HYDRATE TO WIN – DRINKING WATER AS A GAMER
If you’ve been in the gaming community for the past few years, you may have noticed an increase in popular content creators promoting all kinds of drinks like Gfuel and Redbull. If you’ve ever actually tried these drinks while gaming though, you may have noticed a wide mix of effects such as energy boosts, energy crashes, feeling thirsty, or having to take bathroom breaks more often.
Many of the drinks we consume while gaming at home, tournament, or con have a long list of chemicals in them that have different effects on our bodies. Today we are going to be talking about how common drinks can effect our hydration levels and what that means for you as a gamer when deciding what to consume.
Hydration in Esports
Before we get into specifics let’s speak first about what hydration is and why it’s important for Esports.
Hydration by definition
Since our bodies are roughly 60% water, every single system relies on having enough of it. Those systems include your brain and muscles that have to work together so you can successfully crank 90s, get headshots, and make in-game decisions to lead your team to victory.
So the next question we have to answer is how does your body use/ lose water?
Homeostasis – Water balance in gamers
The body operates on a system of homeostasis; which is a combination of the Greek words for “same” and “steady”. It’s also a big sciency word meaning everything in the body needs to be balanced.
Electrolytes – The sponge of the gamers blood
When talking about hydration levels the 2 most important factors are going to be water level and electrolyte levels.
Examples of electrolytes are things like salt and other minerals.
These electrolytes can be found naturally in a variety of foods and in sports drink choices such as NUUN, Mio Sport, Powerade, Gatorade, Vitamin Water, etc.
So why are electrolytes important to hydration and gaming you wonder? Electrolytes are like sponges that float in our bloodstream and they attract water. So, If your body has electrolytes mixed in with the water in your system, it is more likely to hold onto that water and keep your hydration levels high while you are gaming.
If you’ve ever eaten a whole bucket of heavily salted popcorn at the theater you know that it makes you incredibly thirsty quickly. This is because you have increased your electrolyte levels and haven’t matched it with water, so you get that thirsty sensation.
Major take-home point here is that electrolytes + water are the most efficient way to hydrate by keeping your fluid levels in homeostasis (balance).
↑Water + Electrolytes → ↑Homeostatic Balance → ↑ Hydration → ↑ Mechanical Skill / Gamesense
Next, let’s talk about things that can unbalance the water levels in your system by making you lose water while you are gaming.
Artificial Sweeteners – How does it affect hydration in gaming?
Artificial sweeteners which are found in almost every drink that doesn’t have sugar in it. These artificial sweeteners are reported to cause some irritation to your bladder and can have an effect of making you have to run to the restroom more often and losing water. People that drink a lot of diet sodas while they game can attest to this fact.
Major take-home point here is that artificial sweeteners are a much better alternative than processed sugar, but they do come with some hydration and gaming drawbacks that should be taken into account.
↑Artificial Sweetener → ↑Bladder Irritation → ↑ Bathroom Visits → ↓ Water Volume → ↓ Mechanical Skill / Gamesense
Caffeine – Does it really dehydrate us as gamers?
Caffeine can be an incredibly useful chemical while gaming because it can increase alertness and reaction time but is in fact, a powerful psychoactive drug like alcohol or tobacco. Many of the risks that come with other drugs also apply to caffeine use. Dangers of caffeine in gamers include addiction, crashing, tolerance, heart health risks, dehydration, mood disturbances, sleep schedule problems, etc. Caffeine has a couple of different effects on the body and hydration levels.
- Caffeine is primarily a stimulant, which is why so many of these performance drinks use it as part of their formula. In addition to speeding up your brain, it also speeds up your heart. This increase in activity of the heart increases your blood pressure and it turns out your body isn’t a big fan of increased blood pressure so it compensates by getting rid of water.
- Your body’s mechanism of keeping your blood pressure from skyrocketing when you consume caffeine is to flush the kidneys of salt. This drop in electrolytes makes it harder for your body to hold onto water, leading to dehydration and difficulty rehydrating.
- The third effect of caffeine is relaxation of the bladder muscles and urgent bathroom breaks. If you have ever had a Reign or Bang while gaming you may have noticed you get these “now or never” bathroom urges. This can be a direct effect of the high levels of caffeine.
Major take-home point here is that caffeine is a useful chemical situationally, but does come with some hydration and gaming drawbacks that should be taken into account.
↑Caffeine → ↑Stimulation of Nervous System → ↑ Blood Pressure→ ↓ Water Volume → ↓ Mechanical Skill / Gamesense
Sugar – Sweet, but toxic for gamers…
Excuse this terrible pun but… there’s no way to sugarcoat the toxic relationship our society has with high fructose corn syrup. The human body was never meant to process simple sugars in the amounts that we consume them in our food and drinks. Sugar in your blood is a necessary part of maintaining the health of your cells but too much of a good thing is *in fact,* a bad thing.
All the extra sugar that you put into your body with something as simple as even a glass of orange juice has to be gotten rid of by the body. The way this happens is by dumping the extra sugar from the bloodstream and into the bladder. This causes increased bathroom breaks and decreased hydration levels.
Major take-home point here is that sugar is needed in small amounts but can cause dehydration in larger quantities.
↑Sugar→ ↑Blood Sugar Levels → ↑ Bathroom Breaks→ ↓ Water Volume → ↓ Mechanical Skill / Gamesense
Alcohol – How can it harm your performance while gaming?
If you are under the age of 21 there are many reasons you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol at all so this section isn’t for you. BUT if you are of age and are considering drinking on stream or at a tournament there are many things to consider. Because this article is mainly about hydration we won’t get into the harmful effects alcohol can have on your mechanical skills and gamesense (spoiler: it’s pretty intense). But as far as dehydration goes alcohol has a significant impact on your kidneys which are responsible for keeping that water balance we talked about earlier. Your body produces a hormone called “Vasopressin” that tells your kidneys to hold onto water. When you drink alcohol this hormone is suppressed and your kidneys go from being a dam to a river. This effect is known by many people that have experience drinking as “breaking the seal”. There’s no magic in going to the restroom for the first time after you start drinking, it’s just that urge to frequent the restroom every 10-15 minutes comes from your kidneys no longer reabsorbing water like they used to and the bladder keeps filling up.
Major take-home point here is that alcohol in moderation can be ok, but if you are trying to maintain competitive capacity, save the champagne for after you win.
↑Alcohol→ ↑Blood Alcohol Levels → ↓ Vasopressin→ ↓ Water Retention → ↓ Mechanical Skill / Gamesense
Esport Hydration Tier List
If all of that was TL:DR we put together this handy tier list you can refer to when streaming, competing, or casually playing.
- The tiers are broken down by substances that cause dehydration while gaming.
- The subteirs are broken down by levels of the substances and combos that contribute to higher levels of dehydration while gaming.
- All individual rows are ordered High > Low
General rules for using this tier list.
- For every drink you have below the S teir
- drink 1-3 drinks from the S tier
- based on how far below the S tier that drink is.
- Example 1
- 1 Gfuel (A Tier)(S Tier – 1)
- 1 Vitamin Water Zero (S Tier)
- Example 2
- 1 Original Formula Monster Energy Drink (B Tier)(S Tier – 2)
- 1 Water with Nuun (S Tier)
- 1 La Croix (S Tier)
- Example 3
- 1 Four Loko Sour Seltzer (C Tier)(S Tier – 3)(God help us)
- 1 Coconut Water (S Tier)
- 1 Voss Water (S Tier)
- 1 Powerade Ion 4 Electrolyte pack dissolved in water (S Tier)
- Example 1
We hope that this article and tier list was informative and you are able to use this information to improve your health and performance while gaming. Remember no one drink on this list is going to ruin your health (with the exception of Four Loko). Taking all things in moderation is key and understanding how to maintain the balance inside your body is an important part of informed decision making so you can Play More and Hurt Less!
If you are a content creator sponsored by any of these brands, be open and honest about how they can and should be used from a big-picture standpoint. If you want to educate your fanbase on how to make educated drink choices, feel free to share these tier lists on any platform!