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What Really Happens To Your Body When You Drink Caffeine While Gaming

In an episode of his YouTube series, a former Overwatch pro — Dusttin "Dogman" Bowerman — stated that he uses caffeine to improve his aim. He's not alone. In fact, up to 26 percent of gamers report drinking energy drinks while gaming, according to market researcher Newzoo.

As pro-gaming grows as an industry, it's no wonder that many gamers are trying to improve their performance. Some are taking performance-enhancing chemicals, while others are hiring coaches. Caffeine is both relatively benign and ubiquitous on the gaming scene.

In the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, professionals noted that many pros and amateurs alike are using both prescription and over-the-counter stimulants to fuel "marathon gaming sessions." Computer company Acer even has a guide to eSports supplements in its "Training Room," which includes info on caffeine and nootropics.

Caffeine seems to be one of the most popular performance-enhancing substances on the market. But what really happens to your body when you drink caffeine while gaming?

Bowerman says, "If you're looking to improve your aim, coffee will do it."

In his show, Bowerman stated that while he does believe caffeine improves aim, caffeine alone can only do so much. Both skill and practice are even more important — and a good night's sleep is preferred over just caffeine.

On a physiological level, it's important to note that people build a tolerance to caffeine very quickly. Someone using caffeine regularly will need more and more to experience the same effects. That doesn't mean that caffeine won't help after long-term use, but research has determined that moderate and consistent use may diminish the returns.

And caffeine isn't the only performance-enhancing drug often seen in pro-gaming. According to The Washington Post, eSports is rife with the use of Adderall; even high-profile players like Shroud have admitted to using it — albeit while watching demos, not during competitive play. And because there are many justifiable reasons that players would be on Adderall — especially since it's still commonly used to treat ADHD — it's not something that can really be questioned. 

Perhaps that's why, in a live streaming session, player Taimou once claimed that about 20 players used Adderall in the professional Overwatch League.

What does caffeine do to your body?

Caffeine has been shown to improve focus and reaction times. By improving reaction time, it is also able to enhance hit accuracy while gaming. On the other hand, anecdotal experiments with caffeine indicate that too much of a good thing could still be too much; an overabundance of caffeine can cause the "jitters." That's not only an unpleasant sensation, but it's difficult to aim when you have the shakes.

Some discrepancies between anecdotal experiences may be explained by the fact that people metabolize caffeine differently. The effective time of caffeine can vary from between half an hour to ten hours after being ingested; people will experience their "peak" performance at different times. This is also what can keep people up with insomnia well after having a shot of espresso.

Both professional advice and scientific studies support the idea that the right amount of caffeine can enhance performance — making people both faster to react and more accurate. Nevertheless, caffeine is a highly addictive substance that should be used with caution and in moderation. Potential side effects of caffeine include anxiety, insomnia, and digestion issues. Too much caffeine can even lead to issues with withdrawal.