Diet Tips for Chess Players

Diet Tips for Chess Players

Nov 16, 2011, 12:11 AM |

Chess is a very complex sport requiring a player to be in great mental and physical shape in order to perform well in rough competition. Many factors influence player's performance, but food intake before and during the competition plays significant role in any chess event. Food intake before and during chess tournament significantly affects player's performance. In particular, nutrition impacts player's psychological state, alertness, memory recall and overall brain performance - the most crucial characteristics for chess. Therefore, chess players should develop individual diet to fit their needs.

Food intake before the chess game is absolutely crucial factor of a competition. All food consumed approximately two hours before the round kicks off will affect how well player feels and performs during the game. Eating too much, too little or simply a wrong type of food can significantly low down player’s position in tournament standing. Nearly all nutrition professionals agree that food rich with fish oil is especially beneficial for chess player’s brain.

It’s believed that Japanese have higher IQs because of regular seafood consumption, rich with food oils.Healthy food expert, recommends a high protein and high carbonate meals before the chess competition begins. “The carbs will help sustain the focus, while the protein will add to the needed nutrients for brain connections”, In order to get enough carbohydrates it’s suggested to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, potatoes and rice. Food like eggs, chicken, nuts, milk and soy are high on proteins and recommended as a part of chess diet by many nutrition professionals.

From my personal experience consuming foods like pork, beef, hamburgers and French fries is not recommended before any intensive mental or physical task. Digesting of these foods takes up a lot of energy making it almost impossible to concentrate and stay focused for long periods of time. After eating these foods a player would be more likely to take a nap, than to play a tough game. As a rule of thumb, consuming too much of any food before a chess game isn’t a good idea because player’s stomach will do all the work and not his brain.

Not eating enough is also a bad practice. Don’t remain Hungry before the game. There should be a compromise between how much food is too much and how much is not enough in order to play best possible chess. This balance is individual thing which needs to be developed by the player himself or with a help of qualified nutritionist.
There are plenty of options for during a game snacks: nuts, cheese sticks, sandwiches and tuna are all high on protein.
vitamins B1, B6 and B12 are essential for high accuracy sports

Since playing golf and playing chess require similar rate of concentration vitamins play important role in brain activity. It is a good idea to take a big apple or a banana on game with you.

Carbohydrates and proteins are also suggested as a part of chess diet.  In order to get enough protein it’s suggested to eat eggs, chicken, nuts, milk and soy. Carbohydrates are present in foods such as fruits and vegetables, potatoes and rice.

During the tournament it is very important to drink plenty of water or another drink like caffeine free iced tea in order to be properly hydrated.  Sports drinks and caffeine drinks must be consumed with caution due to possibility of “double effect”.   It’s a good practice to take a big apple or a banana to a game with you. Over the board snacks may include nuts, cheese sticks, sandwiches and tuna. Well balanced chess diet will not make a bad chess player – a good one instantaneously, but it’s something that will give any player a slight edge over the competition.

The most preferred solid food by Grandmasters included chocolate (80.5%), fruits (14.6%) and cereal bars (9.8%). Regarding types of fluid, main preferences were water (72.1%), coffee (42.6%), tea (29.5%) and fruit juice (23.6%).


The physical activity done on a regular basis, specially aerobic, may help the chess player in many ways: it makes body posture better, improves resistance and endorphins production (substances produced by the body that have a positive effect on the emotional state, causing a sense of comfort) and can reduce anxiety, depression, tension and stress, and can slightly improve the cognitive performance (memory, intelligence, creativity), vigor, and keep mental clearness. It also contributes to manage and keep an ideal weight and reduce body fat, it reduces the concentration of lipids in the blood, raises the HDL cholesterol level (“good cholesterol”), it is one of the basis for the treatment of mellitus diabetes, and strengthens bone mass, among others.

One question about tobacco consumption was included in the survey, for the well-known negative effect of this habit on health condition. Smoking is an important cardiovascular risk illness factor, it predisposes to cancer of the lung, larynx, pharynx and mouth cavity; may cause emphysema; etc. And also this habit affects nutrients negatively. Tobacco nicotine reduces the possibility for the body to make use of calcium leading to osteoporosis, and smokers suffer from vitamins (and precursors) deficiency, like B1, B12, C and ß-carotene, among others.

Conclusions and recommendations
The results of this research provide information about sport and nutritional habits of the active International Grandmasters, but it is necessary to take into account that more investigations on these topics are needed.
Regarding these results, author carries out some practical recommendations about healthy habits to athletes, which could help to improve a sport performance too.

  • Chess players should try to have breakfast daily.
  • Avoiding “heavy foods” or foods of difficult digestion before games must be adopted as a regular habit for chess players. The last “main” meal before a game has to be had at least three hours in advance. If a player wishes to have something to eat nearer the time of the beginning of a competition (one or two hours before, e.g.) he/she should choose among fruits (whole ones, fruit salad or juices, raisins), cereal bars, pretzels, cookies, low fat yogurt with fruit or cereals, sports drinks.
  • During the games, it is recommended fluid ingestion, and, if the chess player wants it (or when the game becomes long), solid foods. Mineral water, fruit juices, tea, coffee, sports drinks, cereal bars, fruits, raisins, dry fruits (almonds, e.g.), chocolate, cereal cookies, can be chosen. In all cases, moderate quantities should be taken.
  • The best strategy to hydration is to drink small quantities at regular intervals, instead of greater quantities at a few intervals, and avoid being thirsty. The same indication should be followed during board training and physical activity. It is also important to begin the activity properly hydrated.
  • It would be good for chess players “to train” the quantity of fluid to be drunk while playing training games in situations similar to the tournament’s; in order to determine if the options and quantities are well tolerated (and to become familiarized with them) and then, avoid drinking quantities during an important game which may result in concentration loss. The same routine should be taken into account for solid foods.
  • Some characteristics of the urine can show the state of hydration, which gives players a very good reference. If at any moment of the day the color of the urine is dark yellow, it is small in volume and has a strong smell, then all these signs could be showing that the chess player might not be properly hydrated and, consequently, should drink plenty of water or fluids containing water in considerable proportion.
  • It would be advisable for the elite chess players to count on scientific nutritional consultancy in order to cope with all the requirements that top-level chess entails, because nutrition plays a significant role in the sport performance.
  • The improper use of dietary supplements, mainly under self-supervision or non-professional supervision, can cause health problems and may result in a positive anti-doping control. It is advisable that chess players take dietary supplements only if these are prescribed by a medical doctor after a complete general check, and, in the case of top players, only those ones which are not on the list of the banned substances and methods for chess. The players must be informed about the current World Anti-Doping Regulations. 
  • Physical activities should be considered as an important component of the chess player training. It is necessary to attend clinical- cardiologic tests before starting doing this type of activity and this program must be designed by a doctor or a physical trainer.


Eating well is no nutritional novelty.

  • Tomatoes fight prostate cancer.
  • Vitamin D prevents osteoporosis.
  • More than anything, chess players require good brain health.
  • A growing consensus suggests certain vitamins and minerals can improve memory-recall, concentration, focus and overall optimism.
  • If the brain could ask for a last meal it would choose one high in fish oils.
  • omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

He explained that these fatty acids replace the bad fat in your body with more necessary and leaner fat, resulting in more useful fuel for the body and perhaps some weight loss, and that omega-3 is crucial for helping people deal with the highs and lows of competition. He also pushed Ginkgo biloba supplements for enhanced memory.
A high-protein and high-carbohydrate meal with at least a 30-minute before a round. “The carbs will help sustain the focus, while the protein will add to the needed nutrients for brain connections,”
Foods to eat before a long haul would be carbohydrates (veggies, grains, fruits, rice or potatoes) along with some protein—eggs, peanut butter, chicken, nuts, soy and yogurts are good examples.


A chess player’s intake during and between games is arguably more important than during his training period. Short-term factors like blood-sugar levels and hydration begin to have a greater impact over brain performance.

  • As with fish oils, nutritionists are equally unanimous in recommending water as the best source of hydration during a game. Not drinking enough increases the prevalence of fatigue, headaches and low blood-pressure, all of which can negatively affect performance.
  • Sports drinks have their place in the endurance sports. They should not replace water in [chess] events.”
    Sports drinks add electrolytes and carbohydrates, but since most chess players do not sweat profusely during matches, and minimal physical activity burns few carbs, those pitchers of water that hotels provide may be as far as players should go for refreshment.
  • Nutritionists recommend sipping water even before one gets thirsty; a dry mouth is an indication that dehydration is beginning. Nutritionists also warn that excessive alcohol can lead to dehydration, amongst other performance-reducing side effects.
  • Working out at moderate levels for 45 minutes does not require a sports drink, does see one benefit for them: “Research shows kids drink more when drinking a sports drink. So, [they may be] good for kids in tournaments to help maintain blood sugar concentrations and mental focus.”
    But if a consensus has been reached on water versus sports drinks, there is not even a quorum when it comes to the question of caffeine. Caffeine inhibits the brain’s adenosine receptors, reversing the chemical’s depressive effects.
  • Caffeine has the benefit of increasing metabolism, which allows the body to process nutrients faster. However, too much caffeine or caffeine on an empty stomach can cause a sharp increase in activity for a short amount of time, followed by a low—similar to blood sugar levels.
  • So caffeine may make someone alert and somewhat more chipper, but the relation to focus and especially memory is its most misunderstood aspect. Produce one study that links prolonged caffeine use to poor long-term memory, and another will claim that the drug aids when involved in a focused task like taking a test, or perhaps playing chess (there have been no scientific studies on chess ability and caffeine). If benefits do exist, they are almost certainly short-term. One study proved rats gained one-third more dendrites (branches stemming from neurons that conduct electrical stimulation) in their brains after being injected with caffeine, but the neurons returned to their original shape shortly thereafter. In humans, caffeine only remains in the body for three to four hours after consumption.
  • Nutritionists suggest several snack options to maintain glucose and blood sugar levels during a game, especially protein-rich snacks like nuts, fruit, tuna, cottage cheese, and surprisingly, beef jerky.
  • Vitamin supplements B1, B6 and B12, which are rapidly depleted during periods of tension and stress—pitiable conditions golfers and chess players share. B-vitamins have been shown to improve accuracy in pistol shooting competitions, a sport that closely rivals chess in its mental component.
  • Equip chess-playing child with a sandwich of tuna or chicken salad or natural peanut butter on whole grain bread, cheese sticks, fruit and almonds, walnuts, cashews or pistachios.

    Getting a child to abstain from soda and chips may not be easy at first. One former top junior had to become his own case study before he got the message.