Golf: How to get your nutrition down to a tee!
Be(FORE!!) you head out for your next round of golf it is worthwhile reassessing your nutrition strategy to ensure that you are fueling your body correctly to optimize your performance. Golf is a game of such fine margins. Your nutrition strategy could very well make the difference in preventing you from dropping shots and therefore ultimately winning the round. A typical round of golf can take 3-4 hours to complete depending on the golfer’s skill level. However, someone like me who spends the majority of the time on the course in the bushes and trees will take even longer so it is critical to be fueled correctly for your round.
Let’s begin with hydration. This should be the very first thing that you address before you head out to split the fairways. Golf requires a lot of mental focus. If you are dehydrated by as little as 2% it can decrease your performance by 30% and sometimes more depending on the individual. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to hydrate as thirst indicates that you are already 1% dehydrated. Being dehydrated causes a disruption to hemostasis and many physiological reactions take place in the body. These include increased heart rate and increased core temperature which both can be distracting when trying to maintain mental focus. Don’t forget your brain is made up of 80% water and dehydration will consequently cause increased fatigue and decreased concentration.
So how much water should you be having? Ideally, you should be dividing your body weight in pounds by 2 and this will give you how much water in ounces that you need to drink. As soon as you wake up from sleeping you should be aiming to take in 25% of your required water straight away. You have been asleep for 7-8 hours and haven’t taken in any water while dreaming of your perfect game. Plan ahead, bring your required water with you and take sips every 10-15mins. Create cues to remind yourself to drink it. For example, every time you take the tee out of the ground after a drive have a sip.
But what about sports drinks, wont they help me out on the course? Not particularly! These drinks do contain electrolytes which are important to have on board. However, they are full of sugar and this is exactly what you don’t want out on your round and I will explain why before long. The main electrolyte lost when sweating is salt. On a hot day you would be surprised by how much salt you will lose whilst golfing. Ditch the clever marketing, bright colours and high sugar content for a tiny pinch of unrefined salt in your litre bottle of water. This is cheaper, just as affective, won’t upset your stomach or spike your blood sugar levels.
You have probably heard time and time again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and when it comes to golf this holds true. The goal of your pre-round breakfast should be to flat line and stabilize your blood sugar levels. You should be looking to primarily include a protein source, fibre source and fat source together. You can of course include a carbohydrate source but just make sure that it is a good quality carb source with a low glycemic index (slow digesting). Cereal (fast digesting) for example won’t do the job; it will spike your blood sugar levels and then you will simply crash and feel fatigued.
To ensure that you get a good breakfast plan ahead and wake up plenty of time before the round begins. The last thing you want to do is wake up late, fire in lots of coffee and walk around a golf course for 4 hours without food. Not to mention having not eating while you were asleep for 7 hours prior to this. You will end up in the bushes with me as concentration levels will be severely affected and stress hormones will be released. Give yourself 2-3 hours to digest your food.
At the top of our golf pyramid, we have supplements. Caffeine can definitely help your game by increasing alertness and focus. However, this is not a blanket statement and some people react differently to caffeine. Some are more sensitive to it and it can increase feelings of anxiety and cause trembles. If you are relatively new to supplementing caffeine be careful not to overdo it. Try it in practice, refine it in practice and then start to explore it in competition. 2-6mg per kg of your body weight is what is recommended but if you are new to it, stick to the lower levels and ingest more at the start of the back nine holes depending on how you feel. To put it into context about how much caffeine to consume, a flat white has around 150mg of caffeine. If you weigh 75kg and want to try 2mg per kg of your body weight this equates to the same amount of caffeine that is in the flat white. Yes, Red Bull and other similar energy drinks contain caffeine but also sh*tloads of sugar!!
When looking at snacks for your round you should be looking to have something at every five holes to keep you adequately fueled and to reduce distracting hunger levels. Planning ahead will really benefit you here as clubhouses generally only have foods such as Snickers, crisps and bottles of Lucozade. All of these are lovely, but they won’t do your performance any favours. You will eat them, feel great for four or five holes and then you’re crashing.
Pack small snacks that will fit in your bag, wont melt, that will keep you full and wont spike your blood sugar levels. Nuts, seeds, peanut butter with apple and beef jerky are good items to keep with you in your golf bag. Seeds for example contain your protein, fibre and fats and as aforementioned helps flat line blood sugar levels. Of course, you can have some fruit too, but I would recommend having a fat source with this also to slow digestion, keep hunger levels at bay to and keep blood sugars stable.
Having implemented all of the above you have at this stage eagled the 18th hole, embarrassed your friends and D.M’d Mcllroy to tell him your coming for him! Following this, it is time to grab something to eat post-round. It is now that you should opt for your starchy carbs such as rice or potatoes with protein and veggies. Your muscles are now primed to absorb carbohydrates to facilitate your recovery so get it into you along with your protein
By Paul Cox @paulcox_sportsnutrition