Gamers and Nutrition

There is no doubt that many gamers (not to mention most of civilized culture) have a problem with nutrition and overall health. There is no more obvious example than next week at GenCon. There will be 20,000 or so gamers converging on the Indianapolis convention center during the August heat. Needless to say, nutrition (and lets face it - daily hygiene) could use a small discussion. In fact last year there was a full evacuation of the main hall due to a 'medical emergency' that was likely food/nutrition related.

So todays focus is eating healthy while at a con, a tournament, or a special gaming event. Good, healthy food will be hard to find. And while we aren't burning muscle energy, most of us will be using our brains pretty hard for a long stretch of the day. If you eat like crap, don't expect to survive that tough encounter against the foul necromancer! This couldn't have come more apparent to me than at a local con this spring. I only played in one game of Cathulu RPG on Saturday and while waiting for it to start we hit the local Mexican restaurant buffet pretty hard. Man versus beast had nothing on us- it was a massacre of the most saturated fat kind! The resulting game was pretty miserable. The GM and other players were great, but I was suffering from food coma and that heavy sinking feeling of too much fat and carbs during the mid-day meal.
This year, my GenCon Saturday consists of a 15 hour mega-gaming session! And thinking back to AdeptiCon this year where we had about a 13 hour gaming session, its obvious I need a better plan. Its too late to suggest that you start getting some exercise, but you should have been (note- while I am a doctor its highly likely I'm not your doctor- get a physical and get cleared for exercise!). By this time you should have been getting 3-5 sessions of 30+ minutes of exercise a week. However, since most of the time a gaming con is spent standing or sitting, nutrition is our +10 Sword of Slaying.

The biggest part of our meals needs to be protein, especially while we are on the run. Proteins are designed to give us much needed energy for about 6 hours- your brain will love you during that long burst of energy. Those carbs we all love will only give you about 4 hours of energy before burning out and leaving you with a carb/sugar crash. To make matters worse, most of the refined carbs contain saturated trans-fats. This will leave you in a food coma in no time (and deposit life taking plaque on your arteries). So we need foods high in protein with some polyunsaturated fats and lean on carbs designed to keep our brain operating at a high function while tasting good and being easy to obtain in the middle of a large American city. One of the things to remember when choosing what to eat is that you want to keep your fat, carb, and protein content in what I call a magic ratio. Ideally, you should be eating about 30% fat, 40% carbs, 30% protein daily (this varies between people and activity levels- the idea is to keep a balance). We want to stay away from the high fat, high carb foods and focus on what will give use a better ratio of nutrients, and more protein.

Breakfast 7AM

Two packages of instant oatmeal
(220 cal, 1.5g fat, 4g protein, 30g carbs), cup of coffee, fruit cup (roughly 45 cal, 0 fat, 11 g carbs, 1g protein).
The oatmeal is a great source of instant protein and will get your brain firing early in the morning. The fruit while containing some carbs will add a little life into an otherwise bland start to the day. If you have more time than I'll have, get 2 slices low fat bacon (60 cal, 4.5g fat, 0g carb,6g protein), or an egg white breakfast sandwich (with cheese: 340 cal,18gm fat, 26 gm carbs, 16mg protein) both of which are huge sources of protein. Skip the blueberry muffins from Starbucks (360 cal, 10g fat, 64 g carbs, 6g protein) and  pastries because by 9AM you're gonna be ready to crash and burn and we still have 14 hours left!
The thing about instant oatmeal is that its cheap and you can make it in your hotel room with the coffee maker- just run the water through the percolator without the coffee bag in. Add the hot water and you are done! I'll be brining a bit of fruit in my cooler to round out the quick breakfast.

(General Con advise- bring a cooler stocked with your favorite beverage. It will save you a ton on drinks during the weekend, and you can keep food like this cold. Screw you room service!)

Lunch 1PM

Here is the biggest hurdle to cross all day. Game one starts at 8am and runs until 1pm, which is the time game two starts! So my food options are only going to be what is served in the convention hall. Yahhhh! Lets hear it for overpriced pathetic tasting convention food! So options are pretty limited, but lets make the best out of the situation. There are usually salads available, and while not the best it can be a good substitute, especially if you can get some chicken on it (341 cal, 10g fat, 44g carb, 17g protein plus the dressing!). Be careful of over fattening dressings though- I prefer a good oil vinaigrette on mine. While I love a good hamburger- the fat will get my Pathfinder Society character killed in record time. And that, my friends, is unacceptable! You can always get a chicken sandwich with some lettuce and cheese to accompany it (~660 cal, 11g fat, 87g carbs, 47 g protein). Sometimes, this is just the best you can do. If you are a real trooper, toss the bread while saving yourself some useless carbs. Of course if you were a super trooper you'd have a PBJ sandwich (400 cal, 17g fat, 36g carb, 13 g protein) and an apple (65 cal, 0g fat, 17g carb, 0g protein).

Dinner 6PM

Game two ends at 6PM and game three starts at 7PM. So we have some time to get some grub. Unfortunately once you add travel and waiting time into the equation, we only have time for food court at the mall. The sultry treats of glorious high trans-fats will be calling my name, strong will is needed for this. Again, I'll call on the mighty power of chicken to get me through this epic struggle. Good thing the food court is full of good chicken options. If salmon is available at one of the high-end eateries I'll gladly spend my coins there- tons of protein and life saving omega-fatty acids could be the fuel that gets me through the evening.

Done with chicken and don't like fish? Easy, a turkey ranch and swiss sub (ditch the fatty ranch - unless you feel brave!) loaded with veggies (~ 590 cal, 18g fat, 75g carb, 35 g protein) will see you to the finish line.


This is probably the winning move to my day. During those times when the party is debating which path to take and debating some esoteric rule- I'll be grabbing a quick snack in the form of a protein bar. My bar of choice is a Clif Bar (260cal, 6g fat, 42g carb, 11g protein). At a buck a piece here in St Louis, its a cheap snack and far healthier than that crappy bag of Doritios (~small bag- 150cal, 8g fat, 18g carb, 2g protein) you were thinking about packing. I'll also be packing a couple of apples or other fruit. If keeping things fresh and cold is going to be too hard, don't fret, just pack some nuts. Nuts of all kinds, but particularly treenuts (like almonds), will give you tons of energy while ecreasing your cholesterol (added bonus!). Since I know the breakfast will leave me feeling empty by 10AM, the snacks are going to be the secret to my success in the early hours of my marathon gaming.


Dinner- by this time, game three will be over and I'll be a beat puppy.The crew will probably head over to Scotty's Brewhouse, The Ram,Alcatraz, or some other such pub and get a few beers to go along with a huge burger or steak! By this time, the fate of the universe will likely not be resting on my shoulders and I can refill my carbs in the form of hops and grain and lovely trans-fats! By midnight I'll gladly embrace a food coma...


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  1. DrGabe, carrying for Gamers Everywhere.

    Some solid ideas there though Gabe, here's to hoping some folks take them to heart. Myself when I was able to go to Cons I was very much of the Pack In Pack Out mentality. I hardly ever bothered with Con Food because of the expense. In every instance I came out on top of my Mountain Dew and Pizza chugging brethren. I felt sorry for them and their constant complaining about rotten stomachs and the runs.

    Just a small bit of advice for some of the non-steel stomach kind...pack a bottle of Pepto-Bismol. It may save your life..and that of any roomies you might have lol.

  2. Good tips, doc. My wife & I stay at a hotel that offers a free breakfast buffet that has some good options, including oatmeal & fresh fruit - we'll usually swipe a few pieces of fruit for later. We both keep a small insulated lunch bag in our backpacks with some bottles of water (frozen in the hotel room's mini-fridge the night before), some fruit, granola bars, and maybe some jerky or fruit snacks. That takes care of breakfast & lunch, & we force ourselves to block out at least an hour of time every evening so we can go get a decent dinner.

    ...and along the lines of Hexeter's advice - I always take a pocket-sized first aid kit in my backpack that has a few ibuprofen, Imodium, Benadryl, antacid tablets, band-aids, etc. It has saved me from being completely miserable at a con more than once.

  3. *gasp* You can get something to Freeze in a Hotel Fridge? I can never even get something COLD out of a Hotel Fridge! lol.

  4. I agree, getting a hotel fridge' to do anything but keep a water chilled is wishful thinking!
    On a more serious note, I hate freezing the water bottles. For half the day you have a chunk of ice in your bag that is slowly dripping condensation all over everywhere. A regular bottle of water that can be refilled along the way is my preferred option. Plus I found that in some of the RPG areas, there is water and ice.

    I like the other tips of what to pack in your 'emergency kit.' One blogger (sorry I can't remember who) suggested to bring spare toilet paper. She made funny, yet serious point!

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