Updated on October 28, 2018
Most of us have experienced first-hand how nutrition can give you that competitive edge during a round. Eating well before, during and after a game can have such a positive impact on your game.
But what about when you are not playing? Why worry about nutrition during the off-season? Winter is the perfect time to think about how we want to feel, and the choices that will help us feel that way. And, you may be taking time to play golf down south…if so, you will want to make sure you are in great physical shape to do that. Eating well will also help ensure you are in peak condition when the golf season starts again in the spring.
How we eat and nutritional choices we make have an impact on every other area of our lives. You may have heard the saying that losing weight is “80% diet and 20% exercise” – and there is truth to this. While it is debated exactly what that magic ratio is, eating healthy is extremely important in maintaining a healthy weight – and in feeling good!
But as snow falls and the temperature continues to drop as winter sets into our country, it becomes increasingly challenging to maintain a healthy diet. There are several reasons why we struggle with healthy eating during the colder months.
Challenges to Healthy Winter Eating
With the seasonal change, our lives get busier. And when this happens, healthy nutrition is one of the first things to suffer. Preparing a healthy meal can take a lot of time, a luxury that most of us don’t have, especially during the busy winter months. It’s much easier to make something quick and easy after a hard day, especially when it’s already dark outside when you get home from work. That’s when we resort to quick “comfort foods”, those fat- and salt-laden foods that are anything but “comforting”.
The Holidays: Eating healthy throughout the winter months can be challenging for many reasons, and the holidays are an obvious one. Food is a large part of most winter celebrations. While snacking on a few cookies or pieces of chocolate here and there is expected, it is when we consume too many unhealthy foods that we can run into problems. “Holiday eating” usually means refined sugar and alcohol, which can lead to weight gain but can also wreak havoc on our immune system.
Low levels of serotonin: Another lesser known reason why healthy eating can be so difficult in the winter is the lack of sunlight. As it gets darker earlier, we get less exposure to the sun, which can lead to a drop in serotonin, our “feel-good” hormone. That drop can cause depression and food cravings – especially for carbohydrates. Eating too many carbohydrates (or the kind) can pack on the pounds – especially around the core - which not only makes us feel tired, but is another assault to our immune system.
So how do you overcome these challenges, and ensure that you are eating well? Follow these healthy eating habits to help increase your energy, prevent weight gain, and enhance your immunity and mood. The most important part of balancing a busy life is to ensure your energy is at its peak, and your body is functioning at its best.
Prep in advance: Grocery shopping on Sunday, or ordering your groceries online helps you to avoid resorting to fast food and microwave dinners. A bit of planning goes a long way! Make a list of everything you'll need for the week’s healthy meals and snacks and when you get home from shopping, cut up fresh veggies, make sandwiches, prepare fruit salads and do as much prep work as you can for the upcoming week. Trying a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t eaten before can be fun and add some interest, keeping menu planning from becoming too much of a task.
Focus on the right type of carbs: Eating carbs will help boost your serotonin levels….but choose your carbs carefully. 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. Focus on nutritious whole grains which will help you to maintain a healthy weight and keep you full for longer as they are rich in fibre and help keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Nutritious wholegrain choices include whole oats, buckwheat, quinoa and brown rice. You can also combat carb cravings by spending a little time outdoors every day (I know, it is tough when the snow is blowing!). Adding a vitamin D supplement can help too, as this is a nutrient abundant in sunlight and often lacking in the winter.
Eat foods that keep you fuller for longer. On a cold day, it’s tempting to curl up on the couch with a bowl of canned soup or a plate of leftover holiday cookies – but try to avoid this. To boost energy and keep you satisfied for longer, eat smaller meals and healthy snacks more often each day. Include a source of protein at each meal or snack — like nuts and seeds (raw, unsalted is best), legumes (and legume-based foods, such as hummus), fish (fatty fish such as salmon can help boost your mood), lean meat, and quinoa. Protein foods have a low glycemic index (GI), which means your body takes longer to burn the calories – this helps you feel full longer and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. These foods will help curb sugar cravings and prevent you from snacking on sugary carbohydrate foods.
Focus on seasonal fruits and vegetables: It can be difficult to find fresh, organic produce in the winter. But the majority of your diet should be made up of fresh vegetables (including legumes) and fruit. Seasonal fruits and vegetables such as pomegranates, citrus fruits, and root vegetables provide important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, magnesium and anti-oxidants. When fresh is not available, try flash-frozen, which is often healthier than canned. Greenhouse-grown produce is often available too.
Stay Hydrated. It is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, even in the off-season. This helps to flush toxins out of your body, helps you to maintain a healthy metabolism, and will help you to feel more energized. Try to drink at least two litres a day. Herbal teas count too. There are many wonderful health-promoting teas to choose from such as ginger (great for improving circulation), peppermint (which helps with digestion) and rooibos (naturally caffeine-free – rooibos chai is a healthy, warming drink in the winter). Try to avoid coffee and other sources of caffeine as they can be dehydrating.
Build your immune system. While a specific diet or supplement is yet to be scientifically proven to effectively prevent a cold or flu, there are foods that will help build your immune system and also increase your chances of fighting these annoying illnesses when you do get sick. As mentioned above, foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin C are beneficial. Eating probiotic-foods can also help to protect our bodies from infection. Kim chi, yogurt (look for a type that specifies the type and number of “active bacterial culture” on the label), kefir and tempeh are a few of the foods that are rich in probiotics. For a more potent punch of probiotics, take a high quality probiotic supplement.
Whether it’s reaching for that second piece of pie, or drinking just one more glass of Eggnog — it could affect your game and your health. Enjoy a little, but try not to overindulge. Be cautious of what you eat and how it will add strokes to your game. Smarter choices such as those described above are not only better for your body, but will keep you fit and trim, and ready for your next round!
Interested in learning more? Contact Active Nutrition to learn how we can help you meet your health goals.