Many know golf as a game of skill, however, nutrition can play an important role in keeping the mind and body in its optimal state.
A general healthy diet can improve energy levels and assist with weight management. It’s important to meet your energy needs with the right amount of carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats, as well as provide important vitamins and minerals. This can be met with having the right about of food from each food group – fruits and vegetables, grains and cereals, low fat dairy and lean meat, fish, poultry or vegetarian alternatives.
Some carbohydrates digest slower than others – which helps sustain energy levels for longer – choosing Low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates choices such as multigrain bread, porridge, lentils and most fruits can be better option prevent fatigue over the long duration that golf games take.
No two bodies are the same, and Individual nutrition requirements vary depending, on medical and physical needs – body composition goals, health status of older players and growth of younger athletes.
In a recent study published in the multi-disciplinary scientific journal, dehydration showed reduced 7-iron distance, lower putting accuracy and greater perceived effort. Another study published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed mild dehydration significantly impaired motor performance, expressed as shot distance (114.6 vs. 128.6 m) and off-target accuracy (7.9m vs. 4.1 m) as well as impairing cognitive performance, expressed as the mean error in distance judgment to target increased. That shows a 12% further distance in your drive just by being better hydrated!
How much fluid do we need?
It varies greatly, depending on the temperature and humidity of the day, your size, gender and fitness levels. When I worked for golf Australia – I tested many amateur golfers and on a hot 38 degree Australian summer’s day – healthy weight teenagers lost up to 300ml per hole. Which means some golfers may need over 5 litres of fluid to stay accurately hydrated in 18 holes on a hot day, in competition carrying their own bag. Ideally weigh yourself before and after a game and if you have lost weight, this means you have lost that amount of fluid. If you lost 2% of your original, you are classified as dehydrated. The problem is many golfers even start the game in a dehydrated state. If a 70kg woman loses 1.4kg over a game – they are technically dehydrated. Have you ever noticed your weight fluctuates a lot day to day – this is simply fluid levels going up and down, real weight loss is losing body fat tissue.
What is your colour
A simple way to check if you are hydrated is to assess the color of your urine. Generally, pale yellow is a good indication that you are well-hydrated, and darker than the color of apple juice may indicate dehydration. It gets tricky if you take multi vitamins though.
What should I drink?
It should be at the right temperature – hot fluids are great on cold early mornings, and cold fluids are better on hot days to not only enjoy more, but to also help with body temperature control which can also improve your golf performance.
Golfers need to replace water, salts lost and carbohydrates, if the food your consume on the course has plenty of carbs and salt, then your fluids can possibly be water only, however if you need your liquids to also provide fuel and electrolytes, this is where an electrolyte sports drink can come in handy.
You can have a sports dietitian do a sweat analysis to find out how much salt you lose in your sweat, many professional golfers have this done, so they can match their electrolytes intake with their output.
Some golfers may benefit from small amounts of caffeine and has shown to increase concentration, too much will leave you with the jitters, can cause dehydration with an increased need to urinate, so monitor your response to adjust your dose.
It’s important to eat before golf, regardless of how early your tee-off time is for the round. Golfers need to develop a good nutrition plan so it can be easily adapted to suit different start times.
Your pre game meal should be simply a well-balanced meal of low GI carbohydrates, lean protein, vitamin rich fruit or vegetables and fluid for hydration. Examples would be
Low GI cereal with light milk and fruit
Grain bread sandwich with lean protein and salad
Grain bread with eggs, tomato, mushroom and spinach
Fruit smoothie with fruit, low fat milk and yoghurt, crushed ice.
During the game
Keeping your blood glucose levels steady is especially important in a game of golf that combine physical exertion with the need for high mental acuity
Having a healthy snack every 4 holes, is especially important if you are missing a main meal such as lunch while you are playing. A variety of healthy carbohydrate snacks that contain small amounts of healthy fats and protein, as well as electrolytes and fluids.
Many amateur golfers finish the round with alcohol and a heavy meal. If you want to take your game seriously, you will recover with rehydrating with more sensible fluids and a healthy balanced meal of lean protein, low GI carbs and plenty of salads or vegetables.
It’s very hard to eat well if you always rely on the pot luck that the club house will have what you are looking for, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and prepare your own meals and snacks if practical or call ahead and see what the clubhouse offers and their opening times.
Accredited Dietitian, Accredited Exercise physiologist and Advanced Sports Dietitian