Walking 18 holes in the heat of the day is demanding: physically and mentally. And it’s not uncommon to feel like you have hit a wall right around the halfway mark. Golf can be exhausting.
How do you ensure that you are playing at your best? Instead of ignoring your hunger urges and telling yourself you’ll eat when you reach the clubhouse, or resorting to eating junk foods that may result in hitting a double-bogey the next hole, take a few minutes pre-game to prepare.
Nutrition for golf starts before you tee off. A healthy pre-game meal is rich in protein (eggs, fish), healthy fat (salmon, avocado, nuts), complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables, and small quantities of whole-grain starches such as potatoes, quinoa, rice or whole-grain breads. Stay tuned for a future blog on this subject.
But maintaining your energy throughout your game involves eating during your game.
Some rounds of golf can burn as many as 2,000 calories - that’s the recommended daily intake for women and 500 short of the daily recommended intake for men. To help you keep your energy up and allow you to finish as strong as you started, you need to refuel. And, you need to refuel with the right foods.
Focus on carbs
Exercise depletes carbohydrate stores (muscle and liver glycogen levels). Carbohydrate (‘carbs”) is the main source of energy for muscle metabolism during short bursts of intense energy use (swinging a golf club) and your body’s preferred source of fuel during prolonged, low- to moderate-intensity exercise (a round of golf). But your glycogen levels are limited and significantly less that what your body will require to finish your game. In fact, it will only take about 30-40 minutes to burn through your reserves and you will soon become tired. It is important to replenish your intake of carbs – and with the right type of carbs.
Refined-carb foods such as white breads, white sugar and white pasta promote weight gain as they are digested quickly and cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to spike. When choosing snacks for the golf course, focus on nutritious complex carbs that will help you to maintain a healthy weight and keep you full for longer:
Here are some ideas for easy, portable (and healthy!) snacks for your next round of golf:
Vegetables and hummus
This snack is almost the perfect blend of complex carbs and protein. It will need to stay cold though, so pack it in a small picnic cooler with some ice (it may not be the best idea if you are walking your course, but it is easy to carry in a golf cart). Hummus is sold almost everywhere, but look for a type that is contains 100% natural ingredients and watch out for fat content. I really like Summer Fresh brand Light Original Hummus. Cucumber slices, baby carrots, zucchini chips or pepper slices all make great vegetables for hummus.
Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
A favorite food of some professional golfers is a peanut butter and banana sandwich. This snack is a good source of carbs, protein and potassium, helping to keep your muscles pumping to the end of the round. Make sure to use a rye or a whole grain bread, to avoid the sugar crash that white bread can bring. Another healthy upgrade would be to make a sandwich with pumpkin seed butter, which is higher in both protein and iron than peanut butter.
Fresh fruit is another option – just be careful not to overdo it. Fruit provides the energy, carbs and nutrients that you need to keep going during a round without the sugar crash from candy, soda or energy drinks. But some fruit are better options than others: apples, berries, and pears are all low glycemic options.
Chickpeas are slow to digest, helping you to feel full during your round. They are high in protein and in complex carbs. They’re also very portable, making them an ideal snack on the course. They are available in most stores in convenient resealable bags, but you can also make your own.
Baked Kale Chips
Kale chips are a great, healthy alternative to a bag of greasy potato chips (which have very little nutritional value). This is another snack that can be store-bought or made at home.
This is one of my personal favourites. Trail mix is a perfect choice for golfers. This is another snack that is easy to make yourself, and in this case, it is better to do just that. Try not to buy prepackaged mix unless it’s organic, to avoid preservatives and other chemicals added during the packaging process. Buy some dark chocolate chips, some mixed nuts, add a few raisins (go light as they can be high in sugar) and toss in a bowl. Split the mix up into bags and you’ve got yourself a great, filling snack.
It only takes a short time pre-game to make sure that you come prepared. If you don’t bring your own snacks, you’ll inevitably end up eating chocolate bars, which really won’t do you much good.
With the right nutrition, you will be walking off the 18th green with as much energy as you had on the first tee.
Interested in learning more about nutrition? Sign up for the Active Nutrition newsletter.