading to cognitive impairment and an increased reaction time.
- Exercise is shown to not only facilitate falling asleep but also have a deeper more regenerative sleep. Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration. Exercise may also bolster sleep in other ways, because it reduces stress and tires you out. Early morning and afternoon exercise may also help reset the sleep wake cycle by raising body temperature slightly, then allowing it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later.
- What to do to improve
- Calculate how much sleep your body needs. We are all different.
- Go to bed at a reasonable hour without having played at least 30 mins prior.
- Put a stopwatch.
- Wake up naturally and record the time.
- Repeat 3-5 times.
- Structure every day in a way that will allow you to get that amount of sleep.
- Mine is: 7 hours and 12 minutes or 9 hours. Depends on how hard my day was.
- Go to sleep at the same hour every day, including weekends (I fail on this frequently too but I notice the huge difference)
- Do NOT eat after 7pm. Food stimulates our awake brain which disrupts sleep. No more late snacks. Some people think the drowsy feeling after eating is good for sleep but it will actually lead to sleep fragmentation.
- Reduce blue light.
- Use blue light blocking glasses.
- Turn on night mode.
- Do something relaxing at least 30 minutes before bed. I suggest reading.
- Put your room cold. Take a hot shower and then go to bed. The change in core body temperature promotes sleep.
- Watch the sunset. The contrast in colors primes the brain for sleep.
- Get at least 15 min of sun a day.
- This video by
is a great explanation on the science of nutrition and esport performance
- Seriously, he did a good job so just watch it.
- What to do to improve
- Cut out sugar. I can't emphasize this enough. Not only cutting it down helps performance, reaction time, but it's also proven decrease things like depression and inflammation. Just stop taking it. I know we're used to it thanks to the western diet (I was too) but when you cut it out you will notice the difference.
- Foods high in omega 3’s: salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines.
- Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory.
- Two servings a week suggested
- Foods with Zeaxanthin/Lutein
- These carotenoids found in the eye filter harmful blue light keeping them healthy.
- Zeaxanthin 20mg daily increased 10% reaction time over the course of 4 months.
- Highest in Dark Leefy Greens (Spinach)
- Antioxidant compounds in berries have many positive effects on the brain, including: improving communication between brain cells, reducing inflammation throughout the body, increasing plasticity, which helps brain cells form new connections, boosting learning and memory, and reducing or delaying age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline
- Curcmin, the active ingredient crosses the blood brain barrier.
- Anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory.
- Helps mood. One study found it improved depression symptoms just as much as an antidepressant over six weeks
- Increases BDNF
- To reap the benefit try cooking with curry powder
- High in Vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that's densely packed into brain cells.
- Pumpkin Seeds
- High on Zinc, Magnesium, Iron, and Copper.
- These help nerve signaling and learning/memory,
- Vitamin C
- Key factor in brain health and overall health
- Guava's, Kiwi, Strawberry, Tomato, Oranges
- Vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline.
- Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory.
- Two studies found that higher intakes of choline were linked to better memory and mental function.
- Do not take energy drinks. Boat load of sugar.
- Green tea is a better alternative to coffee. It contains caffeine and L-theanine an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and makes you feel more relaxed. L-theanine also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which helps you relax without making you feel tired.
- Do not take caffeine as soon as you wake up. Our bodies produce cortisol which peaks between 8-9am. If you're a very early riser (4am) then it's fine.
- Do not take caffeine in the late afternoon. Caffeine can last over 10 hours in our system so taking caffeine later in the day can lead to difficulty falling asleep.
- Optimal time right after lunch imo.
- Take a caffeine nap. Drink coffee then nap for 15 minutes. By the end of the of nap the caffeine will start taking its effect.
- Hack. Use caffeine pills as a more cost-effective way to take caffeine. I take 200 mg pills and cut them into 4 equal pieces which would approximate 50mg of caffeine each. Only 1 of those pieces should suffice.
You're a true tryhard if you read through it. Please hit me up with tips, suggestions, corrections, etc. The more I learn the better. Stay OP friends.
- Nootropics and Gaming: My attempt to figure out what is worth it using research
- Study Results – Does Reaction Time Matter for being Good at Gaming?
- Practice, Memory and You
More about League of LegendsPost: "The Body and its Role on Gaming Performance (For Tryhards)" specifically for the game League of Legends. Other useful information about this game:
- Garen Jungle In-depth Guide – How to make all 9 other players hate you
- MSI 2021 Group Stage / Round 1 – Day 5 – Group B / Live Discussion
- Dopa talks about the new 11.10 patch, Zed mains and more (090521 stream)
- MSI 2021 Group Stage / Round 1 – Day 4 – Group A / Live Discussion
- Japanese Twitch Reactions to DFM vs. DWG and C9 vs. INF
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