Real athletes? Pro video gamers live surprisingly healthier lifestyles than many assume

COLOGNE, Germany — Energy drinks such as Red Bull and bags of chips are often seen as staple foods for gamers who spend a lot of time staring at a screen. However, according to one study, pro video game players – known as eSports athletes – consume less sugar than average and prefer home cooked meals as opposed to takeout.

In a recent study, researchers surveyed 820 German eSports athletes of all skill levels to determine their food preferences. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the data was collected online rather than at an eSports event.

Findings showed that eSports athletes shun the “couch potato” lifestyle by sticking to a healthy diet and exercising regularly. In fact, they have been exercising more during the pandemic than ever before. Gamers reported exercising more than nine and a half hours per week, more than in previous years, indicating the pandemic has only had a “minor impact” on their health.

“We would have expected the pandemic and the accompanying restrictions on everyday life to have a negative impact on the respondents’ own health ratings and sense of well-being. Instead, the target group was able to maintain the level of previous years and even improve it in some cases,” says Professor Ingo Froböse, of the German Sport University, in a statement.

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Gamers aren’t guzzling energy drinks and scarfing down fast-food

Energy drink companies like Red Bull have been sponsoring major teams and events for years. Marketing strategies which suggest energy drinks improve performance could be behind this trend. However, during this study, researchers found only 40% of gamers enjoyed these popular caffeine-heavy drinks more than once a week.

“The high amounts of sugar in these beverages should of course be viewed negatively from a health science perspective. Accordingly, consumption should be significantly reduced. Although the energy drink is indeed part of the diet for many, overall, eSports players actually eat better than the general population,” said Professor Froböse.

The eSports players on average consumed less sugar than others, eating just one chocolate bar and a small bowl of salty snacks per week. Likewise, the cliché of wolfing down fast food was not observed, with players having takeout and ready-to-eat products on average only twice a week.

Nonetheless there is still room for improvement when it comes to balancing greens and meat. Only 15% of men and 25% of women that were surveyed met the government’s recommendation of fruit and vegetable portions per day. And while the number of vegetarian gamers is above average (14.8 %), others reported eating meat on a daily basis.

“We see the same problem among eSport athletes as in the general population. There is still too much meat and too few vegetables on the menu. In particular, the consumption of red meat, which is associated with negative effects on health, should be reduced accordingly,” notes Froböse.

Half of the respondents said they did their own cooking at least five days a week. The research team said that was “astonishing” given the majority are men, who rarely cook for themselves according to previous studies. Researchers say only 5% of gamers relied on someone else to cook their meals.

“Of course, we hope that this development will continue after the pandemic. Those who cook for themselves also decide what ends up in the cooking pot. This is the first step towards a healthy and balanced diet,” said co-author Rolf Buchwitz.

“In general, the clichés of the junk-food-eating gamer are outdated. Reducing the consumption of meat and energy drinks can be an important starting point for targeted health promotion that takes both health and performance of eSport players to the next level,” says Froböse.

SWNS writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.

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