The average round of golf lasts several hours and players will walk a minimum of 9,000 meters and expend 2,000 to 2,500 calories. Despite this, nutrition for golfers is often just an afterthought and the only drink consumed is a pint at the club-house at the end of the day.  During competition and in hot environments however, nutrition is extremely important for both health and performance.
This article will examine some of the fundamentals of sports nutrition, and how you can apply them to golf.

Avoiding illnesses like the common cold
Nothing dampens your spirits, and your performance more than a cold.  Day to day ensure that you consume at least 2 litres of water and eat foods high in zinc and vitamin C. Consider eating probiotic foods like kefir, or supplementing with a probiotic. Eat ‘nutrient-dense’ unprocessed, raw and organic foods as often as possible.

Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are one of the most important and fundamental ‘tools’ in sports nutrition as a whole.  Depending on skill level, an 18 hole golf tournament or round, can take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. Sometimes longer if you are playing on an overbooked course.  Sweat loss in golf is not well documented, but in tennis anywhere from 1.5 litres to 4 litres of fluid can be lost in sweat depending on the temperature and humidity. Dehydration is a potential problem with golf, regardless of temperature, players should always be mindful of this.  Dehydration not only impairs performance, but in hot and humid conditions, it can also put health at risk.

A sports drink should contain 5 to 10% carbohydrate (ideally glucose or maltodextrin) and a small amount of sodium. You can make your own sports drink by adding 50g of glucose of maltodextrin powder (preferably maltodextrin as it is not as sweet as glucose) to 500ml of water, and add a pinch of salt.  For a more complete source of electrolytes use Himalayan salt instead of table salt.  For conditioning or resistance training sessions, consider adding BCAAs to the drink as well; and add whey protein for a separate post-training shake.

Optimum nutrition for optimum performance

Optimum nutrition for optimum performance

Competing Overseas in Hot Climates

Competing in hotter countries can lead to dehydration if you are not well prepared.  The plane journey itself can cause dehydration, due to the low humidity. Moreover, the low humidity can increase the risk of catching illnesses such as the common cold. For these reason makes sure you pack a drink (or buy one if customs restrict what you take on board) and consider a moisturising nasal spray to minimise the risks of catching a cough or cold.

If you are travelling abroad to a country that is hotter and/or more humid that the one you live in, then you should weigh yourself at home, first thing in the morning for 3 consecutive days, and make a note of the average. If you are a woman, you will need to take the menstrual cycle into account as this is likely to have an impact on body weight.

Continue to weigh yourself like this when you arrive at your destination – if you weigh less on any given day, it is likely that this is due to dehydration.  Look out for common signs of dehydration like headaches, muscle cramping and light-headedness and again, make sure to have a sports drink or plenty of fluids to hand, to sip on throughout the day.

Pre-Tournament Nutrition
Trial any new routines or practices in relation to nutrition before and during a practice rounds, before adopting a new routine prior to a tournament.

Eat a meal containing 140-300 grams of carbohydrate, 3 to 4 hours before a tournament.   Aim to consume medium to low glycaemic index carbohydrate, with some protein and fats.  Lower glycaemic index carbohydrates release energy slowly, and therefore have a more sustained and steady impact on blood sugar levels.

Two hours to 90 minutes before a tournament, eat a carbohydrate snack such as a banana. It is not recommended to eat sold food for 90 minutes before any type of exercise; but it is recommended in hot climates, to sip on a sports drink leading up until the start of a tournament.

Eating sugary foods within an hour of a tournament, or drinking a large volume of a sports drink in one go, could actually lead to ‘rebound hypoglceamia’ in some individuals, leading to lower blood sugar levels and impaired performance. To optimise ‘gastric emptying’ consume 500ml of a sports drink 2 hours before a tournament.  Sip on a sports drink and consume 100ml every 15 minutes, during the hour before the tournament.

Intra-Tournament Nutrition
Depending on the heat and humidity, consume 100 to 200ml of a sports drink every 15 to 30 minutes, and consider eating a carbohydrate snack containing around 30g of carbohydrate, every hour or so.  Pack your golf-bag with carbohydrate snacks that will not get squashed or melt – such as cereal bars, dried fruit and a ripe banana for example.  Again, make sure to trial this out during a practice round, as some people will struggle to tolerate larger volumes of carbohydrate foods and fluids. You don’t won’t to be thinking about going for a pee when you’re about to put for a birdie.

Post Tournament Nutrition
Insulin levels are elevated for 2 hours after exercise, meaning this is an ideal time to replace carbohydrate stores. After a tournament consume a drink containing protein, sodium and carbohydrate.  Sodium helps the body utilise and absorb more fluid by a process known as ‘active transport’ and protein will help to speed up recovery and repair any muscles that have been worked in time for the next training session or competition.  Chocolate milk contains carbohydrate, protein and sodium and is great for the amateur player as a post-tournament drink.  Ideally however, the drink would contain whey protein, a range of electrolytes and 50g to 100g of high glycaemic carbohydrate.

Finally, weigh yourself before and after the tournament. If you have lost any bodyweight, sip on a sports drink again, 200ml every 20 minutes – until your bodyweight returns to baseline, and your urine is clear.

Eating highly nutritious foods on a daily basis will help promote a feeling of wellbeing , along with high energy levels which is key for optimising performance, enhancing recovery, and avoiding illnesses like the common cold.  During tournaments hydration is key, especially in hot and humid environments.  If nothing else, make sure to pack a sports drink and high carbohydrate snacks in your golf bag to fight off dehydration and maintain optimal blood sugar and muscle carbohydrate levels.

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