Many golf fans may believe that professional golfers don’t need to focus on fitness and diet; only seeing them take on 18 holes, the driving range and exerting what may seem like a small amount of effort. However, this isn’t the case at all, with the modern golf professional needing to make fitness and diet a priority.
A pro golfer must use fitness and nutrition to help build strength, manage injuries, and maintain concentration levels – all key aspects of golf. The average length of a course on the PGA tour can reach up to five miles, with a pro golfer playing in excess of 70 rounds per year.
Nutrition is especially important when competitions span several days. All areas of nutrition must be considered, including staying hydrated, maintaining blood glucose levels, and consuming enough carbohydrate and protein snacks throughout rounds.
Recovery is key, as it allows golfers to go again the next day. For some players, recovery can be hard, with the powerful nature of golf swings aggravating potential injuries. Strength and mobility training are generally completed daily when in an off-period, and between tournaments. Typical strength training involves a range of compound and rotation-based movements, with the aim of building strong, robust muscles while promoting golf swing actions and injury reduction.
We’ve looked into the diets of pro golfers, including Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, and have spoken to registered Sport and Exercise Nutritionist Ted Munson, and Louise Sutton, Head of Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Carnegie School of Sports, Leeds Beckett University; to uncover their top five nutritional tips for golfers.
Granola (no oats)
Blended nuts and seeds
Before a round of golf, you need to be hydrated, and have optimal energy stores to aid your physical performance and concentration. Aim to have your final meal 2-3 hours before starting your round. This should include 50% low glycaemic complex carbohydrates like fruits, beans and vegetables, alongside wholegrain starches like quinoa or cereals. Add a lean source of protein like a grilled chicken or a salmon fillet. After this, around 30 minutes before starting, top up your energy stores with fruit or nut-based snack.
Aim to have your post-round meal as soon as you finish, and this should be similar to your pre-round meal. Choose an oily fish like salmon or tuna with anti-inflammatory properties, and increase your portion of starchy carbohydrates to top up glycogen levels. Always drink plenty of fluids in the hours after to help your body recover.
Every athlete has personal preferences based on what works for them, which usually involves a trial and error approach. However, before and during golf, try and refrain from consuming high fat foods, particularly animal fats and junk food, as this won’t have a great impact on performance.
Golf is often played in the summer over prolonged periods of time, which is why you need keep hydrated. As little as a 2-3% reduction in body weight due to sweat loss can cause dehydration, which raises the heart rate and body temperature, impairs concentration, and makes exercise feel more intense. Therefore, you should try to consistently sip fluids throughout the day.
During the first half of your round of golf, top up on lower carbohydrate fuels to prevent spikes in energy and the subsequent ‘slump’ that follows. Graze on fruits like blueberries, apples and bananas. In longer rounds, having a wholegrain bread sandwich with a protein filling will also provide sustainable carbohydrates, and a protein hit. In the last six holes, the focus should be on snacks with higher levels of carbohydrate to increase energy levels, with flapjacks, sports drinks and dried fruits all good options. During the last couple of hours, caffeine can help to aid mental performance.