DOES YOUR DIET AFFECT YOUR GAME?
Golf is a sport that requires physical and mental stamina on a level that few other sports can match. With that in mind, we wanted to get a picture of how the typical golfer boosts that stamina through their diet.
Do we alter the foods we eat before and during a round in order to improve our performance? And if we do, how much of a difference does it actually make? To help you next time you pick up the golf bag we surveyed over 1,100 golfers about their eating habits around golf and asked golf fitness expert Olly Foster what impact nutrition and hydration can have on our game.
GOLFERS MAKE BAD DIET CHOICES
Our research suggests that, despite valuing a good diet that can enhance performance, golfers don't make the right dietary choices to maximise their game.
Golfers see the impact diet and hydration can have on improved performance. Just 5% of all respondents said that they consider nutrition and hydration to be "not important at all" or "not really important" before a round. 78% consider it either "very important" or "quite important". Off to a good start then.
Despite how highly golfers rate good nutrition, few seem to consider it before they hit the first tee. 41% said they don't make any food or drink choices before a round with the aim of improving their performance, with 36% saying the same thing during a round.
Asked what foods they eat before a round, sugary cereals and heavy, bread-laden sandwiches came out on top. In a list of 21 typical foods, more people were found to be reaching for a fried breakfast than vegetables, nuts or salad. Similarly, during a round, a number of golfers are reaching for foods that don't do them any favours. Almost 1 in 3 nibbles on a bar of chocolate, with 1 in 5 again taking to the sandwiches.
53% said they chow down on some fruit, and while you might think this a fine choice, our expert Olly points out why this, and other choices we often make, are a bad idea: "Foods such as cereal, fruits and, bread spike blood sugar levels. What goes up must come down - resulting in an energy crash just when you need to draw on extra energy reserves down the back 9".
Even when it comes to beverages, plenty of us don't make the correct choice. 22% grab a coffee before a round, and when we're on the course, almost 1 in 5 glugs down an energy drink. According to our expert Olly, both are mistakes. "Providing false energy into the body with stimulant energy drinks or coffee before a round can also have a negative impact as the caffeine can:
- Dehydrate you; which can affect physical performance, mental clarity and visual perception
- Make you agitated which can affect feel on and around the greens."
CAN BETTER FOOD AND DRINK CHOICES IMPROVE OUR GAME
Despite not making the right choices every time, our respondents agree that good nutrition and hydration habits can deliver a better golfer.
20% believe that the correct food and drink choices before and during a round can have "a huge impact" on a better performance. A further 48% agreed it can have "a considerable impact", with just 4% saying it would have "no impact whatsoever". But what does our expert say, and is there any evidence already out there? "Consuming a balance of good healthy macronutrients before a game can greatly improve your chances of playing well.
Eating too many calories in one meal can make you feel sluggish, bloated and tired. Eating too little won't provide you with enough energy to last you the whole round. Alongside adequate hydration, getting your nutrition right will ensure you have sustained energy especially coming into the back 9 without the usual peaks and troughs seen with poor choices."
Nutritional advice points to how a good diet can improve your game, and a study conducted in 2012 by the University of Lincoln shows how dehydration can negatively impact performance.
Significantly impairing cognitive-motor task performance, golfers were found to hit 12% shorter and 93% less accurately when just mildly dehydrated. Olly confirmed how important taking on fluids can be.
"We lose water every day when we breathe, sweat and go to the toilet. If we don't consume enough to keep us hydrated your muscle will fatigue quicker, which can reduce coordination and cause muscle cramps.
It can also affect mental clarity which can result in poor course management decisions and if you are severely dehydrated this can affect visual perception which can reduce your ability to read greens effectively.
Whatever meals you go for, Olly points out the three food groups you need to focus on:
"The three main macronutrients being carbohydrates, protein, and fats. All three play a role in your diet for health and performance.
Alongside adequate hydration, getting your nutrition right will ensure you have sustained energy especially coming into the back 9 without the usual peaks and troughs seen with poor choices."
No matter what you're eating, hydration on the course is too vital to ignore. Drink 100-150ml every 15-20 minutes. If you feel thirsty, then you're already dehydrated.
OTHER FITNESS TIPS FOR GOLFERS
Nutrition and hydration are vitally important, but if you make it part of a wider preparation plan that includes fitness, you can make even greater gains. "Golfers who are looking to improve their game should do a mobility warm-up before play. Golf is an aggressive sport and if you don't get the right muscles firing pre-play you greatly increase your chances of injury. You need to get the glutes firing and activated as this helps to stabilise the pelvis and takes the strain off the lower back. Also due to poor posture, most of us will need to open up the chest area, activate the scapulas (shoulder blades) and stretch the shoulder joints in an external rotation. An example warmup drill can be found here."
Olly Foster A certified TPI Golf trainer and Personal Trainer, Olly Foster has developed a special, 12-week programme designed to transform an amateur golfers' game through a leaner, stronger and more mobile body. As an Online Golf reader if you use the code OG20OFF at check out you will receive 20% off the complete plan. Visit http://www.golffitbyolly.com/for more details.