Fuel for Golf: What to Eat and Drink

The acronym GIGO —Garbage In, Garbage Out— originated with computers but has just as much relevance to our bodies and how they perform. Improper hydration and nourishment can kill your round as fast as any shank or snowman can.

But what to drink and eat? How much and when?

Drink Up.
Your number-one priority is to stay hydrated. Without proper hydration our brain and nervous system are unable to perform at their optimal levels. Insufficient hydration can impair visual-spatial function, which is clearly very important in a precision sport such as golf.

Wake and Slake.
If you have an early tee time, remember the eight or so hours you spend sleeping puts you in a dehydrated state when you wake up (especially after urination). Drink 25 percent of your daily intake of water right after getting out of bed. How much is that? A good rule for total daily intake is to drink half your body weight in ounces. If you weigh 200 pounds, you should drink 100 ounces of water every 24 hours. That equates to 25 ounces upon waking up.

Don’t Chug.
Depending on terrain, heat, humidity and your size, you should drink between 35 and 55 ounces of water during a round. Pace your water intake throughout the round for proper absorption. A few sips per hole as part of your pre or post shot routine is one way to do it.

Saline Solution.
Water also helps with joint pain, acting as a lubricant. Adding a pinch of sea salt (just enough to hold in your fingertips) to each bottle of water you drink during play will help your body absorb it and will also replace the minerals lost in your sweat.

Shun Sports Drinks.
High fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, sugar, caffeine are all performance inhibiting—not enhancing— additives. The caffeine in energy drinks can cause anxiety and a rapid heart rate, neither of which you want when standing over a putt to win a match.

These Fuelish Things.
Avoiding blood sugar spikes— also known as glycemic control—is key to maintaining consistent energy throughout the round. You never want to feel “stuffed,” just properly fortified to play your best. Does this mean skipping the breakfast burrito or the burger and chips at the turn? Well, there are better choices.

Don’t Keep It Simple.
Steer clear of simple carbohydrates such as chocolate bars, pastries and anything made with corn syrup, white sugar or white flour. Your body digests these rapidly, giving you a quick boost of energy that will leave you sluggish shortly thereafter.

Digest Slowly.
Opt for healthy fats (peanuts), proteins (hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky), and complex carbohydrates (vegetables, and legumes). Your body digests these slowly, allowing you keep an excellent energy balance.

Go Nuts, Veg Out.
I often pack a mix of nuts (the lightly salted kinds help replace some of what we sweat out) or create my own trail mix (omitting cereal, pretzels, M&Ms and other forms of simple carbohydrates). I also bring a couple sandwich bags of raw carrots and roasted chickpeas. Other great items include celery with peanut butter, chicken salad (no bread), Paleobars, Cocochia Bars, dried berries and seeds.

And if you forget to pack your lunch or feel obliged to follow the “no outside food” rule, don’t panic. Courses are always adding healthful options and are often flexible in substituting foods.

Dillon D. Johnson, Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Specialist PTAGCPT, TPI-FP3 Director of Golf at RallySport in Boulder (rallysportboulder.com) Information researched and provided by Robert Yang & the Titleist Performance Institute.


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