Serious gamers are always looking for ways to improve their performance, hoping to gain an edge over their competitors. Some try banned substances, running the risk of experiencing negative side effects, or they get their hands on cheat codes to gain quick access to the next level. Others stick with more traditional compounds like caffeine and L-Theanine to extend their playing time and enhance their focus or invest in the latest ergonomic technology to correct their technique.
But what if there was a substance that was legal and safe that could boost focus and cognitive function, as well as enhance reflexes, coordination, and motor function? CBD may be the latest trend to provide a neurocognitive lift in the world of eSports.
Can CBD be used in competition?
Among some of the substances prohibited by the eSports League (ESL), marijuana is banned in competition under its anti-doping policy. Other organisations that have followed suit are the World Electronic Sports Games, the Major League Gaming, and the FIFA eWorld Cup. However, it is crucial to understand that CBD is extracted from hemp, not marijuana and therefore, not prohibited for use in tournaments.
The primary active component in marijuana that causes users to experience a high and that shows up in drug tests is called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although hemp also contains THC, the levels are so low that they are undetectable in CBD isolate and broad-spectrum products. While CBD isolate contains pure CBD, broad-spectrum CBD also contains natural plant terpenes that are purported to deliver many benefits, from pain relief to enhanced mood.
CBD products to consider
There are a variety of CBD products that you could try, including oils, vapes, edibles, and topicals. They are all worth considering depending on your individual needs. For example, CBD oils take longer to work but provide users with a lot of flexibility since they can be taken under the tongue or added to your food and drinks. Vapes are quick to take effect but don’t last as long. Topicals are great for users who want to target a specific part of their body experiencing discomfort, like back or neck pain, gamer’s thumb, or carpal tunnel syndrome, but it can take a few hours before they provide relief.
Favourites among gamers are some of the best CBD gummies on the market, as they are enjoyable and easy to take. You can suck or chew them and take them at any time of the day for a quick boost or half an hour before a competition to ensure you are on top of your game.
How CBD can help
There have been some studies into how cannabidiol (CBD) helps performance for athletes but none yet for gamers, so it is difficult to know whether CBD has a direct impact on gaming performance. However, according to McCartney et al. (2020), CBD has the potential to benefit competitors through a variety of psychological, physiological, and biochemical effects. It does this by indirectly interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), helping it to maintain a healthy balance when it comes to processes like sleep, focus, cognition, pain, and mood.
Serious gamers stay up late trying to level up or top the leaderboard, exposing them to an excess of blue light and disrupting their natural circadian rhythm. A lack of quality rest can affect concentration, attention, clarity, reasoning, judgement, learning, memory, and reaction time. CBD makes most users feel calmer, so when taken before bedtime and used alongside a relaxing bedtime routine, it may help gamers to attain a better quality of sleep.
With increased sleep and more calm, CBD helps users to be more focused. Greater concentration enables gamers to better process the stimuli in their environment and face tasks before them with a level head.
Studies that have used neuroimaging have shown CBD to improve the connectivity patterns within the brain during cognitive functions. These suggest that CBD can give you the edge when competing through the modulation of verbal memory, auditory and visual processing, and response inhibition.
Much has been claimed about CBD and its ability to ease pain, but little has yet been proven, particularly with human studies. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD may relieve the discomfort by interacting with the inflammatory system. In case you are suffering from pain caused by repetitive strain or poor posture, then CBD may relieve some of the symptoms and help to restore balance so that you can compete at your best.
A 2020 study carried out by Bloomfield et al. suggests that CBD helps to improve blood flow within the brain, easing anxiety as well as performance-related nerves. As well as being able to calm the user during competition, CBD is thought to agitate serotonin receptors, regulating mood.
Other ways to improve performance
Advocates of CBD say that it can improve sleep, focus, cognition, pain, and mood while relieving pain. However, since many studies to date have been conducted on animals rather than humans, there is not yet a vast body of evidence to support these claims. You may therefore wish to explore other ways to improve performance that could be used alongside CBD.
Many people who take CBD for sleep also take melatonin in the form of capsules or gummies. Melatonin is usually produced by our brain when it is dark, but exposure to blue light from gaming blocks production. Taking a top-up of this hormone may help you to regulate your circadian rhythm and get better sleep.
Hydration is crucial for concentration, cognition, and motor skill, but it can be difficult to remember to stay hydrated when we are in the middle of an intense battle or playoff. Keep a bottle of water nearby so that you can take regular sips throughout a training session or live tournament. Drinking plenty of water will help you to focus for longer and react quicker.
Rather than trying to treat pain caused by poor posture, try to put less strain on your muscles from the beginning. Invest in a quality gaming desk and chair that promotes an upright spine. Ensure your knees are at a 90-degree angle to the floor, your armrests are at the same height as your desk, and your eyes are level with your crosshair. This will help you sit comfortably for long periods and make it easier to aim and concentrate.
While there are no studies into how well CBD can help to improve gaming performance directly, the indirect effect the substance may have on providing calm and clarity may help to improve your training sessions as well as your delivery during competition. If you are in doubt as to how much CBD can help, then pair it with some of the tips above to take your gaming to the next level.