Sports Nutrition for Golfers

By Sally Bowman, M.Ed.,RD,CSSD,LD

If you have ever had a good round going only to watch it evaporate on the 16th hole, then you know the value of being able to stay focused and in the present moment.  Part of actually being able to do that is providing your body with the nutrients it needs throughout the whole round.   Whether you are walking and carrying your clubs, which will burn up to 1000 calories in a round, or riding comfortably in a cart, it is important to consider several aspects of your diet.  The two key areas to be aware of during a round of golf are maintaining a normal blood sugar and staying well hydrated.  This article will give you the tools you need to address both of these issues. 

To maintain a steady blood sugar and energy level, it is important that you eat a meal or snack before you head out for a 4-5 hour round of golf.  That meal should contain a balance of lean protein, whole grains or high fiber starches, fruits and/or vegetables and be low in fat.  An example of this meal might be a chicken sandwich on whole wheat bun, side salad and a banana or fruit cup.  Once you are on the course, you may want to try having a small amount of a healthy snack every 4-6 holes.(A healthy snack will have some carbohydrate and protein and maybe a small amount of healthy fats).  Another option would be to make sure you have a snack at the turn.  Examples of healthy snacks for the course are:  trail mix (combine nuts like almonds  or walnuts with raisins or cranberries), energy bars (Cliff, Odwalla, Balance, Zone, Kind, Luna), pretzels, fruit (fresh or dried), jerky,  fig bars, or even a  PB and J sandwich.

Playing 18 holes on a hot, humid Austin day can easily drain your body of vital fluids.   Since our body is 60-70% water by weight, it is easy to see how a golfer might lose several pints or even quarts of water through sweat.  We know that if the body loses 2% or more of its’ weight in sweat losses, performance is likely compromised.  To stay well hydrated, follow these guidelines:

·         Start by drinking 16 oz of water when you wake up

·         Include a hydrating beverage with the meal before you play (water, juice, milk, decaffeinated tea)

·         Get 6-8 oz water or sports drink 15 minutes before exercise and every 15 minutes during the round (especially on hot days)

·         If temperatures and humidity are high, it is best to alternate water with a sports drink that contains sodium to avoid dehydration (Ex:  Gatorade or Powerade, not Vitamin Water)

·         After the round, consume hydrating fluids BEFORE any alcohol so that your body has the chance to rehydrate fully.  You will need 16-24 oz fluid for every pound lost

·         Make sure you urinate frequently, every 2-3 hours and you have ample clear to light colored urine

Now, you have the key nutrition tips for avoiding those low blood sugar blues and lethargy caused by not fueling or hydrating properly.  Which means….you will finish those last few holes as a champion!

Sally Bowman, M.Ed,RD,CSSD,LD is a consultant sports dietitian for The University of Texas Athletic.  Sally works with a variety of sports including golf to help athletes (and weekend warriors) improve their performance through optimal nutrition.  Sally is also a consultant with Central Texas Nutrition Consultants where she sees individuals for weight management and eating disorders, diabetes, cardiac and gastrointestinal issues in addition to sports nutrition.   She is also an avid golfer and plays with the Executive Women’s Golf Association; Sally was the Austin Women’s Golf Association City Champion in 2007.

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