Good Nutrition is a Choice
- Clubs? Check.
- Balls? Check.
- Tees? Check.
- Spare pants in case I get a hole in one? Check.
And the list goes on.
But how often do you think about what you’ll be eating or drinking during the next 4 to 6 hours? More often than not, we just plan on grabbing something at the half or from the beer cart.
We can do better. We need to do better!
What we eat and drink can have a tremendous impact on our game. Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up something from the clubhouse or your favourite cart girl. We just need to plan ahead and make sure that we’re eating and drinking wisely.
What Are Wise Choices?
What snacks and bevies are the best to chose before or during a round of golf? I imagine if you gathered 12 golfers together and asked them that question you’d probably get 13 different answers. But there are some things that we can avoid. And there are some things that we need to include.
Here are some things to avoid to maximize your performance and enjoyment of the game.
1 Sugar is bad. There — I said it. This is true in life in general, but especially true in the game of golf. We consume far too much sugar in a typical North American diet.
Sugar messes with our energy levels, giving us wildly swinging highs and lows. Both the sugar rush and the inevitable crash affect us mentally and physically. During the rush we’ll be manic and wild. Then the crash brings fatigue and even depression.
2 Caffeine is worse. As much as sugar brings us high and then low, caffeine brings us temporary energy by stimulating a release of adrenaline. Once again the rush is followed by a crash.
On top of that, caffeine has two added negatives.
Adrenaline is a stress hormone. It triggers a response that is agitating and stressful — enemies of a smooth, repeatable golf swing. It is also hard to properly concentrate.
Caffeine is also a diuretic. That means that it removes water from our body. That’s right, we’re drinking to make ourselves thirsty!
Caffeine messes with our mental game, our physical game and dehydrates us at a time that we need to focus on being more hydrated.
3 You’re going to hate me for this one. Alcohol is another no-no. Who doesn’t love a couple pops on a hot, sunny day? (Well, me. But I know that I’m the exception to the rule).
A couple beer or coolers during the round can be refreshing and relaxing. But remember that alcohol is both a diuretic and a depressant.
Alcohol will also affect your co-ordination and timing.
Save it for the clubhouse after the round. A nice cold beer is much better after shooting your personal best!
4 Fruit juices are a big step above sodas and other sugary beverages, but they still contain a high amount of sugar. For example, orange juice has almost the same sugar content as Coca Cola (and the same amount of calories per serving) according to the nutrition labels.1
5 Highly fatty foods can be difficult to digest. Even though we need to have good fats in our diet, before or during the round is not the best time to get them.
1 Water is the absolute best thing you can drink. When we drink something other than water, our body needs to spend energy separating out the extras. And we often need to use up some of our body’s supply of precious water to eliminate toxins that other drinks contain.
So drink lots of water, especially if it is very hot or you are walking (you are walking, aren’t you?) the course. Just be careful not to drink too much at once. Water sloshing around in your gut can be quite distracting.
2 Sports drinks, vitamin water, etc. can be a good alternative if you simply can’t drink just water. They are far better for us than sodas, coffee or alcoholic beverages. Just make sure that you find one without added sugars or chemical preservatives.
3 For hot drinks on a cold day, you want to avoid coffee and hot chocolate. But tea can be a good alternative, especially if you drink teas with little or no caffeine. A good cup of soup isn’t a bad idea either — chicken noodle soup is great and you can slurp noodles during your partners’ backswing.
4 Fresh fruits and veggies are great sources of energy if you don’t overdo them. They are natural sugars so they can lead to the sugar rush and crash, but the nutritional value is much better than typical sweets.
Dried fruit is also good and is less likely to mess up your bag if it gets squished.
5 A light lunch is good. “I like a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, when the mutton is nice and lean …” (Thank you Miracle Max). A couple of sandwiches or wraps are convenient and nutritious if you stick with good, whole grain breads and a good balance of carbs, proteins and good fats. Personally, I like a tuna salad or egg salad sandwich on 12 grain bread (not so big on the mutton).
6 The other day at my daughter’s karate, sensei suggested that a boiled egg is an excellent after school snack to provide energy. It is very nutritious and easy to digest. The energy release is slower so you avoid the rush/crash with carbs. And they’re very tasty. Although, my daughter doesn’t think so.
7 Granola bars or trail mix are also quick snacks but you still have to look at what’s inside. Avoid chocolate (caffeine and sugar). Try naturally sweetened with honey or stevia.
Try not to eat all at once. Your energy levels will remain more stable if you spread your eating out over time. More health professionals are recommending this as a lifestyle — eating 6 smaller meals rather than 2 large ones during a day.
It is very important that you consider you own body’s needs when deciding what to eat or drink. Everyone is different and you will know your own body better than anyone else, so experiment with different food and drink to find out what works well for you.
It doesn’t hurt to look at what professional golfers do — especially those who’ve been consistently successful over the long haul. Gary Player had a very radical diet and exercise plan that helped him play exceptional golf for over 5 decades. He holds a record for 27 consecutive years with at least 1 tournament victory and is the oldest player to make the cut at both the Open Championship and the Masters2. He must have been doing something right!
So what changes have you made in your diet to improve your game? What changes would you like to make? Share your stories in the comments below!
Swing Doctor image by Jeff Bucchino — The Wizard of Draws
1 Coca Cola has 30g of carbohydrates (all sugar) in a 250 ml serving (110 calories) while Tropicana Orange Juice has 27g of carbohydrates (23g sugar) for the same serving size (11o calories) according to the Nutrition Facts labels.
2 Gary Player’s official web site has these and other amazing stats about his career.