Whether you are playing at a professional level or only playing for recreational purposes, a round of golf can take a long time to complete. Depending on the handicap of the players involved, a round with 18 holes may take 3-5 hours and there can be a lot of walking involved.
The average golf course is generally around 7 km long but, depending on their level of skill and the accuracy of their shots, golf players may have walked 10-20 km by the time they finish their game.
When golf becomes a profession instead of a much-loved hobby, players are often on the course for 8 or more hours per day.
Although golf is not as energetic as tennis, squash, or many other sporting pursuits it’s easy to burn through 1,000 to 1,500 calories during a round. Possibly more depending on whether you are carrying clubs around with you or traveling by cart.
As with any other sport, when you are preparing for a round of golf, there’s a lot to be said for getting your diet right. What you eat and when you eat it can make a big difference to your game. It’s important to keep the body adequately hydrated as well.
A Golfer’s Diet: Getting it Right
You are what you eat. If you regularly eat rubbish sooner or later it will affect your game. A good golfer’s diet needs to contain plenty of protein. It is an important nutrient that helps your muscles heal and repair.
It’s also important to eat sufficient carbohydrates. It’s your body’s preferred source of fuel. A good golfer’s diet needs plenty of fruit and vegetables too, along with seeds, nuts, and wholegrain. These types of food provide the body with important vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
Ideally, concentrate on foods that raise the metabolism and fuel your body.
Fruits and vegetables are especially good because they provide antioxidants that can benefit metabolism and control toxin build-ups that may prevent you from playing at the top of your game.
It’s also best to avoid foods that are high in simple sugars and saturated fats. Processed foods and junk food can be particularly bad.
Complex carbs such as brown rice and oatmeal provide the body with a lasting supply of energy. Sweet and sugary foods do not. They may initially give you a quick blast of energy but you need more than that when you are going to be spending several hours on the golf course.
For instance, baked beans on wholemeal toast is a very good pre-golf meal, but a bowl of Tootie Fruities is not. Beans on toast provide plenty of complex carbohydrates and is also high in protein and fiber.
Tootie Fruities are a wholegrain breakfast cereal but they contain lots of added sugar along with a controversial chemical additive called BHT.
Keep Hydrated and Enjoy a Better Game
It’s important to keep your body adequately hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel tired and ruin your game.
When you are dehydrated it can also impair your ability to maintain focus and concentrate. It can be especially dangerous when you are playing golf on a hot day. Apart from putting you of your swing, not drinking enough fluids can make you more vulnerable to heat stress and could see you end your day in an emergency room.
It may add a little extra weight, but it makes a lot of sense to slip some sports drinks or mineral water in your golf bag. Doing so will allow you to take sips if and when needed instead of being handicapped by a raging thirst.
Sports drinks are especially good on a hot day. Apart from causing you to lose water, sweating makes you lose electrolytes from your body too. These are minerals that help your body to function. Sports drinks are good for keeping your electrolyte levels topped-up.
Among other things, electrolytes aid energy production and help your muscle to contract. You don’t want sweating to deplete them in the middle of your game.
What to Eat Before a Round
Golfers often eat a meal 3-4 hours before beginning a round. Although it does depend, of course, on what time they are playing. A golfer’s pre-game meal is likely to be sooner if they are playing early on a morning.
Either way, the meals a golfer eats before their game needs to contain carbohydrates because it’s the body’s primary fuel. A glass of water will help keep the body hydrated. A cup of coffee may have the opposite effect because caffeine is a diuretic.
Milk is a good option too. It provides protein for the muscles. Milk also has B vitamins that help the body metabolize the energy from food.
Here a few suggestions for pre-event meals:
Wholegrain wrap with salad and chicken or cottage cheese
Baked beans on toast (wholemeal/multi-grain bread)
Bircher muesli and fresh fruit
Greek yogurt with a handful of berries or nuts
Tuna salad with sweet potato
Grilled chicken with green beans and brown rice
Poached fish with steamed vegetables
Depending on the time interval between the pre-golf meal and the tee-off time, it may be advantageous to have a small snack 60-90 minutes before the game.
A good pre-golf snack needs to be rich in carbohydrates but light on the stomach so it’s easy to digest. Indigestion is unpleasant and can put you off your game.
A few suitable snack ideas include:
A banana with a handful of blueberries or almonds
English muffin with Vegemite/Marmite or cottage cheese
If your appetite is poor, as can sometimes be the case if you are feeling nervous before an important game, a vegetable or fruit smoothie is a good alternative to a snack.
Eating and Drinking During a Round
A typical soccer game only lasts 90 minutes, a round of golf is much longer than that. It many cases, it will last longer than a professional football game, so it will be necessary to top up energy levels and maintain hydration throughout the round. Failing to do so could ruin your game.
Here are a few ideas for snacks to add to your golf bag.
Dried fruit and nut mixes
Simple sandwiches (peanut butter, Vegemite/Marmite)
If you go for sandwiches, it may be best to avoid choices that include meat or cheese. Especially when you are playing on a hot day. When meats and cheeses are not refrigerated the bacteria responsible for causing food poisoning can multiply rapidly. Why take the chance?
The Importance of Eating Right After a Game
A good golfer’s diet also needs to emphasize recovery nutrition. This is especially important if you are playing multiple rounds per day over a number of days.
The meals you eat after a round of golf need to provide your muscles with the protein they need to repair damaged cells. They also need to contain sufficient carbs to replace the energy lost during play.
When you have been sweating a lot, you will also need to focus on replacing electrolytes. Sports drinks are the best option but if your meals contain a variety of nutritious food choices you will probably get sufficient minerals from the content of your plate.