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July 26, 2022 6 min read

Some sports require maximum strength, others require power and speed, but there are sports that we don’t think about as often that require concentration, critical thinking, and a competitive drive.

Although you may not be out of breath or wiping sweat from your eyes, the game of chess requires mental strength and focus that can be associated with physical activity. 

According to the International Olympic Committee,chess is considered a sport, and that makes Magnus Carlsen an athlete.

Magnus Carlsen is a Norwegian chess grandmaster and is the reigning five-time World Chess Champion. Chess might be his main sport, but he also puts a huge emphasis on his physical health through exercise and nutrition.

The Model Chess Player

There’s a stereotype that chess players are geeks with glasses and pocket protectors, but Magnus Carlsen has quickly challenged that. 

As one of Cosmopolitan’s sexiest men of 2013,it’s evident that he prioritizes taking care of his body.

He has also modeled for G-Star Raw clothing company and was a brand ambassador for MasterCard. Models are expected to maintain a certain body type depending on the brand, so a solid workout routine is essential.

The general guidelines for male models are 5’11” - 6’3” height, 29-32 inch waist, and 39-40 inch chest. Carlsen may not fit this mode entirely, sitting at 5‘ 10“, but his title and powerful jawline helps make up for it.

Keeping up with his model appearance through diet and regular exercise helps him get gigs, but it can also help him succeed in his sport.

Brain Benefits of Physical Activity

Regular exercise can be beneficial for your physical health, but it can also help improve your brain health as well. 

Physical fitness can improve your problem-solving skills, memory, your ability to think and learn, and reduce anxiety.

All of these skills are necessary in the game of chess as you need to be able to concentrate after hours of chess tournaments, think quickly for game-winning strategies, and stay calm throughout it.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Carlsen says:

“These long tournaments are quite tiring and long games are very tiring, especially at the end.If you are in good shape and can keep your concentration, you will be the one who will profit from your opponents’ mistakes. In general, towards the end of the tournaments, younger players have that advantage so the other players will have to try to equal that by having good fitness as well.”

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Magnus Carlsen’s Workout Routine

From the age of five, Carlsen was playing chess in his home in Norway, and in 2013 at just 22 years old, he defeated Viswanathan Anand in the World Chess Championship to become the second youngest world chess champion.

Aside from chess, Carlsen is an avid sport’s fan, a one-time winner in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL), and a lover of exercise.

Regular Exercise

Part of the chess grandmaster‘s daily routine includes plenty of exercise. As a child, he loved soccer and skiing, and as an adult, he still spends a lot of time running and playing soccer, basketball, and tennis.

In an interview with Forbes, Carlsen’s father says:

“Most chess players have failed to understand that physical fitness and endurance can help you in three ways. It helps build confidence, you are more likely to stay focused throughout the entire game, and you can recuperate faster for the next round of games.”

Magnus had loved playing sports from a young age, so it wasn’t too difficult for him to stay interested in fitness. He may spend at least an hour each day dedicated to exercise because it can help increase his stamina for longer, more strenuous chess tournaments, like the world championship.

This is much like his opponent, Fabiano Caruana, who eats clean, cuts out sugar and alcohol, and exercises for hours to prepare for longer chess matches.

During Tournaments vs “Off Season”

When you’re trying to reserve energy for hours of chess play, you don’t want to expend all of your energy working out.

During tournaments, Magnus will typically workout or play a sport he enjoys for up to an hour or two a day. However, When he’s not competing, his cardio work can be even higher.

Chess as a Sport

Magnus enjoys physical activity, but the defending champion also understands that it can help him play chess better. Chess is not just recognized as a sport for the game but also for the stress responses from its players.

ESPN interviewed Robert Sapolsky, a researcher, author, and professor at Stanford University, about the sport and its grandmasters.

He says, “Grandmasters sustain elevated blood pressure for hours in the range found in competitive marathon runners.“

Chess players‘ heart rates can raise significantly at the beginning of the game, stay elevated during the middle, and rise even more at the end.

In fact, the 2018 Isle of Man International gave competitors the chance to monitor their heart rate throughout the game. Russian grandmaster, Mikhail Antipov, burned over 500 calories in two hours just playing chess.

An extreme example of the physical toll chess can have on its players is the infamous five month tournament between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov in 1984. Karpov ended up losing almost 20 pounds at the end of it, and although no winner was declared, they shut it down due to both players being completely exhausted.

Magnus‘s workout routine may help to prepare him for these long bouts of play, but it‘s also his diet that can play an important role in concentration and endurance.

Magnus Carlsen‘s Diet

During chess games, Carlsen will chew gum and drink chocolate milk. He used to drink orange juice, but the sugar from the drink was making him crash.

Chocolate milk is filled with protein and calcium and can help an athlete sustain their energy for six minutes longer than energy drinks.

Chewing gum can help you stay focused,especially on longer tasks that need constant concentration, like an eight hour long chess game, and it can also help improve memory and reaction time.

On the road, Magnus travels with a personal chef to cater to his nutritional needs. Carlsen‘s chef told ESPN in an interview, “Before tournaments, you need a lot of energy, so I am trying to trick him to eat some pasta, so he gets some reserve energy.“

The chess grandmaster follows a vegetarian diet and makes sure to eat superfoods that help boost brain function. 

Before a match, he may eat an omelet or yogurt with fruit, but other superfoods include eggs, nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, and more.

As a vegetarian or a vegan, it can be difficult to find supplements to enhance performance and endurance needed for sports like weightlifting or chess. V-BCAA is a plant-based way to help increase performance length and intensity, while supporting fat loss and muscle recovery.

With as much time as Carlsen spends not just playing chess but thinking about his next best move, he needs all the brain-boosting foods he can get. These foods are good for the brain, but they’re also good for the body, which helps him maintain his physical health.

Check Mate

Magnus Carlsen leads a healthy lifestyle for his body and his mind and can be a good role model for how to become a master in your arena. Although he dedicates the majority of his time to his sport, he’s sure to make time for physical activity to help keep his brain sharp.

He exercises with activities that he enjoys, which can make it easier to stay motivated. Finding a fitness program that you love can make all the difference in your journey to weight loss, muscle gain, or an overall healthier self. 

Magnus is sure to eat right and avoid foods or drinks that could limit his progress because he’s completely dedicated to his craft. 

All of this combined can work, and it can be seen through Carlsen’s title as World Chess Champion for multiple years running. 

This chess grandmaster’s hard work and perseverance can be applied to your own goals, and if you want them as bad as Magnus does, you’ll see results in no time.