Is What We Eat Effect How We Play?
Getting 'golf-fit' is really important and what we eat on and off the golf course can definitely impact our total fitness...no matter what kind of golf workout plan we may be on.
As the first golf fitness training expert and physical therapist on the PGA Tour and now Director of Golf Fitness at the Cantigny Golf Academy in Wheaton, IL, I am asked constantly about what kind of special nutrition is best for golfers?
As golfers, it’s time to think more about what we eat and drink before and during our rounds if we want to reach our true potential.
Golf isn’t the game it was 20 years ago. Golf is now much closer to “athlete” status and today’s golfers realize that they have to do everything they can to get an edge and that includes eating and drinking right – especially before and during a round. With the right food and drink you can save 3-5 shots per round (at least). Have you ever felt exhausted during or after a round of golf? Then you’re not eating and drinking properly.
Golf is a unique sport in that you’re playing for 4-5 hours which is a long time to be burning calories and using your brain. It’s not like most other sports where you play intensively for an hour or so and react to what’s going on. Instead you need to switch your focus on and off for (on average) 86 times per round and then perform a precise physical action which depends on how well you’ve prepared for it. To choose the right shot, align correctly, pick the right club, read the greens etc. and then make a smooth swing, requires mental sharpness and physical energy that you won’t have if you haven’t fueled your body properly.
Here’s all you need to know (right from the Tour player play-book) to make sure you’re firing on all cylinders right up until the last putt on the 18th green. I should add that if you’re playing with your buddies and use golf as a time to indulge and eat hot-dogs and drink beer then I have nothing against that! But if you want to perform as best you can then I would advise that you follow these simple ideas and experiment with how you feel and see what it does for your scores.
The best pre-round preparation without swinging a golf club.
The night before your round: Rest
Poor sleep affects growth hormone production and hence recovery from both physical and mental stress. You need a good quality sleep to think properly and access those mental skills you need for great performance. Here are a few tips to getting that great sleep before a big round:
Avoid alcohol: Although you get off to sleep quicker, it’s proven that you don’t reach the deeper levels of sleep to fully rest your brain and be sharp the following day.
Avoid drinking anything within 2 hours of going to bed: This way you avoid being woken up earlier than you need to go to the bathroom.
Avoid eating within 2 hours of going to bed: The increase in blood sugar inhibits sleep.
Hyrdrate like the Tour Pros:
Drinking water keeps your mind and body working properly and it’s critical for optimal brain function and muscle performance. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, which limits your ability to concentrate and lowers your performance on the course. Being dehydrated by just 2-3% results in 10% lower performance which in an average round of golf, could be as high as 8 shots! The Tour pros take hydration very seriously and so should you, as it could make the difference between your best score and an average round.
Drink 16fl oz of water with your pre-round meal and another 8 fl oz (237 mL) 10 to 20 minutes before your round.
Make sipping water on every tee a habit (you’ll need to drink around 6fl oz every 30 minutes, more if it’s hot) as you’ll lose more and more electrolytes through sweat as the round progresses. Electrolytes is another term for the salts and minerals that transmit electrical impulses across the cells in your body so that your muscles (and brain) work properly. When you sweat, you lose these electrolytes, so to maintain peak muscle and brain function, you need to replace them by drinking water and/or electrolyte solutions.
The best pre-round meal: Ideas for your meal before round of golf
Eat your pre-round meal about 2-3 hours before you play and eat a snack an hour before you head to the first tee. Studies show that a meal containing 200-300g of carbohydrates 2-3 hours before playing increase athletic performance. If you have an early morning round, be sure to have a healthy breakfast at least an hour before playing. The quality of the carbohydrate is important. Poor quality (starchy) carbohydrates like bagels, pancakes and donuts give you a surge of energy and raise insulin levels and eventually you crash and become lethargic. You want to focus on those carbs you get from fruit and vegetables and if you eat bread, pasta or bagels, make sure they’re whole wheat. You don’t need much fat or fiber but include a moderate amount of protein. Eat just enough to be neither hungry or full.
Good examples would be:
Vegetable omelet with fruit
Bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with nuts
Grilled chicken or fish with salad and vegetables (Tiger’s choice)
Grilled chicken sandwich with soup
Whole wheat spaghetti and pasta sauce.
Whole wheat bagel with light cream cheese
Yogurt and fruit
Whole wheat toast and scrambled eggs
Snacks to eat before and during your round of golf
Eat these snacks in small amounts throughout the round to maintain energy and concentration levels. Small bites at regular intervals, just enough not to get hungry or full
What the pros eat during a round* from Golf Digest:
Bill Haas: Fruit and nuts
Fredrik Jacobsen: Jerky
Adam Scott: Clif Bars
Yani Seng: Meiji bars (Chocolate covered almonds)
Aaron Baddley: Almonds
Jim Furyk: Lara Bars
Steve Marino: Nuun tablets in water
Ben Crane: Back Nine Electrolyte Tablets
Matt Kuchar: Almonds
Brittany Lincicome: Peant butter and Jelly Sandwich
Ben Curtis: granola bars and Amino Vital
Martin Laird: Vitalyte Electrolyte Tablets
Phil Mickelson: Bananas
Keegan Bradley: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on multigrain bread, almonds, raisins, peanuts, trail mix, and always packs a few Clif Bars
Double bogey drinks and meals/snacks to avoid before and during golf:
Coffee (too much caffeine)
Fruit Juice (too much sugar)
Soda (too much sugar)
Energy drinks and bars (too much caffeine and sugar)
Fried breakfast (empty calories)
Pancakes (refined carbohydrate that will give you a burst of energy then make you crash)
Donuts (as above)
Most breakfast cereal (as above)
Anything that lacks carbs like scrambled eggs with no toast
Hot dogs (too high in sodium and saturated fat)
Most Granola Bars (too much sugar)
Beer: It’s a sedative and (unfortunately) will affect your coordination.
Many of the pros and players that I work with (including myself) have started using a system of products that are organic, whole food and packed with nutrients and highly bio-available protein but also low calorie. Not only do these systems balance out blood sugar allowing me to maintain a consistent mental focus but they also help to generally improve health leading to excess fat loss and lean muscle development. And they will improve your golf game too…
Again, it took me a while to buy into the idea but now I wouldn’t go a day (and especially a round of golf) with the following in my body….
1. A meal replacement shake. Great protein carbs and healthy fats. A much better alternative to the typical brands out there.
2. Energy shots (the healthy version full of 100% organic nutrients from whole foods) the doesn’t get you jittery but rather increases endurance strength and mental focus.
3. Supplemental nutrients. A daily vitamin pack that goes my body everything it needs that it isn’t getting in today’s food supply. Including the key athlete nutrients of resveratrol, vitamin D3 and CoQ10.
Those are just a few of the key systems/products I use and recommend to those I know and care about. If you’re looking for the specific system I use let me know and I can direct you to the info.