Getting the best out of your golf game requires much more than spending hours and hours on the practice range.
Most golfers of all levels, including pros, forget to pay attention to arguably the most influential factor in determining their success; fueling with the correct nutrition.
When you consider that a round of golf can last anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, depending on the course and level of the player, you can see why fueling correctly is critical. Hours and hours out in the elements can take a toll on your physical and mental state, but making sure you’re fueled correctly can make a significant difference.
This article takes an in-depth look at the role nutrition plays in helping you get the most out of your golf game.
Golf And Nutrition
- 1 Golf And Nutrition
- 2 Nutritional Fundamentals
- 3 Nutritional Fundamentals For Golfing Performance
- 4 Nutrition Tips for Practice
- 5 Hydration
- 6 Fueling Before A Round
- 7 What To Eat During A Round Of Golf
- 8 The Importance Of Recovery
- 9 Additional Tips:
- 10 Final Round
Golf is one of the most popular sports on the planet; Played by recreational, aspiring golfers, and professionals alike who compete on tours, including the European and PGA Tours. As mentioned above, a round of golf can take anywhere from three to eight hours, and with an average course length of just over 7,000 meters, golfers can potentially walk between ten to twenty km.
When it comes to top amateur and professional golfers, it’s not unusual for them to spend close to eight hours a day working on specific parts of their game. When you factor in practice during tournament play, it’s easy to see, golf is a game that can take a physical and mental toll.
Even amateur and recreational players spend time working on strength training, aerobic activity, and even flexibility in the gym. These are vital aspects of any golfers game, particularly beginners new to the game that might struggle with muscle soreness and fatigue after each round or practice session.
Professional tournaments run over four days, with one round each day generally starting on Thursday with the final round on Sunday. Club Championships are also typically played over the weekend. Most professional golfers travel the world between 35-40 weeks of the year, which puts an extraordinary amount of stress on the body physically and emotionally.
Whether you play at home or abroad, conditions vary significantly in terms of the style of courses you play and the weather. For example; a golfer playing a tournament in Australia during the summer months would have very different nutritional needs than a golfer playing in Europe during the same time.
Then there’s the varying body shapes and sizes to consider regarding nutritional requirements. High levels of fat in any sport hinder performance, and golf is no different; high-fat levels can hinder flexibility and interfere with aerobic conditioning as well as increase the chance of long-term injury.
Correct nutrition plays a vital role in athletic performance, and many nutritionists look at food and supplementation as the building blocks that boost performance and aid recovery.
Proper nutrition helps support:
- Muscle repair
- Quickens recovery
- Enhances focus and concentration
- Increases energy levels, and
- Improves overall health and well being
A well-balanced diet plan requires the golfer to fuel correctly throughout the day, including out on the course. Making diet changes and committing to a plan is just as important as the plan itself.
Nutritional Fundamentals For Golfing Performance
- Include a balance of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats
- Eating regularly through the day is a must; ideally, 5-6 small meals and adequate hydration is recommended
- Avoid excessive levels of caffeine, alcohol, sugary drinks and saturated fats
Protein, Carbs And Fats; A Quick Look
- Often referred to as the building blocks of life
- Plays a critically important role in muscle repair and recovery
- Essential in boosting the immune system
- Sources rich in high-quality protein are whey protein powder, eggs, yoghurt, and lean meats such as chicken and beef
- Deliver essential nutrients key in helping athletic performance
- Supplies energy required for cognitive function
- Sources rich in carbohydrates are brown rice, fruits, oats, sweet potato, brown bread and vegetables
- Critical for healthy bones
- Protects the body’s immune system
- Rich sources of healthy fats are salmon, tuna, nuts such as almonds and macadamias, avocados and organic peanut butter
- Fats to avoid are saturated fats, which include foods like potato chips, fried foods, baked goods and margarine
Nutrition Tips for Practice
Almost all of us are aware of the important role nutrition plays in everyday life, but unfortunately, most of us don’t fuel correctly.
Specific nutritional requirements vary greatly depending on the type of sport you play. Athletes competing in sports such as bodybuilding or sprinting have vastly different dietary needs than a golfer or cyclist who is out on the bike for long periods of time.
Golfers require the right mix between quality protein sources and carbohydrates. The protein plays an essential role in muscle recovery and repair, while sufficient levels of carbs help with fueling needs throughout the day.
Quality sources of protein include:
- Whey protein powder
- Lean meats, such as beef and chicken
- Fish and
When choosing your carbs, it’s recommended to select foods that are low on the glycemic index. Low GI carbohydrates release their energy slowly throughout the day, making them ideal choices for golfers who are practising long hours.
Quality sources of carbs include:
- Sweet potato
- Brown rice
- Rye bread and
- Baked beans
Other aspects that need to be considered are individual training loads, goals, current fitness levels, age, and any specific requirements the athletes might have, like gluten-free or kosha.
Golf is a game that requires an incredible laser type concentration and focus over long periods of time and as such, making sure you stay hydrated is essential.
Dehydration can result in lowered levels of focus and concentration as well as a reduction in overall performance and is also a major contributor to heat stress. As with nutrition, the requirement for each golfer will vary greatly and depend primarily on factors like body type, weather, duration and intensity of competition, and even gender.
If you have long practice sessions planned, it’s recommended to keep water or fluid levels high; drinks such as water and sports drinks that contain minerals and electrolytes make excellent choices. Keeping fluids in your golf bag is a critical part of the hydration process, and planning ahead will help you stay on top of your fluid intake.
If you’re in any doubt at all, you’re best advised to seek the guidance of an accredited and qualified sports nutritionist or clinical dietician.
Fueling Before A Round
Regardless of whether you’re playing golf or not, the saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” rings true.
Golfers can be out in the elements all day, so making sure you fuel correctly can help you get the most out of your game and help maintain concentration levels as the day progresses. Like tennis, start times can change on a whim, so golfers need to ensure their timing is spot on when eating breakfast; having a meal plan that’s versatile and flexible can make or break your round.
The type of breakfast you consume really depends on personal preference, but all the general nutritional rules should still apply. Eating plenty of carbs, protein and staying hydrated will help keep your concentration and focus on point throughout the round or practice session.
Ideas for breakfast are unlimited, but here are a few:
- Muesli mixed with fresh fruit
- Eggs on toast
- Omelette and rye bread
- Sweet potato pancakes
- Protein smoothie with oatmeal
Make sure you keep additional snacks in your golf bag so you can stay fuelled and stave off the inevitable fatigue that sets in late in the round.
A few ideas for a nutritious snack:
- Fruit, particularly bananas
- Rice cakes
- Trail mix
- Peanut butter sandwich
Many athletes struggle to eat early in the morning, so alternatives like smoothies jam-packed with fruits and protein make excellent choices. Again, if you are unsure of your exact nutritional needs, consult with a qualified sports nutritionist.
What To Eat During A Round Of Golf
We’ve established that a round of golf could last anywhere from three to eight hours, so ensuring you’re adequately fuelled during the round could literally mean the difference between bombing out or making the cut.
I would recommend eating every three or four holes as you must stay fuelled to keep concentration levels high, particularly towards the end of the round. Staying hydrated is also essential, so maintaining fluid intake with water and sports drinks containing electrolytes is paramount.
Some examples of nutritious snacks are:
- Chicken or ham sandwiches
- Muesli bars
- Protein bars
Reminding yourself to eat and drink regularly will help you stay focused and stave off late-round fatigue.
The Importance Of Recovery
Fuelling for recovery is an essential element of any sound nutritional plan and helps aid muscle recovery and repair.
Recovery meals should comprise sufficient amounts of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. The protein aids muscle repair, while the fats and carbohydrates provide essential vitamins and minerals that help recovery and support sleep quality; high-quality sleep has been identified as being a necessary part of the success puzzle.
Some ideas for recovery meals are:
- Homemade pizza
- Lean beef burgers
- Chicken tortillas
Maintaining adequate fluid levels after the round and into the night is essential to mitigate the possibility of dehydration. Avoiding alcohol is also highly recommended as it can dehydrate the body of vital electrolytes, leaving you exhausted the next day.
If you have to travel to play a tournament, make sure you plan ahead by doing some research beforehand; this way, you can find suitable restaurants or supermarkets that carry healthy and nutritious foods.
Besides being delicious and a great wake me up, a nice cup of coffee has been shown to support focus and concentration. Ideally, you want to keep caffeine intake to a minimum though, as coffee is categorised as a diuretic that can speed up dehydration, ultimately hurting performance.
Despite contrary belief, golf is a game that demands an incredible amount of physical and mental energy. Ensuring that you have your nutrition plan in check can be the difference between shooting a round under or over par.
Fuelling correctly at breakfast and then throughout the day will help you stay focused and keep your performance at its peak. Avoiding alcohol and saturated fats will also aid in a speedy recovery.
Finally, ensuring you keep your fluid levels high with water and sports drinks that are high in electrolytes will keep you hydrated and ready to perform at your best.