We have our clubs, our shoes, and even our large buckled white golf belt. Now we are ready for our round. Or are we? We need to warm up of course (please see our previous post about our 5 minute golf warm up). But we also need to prepare for our round before we even leave the house. This time I am talking about your nutrition. You may (or may not) be surprised to learn that very few golfers realize the impact their nutritional choices can have on their golf performance. If you get nothing else out of this post, please walk away with the concept that we should put food and nutrients in our body with a purpose, with the ultimate purpose being improving our golf performance. Grabbing a quick bowl of cereal (or even worse…. a doughnut!!) on the way out the door hardly qualifies as eating with a purpose. Grabbing a quick bar at the turn may seem like it serves a purpose, but in the end, it may hurt more than it helps.
What do I mean by “eating with a purpose?” Nutrition for golf (and for most of life) should have 4 main goals:
- Maintain a stable blood sugar level (i.e. avoid the rapid highs and rapid lows or “crashes” that can happen with many foods)
- Prevent hunger and promote satiety without feeling full
- Help you feel energized
- Keep you hydrated
Let’s start with your breakfast. What is the most common pre-golf breakfast? Cereal. Why? It is quick, it is easy, and it is what we are accustomed to. To be fair, manufacturers have attempted to improve nutritional value of cereals by adding protein and fiber, but most cereals still remain highly processed simple carbs that put you at risk of a quick rise and fall of your blood sugar. If you insist on having cereal, you can help minimize the blood sugar swings by adding higher quality fats and protein such as nuts, flax seeds, or even cottage cheese to your bowl. If you are open to a change, consider higher quality foods like eggs (cooked is great, but even 2 hard boiled eggs on your way out the door adds great benefits quickly), Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts, or even whole grain toast with peanut butter. All of these tend to provide better satiety with stable energy for hours compared with cereal, muffins, doughnuts etc.
A breakfast with a good mix of protein, fiber and fats will get you fueled and ready for your round. After that, most people won’t need further nutrition for the 1st nine holes. But as you finish the front nine, you may notice that your energy is waning a little bit, or that you are feeling a little hungry. You shouldn’t be ready for lunch yet, but you may be ready for something. What do we find greeting us at most “half way houses?” Cookies, candy bars, Gatorade, and the “healthy choices” of energy bars, trail mix and bananas. All of these choices may give you energy for 3 or 4 holes, but then comes the inevitable sugar swing and potential crash. This brings us back to eating with a purpose. At the turn, our purpose is once again to 1- level our blood sugar, 2– keep us from feeling hungry, 3– energize us for the next 9 holes, and 4- keep us hydrated. If we aren’t prepared and aren’t making mindful choices, it is easy to fall prey to what we have immediately available, and we may grab the first junk snack we see on our way to the back nine (we have to keep up the pace of play!).
What are some better choices? Make your own trail mix and bring it with you. Commercial trail mixes have become more raisins and M&Ms and less nuts. Instead, pack it full of almonds, cashews, walnuts, and add a few raisins or dark chocolate chips. You should feel like you hit the jackpot when you get a “sweet”, not with every bite. Or even better, try high quality beef jerky. They even make turkey jerky and Ahi jerky (its amazing what you can find at Whole Foods nowadays). Need more choices? Try apples or celery with peanut butter. Remember, you are not having a meal. You do not want to feel full. You are just snacking to keep you going for the next 9 holes.
Notice that all the above listed options combine proteins, fats and low glycemic index carbs, while limiting the simple sugars that will cause the blood sugar swings.
|1 small apple & 1tbsp peanut butter||155 cal||8g fat||4.5g protein||17g carbs|
|3 pieces Beef jerky||240 cal||15g fat||20g protein||6g carbs|
|2 hard boiled eggs||145cal||10g fat||12g protein||1g carbs|
|1 cup low fat cottage cheese||163 cal||2g fat||28g protein||6 g carbs|
|1 cup cheerios||115 cal||2g fat||3g protein||22g carbs|
If you eat with a purpose as outlined above, you should be set for the full 18 holes. If you find that even with these good choices you are dragging again come hole 16, then you can decide to get the quick fix with a sugary snack (like an energy bar or fruit) to give you the quick boost for the last 3 holes. Then once you finish, you can focus on properly refueling after your round.
Glycemic Index Fruits:
|Best||Strawberries, pear, plum, apple, peach, orange|
|Worst||Dates, figs, raisins|
Now lets turn our focus to purpose #4- hydration. Many of us only think about hydrating when it is an excessively hot day, or we don’t start drinking until we feel thirsty. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can adversely affect athletic performance, and that once we are thirsty, it is too late as we have already become dehydrated. But the crazy part is that it is so easy to hydrate! Some experts in the field recommend that we drink half our body weight in ounces of water (i.e. a 200 pound man should drink 100oz of water in a day). That is significantly more than most of us get, but it highlights how relatively dehydrated we tend to be. We are almost guaranteed to wake up dehydrated since we haven’t had anything to drink for over 8 hours. If we grab a cup of coffee on the way to the course, we actually make ourselves even more dehydrated! First thing in the morning is the most important time to hydrate. The only real side effect from hydrating is having to “visit mother nature” more when you are on the course. I think that is a fair trade for improved performance, don’t you? So grab a BPA free reusable bottle of water, fill it up, and drink it on your way to the course. And then keep drinking. A good rule of thumb is that you should start the round hydrated, and then drink a minimum of one bottle of water each 9 holes.
Remember that sugary sports drinks get us into the same problem as the junk food with the rapid rise and fall of blood sugar. With proper nutrition, we should not need a sports drink. Water will suffice as the best source of hydration. If you really want to get specific with your hydration, it is important to note that most bottled water is highly purified tap water with minimal minerals or “solutes” in it. If you have the choice, higher quality spring waters like Fiji, Evian and other pure spring waters can give you added benefit with natural minerals and solutes. Or if needed, you can always add a sugar free electrolyte replacement to your bottled water.
At Boundless Health, we work with you to find your ideal approach to nutrition and hydration. We emphasize that you should eat with a purpose, and drink with a purpose. Together, we help you learn to make conscious decisions about what you put in your body. We make sure you are improving your performance by maintaining a stable blood sugar level, preventing hunger, feeling energized and staying hydrated.
To learn more, please contact us today to learn how we can work together to help improve your health and performance on and off the course.
Bret Scher, MD FACC
President, Boundless Health
TPI Fitness Level 2, NASM CPT FNS