Are you an avid golfer looking to shave a few strokes off your game? If so, you may be wondering how you can improve your performance on the green. Sure, the actual gameplay is important, but are you sure you have the capacity to do so?
Just imagine having the fanciest car out there, but you've been using the wrong fuel all along. Hint: you won't be getting the performance you expect.
The same can be said about your diet. In order to play your best, it’s important to fuel your body with the right nutrients. And don't let anyone tell you that you aren't an athlete. If you show dedication to the sport, you're a pretty damn good athlete. It's just important to dial in the nutrition.
This blog post will discuss some of the best foods for golfers to eat before, during, and after a game. Read on for tips on how to boost your energy and maintain your focus throughout 18 holes!
Why Nutrition Matters
20-40 years ago, the way non-golfers pictured us would have to be pot-bellied middle-aged men who struggle to move around on the course.
Yes, to a slight extent this was (and still is) true, but times are changing fast.
While people today are more obese than ever, more people than ever are also working out, trying to live healthier and enhance their bodies for physical activity.
Thus, if you're stuck in the mindset that you can get by eating crappy food and feeling less than excellent on the golf course, you won't ever achieve the performance you desire.
Apart from this, if you spend time eating quality food off of the course, why wouldn't you want to maintain doing so while on the course?
Wondering what you should be eating? No problem, we've got you covered!
Before Your Round Starts
It's the morning before your game, you woke up early and plan to hit the course early. That's a good start.
But don't even attempt to start playing your round without first implementing a sound nutritional strategy. That is if you plan on playing a great round.
To start with, a solid meal that consists of protein and complex carbohydrates is a great plan. This might include scrambled eggs on slices of whole grain bread, along with some fruit for good measure.
If your morning drink of choice is coffee or tea, that is also fine. However, it is important to keep in mind that those drinks are known to have a dehydrating effect that could adversely affect your game.
As little as a 1% reduction in body weight due to dehydration can have a profound impact on not just physical performance, but mental capacity and cognition as well.
So, make sure to drink plenty of fluids in addition to your coffee or tea during breakfast and leading up to the start of your game.
The First 6 Holes
Hunger is unlikely to be an issue during the early parts of the game as your body is still digesting the large breakfast you ate a few hours ago.
But that doesn't mean you should neglect the importance of proper hydration at this stage.
As we all know, golf is a physically and mentally demanding sport. As such, it's important to maintain focus and energy levels throughout the entire game.
One of the best ways to do this is by consuming fluids that contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium. This will help keep your body properly hydrated and prevent any cramping that might occur as a result of dehydration.
A great option to consider is coconut water, which is not only rich in electrolytes but also low in calories and fat. It's the perfect drink to keep you hydrated and feeling refreshed on those hot summer days.
Another thing to consider during the early stages of the game is the type of food you ate for breakfast.
As we said, a meal rich in protein and complex carbohydrates is ideal. But if you feel sluggish or weighed down by all the food, it might be better to go with something lighter.
A banana or an energy bar are both great options that will give you a quick boost of energy without making you feel too full.
And, in general, just try to drink 8 ounces of water or so every hour while on the course- more if needed to fight dehydration.
But hey, if you really feel the need to eat something, don't be shy. This could be the result of a less-than-stellar breakfast or just because your body is telling you it needs some fuel.
Either way, there's no shame in snacking on the course. Just make sure you're eating healthy snacks that won't adversely affect your game.
Eating a Whole In One Bar at this time is an excellent idea at this time, as it is made of healthy, whole foods, and will provide the energy you need to trudge on to the next few holes.
The Mid-Game Slump
The mid-game slump usually occurs between holes 7-12. It's the middle of the game and you're starting to feel a little tired. This is perfectly normal, as your body is running out of energy from the breakfast you ate several hours ago.
If you didn't have anything to eat since you were on the course, you will definitely need something now. Packing a sandwich or two made of chicken breast on whole grain bread is a great choice, as is a fruit or two to help replenish your electrolytes.
Another good choice would be an amino acid drink, as this is essentially your intra-workout phase. Essential amino acids will not only help to provide energy, but they will also help to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue.
You might probably be feeling the effect of all that swinging by now, so drinking the amino acid drink is an excellent way to keep things moving.
The Final Stretch
The last 6 holes (from 13-18) are the toughest, both physically and mentally. At this point, you're likely feeling fatigued, your concentration might be waning, and your body is probably begging for some sugar.
And that's perfectly normal. The key here is to listen to your body. If you think that you can maintain peak performance while feeling like that, you're in for a world of hurt.
But if you need a little something to help you get through the last few holes, there are some options that can help.
First, try to have some simple carbohydrates like a banana or an energy gel. This will give your body the sugar it needs for a quick boost of energy.
You need that burst of energy to finish strong, so now might be the time to have that sports drink you've been hoarding as well.
Finally, even a shot of black coffee or a caffeine-containing supplement is fair game to get you to the final hole.
But fair warning- depending on the time of day, caffeine too late might interrupt your sleep cycle.
Another good option is to use a sustained-release energy booster, such as Dawn to Dusk. Doing so will help prevent the dreaded caffeine crash, and help keep you moving throughout the day.
Hurray! You Made It! Right?
Completing an 18-hole course is quite an accomplishment to be fair. It's a trial of endurance and fitness and will test your physical limits. So congrats on that!
Now, it's time to initiate project codename "Recovery". Yes, after that grueling game, you need to implement a recovery plan.
The same way all athletes do.
Were you aware that over the course of 18 holes you can expend as many as 2000 calories? Yep, that's because you're likely to be walking more than 5 miles. This is why recovery is absolutely mandatory.
First, it's important to rehydrate your body as soon as possible. Sports drinks are great for this, but so is plain old water.
Try to drink at least 8 ounces of fluids for every pound lost during the game. This will help to replenish electrolytes and prevent dehydration. The best scenario is to never allow yourself to reach this stage, as it would mean that dehydration had already started to set in.
Second, you need to replenish your glycogen stores. This is the fuel that your muscles use for energy, and it gets depleted during exercise. Eating a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack will help to do this.
A good rule of thumb is to consume 1 gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight (so about 0.5 grams per pound). So if you weigh 180 pounds, you would need to consume about 90 grams of carbs.
Your body will thank you later.
Lastly, it's important to get some protein in as well. Protein helps to rebuild and repair muscle tissue and is an essential part of the recovery process.
How much protein? A good rule of thumb is to consume 0.14-0.23 grams per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you would need to consume between 25 and 32 grams of protein at this interval.
A simple way to do this is to have a protein shake or a grilled chicken breast with some rice upon reaching home.
What About Nutrition During The Off Season?
Just because you aren't actively playing does it give you a license to fill. Yes, a slightly hypercaloric diet is ok, especially if you're trying to develop strength and muscle mass to contribute to a more powerful swing.
Plus, it has been confirmed via studies that creatine is extremely beneficial to your off-season game, helping to significantly improve drive distance.
But it's important to still eat healthily, and focus on nutrient-dense foods. This means plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, and healthy fats.
During the off-season is also a great time to work on mobility and flexibility. Doing so will help you prevent injuries, and improve your range of motion come spring.
Working with a certified golf fitness professional can help you develop a plan that is specific to your needs and goals.
The Bottom Line
Smart nutrition is the single biggest advantage you can give yourself on the golf course. And- the timing of your nutritional interventions might be just as important as what you actually consume.
So whether you're trying to improve your game, or simply want to avoid the dreaded "golfers fatigue"- make sure you fuel your body properly before, during, and after your round (and even in the off-season)
Your scores will reflect it!