Updated: Apr 17, 2021
With the US Masters just over and the re-opening of golf courses on the 26th of April, golf is on the brain of many people this week. Congratulations to Hideki Matsuyama who donned the green jacket last weekend after winning one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments in Atlanta, USA. To be honest, apart from a bit of crazy golf and pitch and putt, I have not had a real game of golf yet but I have learned a lot about the game this week as I prepared to deliver a talk (by zoom) to the members of Ceann Sibéal Golf Club on Wednesday evening. A great advantage to take up the game came from a Swedish study, which shows that playing golf may lead to increased life expectancy, with golfers living over 5 years longer than non-golfers. This link was observed by comparing 300,000 golfers to non-golfers, and importantly, was found to exist regardless of age, gender or socio-economic status. So, no matter our backgrounds, we could all benefit! Following on from that study, and with the added bonus of good nutrition, I reckon you could be swinging nicely well into old age. A good news story worth “putting” out there!
Nutrition for golf players is not too far from what would be considered a healthy, balanced diet for most of the adult population anyway. With just a few little tweaks to cater for the game, you will be tapping in for a birdie like a pro. There are four main elements to eating a healthful diet and these apply to both golfers and non-golfers alike, they are:
Eat nutrient-dense food
These are foods that are high in essential nutrients just as nature intended. Eating a diet made up of natural, wholefoods while eliminating sugar, processed foods and junk will naturally reduce your calorie intake while maximizing the nutrients assimilated into the body. Not only is eating like this good for your golf game, but thousands of studies have also shown that a nutrient-dense diet extends life, delays disease, optimizes weight, improves mental function and enhances performance in sports. A win-win for everyone! If you are not sure what a nutrient diet is, Michael Pollen, author of “In Defense of Food” sums it up nicely with “if it’s a plant, eat it – if it’s made in a plant, don’t”. Simple!
Maintain healthy Blood Sugar control
Slow-release carbohydrates from wholegrains, whole fruits and vegetables and limiting sugar, fizzy drinks and alcohol is the gift to yourself that keeps on giving. The game of golf can take four to five hours to complete, involves about 12,000 steps and requires a steady flow of energy for stamina, performance and focus. Both golfers and non-golfers benefit from a wholefood, minimally processed diet with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes, better weight control and improved energy and stamina.
Get High on Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect us from free radical damage from UV light, radiation, smoking, pollution, fried foods, inflammation and our own metabolism. We are more prone to premature aging, inflammation, degenerative disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer when we don’t consume enough antioxidants to neutralize the damage caused by these free radicals. Eating a rainbow diet of colours – green, red, orange, yellow, white and purple foods everyday will deliver antioxidants for every cell type in the body ensuring that we are well protected off and on the golf course. For golfers, exposure to UV light, increased metabolic activity during play and inflammation (if it exists) can increase exposure to free radicals but increasing colour and variety of plant foods is the answer to your long game.
Healthy Oils and Super Fats
Healthy fats are a great source of long-term energy, particularly when eaten before an endurance activity such as golf. These fats come in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, depending on the length and bonds of their fatty chains. Monounsaturated fats are the cornerstone of the much-acclaimed Mediterranean diet – olives, olive oil, avocado, walnuts and can easily be incorporated into an Atlantic diet. Polyunsaturated oils are classed as omega 3 and omega 6, neither of which can stand heat or sunlight very well. Omega 3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory, found in cold-water (not farm-raised) oily fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts. Omega 6, found in seeds, nuts and their oils is best eaten raw and untreated for optimum benefits. On the other hand, trans fats (cheap, manufactured fats) have no place on the golfer’s menu or anybody else’s for that matter.
With the basics in place, optimizing for your golf game is an easy putt. Two to three hours before you game, eat a meal that has wholefood carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. Hydrate the body with water or herbal teas, giving yourself time to pee before you tee. Have a small snack about an hour before you head out to keep energy levels up and steady before you play.
Holes 1-6: Stabilize blood sugar levels if needs be with a small piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. Hydrate by sipping water at every hole.
Holes 7 – 12: Maintain energy and endurance with a snack of equal measures of carbohydrate and protein. This could be a protein ball or protein bar (low sugar), just enough to keep things stable and do not forget to keep on hydrating. A chocolate bar and fizzy drink mid-game could see you double bogey and crash spectacularly in the back nine, and there is not much fun in that.
Holes 13-18: At this stage of the game you need an energy boost to finish the game and maintain concentration for crucial shots. Time for fast-releasing carbohydrates like dried fruit, grapes, crackers or oranges. Hydration with electrolytes and/or caffeine can help at this stage of the game as you dig deep for the last few holes.
Remember, when you reach the 19th hole, to eat well post-game implementing the four elements once again for recovery, replenishment and to rehydrate. All this with a good night’s sleep and you will be ready to go again the next day. Enjoy!