Being the GM is an intense mental exercise. You are dealing with both external stimulation (observing your players, rolling dice, listening, and so on) as well as internal stimulation (your emotional state, keeping track of the game’s activities, adjusting tactics and strategies as needed, and so on). This requires a lot of energy for your brain to operate at peak performance.

This is why experts in neuroscience would recommend that you make sure to eat complex carbohydrates so that they will be broken down into glucose that will enter into your bloodstream as needed in order to feed the neurons of your brain. Therefore you can continue operating at peak mental performance while engaging in the multitude of complex mental activities that running a game requires.

Translation: Eat a healthy snack while you are GMing so that your brain keeps working.

The Science

Your brain is composed of cells called neurons. Neurons unlike other cells do not store glucose within them, which is the food that these cells require for energy. Not only do neurons not store glucose, but they consume glucose at a very high rate. According to this site your neurons need twice as much energy as other cells in your body do. So if you have ever wondered why periods of intense mental activity felt exhausting to you, that is because periods of intense mental activity are indeed exhausting! Your brain uses a lot of energy even though your body is sitting in a chair (or if you GM like I do your body is all over the place acting out the scenes, but that is another article).

Your brain gets glucose through your bloodstream, and the glucose gets into your bloodstream because your metabolism breaks down the nutrients that you digested into sugars (which is what glucose is). If you eat foods that contain complex carbohydrates you will provide your body with the raw material it needs to make glucose with, and that means your most important GMing tool in the form of your brain will be ready for action.

All I need is sugar, right? Hand me a soda!

Unfortunately the benefits that you get from complex carbohydrates are not going to come from simple carbohydrates like those found in soda. That Mountain Dew or energy drink will give you a momentary boost, but then it actually starts to work against you after a short period of time. Complex carbohydrates are like capsules of energy that your body can refine as needed, while simple carbohydrates are like a nitrous oxide injection for an automobile. You get a quick burst of energy for a short period of time and then you are back to your previous energy levels.

Ingesting more simple carbohydrates does not negate the problem. You will get a short boost of energy each time, but referring to this site again, you will actually trigger your body’s functions to start removing glucose from your bloodstream. Just as abusing a nitrous oxide injector will wreck your car’s engine you will wreck your health by consuming too many simple carbohydrates.

Of course, there is nothing shocking about this information. You probably already know about the benefits of a healthy diet versus a poor one, but I want to emphasize that if a healthy snack is better for your brain than it is also better for your game!

So what should I eat while GMing?

The same stuff that any good doctor wants you to eat everyday of your life:

  • whole grains
  • fruits (not fruit juices)
  • vegetables

Of course you can always have the occasional treat, but when you are GMing try snacking on things like grapes, apple slices, and oranges. Carrots, celery, and other vegetables are great snacks as well. A personal favorite of mine is baked kale made by following this recipe from Food Network star Lisa Lillien (a.k.a – Hungry Girl). It is a healthy substitute for chips, and it is perfect with another healthy snack – fresh salsa!

Great GMing Starts With Your Health

Remember that good health benefits you in all aspects of your life, and that includes your GMing. A healthy diet and regular exercise will make you feel better and that alone will make you a better GM. Find a snack that you enjoy that contains complex carbohydrates and you will have one more advantage at the gaming table.

And if you are interested in learning how the brain functions in more detail I recommend David Rock’s Your Brain at Work. It is an excellent book that uses a simple story of two married professionals to explain how understanding the functions of the brain helps each of them to deal with their day-to-day routines so that they can be more effective and happier.

Do you have a healthy snack that you enjoy while GMing? Have you noticed a difference with your GMing between when you eat junk food versus healthier food at the gaming table? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the rest of us!