It can take hours to complete a round of golf, and as the clock ticks, you may find your energy level and ability to focus dwindling.
Food is fuel, says Middlesex Health registered dietitian Piper Tobler, explaining that what we put into our bodies ultimately determines how well we perform both mentally and physically. Eating healthy gives you a competitive advantage and could potentially improve your golf score.
Healthy Snack Suggestions
For golfers, Piper recommends healthy snacks that contain a mix of carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fats. This will help sustain your energy and concentration and prevent your body from becoming tired.
Piper says to plan ahead and consider packing some of the following snack options:
- Fresh whole fruits, such as apples, pears and grapes: They contain carbohydrates for energy and are packed with fiber and nutrients like potassium
- Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds: These offer healthy protein, monounsaturated fats and minerals that help to keep you full. They are also easy to carry and aren’t impacted by outside temperatures!
- Your own trail mix: Mix together nuts, seeds, dried fruit, whole grain cereal and a few dark chocolate chips!
- A nut butter sandwich: Nut butter contains healthy fats, vitamins and minerals and is a good source of protein. Spread nut butter on whole grain, high fiber bread for long-lasting energy.
- Popcorn: Make your own high fiber snack, and avoid adding a lot of butter and salt.
- Fresh vegetables, such as carrot or celery sticks, cucumber slices or colored peppers: They have a lot of fiber and are low in calories. They fill you up and help you focus.
- Hummus: This is a good source of lean protein, fiber and carbohydrates.
- High fiber crackers: Make sure there’s at least 3 or more grams of fiber per serving, and enjoy your crackers with hummus or nut butter.
- Low-fat cheese sticks, or turkey and ham roll ups: They are easy, lean protein snacks.
- Energy balls: This is a plant-based alternative to processed granola bars. Check out the recipe here.
What Not to Eat
When golfing, avoid foods that contain too much sugar. You should also avoid foods that are high in sodium and saturated fat and foods that contain processed or refined carbohydrates, too much caffeine and empty calories.
Piper does not recommend eating hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, donuts, most sports bars, pretzels and soda — at least not before or while golfing. Many of these items are high in saturated fat, sodium and sugar and are calorie dense, but nutrient empty. Because you want to stay both physically and mentally strong on the course, you should also avoid beer and alcohol, which can have sedative effects.
While Piper understands that many of these foods are available on the golf course, the best option is to plan ahead and bring your own food. If you do eat at the golf course, choose salads, grilled protein or vegetarian wraps.
Be smart. What you eat matters, and adopting a complete, balanced diet helps all athletes, including golfers, perform at peak levels.
A general, healthy eating pattern helps to support your calorie needs. Your calorie, carbohydrate, protein, fat and fluid requirements are determined by your age, height, weight, gender and activity. There are no general recommended calorie requirements for men and women because of these variables.
Piper says it is best to consume your carbohydrates before you go to the golf course. Eating about three or four hours before gives your body enough time to digest the food and utilize the energy during play.
If you are looking for healthy breakfast ideas, try whole grain, cold cereal with fresh fruit or yogurt fruit salad with flax seed. Overnight oats made with raisins, a medium apple, chia seeds, cinnamon and a banana is also a good option, as is corn or whole wheat tortillas with a banana, peanut butter and a glass of soy or almond milk.
And don’t forget the lean protein! Eating protein before playing a round of golf can help protect your muscles and not break them down for energy.
Drinking water is also important. Dehydration can easily happen on the course, and drinking ample water prevents dehydration, headaches and muscle spasms. It also allows you to keep your energy by helping with the digestion process.
Even PGA pros face struggles with their mental health - both in their daily lives and as they make their way through 18 holes. Golf is a mental sport, and when you lose your cool, or your mind wanders, your game will likely suffer.