Well, it’s been about 3 months since this blog started, so I thought it was time for a quick overview. I think it’s finally gotten to the point where if you’ve just started reading my entries in the last 2 weeks, it’s probably more confusing than helpful. So, this will help set things straight.
I just wanted to remind you of the most important concept behind improving your mental performance. As I said at the beginning, I firmly believe that if you can improve your mental performance, you will increase your success at the table. Your brain is your most important asset. So, let’s get started. Here are 4 things that have the biggest impact on your mental performance. If you only incorporate one of these into your daily routine, you will reap the benefits. Think of this as an investment for your poker career .
This is the foundation for any mental performance enhancement regimen. Without proper nutrition, it is very difficult to improve your mental performance. Note, I’m not saying it can’t be done. I have personally done it, and have seen many others do it. However, this is like playing with a small stack. You can still win, but you’re better off being perfect at almost everything.
So what is good nutrition? Easy, 3 simple changes.
Avoid fast-acting high-glycemic carbohydrates (aka sugars). Why? Because they cause extreme fluctuations in your blood sugar. Remember, your brain relies primarily on carbohydrates for energy. Also, it doesn’t have the ability to store carbohydrates for later use the way your muscles can. So, it really depends on your blood sugar level. High glycemic carbohydrates are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream, and then quickly removed from your bloodstream. The end result is rebound hypoglycemia which in turn causes drowsiness and impaired concentration/focus. It’s a rollercoaster ride you don’t want to ride.
Research has shown that the more difficult the cognitive task, the more sensitive your brain is to blood sugar levels. So for example, poker is a very mental request. Thus, it would be safe to assume that the mental processes involved in poker are very sensitive to blood sugar levels. So after about 30 minutes of downing that sugar-laden energy drink, your blood sugar will drop, your thought processes will be disrupted, and you’ll be more prone to mistakes. Do you really want to make mistakes during the money round?
How can you stabilize your blood sugar? Eat foods that have a low glycemic index such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc. If you must eat high-glycemic carbohydrates, eat them with fiber or fat. Both have been shown to slow the absorption of carbohydrates, thereby preventing extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. If energy drink manufacturers were smart, they would add a little fiber to the drink. However, it will derail your goal of reaching for another energy drink when your blood sugar drops, and you start to feel sleepy. Business 101.
Avoid fried foods, and eat good fats that are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Your brain is mostly made up of fat. Every cell in your body has a membrane made up of fatty acids. Guess what happens if you eat all that fried chicken and fries. The fat is inserted into the membrane which eventually results in cell damage and even death. Alcohol does not kill brain cells. Bad fat can!
Over the past few years, fish oil has become a popular natural remedy for mental disorders. Several well-known doctors and medical journals have documented the use of fish oil as an adjunct therapy for mental illness patients. Not only do these studies show these patients’ symptoms have improved, but they also show these patients actually cut back on some of the psychotic drugs they were taking before fish oil. Now, I’m not saying poker players are crazy. However, I know many poker players who rely on prescription drugs for mental performance that are actually used for mental illness. Not only dangerous, but also illegal. Fish oil is the glue that holds your brain together.
Take a walk down the baby aisle at the nearest grocery store. What did you notice? Almost every infant formula and most foods are fortified with DHA, a component of fish oil. Why? Because studies have shown that babies fed DHA-fortified foods actually improve brain development and performance. So next time you go fishing and decide to throw the fish back in the water, take it home and eat it. Your poker game will thank you.
The three macronutrients are important
Eat 4-6 times a day, every 3-4 hours. Eat vegetables, fruits (especially blueberries, brain fruit), fish, nuts, lean protein, whole grains, etc. The three main macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) have different roles in cognitive performance. Studies have been carried out in which researchers serve breakfast consisting of various ratios of poker.