Nutrition & Poker: An Often Overlooked Advantage

The most overlooked advantage to a successful poker game is nutrition. Proper diet and exercise can help you focus and keep you on your 'A' game. If you eat like garbage, you'll play like garbage. I guarantee it. Learn what to eat to optimize your game.


All too often, aspiring poker players focus entirely on their game, the hands they've played, the decisions they made, and the results the achieved. While incredibly important, often times players neglect to look at other factors, such as how long they played, how focused they were, how long they were on their 'A' game, how often they go on tilt. These adjacent factors are huge contributors to your win-rate. These factors are influenced by things outside of the game, including your diet, your sleep schedule, your exercise routine and your general stress levels in life.

In this article, we'll do a deep dive in nutrition, discussion how to eat to maximize your wins!

Nutrition 101: How Macro Nutrients Impact the Body

This is for people who haven't taken any time to learn about nutrition. These topics are incredibly complicated, in some cases unresolved, but can be simplified to see huge improvements in your well-being.

Protein: Protein is the primary macro-nutrient found in meat, and can be found in other sources such as legumes. Protein is used to build and retain muscle mass.

Fats: Fats are an essential nutrient used to promote healthy hormone production and brain function. Don't be fooled by the media hype around "low fat this, low fat that", clean healthy fats are critical for your body. Look for sources of unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts & seeds, avocados and nut butters.

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy and fuel for the body. There are many different types of carbohydrates, and the types you consume can have tremendous impacts on your body. Examples of sources of carbohydrates include potatoes, rice, fruits & sugars.

Deep Dive on Carbohydrates: The Wild Card Macro

Before we get into how to consume carbohydrates optimally, first we must understand their effect on the body. Carbohydrates are effectively sugars for your body, which it needs to produce energy. Carbohydrates are converted to glucose which is then stored in your muscles, and excess carbohydrates are stored as fat. When you consume carbohydrates, your body's blood sugar spikes, your body releases insulin to regulate the blood sugar, and this process can give you a spike of energy, and eventually give you a sugar crash, depending on how quickly you digest the carbohydrate. It is for this reason, you must understand how to consume them effectively to achieve balance. You don't want to be crashing at the tables.

Slow-Digesting vs Fast-Digesting

Some carbohydrates digest incredibly fast in your body, and cause that huge spike of energy and the huge crash that follows it. These carbohydrates are typically in the form of refined sugars and sweets, including fruits. Obviously, fruits are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants, but consuming too much will surely spike your insulin. Products such as Sodas and fruit juices should be avoided when you're at the poker table. Other fast-digesting carbs can include white rice, white bread and white potatoes.

The carbohydrates you'll want to be consuming before & during a poker session are the slow digesting carbohydrates, typically found in the form of starches. These include whole grain breads, brown rice & sweet potatoes. Since they are digested slowly in the body, you get a steady and constant level of sugars in your body, which means you will not experience huge spikes in energy and huge crashes when you're finished digesting. It is for this reason you'll want to consume these types of carbohydrates while you play.

So, what should a poker player's diet look like?

There is plenty of literature around how to eat a balanced diet, but our hope is to provide you with a simple list of commonly consumed foods that should be avoided at all costs to ensure you have a great session at the poker table.

Avoid:

  • Pizza - typically produced using refined flower
  • Soda - up to 45 grams of sugar per can of Soda
  • French fries - white potatoes with toxins from the deep frying process.
  • Beer - High in carbs, not to mention alcohol effects your judgement.

Include:

  • Water - your brain needs it to run Krebs cycles!
  • Healthy fats - Nuts & Seeds
  • Slow digesting carbs - Brown Rice, Whole Wheat Bread, Sweet Potatoes!

Change up your diet and watch your winning sky-rocket!