We all know that eating right and exercising helps you maintain good health. But what if, like me, you have resigned to the fact that you are not going to go to the gym and you are going to order from the menu and drink alcohol when you get to the poker game? You acknowledge that you are out of shape, but reluctantly admit you are not going to do much about it and are resigned to purchasing larger sized leisure suits if that time comes. Well, don’t give up so easily. There are little things you can do at and away from the poker table that just may put off that XXL size suit AND help your poker game. Fitness and Nutritional expert, Deborah Pierce, sat down with me to discuss health myths and health advice tips for the self-proclaimed lazy poker player.
Keeping yourself hydrated is important to your overall health. What you choose to drink while playing cards is probably the most important health decision you can make while sitting at the poker table. Bottled water is the obvious perfect choice, but keep in mind the following tips if you decide against water:
- Deborah recommends Gatorade or Powerade diluted with half water. Sports drinks are loaded with good carbohydrates, but are too sugary in their raw form. One step better is to dilute Option and Propel, the low-sugar sports drinks offered by the makers of Gatorade and Powerade.
- Despite their popularity, power/energy drinks raise your heart rate and are dangerous when consumed in large quantities. This can be especially detrimental to your health in a game where your heart rate is already fluctuating on a regular basis. Avoid drinking them if possible or limit consumption to no more than two in one day.
- Naked Juice is a variety of 28 drinks that the manufacturer claims contains no sugar or preservatives. The line also includes four energy drinks similar to power drinks, that contain nutrients that make it a healthier substitute.
- Coffee or regular caffeinated diet soda in moderation is also a healthier alternative to power/energy drinks. They will keep you alert at the table without causing stress on your heart.
- Orange juice and other fruit drinks high in sugar content make your blood sugar rise and then suddenly drop. Once your blood sugar drops, your cognitive abilities are impaired which will affect your poker game. You should strive to keep your blood sugar level steady at all times by avoiding these sugary drinks.
- Tomato juice is a healthy drink that will also help curb your appetite.
Alcohol slows your reflexes and affects good decision making, which is obviously detrimental to your poker game. However, if you like to drink and know you will at the game, consider some of the following tips:
- Order bottled water in between alcoholic drinks. This will help keep you hydrated and will lessen the affects of the alcohol.
- If you order mixed drinks ask the waitress to go light on the alcohol.
- If you simply love the taste of beer, consider alternating between regular beer and O’Doul’s or Sharp’s.
- If you like to drink wine, consider red wine, which is better for your heart than white or blush wines. For this reason, many health professionals actually encourage people to drink one glass a day.
If you have a chance to run down to the casino fitness center, 10 to 15 minutes of power walking on the treadmill is all it takes to get the blood flowing through your brain and will help you think more clearly. Otherwise, push-ups right in the confines of your room will work. Deborah recommends doing about 5-10 push-ups then rest and repeat three times for the same effect.
Once you are at the poker table, you’ll no longer be able to do push-ups; however, there are exercises you can do while sitting without anyone even knowing. In addition to keeping you fit, the following exercises will help the blood flow through your body. This is especially helpful for long poker sessions.
- Hold your stomach muscles tight like someone is about to punch you in the stomach for as many seconds as you can stand.
- Push your knees tightly together and hold them for 10 seconds, repeat several times throughout the night.
- Push the ball of your foot into the floor as hard as you can and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat using your other foot. Then push the heel of each foot into the floor and hold likewise. Also rotating your feet in a circler motion is helpful.
Food at a poker game is like food at a carnival. You see others eating it; you smell it and you want to eat it. Before you pick up that menu consider setting yourself up for success before you come to the game and choosing healthier options at the table.
- Eat a healthy moderate sized meal before you come to the game so you will not be tempted to start munching as soon as you sit down. Moderate sized because you do not want to eat too much. You are more alert when your stomach is not full.
- For breakfast, right before the start of a large tournament, Oatmeal accompanied by egg whites is the perfect brain food.
- Bring some granola bars, fresh fruit, trail mix, or rice cakes which will help curb your cravings and keep you comfortable longer. Deborah highly recommends Odwalla Bars, which are high in vitamins and are a natural food bar.
- When you absolutely cannot resist ordering, try to order food that is not fried or saturated in oil. Instead of a grilled cheese sandwich, ask that they not grill it and bring a cheese sandwich.
- Eat foods with Omega 3 fats which help insulate the brain and therefore aid in the thinking process. Examples of foods with Omega 3 fats include walnuts, avocados and most types of fish, especially salmon. Deborah says she personally takes an Omega 3 supplement everyday and highly recommends poker players check with their doctors about doing the same.
- If you do not prefer fish as an entrée try Sushi. Seaweed wrapped Sushi is a simple carbohydrate food that is also known to keep your blood pressure down and boost brainpower and energy levels.
- Green veggies are loaded with nutrients that help mental alertness and are very low in calories.
- Protein foods such as grilled chicken, tuna, turkey, and black beans in addition to complex carbohydrates like fruit, veggies, and baked potatoes make for a healthy meal at the table.
It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming a lazy poker player. After all, it is not a game that requires players to be in top physical condition. It is comforting to know that there are minor decisions you can make at the table to enrich your health, your mental well being and in turn, your overall poker game. Heed some of Deborah’s advice to improve your stamina at the table and maybe put off that XXL leisure suit another year.