How does caffeine impact your gaming performance? – The ins and outs with AJ Davies

How does caffeine impact your gaming performance? – The ins and outs with AJ Davies

7 min read | 22 Nov 2022

One of the most commonly thought of things in relation to gamers is energy drinks, but how does the caffeine in those drinks actually affect your gaming performance?

Head of Performance at Resolve, and Performance Advisor at British Esports, Alex ‘AJ’ Davies discusses the impacts that caffeine can have on an individual – and the best ways to utilise it.

Caffeine is entrenched heavily within esports and gaming. Whether it be a Redbull or Monster before queuing up in ranked, a powdered form like G-Fuel and Sneak at a gaming convention, or a strong coffee on stage before the world finals. Caffeine has always had a strong place in both esports and gaming in general.

As Head of Performance at Williams Resolve and Performance Advisor here at British Esports, I strongly believe, like many areas of nutrition, we need to be educated more about caffeine. We need to consider its positives and negatives and, more importantly, the impact it can have both in game and in your day to day life. I hold firm that we can utilise caffeine to great effect in gaming and esports, but it must be done with thought and diligence.

First, let’s look at the ways caffeine can positively impact your in game performance:

Positives for game performance:

1. Attention and Reactions can be increased (Alford et al, 2001; As Rao et al, 2005):

This is hugely important for esports and gaming as increase reaction times can be do or die in certain moments including dodging abilities or winning a gun fight. Attention is also huge as this could mean after 60 minutes in a League of Legends game you can still perform as well as you could in the 1st.

2. Speed and accuracy of target identification increased (As Rao et al, 2005):

Target identification is a key factor in many esports including Call of Duty, Valorant, Rocket League, League of Legends and many more. If you can identify a target quicker and with more accuracy, your ability to make the right decision in an important moment will sky rocket.

3. Increased cognitive task function and gaming performance (Frazer, 2006):

Whilst this is a rather broad and sweeping statement, it has been found that caffeine as a whole can increase gaming performance. This is of course in line with alertness, reaction time and speed, target identification and much more.

Now, let’s take a look at the biggest takeaways, as well as some of the negatives:

Negatives for game performance:

1. Be careful with the amount of caffeine!

On average, a cup of coffee can range from 60-120 mg of caffeine, a standard can of Redbull is 80mg, and a product like Sneak is 150mg of caffeine. These numbers alone  do not mean very much, however when linking them to research you may want to rethink how many cans you have!

It is widely believed that 250mg of caffeine is an amount in which obvious decline is not experienced. However, past 250mg, one can be hit with a plethora of side effects. These can include increased anxiety, heavily affected sleep cycles, and most importantly the opposite to the effects described earlier! This being a reduction in: reaction time, speed and accuracy of target identification and cognitive function.

This of course does change from each individual due to sensitivity and adaptation to caffeine (Sawyer et al, 1982). However this would therefore mean to have caffeine without the side effects, one would have to consume no more than 2-3 cups of coffee per day, 2-3 red bulls per day and 1-1.5 Sneak drinks per day.

2. Time of Day:

It is well documented that caffeine can affect sleep negatively. Caffeine blocks the effects of a neurotransmitter called adenosine, adenosine in turn promotes your bodily sleep drive. In short, caffeine stops you feeling sleepy! But to quickly delve into that, the major factor is the ‘half life’ of caffeine. This refers to how long it takes for half of the caffeine to exit your body and the majority of the effects to wear off. For caffeine, the half life is 6-8 hours so lets put this into perspective.

Let’s say you want to wake up at 7am, to get a good 8 hours of sleep you must be asleep by 11pm. Therefore, taking into account the aforementioned half life, you should stop having caffeine by at least 3pm! 

This may shock many of you, but it is really important to consider this for both your mental and your physical health.

To conclude, Caffeine by nature is not ‘bad’, it is in fact ones relationship and utilisation of caffeine that can cause significant issues. One should aim to ensure that when consuming caffeine, you are careful with how much you consume and when you consume it.

You can find AJ on social media, where he discusses various areas of esports performance, and how to best maximise your potential.

Tiktok – @aj__davies
Instagram – @aj__davies
Twitter – @aj__davies

Want to know more about how you can improve your health, wellbeing and gaming performance? Check out this article for our top tips to be on top form!

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