A FRESH Approach to Improve Your Golf Game
You are what you eat. Well….not really. But your golf score could depend on it. Let’s be real. For those whose main goal is to enjoy a casual game of golf, take in some fresh air and socialize with a hot dog and a beer at the turn, then bon appétit! But if your goal is to lower your score, you may want to pay attention to what you are putting in your body. Golf is a game of mistakes. Eliminating big errors and being able to focus 4 or more hours is vital to achieving a lower score. It would be a lie to say that eating well will fix your golf game. But optimal nutrition choices as well as timing can mean the difference between causing and preventing low energy, hunger and muscle fatigue. Ultimately, avoiding low blood sugar and dehydration throughout 18 holes of golf, which easily contribute to a lack of concentration, irritability, impatience and poor decision making, could shave strokes off your handicap. For those in competition, it could also mean the two stroke difference between winning and losing.
Putting in the practice time to develop your golf mechanics is important to improve your skill. There is no arguing that. But if you are looking for a competitive advantage, you may also want to consider following the FRESH approach to help improve your game:
Eating a proper meal/snack prior to your round helps prevent fatigue and light headedness, settles an anxious stomach, wards off hunger and helps you to feel good, confident and ready to play your best. Yes, this means eating a balanced breakfast. If possible, fueling your body with a large meal 3-4 hours before your round and topping up your fuel with a snack 1 hour prior is ideal. Some meal ideas include oatmeal, Greek yogurt and a banana, or a turkey sandwich, carrots, and a cup of milk. Aim for a snack 1 hour before your round such as a banana and some nuts or a granola bar. If you have an early morning tee time, aim to consume a large carbohydrate meal the evening before such as pasta or a chicken stir fry with rice and then aim for a light breakfast/snack such a fruit smoothie 30-90 minutes before you tee off.
Refueling after your round helps to replace energy and glycogen stores and to repair and regenerate muscles. For optimal recovery, aim to eat a meal within 60-90 minutes following your round. This is especially important if you are playing multiple rounds or are in a multi-day event where rapid repletion is needed. Aim for meals that contain carbohydrate, protein, fluid and electrolytes. Some examples might be spaghetti and meat sauce with a salad and a glass of milk, an egg salad sandwich with veggies and a cup of 100% juice or a large fruit smoothie with fruit, yogurt, fruit juice and berries.
Equip yourself with proper nutrition. You would never head to the golf course without first ensuring you had enough golf balls to last your entire round. So why would you go without packing your fuel? Food and fluid are important equipment. Great snacks on the golf course include those with quick release carbohydrates and a small amount of protein to help you feel full. Some of my favorites include trail mix with dried fruit, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, or a banana with a boiled egg or low fat cheese. Granola bars with a good amount of carbohydrate and protein also work well. Packing a small cooler expands your options as it can help keep perishable food items cold. If you are relying on the grab and go at the course, be sure they offer some healthier options ahead of time. Foods higher in fat such as hot dogs, chips, or deep fried foods don’t provide adequate fuel and can in turn slow you down and cause gut upset. Opt for a sandwich, fruit, nuts, pretzels, or low fat muffins or loaves.
Snack on carbohydrate foods every 4 to 6 holes. Golfers often spend an upward of 4 to 5 hours on the course, plus warm up and sometimes practice afterwards. If you are a walker, it is not abnormal to expend close to 2000-2500 calories. Golf does not allow time to stop for a meal, therefore consistent snacking is important if you want to feed your brain and fuel your muscles with consistent energy to last 18 holes. Failure to do so can lead to low blood sugar and ultimately an inability to play your best. Not to mention feeling hungry can also be a huge distraction. Plan to eat a carbohydrate rich snack every 4 to 6 holes to give your body the fuel it needs to maintain proper energy levels, concentration and focus throughout your round.
Starting your round hydrated and maintaining your hydration status throughout 18 holes is crucial if your goal is to achieve top performance. Failure to do so can be associated with fatigue, low skill performance and a decreased ability to focus and concentrate. Dehydration can be caused by a number of things including an individual’s sweat rate, the weather, inadequate fluid intake and drinking alcohol. Having a hydration plan in place can help. Always bring a large water bottle to the course, do your best to keep it cold and remind yourself to drink every few holes. Know the course you are playing and if there is access to water/refill stations on the course. If not, then plan ahead and pack extra, especially if the weather is hot. And always make sure to hydrate prior to and replace any losses following your round. A good rule of thumb is if your urine isn’t clear or pale yellow, you haven’t adequately hydrated.
Golf may be a game of tradition, but let’s face it, the world’s best golfers are more fit and stronger than ever before, which has transformed the game of golf. Those who are more fit, which includes proper nutrition, swing faster, hit the ball further, have better endurance and mental stamina and ultimately optimize their performance on the golf course. Simply put, there is benefit to be gained by taking a more holistic approach to your golf game. It’s no longer a competitive advantage, it is essential to keep up to and compete with the best.
So if your goal is to perform your best, next time you prepare for your round be sure to also think about how you are fueling your body. Think better fitness. Think less mental fatigue. Think fewer skill errors. Think more physical endurance. Think improved concentration.
To perform your best…Think FRESH.
About the Author
Carrie Verishagen is Saskatchewan’s own golf dietitian. With over 13 years experience, she is a respected leader in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Carrie has a BSc in Nutrition from the University of Saskatchewan and is currently the Director of the Eat Well Saskatchewan dietitian service which provides nutrition advice to residents of the province. As a Huskie Volleyball Alumni, athlete and mom of two boys, she took up golf in 2014 and started a journey into competitive women’s golf which took her to the Canadian Women’s Amateur in 2017. Her expertise in the area of nutrition for performance, mixed with her experience as a high level athlete and competitive golfer, makes her a unique expert in the area of golf performance nutrition.