Fabian Broich is head of performance for Excel Esports, a UK-based professional esports organization that competes in the League of Legends. Broich said the understanding of how to boost players’ performance has only recently expanded beyond the technical aspects of the video games themselves into looking at how to help the athletes become happier, healthier human beings as a way toward better play.
Broich, a German native who played collegiate soccer in the United States, started on the path of analyzing what goes on in players’ minds and bodies with a post college stint with German sports organization Schalke 04. The club, based in the western German city of Gelsenkirchen, operates professional men's and women's soccer teams, team handball and other sports, including an esports team.
Nutrition was an afterthought
Broich said what he learned at Schalke and what he’s experienced now with Excel, where’s he’s been for a couple of years, is that team management has been tightly focused on whether players had the on-screen chops and has been less concerned with supporting the overall human being. That was especially true in the area of nutrition.
“The awareness of the impact of nutrition is not there yet. As a head of performance, my role is to lead by example and showcase a healthy lifestyle while educating players on why food is important. We are talking about energy levels, about the importance of glucose and complex carbohydrates as well as supplements,” Broich told NutraIngredients-USA.
Broich said up and coming esports athletes still to a large extent rely on caffeine and sugar to fuel their long stints at gaming, which can typically extend to 12 hours or more a day. Honing one’s skills on actual game play was seen as the primary way to get better, and having a healthier body as a way toward a better performing mind was an afterthought at best.
“Food is not yet associated with performance in esports. But we know that the wrong nutrition or overall malnutrition can lead to worse focus, more emotional imbalances or cognitive delay,” he said.
Supporting the whole person
Broich said Excel has started going about things differently. The typical gamer will have little focus beyond the actual playing of the game. Players do build skills quickly that way, but they burn out just as fast, too, he said. Excel has hired a professional chef with a nutritionist background to provide two balanced meals a day as well as restricting screen time.
“We have a quite different approach. Yes, you do have to play a lot in order to be the best but we integrate physical activity, sleep tracking as well as monitoring the amount players play. We want to play hard but smart. We want that the players have time to have a relationship, time for athletic sports and other hobbies which are important, instead of being just day in and day out in front of the screen,” he said.
Broich said Excel does blood tests on its players to get a picture of their nutritional status. The unconventional diets and lifestyle of the players can lead to some surprising and potentially grave deficiencies.
“As you can imagine esports players spend most of their days indoors, therefore they lack vitamin D. Additionally, we provide multivitamins since many of the players don’t eat too many vegetables and we also supplement specifically with magnesium, zinc, omega-3s as well as caffeine before competition. While we do have a cook on site, supplements are essential to gap the bridge from their current monotone lifestyle to having a more diverse understanding of their nutritional needs,” he said.
Broich said Excel has instituted a four-pillar approach to supporting its players. That includes focusing on proper sleep, proper nutrition and physical activity in additional to working on actual on screen skills. In so doing, the organization hopes to have stable squad who can look forward to longer careers.
“Having time off the screen and time without using their hands and wrists is really essential for them in their career to prevent injury,” Broich said.
“We believe that a stronger mindset and a stronger body will create less pain, a more enjoyable time and result in better performance. Therefore, we are creating a performance handbook as well as making presentations to educate players on the areas outside of the game that we believe will be game changers for us to compete long-term on a high level,” he added.
Sports nutrition event
Broich will take part in NutraIngredients-USA’s Sports and Active Nutrition Summit 2021. A segment scheduled for tomorrow focuses on recovery, while the event’s final installment, set for Feb. 25, has a focus on the female athlete and esports. To register for this FREE event, click in the panel below.