Golf is a sport played in 206 countries worldwide by over 50 million people. Golf can provide moderate intensity physical activity and is associated with physical health benefits that include improved cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic profiles, and improved wellness and showed a potential contribution to increased life expectancy. The incidence of golfing injury is moderate, with back injuries the most frequent. Accidental head injuries are rare, but can have serious consequences.
The sport of golf requires an intricate mix of physical, emotional and cognitive factors to achieve optimal performance. The swing itself is a complex pattern of coordinated biomechanical movements that impact both the accuracy and distance with which the ball is struck. In its purest sense, the golf swing is a movement centered mostly upon the production of power; consequently, swings are considered to be largely anaerobic in nature.
As the popularity of golf rises, the development of ergogenic approaches have produced a seemingly endless array of clubs and other pieces of equipment intended to help improve performance. In light of the physical and cognitive challenges brought forth by golf, nutritional approaches may impact performance.
Golf and nutrition
Nutritional guidelines center upon prudent management of fluid and carbohydrate levels, but other demands found in golf present the need for additional nutritional concerns. For example, under certain environmental conditions the extended duration to complete a round of golf (~3 – 4 hours) can promote dehydration, reduced energy levels and mental fatigue. When these factors are considered collectively, it makes intuitive sense that a nutritional formulation that can improve anaerobic performance and increase a golfer’s focus and attention may impact performance. In this respect, one study to examine the impact of a nutritional agent on golfing performance utilized phosphatidylserine supplementation to lower the stress hormone cortisol and improve shot-making during simulated golf swings.
SuperDrive™ (Purity Products, Plainview, NY) is a commercially available dietary supplement that combines creatine monohydrate, coffee arabica fruit extract, calcium fructoborate and vitamin D and is marketed to the golfing community to aid in performance and recovery from musculoskeletal complications associated with participation in golf. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most popular and effective dietary supplements due to its ability to improve strength, power, lean mass and explosive performance. Creatine supplementation protocols are well established to significantly increase intramuscular levels of phosphocreatine and total creatine which, in the vast majority of studies, result in measureable improvements in a wide variety of high-intensity activities. In light of the fact that the golf swing is an anaerobic event, it is logical that creatine supplementation may have the potential to improve golf swing power.
Coffea arabica is a fruit extract that is derived from the same plant as traditional coffee, thus making caffeine the primary active ingredient found within the extract. For years, scientific research has supported the use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid, primarily known for its positive impact on executive functions such as focus, attention and concentration, stimulation of fatty acid mobilization, improvements in endurance performance, and various direct effects on muscle function. From a physical perspective, caffeine is known to antagonize adenosine receptors, thereby inhibiting the negative impact of adenosine on neurotransmission, arousal, and pain perception in addition to reducing ratings of perceived exertion. Beyond physical benefits, caffeine can also operate to enhance a number of cognitive aspects. Caffeine is commonly used and accepted for its ability to promote wakefulness as well as enhance focus and concentration, all attributes that would be of particular benefit to a golfer, while also preventing both peripheral and central manifestations of fatigue. An excellent review by Glade summarized available literature on caffeine’s impact of cognitive functioning and reported that caffeine in doses in modest amounts (30 – 50 mg) are able to favorably impact mental energy, but typical doses of 100 – 150 mg are needed to positively impact assessments of cognitive functioning. Caffeine favorably impacts both simple and complex tasks through both attention enhancement and optimized executive function. Another ingredient that continues to get attention regarding its ability to favorably impact bone health and healthy muscle metabolism is vitamin D.
Cathy Williamson, the author of Top 10 Nutrition Tips for Golfers, says about golfers: “You’re walking six to ten kilometres. You’re out there for four or five hours, longer than most sports. If you don’t pay attention to fuel and hydration, your game will suffer”.
What kind of diet to adopte
Golf is primarily a game of skill which can be played competitively at both amateur and professional levels. At the recreational level, golfers may train simply by playing.
Advanced golfers however are likely to spend several hours a day on the golf course practising specific skills, playing rounds or participating in actual competitions. As well as playing golf, training may include additional aerobic conditioning, strength and flexibility work. This helps to keep players lean and strong, and may reduce the risk of injury.
Golfing competitions are played in rounds of 18 holes, which typically take between 3-5 hours to play. During the course of a round, a player may walk between 10 and 20km depending on the accuracy of the shots and course.
General weekly feeding suggest:
- Fruits and vegetables every day
- Breads and cereals (wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereal)
- Low fat dairy products (milk, yoghurt, and cheese)
- Lean protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu and pulses)
- Healthy fats (vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and avocado)
Basing meals and snacks on healthy carbohydrate rich foods is ideal. This includes rolled oats, wholegrain breads and crackers, pasta, rice, noodles and starchy vegetables like potato, pumpkin and kumara.
During and after training sessions, additional carbohydrate rich foods and drinks can be helpful to provide additional fuel and assist with recovery. Suitable snacks include sandwiches, wraps, pita bread, muesli bars, low fat yoghurt, smoothies and fruit. Processed snack foods like lollies, cakes, pastries, chips and soft drinks should be avoided.
Players should aim to include protein in all meals and most snacks. This includes lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs, pulses (e.g. chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and baked beans), nuts and low fat dairy products. Including protein as part of the post training meal/snack is important to promote recovery.*
For all players it is important to include some healthy fats each day such as avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish and vegetable oils (i.e. olive oil, canola oil and rice bran oil). The amount of these fats that are needed will depend on an individual’s weight goals and energy requirements (i.e. how many calories/kJ they need each day).
For all golfers, unhealthy fats should be avoided as much as possible. This includes the skin on chicken, white fat on meat, butter and fat often used in cakes, biscuits and many takeaways.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
These are essential for good health and performance and should be included in every main meal.
Including a range of fresh, frozen, dried and canned varieties will help meet golfers nutrient requirements and is convenient, tasty and affordable. Adding vegetables into cooking or fruit to meals is also a great way to boost fibre, vitamin and mineral intake. Try slicing a banana or pear on top of breakfast cereal, adding dried fruit to salad or grating carrot and courgette into mince.
What to bring in the bag
- Water: remember to drink a glass of water 10 to 20 minutes before your round and every 30 minutes, more if it is a hot day. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, that transmit electrical impulses across the cells in your body so that your muscles and brain work properly.
- Healthy snacks: Fruit, nuts, whole grains bars or sandwiches.
- Avoid alcohol : also a little beer can keep you tired and deconcentrated.
You are what you eat and in golf it may be more true than you think. An awful lot of people are beginning to suspect that what you put in your body can help you hit the golf ball straighter and calm your nerves around the greens. With the best food and drink for golf it will possible to save minimum 3-5 shots per round . Remember to eat an healthy and complete meal 2-3 hours before your round. In a healthy meal you must include no sweets or cake, and no soda-drinks. You need a good carbohydrates from bread, pasta, oats, fruit, and moderate amount of proteins and fats as grilled chicken or fish with salad, omelette, scrambled eggs, yoghurt, whole wheat bread etc. and drink 2 glasses of water. And during the round, take small snacks at regular interevals.
- Br J Sports Med. 2017 Jan; 51(1): 12–19.
The relationships between golf and health: a scoping review
- Br J Sports Med. 2016 Jun;50(11):647-50. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095914. Epub 2016 Apr 29.
- J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015; 12: 4.
Effects of a dietary supplement on golf drive distance and functional indices of golf performance