Golf Nutrition & Sports Supplements for Golfers
On the face of it there does not seem to be sufficient physical exertion in the game of golf to require special attention with regard to nutrition as an aid to improved fitness and performance optimisation.
But appearances can be deceptive.
When you think about it, with the average length of a golf course being around seven to eight kilometres, it means that a typical golfer may be required to walk between 10 and 20 kilometres just to complete a single round, depending on the accuracy of shots of course!
Add to that the fact that elite amateurs and professional golfers can spend up to eight hours a day on the course working on specific skills, drills and playing practice rounds; as well as taking part in competitions, and the realisation dawns that such activity does require a great deal of fitness, which, in turn, can be significantly impacted by diet and good golf nutrition.
Complementary training sessions
If your are serious about optimising your golfing performance it is vitally important that you consider complementary training sessions, including strength training, aerobic conditioning and flexibility if you are to strengthen muscles involved in playing the game, improve fitness levels and endurance and minimise the risk of injury.
Another factor to be taken into consideration, especially if you are an elite amateur or professional golfer, where you may be required to travel all over the world to compete in international tournaments, is that time zone and climatic conditions may vary widely, so a different approach might be required, depending on the time and place of the competition.
to optimise your performance, whether you are a recreational, amateur or professional golfer, you will need to eat and drink well, with any nutrition plan designed primarily to prevent athlete fatigue and maintain concentration levels during play
It has to be said that most golf tournaments are played during the summer months, often during the hottest part of the day, making good athlete hydration and sound drinking habits more important than ever.
Although the nature of the game means it is of a lower intensity when compared to other, more dynamic sports; higher body fat levels may still impair golfing performance through increased energy output, greater heat intolerance and an increased risk of injuries.
In order to optimise your performance, whether you are a recreational, amateur or professional golfer, you will need to eat and drink well, with any nutrition plan designed primarily to prevent athlete fatigue and maintain concentration for between the three and five hours it takes to play a round – often for four days in succession in major competitions – as well as optimising skill levels and athlete performance.
A good nutritional approach for any golfer should comprise a well balanced diet that will incorporate a wide variety of tasty foods that include carbohydrate and protein, as well as carefully controlled / smaller amounts of fat.
For the best effect, the diet should also incorporate a well thought out hydration plan.
With this in mind, a balanced diet should therefore include moderate amounts of foods rich in carbohydrates.
Low glycaemic index (GI) choices such as pasta, multigrain bread, porridge and baked beans could also be considered as nutritional options to sustain golf training requirements and prevent athlete fatigue.
Nutritionally poor foods such as takeaways and highly processed snack foods like crisps, pies, pastries, cakes and fizzy drinks should be kept to a minimum or simply excluded from the diet.
The focus should be on nutritious, low-fat foods and include small amounts of foods rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats such as avocado, most types of nuts, plant-based oils and fish.
As golf is primarily a game of skill, it is very important that golfers consume adequate levels of fluids to maintain a good state of bodily hydration.
This is because dehydration can have a number of performance degrading consequences including an inability to focus and concentrate for long periods, athlete fatigue, and, in some cases, heat stress.
While fluid requirements vary a great deal depending on your physical size, gender, time in play, course and environmental conditions, it is advisable that during a game you carry sufficient fluids in your golf bag and make every effort to keep them cool.
Easy access to fluids out on the course, whether it be in competition, in practice rounds, or in training, is a very important part of maintaining good hydration.
Fluid requirements usually increase with the temperature out on the course, so you should weigh yourself before a round and then again afterwards, under different playing conditions, in order to get a better idea of your average sweat rates.
Ideally, to maintain good levels of hydration your weight deficit (before and after weight) needs to be replaced by around 1.5 times the amount of fluid lost.
Specially formulated sports drinks and gels are ideal hydration aids for long practice rounds and golf competitions, as they help to replace fluids as well as carbohydrate and electrolytes.
A small amount of alcohol in the golfers training diet is permissible, but too much can lead to unwanted dehydration and weight gain, which, of course are undesirable.
Bear in mind, too, that alcohol slows down rehydration, so should not be consumed immediately after exercise.
It has also been proved that alcohol can impair athlete recovery, so ensure that your rehydration and refuelling needs are met first – and try to avoid alcohol 24 hours before competition.
As you may be out on the golf course for up to five hours it is really important to eat a good pre-event meal which contains the appropriate levels of carbohydrate to prevent fatigue.
There is a theory that low GI carbohydrate foods perform better because they are digested more slowly, delivering a more sustained release, but that is a matter for debate… judge for yourself.
We have put together a few suggestions for pre-event meals that you may find useful:
- crumpets with jam or honey, along with a milk based drink
- baked beans on toast
- breakfast cereal with low fat milk
- chicken or tuna salad sandwich, plus a banana
- Jacket potato with low-fat fillings
- fruit salad with natural yoghurt
Nutrition out on the course
What about eating and drinking during those long five-hour rounds, you may ask?
First of all it is really important to maintain good levels of both energy and hydration so you need to ensure you replace both lost fluids and carbohydrate, if only to maintain mental concentration and an accuracy of shots.
Sports drinks and gels are an ideal convenience as they provide all the necessary nutrients in one product – fuel, fluids and salt.
Other options for carbohydrate replacement include fresh or dried fruit, breakfast cereals, sports bars and jam sandwiches.
Although the 19th hole – the club bar! – is the traditional place for the “recovery” of the recreational golfer, professionals should take care to recover their fuel and fluid stores immediately after the 18th hole… well before alcohol is even remotely considered.
The recovery process is vitally important and there are no two ways about it; golfers need to recover properly, especially if they want to keep their body fighting-fit and in the best possible shape.
There are three golden rules to a golfers successful rehabilitation; and we refer to them as the three R’s:
Generally you should aim to consume a recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing a training session or competition, and this should ideally contain a mix of carbohydrates, protein and a source of fluid… for example:
- a chicken salad sandwich with a bottle of sports drink
- sports bars, a 200g tub of natural yoghurt and fluids
- fresh fruit plus a 300ml carton of low-fat milk
The next meal, preferably to be consumed within three to four hours of completing a golf competition, should resume your normal training eating pattern, with carbohydrate-rich foods, a source of protein and fluids for hydration.
If you are one of those jet-setting golfers traveling the world, you would be wise to research your destinations to find out which foods would be readily available at the venue and your accommodation.
You should also remember that it may be necessary to take personal supplies of suitable snacks for use out on the course – sports bars, gels and breakfast cereal bars, for example – and even sports drinks, gels and drinking water if there is any doubt about local standards of sanitation.
Want to get involved in golf?
If you’re not currently involved in golf as a recreational activity or at a competitive level and are keen to learn more about taking part then read on. Here we’ve brought together a number of useful links to golf organisations that may be able to help you
Want help with nutrition?
Get in touch now for more information about golf nutrition and the use of sports supplements to help improve your strength, stamina and fitness on the golf course. Our team of sports scientists and nutritionists are always happy to help.