Is Poker Damaging to Your Health? - Part 5
For those of you who have been following my experiment, it would seem all rosey and peachy so far, I'm going to the gym, eating right and winning money. Well, I've had a bit of a blip. A weekend of fast food, followed by a Christmas party which involved booze and curry and guess what? I've just lost a shedload of cash.
I've donked off about a grand at the cash game tables since last Thursday, not by bad luck but by truly awful play. This last week I have been calling too much and bluffing when it's obvious my opponent has something strong. I've been doing it on autopilot too, not thinking about what I am doing and just clicking call in a bit of a daze.
Its hard to 100% prove my previous months improvement had been due to changing my diet and exercise regime, but I am in no doubt this weeks total blip has been a result of me (only for a couple of days) reverting back to my slobbish ways. No more, I'm back on the fruit smoothes and my gym bag is packed and ready to go as soon as I finish typing. I came third in a MTT last night, which is a good start but the festive season is going to be something of a challenge from hear on.
Last week I talked about what it is in food that can help your performance at the poker table, this week lets have a look at how you can adapt your diet to suit your poker lifestyle.
The best place to start is of course breakfast. This is one of those silly things that has managed to escape me over the last 27 years but the literal meaning of breakfast is to break the fast that your body has endured through sleep. It truly is the most important meal of the day because without it your body uses its own stress hormones as an energy source, which leaves you feeling tired, irritable and unfocused. Of course most poker players are night owls and are unlikely to be playing first thing in the morning, but this is no reason to skip breakfast because it will prepare your body for mental pursuits for the rest of the day.
How much you eat is also vitally important. Prior to playing poker if you have a heavy meal (800 calories or more) you will be left feeling tired and sedated. Eating a heavy meal will increase the blood flow to your stomach to aid digestion; therefore the blood will drain from your brain and deprive it of much needed oxygen to aid mental performance. A lighter meal will give you the energy you need but will not be hard to digest which will leave you feeling sharp and prepared.
On the flipside, not eating enough will put you in the same fasting state that skipping breakfast will, hunger pangs leave you short-tempered, distracted and jittery. This will also happen if you do not eat often enough. Grazing is a popular term for eating many small meals (5-7) over the course of a day, rather than the traditional three square meals. This has a number of health benefits especially if you are wanting to get in good shape, but it also works well for poker players who are playing long sessions. Grazing will give you a regular steady supply of energy throughout the day but won't ruin your concentration from over digestion.
So what should we be eating? If we think back to last weeks report, I mentioned high protein foods that contain tyrosine will kickstart your mental processes, and proteins containing tryptophan will relax your brain. Ideally you want to get a balance of these in every meal prior to a poker session. You also want to include foods rich in iron and B vitamins.
During a poker session you want to eat very light, the last thing you want is to digest too much and become a zombie at the table. Light fruit snacks are ideal here because they are light, digested easily, contain low GI carbohydrates which will give you a steady supply of energy and they contain, amongst many others, B vitamins which have been linked to mental performance.
After a poker session is the time to relax. This is when you can afford to eat a little bit more and enjoy yourself. If you must eat a high calorie meal do it now, because you don't need you brain to be at 100% it doesn't matter if you are mildly sedated by the effects of over digestion. It might also be a good idea to overeat now because it will give your brain a welcome rest and prepare it for sleep whereas a high tyrosine meal might leave you a little too alert to sleep properly.
I appreciate that the intricacies of a balanced diet is baffling to the best of us, so below is a list of good potential meals for before, during, after a poker session. If you can make meals that consist of the following you have made a good start.
Breakfast (600-800 calories)
Cereals rich in iron, yogurt, fruit, fruit juices, scrambled eggs, beans, French toast, peanut butter, low fat cheese, whole wheat pancakes, English muffins.
Lunch/Main meal before a poker session (400-800 calories)
Tuna sandwich, Turkey/Chicken Sandwich, jacket potatoes with tuna/beans, fruit, fruit juices, salad
Snacks during a poker session (200-400 calories)
Bananas, blueberries, grapes, pomegranates, any fruit or vegetables essentially.
Meal after a poker session (600 – 800 calories, but more if you must pig out)
Anything you want.
I have really simplified a very important and complex concept here and I would urge you to explore your diet for yourselves. There are so many foods out there that are beneficial to your health and your mental abilities that I couldn't possibly begin to list here. I have only really listed above foods that I either like or are easy to get hold of, but there are so many more great meals out there so don't think this is the definitive list.
Next week, in preparation for the yuletide season I shall be looking at overindulgence and how alcohol, smoking and any other nasty little vices that are apparent in the casino can affect your skill on the green felt.
Ed note: Be healthy and take part in the Sick Promo at Sun Poker