Peak performance on the golf course — not to mention better all-around health — depends remarkably on good nutrition. Unfortunately, dietary fads can easily interfere with both, according to Elizabeth DeRobertis, Registered Dietician at Scarsdale Medical Group.
“There are many low-carb crazes,” DeRobertis says, “but athletes should be striving for a balanced diet that has some carbohydrates in their day.”
They key to sustained athletic performance, she explains, is replenishing your body’s glycogen stores. “That’s especially true in golf, when you’re walking in the heat for many hours.” To keep up your energy levels, plan ahead so you get a healthy meal a couple of hours before your round to give your body time to digest and absorb the nutrients, then expect to need a snack about two hours in–typically at the turn after the first nine holes.
Every body is different, of course, and so is every round of golf. Some golfers snack throughout the round, especially if they don’t have time for a good meal beforehand. “Ideally, we listen to our body’s hunger cues,” she says. “If we don’t feel physically hungry, we shouldn’t force food on our body.
“The pre-round meal should have a balance of lean protein, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates,” DeRobertis explains. “The protein can also have some healthy unsaturated fat. An omelet with eggs for protein and vegetables for fiber and a whole-grain English muffin for carbohydrates would be good, for example.”
For your mid-round snacks, she says to stay away from candy bars and hot dogs. Candy will give you an initial burst of energy but lead to a crash in blood sugar soon thereafter. And the ubiquitous halfway house hot dog? It’s loaded with sodium and fat and hard to digest, which puts stress on your body. Instead, have a piece of fruit, some nuts or trail mix, or bring along a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.
Another important factor in golf nutrition is hydration. “The average golfer,” she explains, “should focus on drinking six ounces of water at every hole. Stay away from sports drinks — they’re just loaded with so many things that aren’t healthy.”
And wait until after the round for that cold beer. “Alcohol can actually lead to low blood sugar,” she says. “It is also dehydrating and a sedative.” None of these things is going to improve your golf game.
After the round, what you eat and drink should be based on your overall dietary game plan. “If it is your once-a-week splurge meal, the cheeseburger is fine,” DeRobertis says “If you are working on cholesterol, losing weight, or trying to build lean body mass, it’s maybe not such a good idea. But no one needs to be careful 100% of the time.”