Food For Thought – Can Your Diet Help Your Poker Game?

Over the years we have looked at plenty of different ways to help improve your poker game.

Whether it is ensuring that you gamble responsibly when playing, to the psychological approach of players to the game. We’ve covered plenty of options and simple strategies for certain situations at the poker table.

However, one consideration which we may not have touched on as yet is the issue of your diet.

Can what you eat really have an impact on your poker game?

Is downing that bottle of beer and finishing off the poker chip cookie or chocolate bar helping or hindering you? Specifically at the poker table?

It is a diet for poker something worth looking into, so let’s see what the research says!

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Diet and Poker – Research and Conclusions

Has anybody looked into the link between diet and poker? One man, Steven van Zadelhoff, has spoken at length on the subject.

Back in 2020, the former WCOOP Main Event Champion expounded on his theories to help poker players play better at the table. Chiefly, through having a better diet.

“For the past few years, I’ve been doing a lot of studying around nutrition and stuff like that. It sort of become a passion for me. I think I’ve put in somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 hours into it!” said Van Zadelhoff.

“You should prioritise your health way more,” he stated.

“It’s important for poker players to be strong and healthy in order to be more competitive against the average guy in an average job,

“It’s the same if you want to be smarter or successful in any other career… I don’t think poker is any different.”

Van Zadelhoff warned of the dangers of poker players eating too much processed food and sugar. He maintained that natural foods provided all that a person needed to maintain an excellent diet.

“Eat real foods,” he stated “Your brain will be healthier and smarter for it.”

Unfortunately, despite stating that he had studied the subject at length, Mr Van Zadelhoff doesn’t cite a scientific study.

However, he may not need to do so. As he is echoing the dietary advice that many health specialists across the world believe to be the best.

This is essentially to eat less processed food, sugar and fat. Plus eat much more fresh fruit and vegetables and protein.

And there’s plenty of research about that available!

Poker stars who follow dietary regimes

The Poker Kid, Daniel Negreanu, is well-known amongst the poker community for being a vegan. Daniel Lichtenberger is another who eschews all types of meat and dairy.

An increasing number of players are now following specific diets. While they are different, they are all generally improving a player’s health and well-being.

But can a diet have an improvement on your actual mental faculties? Can you eat your way to become a better poker player?

Brain Food – The Facts and Fiction

What we are talking about here is, essentially, brain food. Those specialist foods which seem, or at least have shown in studies, the ability to improve brain function.

Through their Harvard Health Publishing outlet, the Harvard Medical School published an article in March 2021. This focused on the types of foods that were linked to “better brainpower”.

This research found:

  • Green Leafy Vegetables – These veg are rich in nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, beta carotene and folate. All of which are needed for healthy brain function. Research has suggested a diet rich in these helps slow “cognitive decline”

Green veg to target – Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Lettuce, Brussel Sprouts, Kiwi Fruit, Runner Beans

  • Oily/Fatty Fish – It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest eating something high in oil or fat is a healthy option. But that is precisely the case with fish. Fatty fish are a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy unsaturated fats. Omega 3 has long been linked as a preventative against cognitive issues. Additionally, it is excellent for the heart.

Fish to target – Salmon, Cod, Canned Tuna (in brine or water), Pollack, Sardines, Mackerel, Herring, Trout, Oysters, Anchovies, Mussels, Swordfish

  • Berries – The benefits of berries have long been advocated by health professionals, with some even labelled as a superfood. Some berries have been shown to maintain better memory function, others provide a host of beneficial ingredients that help diet. Others help heart and cardiovascular health, brain health and more. However, it should be noted that to gain the benefit, berries should be eaten whole and not crushed. (Such as in a smoothie or similar). As this can release natural sugars which are not as beneficial to you.

Berries to target – Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries, Acai Berries, Goji Berries, Cranberries, Grapes, Bilberries, Elderberry and Huckleberries.

  • Nuts – Walnuts have an outstanding track record in having a beneficial impact on many areas of healthy. A study in 2015 by the UCLA linked higher walnut consumption to higher cognitive test scores. Furthermore, Walnuts are high in an Omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). This has been shown, to help lower blood pressure and to help keep arteries clear from fatty build ups. There are other nuts that also have shown positive effects in research including Almonds, Cashews, Pistachio, Brazil Nuts and more.

Foods to target – Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachio, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Macademia Nuts, Pecans, Hazelnuts

  • Water, Tea and Coffee – We all know that water is a very important ingredient for a healthy lifestyle. Daniel Lichtenberger says it is vital to flush out his system regularly. Drinking around 2 litres of water a day is reckoned to be beneficial to your overall health. For tea and coffee, research in 2014 by John Hopkins University showed that consumption of caffein seemed to help people. Specifically to retain, store and recall memories and information better. This obviously has major implications for poker players and their diet.

Drinks to target – Black tea and coffee, all forms of water. For white tea & coffee, semi or skimmed milk and artificial sweetener is a much better option than milk/cream and sugar, however black tea or coffee is the best option here.

  • Other Fruits & Veg – We all know that many other fruits and vegetables, not listed above, contain a wide variety of nutrients with low to no fat. Many of these can have important health benefits both physically and mentally.

Foods to target – Bananas, Apples, Citrus Fruits (Lemon, Lime), Kiwi Fruit, Cucumber, Tomato, Carrots, Beetroot, Oranges, Seaweed, Red Peppers, Coconut, Pumpkin Seeds, Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes, Peas, Apricots, Guava, Swiss Chard

it hasn’t yet been proved that diet can turn you from an average poker player into a better one. But what is undeniable is that if you feel better, and have more energy then you will play better.

And taking some of the steps outlined above is a great way to start that process! Plus you will make yourself healthier too!

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