Becoming the best golfer you can be requires an ongoing commitment to doing everything possible to put yourself in position to be successful. This goes far beyond playing once a week or beating balls on the driving range. It is truly a lifestyle commitment that involves every aspect of your life. One important piece is taking care of the most important piece of equipment you have: your body. I spent the first two issues of this newsletter on golf-specific exercises for warming up before practice/play and rotational power exercises for developing greater club head speed and stability in the body. Another aspect of preparing your body for competition is how you fuel your body before, during, and after a round of golf. I’m talking about nutrition.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines an endurance activity as a sport where the competitor trains and competes for 90 minutes or longer. That means that golf is an endurance sport and golfers are endurance athletes. A nutritional plan is especially important for endurance athletes because they are at high risk of bonking, or as I call it, having the “low-fuel light” come on. When that low-fuel light comes on golf performance suffers. You become fatigued, irritable, and unable to focus. These are killers for a golfer. So we need to have a strategy so that the fuel tank stays full the entire round. There are two key areas to focus on if you want to prevent a low-fuel light during a round of golf—fueling before exercise and fueling during exercise.
Before You Tee Off: A race car never starts a race without new tires and a full tank of gas, so a golfer should not start a round without fueling. Eating before a workout guarantees that the body starts with a full tank of fuel - primarily carbohydrates - to get you through a 4-5 hour round of golf. If you have three or four hours before you tee off, eat 300-600 calories, primarily of carbohydrate (2-3g/kg body weight), moderate in protein and low in fat. Ideas for pre-round meals can include:
• Oatmeal with milk, fruit and nuts
• Turkey sandwich with fruit
• Cottage cheese with crackers and fruit
• Toast and peanut butter
Also, three to four hours before you tee off, drink 2-4 cups of fluids. One hour before you tee off, drink 1-2 cups of fluids. Water or sports drinks are fine. Try to stay away from carbonated beverages.
During The Round: This fueling opportunity is the well-planned “pit stop.” The fuel should be simple, easily digestible carbohydrates that the body needs to maintain energy and prevent fatigue. Fuel every 45-60 minutes during a round of golf (approximately every 4-6 holes). ACSM guidelines recommend 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (120-240 calories) per hour. Remember that for optimal performance, we also need to provide the body with fluids and electrolytes. Ideas for fueling during your round include:
• Granola bars
• Trail mix
• Sports drinks
• Fruit & nuts
• Half a sandwich
Notice I did not include candy bars or a hot dog and beer at the turn on this list! Foods that are high in fat and sodium can stay in your stomach and make you feel lethargic and weak. High sugar foods can peak your blood sugar leading to a hyperactive feeling and will then cause a crash in blood sugar which will make you feel tired and irritable.
These nutrition tips can help you have the needed energy and focus at the end of a long round of golf to make sure that you finish strong. Many courses have very difficult closing stretches of holes (anyone play the last 4 holes at Monarch Bay recently???). You need to be at the top of your game to handle anything the course can throw at you.
Until next month, I’ll see you on the fairways and greens!
Dr. Christian Thompson is the owner of Thompson Fitness Solutions (www.thompsonfitnesssolutions.com
) and has taught golf-specific fitness classes and clinics for the past 12 years. He has been on faculty in the Kinesiology Department at the University of San Francisco since 2002.