Is Poker Damaging to Your Health? - Part 4
I was at the APAT event in Newcastle last weekend, it was about five hours into the tournament and I was getting very worried. Not about my (pathetic) chip count, the blinds starting to eat me up or not being dealt a decent hand in ages. I was worried because the casino didn't have much in the way of low GI, high tyrosine, iron rich snack food.
With the possible exception of a potential pun about poker 'chips' , food is not exactly going to feature much in the next edition of Supersystem, but your diet is a surprisingly important factor into how you will perform at the poker tables. Recent WSOP champion Jamie Gold attributed his recent success to his snacking on Blueberries throughout the tournament. Having an unbelievable chip lead, good fortune and ability had nothing to do with it then?
You are what you eat, that's what he lady who looks at peoples poo on channel 4 says. Your diet not only effects your weight and immunity to illness, it also has a profound influence on your mental performance. This week I am going to discuss some of the constituents of food that can improve your performance at the poker table. I'll warn you I'm about to go off on a few tangents here and you might scratch your head wondering if you are still at pokernews.com, but if you can get the following into your diet, through food or supplements, you can only improve as a poker player.
Protein is potent in meat and is primarily associated with building muscle tissue. A high protein meal after a workout will help worn muscle tissue to grow back stronger and you'll never see a bodybuilder too far away from some sort of protein supplement.
Protein also contains the amino acids that create Neurotransmitters, which are the components that sends messages to and from your brain. Therefore an abundance of protein will create an abundance of neurotransmitters.
There are two different amino acids in proteins that have a very different impact on neurotransmitters. There is Tyrosine, which is abundant in seafood, turkey, tuna and tofu. Tyrosine will help you kickstart your brain, keeping you alert and improving your memory. This obviously means that foods rich in tyrosine are ideal prior to a game of poker where you will need to stay sharp and observant.
The other amino acid in proteins of relevance is tryptophan, lots of which is found in eggs, red meat, bananas and dairy foods. Tryptophan produces Serotonin, which calms and relaxes the brain. This is crucial at the poker table because it will help combat the effects of tilt and other stressful situations that arise when playing poker. Be careful though, too much tryptophan (especially when combined with carbohydrates) can have a sedative effect on the brain leaving you feeling sluggish and unfocused.
These two amino acids eaten together will have a synergy effect, whereby the benefits of each will amplify each other (1+1=3), leaving you feeling both alert and relaxed. So a tuna sandwich followed by a banana for dessert would seem an ideal pre poker lunch.
Carbohydrates are used by the body as an energy source and also to transport other nutrients around the body. There are low Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrates, which are found in wholgrain food, oats, fruits, cereals etc, and high GI carbohydrates which are found in sugar and sweets.
Your brain needs carbohydrates to regulate your blood sugar and provide you with energy. Low GI foods are absorbed slowly, which provide a steady controlled release of energy over long periods of time. High GI carbohydrates are absorbed quickly, which will provide you with a more sudden release of energy, followed by a sudden decrease.
So before a long session, a meal which is low in GI will provide you with a much steadier supply of energy, which is ideal for a long poker session, whereas something sweet full of simple sugars will perk you up for a while, but not long and soon you will feel drained at the table.
Be aware that when you mix proteins and carbohydrates together the carbs will amplify the effects of the protein because the carbohydrates will be transporting it around your body so much quicker. So a high tyrosine meal accompanied by high carbs will make you even more alert, whereas a high tryptophan meal with them will make you a little too relaxed and sluggish.
The word Fat has instant negative connotations in most people's minds, fat is high in calories so high fat foods make you…. well, fat. There are, however, good fats, and the ones that will help you at the poker table are ones which are high in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is an omega 3 fatty acid and is found in oily fish, it is used to build brain tissue. Your brain is a muscle like any other and the more brain tissue, the better it will function.
Also, if you must satisfy your sweet tooth, it is best to have sugary carbohydrates after a fatty meal, because fat slows down absorption of food and will provide you with a more steady release of energy from the high GI carbs than you get without it.
Iron helps transport oxygen to the brain and a lack of it causes brain cell activity to slow down. Iron deficiency has been linked with poor concentration, reduced intelligence and short attention span. Iron really is a fundamental part of any diet, particularly anyone who needs to be focussed for long periods of time. Iron is rich in red meats, leg/thigh meat of poultry, oily fish and green leafy vegetables. Fresh fruit and fruit juice when eaten with high iron meals will help your body amplify the benefits of iron.
B Vitamins are another component of food which carry oxygen to the brain and improve your mental sharpness. They are found in liver, eggs, lentils and green beans, and a deficiency of B Vitamins has been linked to poor memory.
There are of course, hundreds of other benefits of a healthy diet which I implore you to be making the most of too. If you feel you cant change your diet or if this is way too much information for you to handle, you can get all the above in the form of supplements quite cheaply at most chemists.
Since I have been eating a balanced diet I have been sleeping better, my skin looks better and have a general (smug) sense of well being. I'm weighing in this week at 198lbs which is the same as last week, which is slightly disappointing but at least it's not a gain.
Next week I will be looking at when to eat for optimal performance, and how much/what you should be eating before, during and after a poker session.
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