By Christian Philippsen, managing director of BENEO, Asia-Pacific
This year marks a year of firsts for the e-sports industry: In Jun, Singapore hosted the first ever Olympic e-sports week, bringing together e-athletes from all over the world to compete across 10 virtual sports1. Furthermore, Sep heralds another historic moment, as e-sports will be featured as a medal event for the first time at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, with medals being awarded in seven games2.
As e-sports has gone international, its status brings with it higher stakes and increased pressure. Just like traditional athletes competing at the Asian Games this year, gamers training for the international sporting event will need to maintain and ensure proper nutrition to beat the competition.
E-athletes and their unique mental and physical demands
However, unlike traditional athletes, e-athletes experience distinct physical and mental demands. For one, the eyes, back, and joints of gamers are under physical strain as a result of long periods of sitting, in addition to one-sided movements of the shoulder-arm area. Moreover, the brain often undergoes constant intense pressure, causing fatigue and headaches. Such strenuous physical and mental activity frequently results in poor health for e-athletes. This is one factor that contributes to their early retirement, with a majority of e-athletes retiring in their mid-20s3.
With such unique physical and mental demands, e-athletes are a whole new target audience for sports nutrition manufacturers, opening new doors for them to create food and drink products that fit their needs. Currently, many sports nutrition products on the market are designed to offer a quick energy boost via rapidly available carbohydrates such as maltodextrin, sucrose, or glucose syrup in combination with caffeine or taurine. This will not deliver the sustained energy these gamers need to maintain concentration for a long period of time as it results in a rapid increase in glucose levels, followed by a sudden decline as the body attempts to regulate the sharp rise. Known as the “boost and crash” effect, this fluctuation in blood glucose levels leaves gamers with low energy levels and feelings of irritation and hunger.
With this in mind, food manufacturers can look towards alternative carbohydrates like BENEO’s Palatinose that can offer a balanced supply of glucose energy to help them stay focused. Scientists have also found that products containing Palatinose can help enhance a person’s mood and memory skills4 — two very important factors when it comes to E-sports.
Beeting the odds with palatinose
Made from sugar beet, Palatinose is a slowly and fully available carbohydrate, providing its energy in a steadier way, with a lower rise in blood glucose levels over a longer period of time. These properties allow for a greater reliance on fat oxidation; hence athletes can draw on their carbohydrate reserves for longer. The elimination of unwanted blood sugar spikes also supports longer, enhanced cognitive performance.
In addition, Palatinose also enjoys a range of technical benefits and is ideal for use in various applications such as beverages, baked goods, and snacks. It comes with a mild sweetening profile, is soluble, and has very low hygroscopicity — which allows it to absorb virtually no moisture and remain stable under harsh processing conditions, giving it the advantage over other carbohydrates for use in sports applications.
Palatinose is also a scientifically proven ingredient. Specifically, a claim for a lower rise in blood sugar levels has been passed in EU legislation following the publication of a positive opinion by The European Food Safety Authority. It has also been a certified tooth-friendly product since 2008.
As e-sports solidify their presence in international competitions such as the prestigious Asian Games, food manufacturers can leap at the opportunity to leverage functional ingredients such as Palatinose. Such slow-release carbohydrates will allow food manufacturers to develop products that meet the nutritional requirements of e-athletes, support sustained cognitive performance, and enable them to achieve victory.
1 South China Morning Post: Singapore hosted world’s first Olympic Esports Week in June: government, Singapore National Olympic Council and local industry all combined to support the landmark event
2 Times of India: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/101081291.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst
3 Gregory Leporati: “Aching wrists, early retirement and the surprising physical toll of esports”. The Washington Post (Published on 14 March 2022).
4 Young H, Benton D (2014) The glycemic load of meals, cognition and mood in middle and older aged adults with differences in glucose tolerance: A randomized trial. e-SPEN 9(4):e147–e154. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnme.2014.04.003