You’ve most likely felt the AMAZING effects of caffeine at some point in your life, perhaps after drinking a cup of coffee or downing an energy drink. In fact I’d bet that the majority of you consume caffeine on a daily basis, and I don’t blame you.
When I first discovered caffeine I thought I had gained a new superpower – a cup of coffee in the morning and I was suddenly a whole new person, I was suddenly excited for life, and strangely much more interested in work and school.
And as my consumption of coffee slipped into the weekends, I discovered it’s use as a tool for gaming performance. A cup of coffee in the morning, while playing League of Legends and I became more thoughtful, and strategic. And when playing FPS games, my reaction time was slightly more enhanced allowing me to win more 1v1s then I normally would.
But eventually my love for caffeine, lead me to energy drinks. Their flashy ads showed me extreme athletes and professional gamers using their products. So I assumed that it would improve my performance too. Plus it’s hard to go wrong when caffeine is involved.
And so I began to experiment. I went the the corner store, grabbed a couple energy drinks and prepared myself for ultimate gaming performance! As I waited for solo queue match, I cracked the can and took a couple gulps… About mid through game I noticed a slight euphoria as it began to kicked in. While I couldn’t tell if it was really boosting my performance, the sugar high and caffeine buzz made me feel great and I even felt a bit more confident in my skills. This definitely was a feeling I hoped would last.
Unfortunately by the second game this feeling was wearing off. The energetic, twitchy feeling was still there, but the euphoria and confidence had left.
And by the third game I was left with a bit of an energy drink hangover, I felt jittery, a little sick, and my brain felt foggy…
After the experience I was pretty of turned off of energy drinks. Buuuut it’s nothing that their marketing couldn’t undo – a day or two later I had another energy drink in hand, and I was ready to give it a second chance.
Unfortunately my experience was very much the same, I had a spike of euphoria, energy and even confidence, followed by a steady decline in all three, leaving me with a slight cognitive hangover from the whole experience.
And to be honest I was disappointed.
Energy drinks seemed to be great at first, they would bring up, make me feel great, then 60 minutes later they would tear me down again and make me perform even worse then I would without them.
At the time, I thought to myself; Maybe I can find a way to use energy drinks more effectively, or maybe the “crash” I was feeling had nothing to do with the drink itself. But, looking back at my thought process, I now realize that I was just hooked to that initial feeling and I was desperate to find some confirmation that I could keep drinking energy drinks and actually improve my performance.
So in order to satisfy my curiosity, I started to do a little research… and after a bit of denial I realized the harsh truth. I realized that underlying all the flashy marketing and the affiliation with pro gamers, was a dark truth, one that needed be revealed.
In 2007 a study was done to discover the potential addictive properties of sugar. In the study they presented lab rats with two water solutions one being a sugar water solution and the other being a cocaine water solution.
Eight times per day the rats were able to choose which of the two water solutions they wanted to drink from. Due to the addictive properties of cocaine, one would assume they didn’t even care about the sugar water. But the opposite is true. Almost every time, the rats chose the sugar water over the cocaine water.
And due to the results of the study it was widely publicized that sugar is 8X as addictive as cocaine. And other, similar studies show that rats who are already addicted to cocaine will quickly forget about it and work much harder to get sugar.
But this can’t be true, it’s crazy to think that sugar could be as addictive than cocaine, right? Well sugar and cocaine ARE both products of intense refinement, so they are both easy to consume at levels that the human brain isn’t naturally used to. In both cases, consuming the refined product manipulates the human brain into releasing feel good chemicals like dopamine.
Dopamine, specifically, is very important. Dopamine is responsible for our motivation, focus and feelings of accomplishment. So when we consume refined sugar, it dumps our dopamine reserves and gives us a short-lived high, the same way cocaine does.
Unfortunately this doesn’t only result in addiction, it also causes our brain to downregulate dopamine, meaning we require more dopamine to achieve the same feeling. Hence why addicts need more and more of a specific drug to receive the same high.
But more horrifying is that the dopamine downregulation causes us to feel less motivated, and less focused in our day to day life.
So, consuming refined sugar literally drains your motivation, and saps your desire to work hard towards your goals. Or to put it another way, your ability and desire to achieve your dreams is literally being drained out of you, by sugar.
But how does this connect to energy drinks? Do energy drinks really have that much sugar in them to be compared with cocaine? Or to be draining our motivation?
Well consider this. Energy drink companies realize how addicting sugar is and because of this they use as much sugar as possible in their drinks.
When formulating their drinks they test different amounts of sugar to see what amount is most addicting without tasting too sweet. This magical point is called the Bliss Point
So consuming energy drinks with lots of sugar can be addicting, and drain your motivation and focus. But if you’re not “addicted” to energy drinks and you’re not a frequent user, you don’t have much to worry about, right?
Well, even in the short-term, energy drinks negatively affect your performance, they can even starve your brain of vital energy.
When we consume sugar, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin to help metabolize it.
When we consume too much sugar, the pancreas responds by producing too much insulin.
This overdose of insulin causes our body to release a stress hormone called cortisol… and as a result both insulin and cortisol wreak havoc on our brain’s function…
Due to the negative effects of sugar it is believed by health experts that one should consume no more than 20 grams of sugar daily, in order to maintain optimal brain function.
Unfortunately energy drink companies are just trying to sell an addictive product and are loading their drinks with 30-50 grams of sugar.
But how exactly does consuming too much sugar affect your gaming performance?…
In a study at UCLA, rats were fed a high-sugar diet for just six weeks.
During this time they experienced less synaptic activity than the control rats, and experienced a decreased ability to navigate through a maze. Their neurons suddenly had trouble signaling to one another, causing the rats to lose their ability to think clearly and complete tasks that they learned just six weeks earlier.
So while you may get a short-term feeling of energy from these drinks you are gaining this at the cost of your brain’s performance, your brain’s ability to learn and develop skill, and as a result you’re actually losing your ability to perform.
So it’s apparent that energy drinks and sugar really have no place in your regimen if you want to become a better gamer.
And by avoiding sugar and energy drinks you’ll be able think more clearly, develop your skills faster, and even have more motivation in your day to day life.
But I don’t want to write off energy drinks just yet, because there are some “sugar free” energy drinks out there. And perhaps, without the sugar, energy drinks can be a useful tool, OR maybe these sugar free energy drinks are hiding something even more sinister.
But this is a topic for another day! So in part 2 I’ll be investigating the “sugar-free” energy drinks and uncovering what I currently think is the best energy drink for actually improving your performance.
But, don’t forget, if you liked the video then hit that like button and leave a comment, I’d love here your thoughts on sugar and energy drinks as they relate to your performance, both in-game and in your day to day life! Thank you guys for watching and I’ll see you in the next video.