Performance Oriented Golf Nutrition

Nutrition for golfers

The right kind of nutrition plan is a vital element of good performance in golf – whether you’re an amateur or a pro. While golf nutrition is one of the most modifiable and controllable factors in athletic success, it’s often overlooked. Professional golfers don’t just have to have extraordinary coordination skills, but also keep their brains sharp for the entire duration of a tournament. This challenging symbiosis is a combination that requires meticulous strength and flexibility training – and proper golf nutrition.

When you’re playing golf, you’ll have an increased need for energy levels, nutrients and water. A four-hour round roughly burns around 1200 calories, depending on factors like your weight, body fat and fitness level. However, you don’t just want to be indulging in chocolate bars and fizzy sodas if you’re looking for optimum performance. If you’re keen to perform at your best level yet, follow these simple tips on what to eat before, during and after a round of golf.

Best foods for golfers before the game

Optimal fueling begins with the knowledge of what your body needs in order to perform – so let’s break down the basics. We all know that there are three macronutrients our body needs. These include fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Dietary carbohydrates are split into three categories: sugars, starches and fibers. Their main purpose is to provide energy by being broken down or transformed into glucose.

The evening before a tournament or game

You’ll want to get a good base and make sure to give that famous “carbo-loading” a go. Generally, this refers to progressively increasing one’s intake of carbohydrates in the days leading up to a competition. While golfing may not require you to carbo load like you would before a marathon, it’s still essential to fuel well the days leading up to a long round of golf. Make sure to incorporate long-chain carbohydrates particularly in your meal the day before to provide long-lasting energy levels the next day. Long-chain carbs, also referred to as “complex” or “whole” carbs are unprocessed and usually still contain the fiber naturally found in food. A good intake of fiber will help you avoid a blood sugar roller coaster.

Meal tip

Some examples of those “good“ carbs that contribute to a perfectly well-balanced meal the night before include:

Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, pure oats, bulgur, brown rice or whole-wheat bread.

An example for an ideal meal the night before:

  • Palm-sized portion of grilled chicken with rice, broccoli and a sweet potato.

The morning of the game

Arguably, the most important meal of the day. Your pre-game routine may seriously support – or damage – your scoring potential. Opt to eat your breakfast 3-4 hours before a big game and make sure to hydrate well. Ensure that your meal before a round of golf contains complex carbohydrates, some protein and a little fat.

Meal tip

Example for a perfect breakfast before your golf game:

  • High-fiber cereal with low-fat yogurt and fruit
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Whole-grain toast with peanut butter
  • A bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with nuts and an apple

Portion-wise, try to aim for around 0,5- grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight. For a 150-pound player that would add up to around 75 grams of carbs. If you overslept and can’t eat three hours before or you’re getting hungry again, try a small snack an hour before or liquify your meal to speed up digestion (calling all smoothie lovers here!).

The best snacks to eat during a golf game

After a hearty breakfast, you’re ready to play. While golfing may not leave you huffing and puffing with high heart rate spikes, you’ll need to be focused and make sure to reach your full mental potential as well. A round of golf can take up hours and hours of your time, so eating snacks during the game is essential in order to keep performing well.

Scientifically speaking, a good recommendation for proper fueling during a golf game includes 20-30 grams of carbs every hour or so.

Meal tip

Some ideas for the best foods to eat during golf include the following:

  • Healthy bars (opt for natural ones like Lärabars or Clif bars – anything that contains natural sugars and carbs to keep you going)
  • A self-made Trail Mix (add some nuts, raisins or other dried fruit,  some chocolate M&Ms and you’re good to go)
  • Sandwiches (PB&J, cottage cheese and honey etc.)
  • Fresh Whole Fruit like Bananas or Apples
  • Sports drinks with a good ratio of carbs and electrolytes like EnduroMAX, NOOMA or Gatorade

Proper hydration is just as important as your food intake during a round of golf. In order to be awake and alert at your first tee, minding your hydration needs is just as much part of your golf nutrition plan as anything else. Stay away from sugary drinks like coke and sodas, as they will cause a spike in your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Your bars and sports drinks shouldn’t contain tons of added sugar either. If you do decide that you do need a little extra kick, wait until the final six holes to consume highly glycemic carbohydrates. While you’re on the golf course, avoid anything that’s high in fat and sugar in general. That includes fatty foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, highly sugary chocolate bars and basically anything that’s fried.

Instead of gulping down a bottle every two hours, aim for regular water-intake instead. Half a couple of sips before each tee and you’ll make sure you’re well hydrated throughout the entire game. Also, keep in mind that everyone has different hydration needs. Besides the individually varying sweat rates, outside factors such as wind, high temperature and humidity, may play into your hydration levels as well.

After the game is before the game

You’ve left your heart and soul out on the golf course and now it’s time to refuel. If you’re playing another round the next day or participating in a multi-day event, refueling properly will give you a competitive advantage over your fellow players. Now it’s time to up your protein intake and replenish your energy levels with the right kind of carbohydrates. Combine those two macronutrients and your muscles will be restored in no time.

If you’re serious about your refueling, make sure to keep a post-game snack at hand. Within the first 20 to 30 minutes, your body is particularly receptive to replenishing glycogen stores and repairing muscles during the immediate period post-exercise. Additionally, you’ll want to keep a focus on replacing the fluids and electrolytes you lost through sweating as well.

Meal tip

Ideas for snacks to be consumed immediately after your game:

  • Chocolate milk (3:1 carbs to protein ratio, helpful in replacing fluids and electrolytes) -Protein shake or protein bars with complex carbs added to it

The post-round meal should mimic your pre-round meal and contain quality protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. If you’re wondering what to eat after the golf round, try one of these meal suggestions:

  • Whole wheat pasta with vegetables and lean protein – Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and rice
  • Salmon, sweet potatoes and a vegetable of your choice
  • Lentil burger with salad on a multi-train bun

The list goes on and on!

In the end, everyone’s refueling strategies are different and your snack and meal timing varies greatly depending on your own needs. A good rule of thumb is never to try anything new during competitions – so make sure to eat in training how you want to eat during an important tournament. Pay attention to good golf nutrition and you’ll quickly soar to new heights during your next round of golf!

Further reading: Best post-workout meal