In short, yes! There are several possibilities where inadequate nutrition can impact mental performance, characterized as; increased perceived exertion (RPE), or loss of skills and cognitive abilities.
These possibilities are centered on brain function and the central nervous system (CNS)…
1) Under resting conditions, approx. 60% of the glucose found in the blood is used by the brain as a primary fuel source.
2) Hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) is a cause of fatigue, and reduces the availability of glucose for the brain.
3) Brain glucose is stored as glycogen in cells called astrocytes and subsequently lowers when blood glucose drops. In return, is not able to support the energy demands of nearby neurons and our CNS.
4) Therefore, ensuring adequate carb availability (carb intake through diet + carbs stored in the blood, brain, muscle and liver) is going to be extremely important if both physical and mental performance is going to be sustained.
5) Carbohydrate mouth rinsing for ~10 seconds with a 6% carb drink has the potential to decreases RPE through increasing central drive. Simply exposing receptors in the oral cavity to carbohydrates stimulates the reward centers in the brain to drive work output via the CNS.
6) 3-6mg/kg bodyweight of caffeine ~60 mins pre game reduces perception of effort and increases neural recruitment of muscle fibres.
7) ~1mg of caffeine gum at half time may enhance second half alertness due to rapid absorption time (~10 mins).
8) Similar to carb mouth rinsing, caffeine is a bitter tastant and rinsing has a similar effect, just don’t do it with coffee.
9) Under periods of sleep deprivation, consuming 10g of creatine 90 mins before a game may rescue accuracy and speed of passing.
10) Dehydration, measured by a loss in bodyweight by 2% or more increases perceived exertion and amplifies physiological strain.
So, if you’re looking to stay mentally switched on throughout a game, these are a few musings that you should definitely consider.
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