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Nutrition

WE ARE WHAT WE EAT & DRINK

 

In order to be a champion there are certain things that one must do.  First, one must play like a champion.  To play like a champion, one must practice and prepare like a champion and to practice, prepare and play like a champion one must fuel their body and mind like a champion.  That’s right…one needs to eat and drink like a champion!

The modern golfer is an athlete in every sense of the word.  From training and conditioning to practice and play the physical demands of golf come with particular nutrition requirements.  Golf is a hybrid power-endurance sport, rapid motion interspersed with walking up to five miles over varied terrain that draws on different energy systems.  In the human body there are three energy systems: The Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) system, the Anaerobic system and the Aerobic system.  

  •  The ATP system uses energy stored in the muscles and is for short bursts of demand such as the golf swing.  This system only lasts for a few seconds but can take minutes to replenish.
  • The Anaerobic system takes over where the ATP system leaves off.  It gives the body an extra minute or so of energy supply.  It is the hydrogen byproduct of this energy system that creates the familiar “burn” we experience during high intensity-short duration exercise.
  • The Aerobic system requires oxygen and its fuel is fat and glucose (blood sugar).  This system will keep our bodies going long after the others have fizzled out. This is an incredibly efficient system that may not be a major part of the swing itself, but will see you through the demands of an entire round. 

When it comes to what to eat and when to eat it, it may be easiest to break the requirements into three periods: Pre-Round, During and Post-Round.

The average round of golf can last over four hours, so a good breakfast/pre-round meal is essential. Proteins to sustain you combined with good fats and complex carbohydrates are key long-lasting energy sources that feed the Aerobic system.  Remember you are fueling your body for the coming round of play so a sound breakfast/pre-round meal including protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates are key.  The timing of intake will vary some from golfer to golfer, but typically should be at least one-hour prior to play. 

During a round of play the golfer is expending energy with each swing (ATP) and every bunker walked in and out of (Aerobic).  Therefore that fuel must be replenished.  Every three to four holes snack on simple items such as nuts, seeds, jerky, trail mix, veggies, etc.  These items are easy to eat as you ride or walk through your round.  They will also replenish your long-lasting protein and good fats while adding the right amount of complex carbohydrates to sustain you.  It is important to know that our brains are in constant need of blood glucose to maintain peak mental and physical function.  Consumption of regular, smart snacks will keep you at the top of your game from the first tee box to the turn to the final hole.  Be wary of snacks and drinks high in sugars and caffeine as they can cause rapid spikes in energy followed by rapid drops and no one wants to crash on the 12th hole!

When the final putt has dropped on the 18th hole and you are heading to the 19th watering hole it is important to remember you will be at your lowest glycogen (stored energy) levels…time to eat ASAP!  This is where fruit, rice, potato and other carbohydrate rich (not simple sugar rich) foods come in.  It is time to restock the shelves in the liver and muscle (where glycogen is stored).  It remains essential, even here, to add a good protein to the mix as it will aid in supporting: normal blood glucose level, blood pressure, metabolism, conversion of fat to glucose as well as fend of fatigue while supporting normal sleep patterns and enhance our moods. Left “unfed” the body will further deplete itself which can cause adverse issues with blood-glucose levels and cravings which can lead to binge eating and more.

 

Lastly, but certainly not least, we must consider hydration.  As the human body is between 60-70% water (the brain is up to 80% water), hydration is the most critical of all nutrition needs.  Water serves many roles including: aiding in the regulation of body temperature, blood composition, joint health, maintenance of strength in muscle function and much more. 

Dehydration is a condition where the body has eliminated more water than it has taken in to meet its needs, which is a potentially dangerous situation.  Depending on the weather, most golfers only experience mild states of dehydration in any given round, which is just enough to affect the efficiency of their neuromuscular systems (strength, coordination and concentration). This can affect everything from shot selection to shot making ability to reading and executing the short putt needed to save par. 

How much water does one need on a daily basis?  A basic formula for minimum need is:

(Body Weight/2) = Ounces of H2O/day

For a golfer weighing 185 pounds this equates to approximately 92 ounces of water each day.  This demand will rise as the intensity of the activity and the temperature rise. What can the golfer do to minimize their risk of dehydration and simultaneously maintain a more maximal level of performance?  Let us again look at Pre-Round, During and Post-Round needs.

Pre-Round hydration is like filling the gas tank of your car before you go on a road trip. You wouldn’t hop in your car and take off across the desert with your gas gauge registering a tick above empty.  We also should not run out on the golf course with our bodies in a state of relative dehydration.  Time your fluid intake to allow it to hydrate your system while allowing for the voiding of excess. This is usually around 25% of your daily requirement, or 23 ounces for the above example, and 2 hours before activity.

During a round, get in the habit of regularly sipping on a drink light in sugar and electrolytes (minerals).  This will aid in fueling both the need for water and the need for rapid energy.  Consider a half-and-half energy drink to water mixture or a sport drink with around 5-10% simple carbohydrates, sodium, potassium, magnesium.  Avoid those drinks high in sugars as they can lead to the “crash” we mentioned earlier.  It is during this time you will look to intake approximately 50% of your daily hydration need, or approximately 46 ounces/round, or 2.5 ounces/per hole for the example above.

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For many golfers, Post-Round hydration is possibly the most enjoyable of the hydration phases. Remember, 25% of your hydration needs are yet to be met.  The 19th hole is a good time to continue your during round sport drink concoction or to crack open an ice cold beer.  Yes indeed, beer can be good for you, in moderation of course! Beer is actually one of the better post-exercise beverages.  It contains a near ideal balance of water (94%), trace elements/minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates. 

Proper practice, nutrition and hydration will have you ready to play like a champion!

 

References:

  1. Davis, Brent. Using the Body’s Three Energy Systems for Golf. Mikefaygolf.com. March 22, 2015
  2. Cortisol & Adrenal Function. AdrenalFatigue.org
  3. Huerta, Alesandra. The Importance of Hydration in Golf and Sports. Mygolfway.com

 

- Written By Ken Mengel