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Muscle Beyond the Gym Part 1: Performance Nutrition for Golf

Golf is a sport played globally by males and females, from young to old. There are approximately 39,000 golf courses around in the world in virtually every country around the world. While golf is not considered a highly physically demanding sport when compared to other sports, the unique set of demands during a round are considerable. Executing a good round of golf will require a combination of strength, power, coordination, concentration and flexibility.

Historically, nutrition for golf was not considered very important. There are lots of examples at the elite level where golfers would smoke cigars, drink alcoholic beverages and generally not carry the physique of a professional athlete. However, in recent years, the professionalism of the game has evolved to where successful golfers take their nutrition, strength and conditioning very seriously. This fact, along with improvements to technology and equipment progressions has led to the longest ever hitters playing today.

A typical round of golf (18 holes) takes somewhere between three to five hours to complete. More advanced golfers generally take less time to complete a round compared to less skilled players. Furthermore, a golfer will walk approximately 7-10 kilometres (4-6 miles) during an average round. Research also suggests that golfers will expend approximately 1500-2500 calories per round and lose approximately 1.2 kilograms (2.6 pounds) of body weight through fluid loss during a round. Lastly, although not essential for golf, a good level of cardiovascular fitness will also play a role in the onset of fatigue.

Off-Course Nutrition

The foundation of a good nutrition plan for golf mostly takes place away from the golf course. The day-to-day nutrition of a golfer is very important to help support overall energy levels, promote optimal recovery and ensure desired body composition. This should be individualised and matched to your current training goals, physical demands of your training and body composition targets.

On Course Nutrition

Appropriate nutritional choices before, during and after a round of golf can help a golfer’s performance by:

  • Helping to maintain energy levels
  • Delaying onset of muscle fatigue
  • Helping support improved focus and concentration
  • Promoting recovery
  • Preventing or reducing impact of dehydration

As golf is considered a low- to moderate-intensity activity, there is no need to consider a carbohydrate loading strategy in the days leading up to an event. A pre-event meal can help impact your performance. It is generally recommended to consume your last large meal approximately three to four hours before your start time. This pre-event meal should generally be high in carbohydrates to help support glycogen levels and lower in fat and fibre to help support faster digestion and to minimize gastrointestinal distress. A small amount of protein should also be included in this meal to help support satiety and contribute to overall protein intake. This meal should be familiar and well tolerated. Keep in mind that nutritional needs may differ if walking vs. driving the course.

Sample pre-event meals

  • Baked beans on toast
  • Porridge oats with nuts/berries
  • Museli/Granola bowl
  • Chicken salad wrap/sandwich

A smaller snack approximately 60 minutes before an event can also be helpful to further compliment the pre-event meal. Fruits and yoghurts are great options here for quick energy.

The two most important factors to consider for nutrition during a round of golf are supporting energy demands and replacing lost fluids. A consistent, structured nutrition approach is recommended. For example, aiming to eat something every 3-4 holes.

Practical Recommendation

  • After hole 3 – Small snack – (1/2 protein/energy bar)
  • After hole 6 – Small snack – (small handful nuts)
  • After hole 9 – Large snack – (beef jerky, trail mix & fruit)
  • After hole 12 – Small snack - (1/2 protein/energy bar)
  • After hole 15 – Small snack – (piece of fruit)

Consider environmental factors when selecting a snack. You’ll want to select a snack that will hold in high temperatures, humidity and be well kept without refrigeration for hours. Stray away from perishable items such yogurt, deli sandwiches, etc. Suitable on-course snacks include dried fruits, nuts, seeds, granola bars, protein bars, jerky and energy bars.

When it comes to hydration - it is well established that even mild dehydration can negatively affect physical and mental performance. Dehydration occurs when fluid losses are greater than fluid intake. Dehydration by as little as 2% can negatively affect cognitive and physical performance. Fluid requirements will vary between individuals and will be based on a number of factors such as body weight, sweat rates and environmental conditions. Aim to consume water regularly throughout a round, monitor thirst levels and urine colour (May not apply if taking B vitamins which may affect urine colour). If playing in hot or humid conditions, it may be beneficial to consume an electrolyte solution throughout the round.

Recovery

Nutrition post-round is very important to help support muscle recovery. Recovery meals and snacks should include a combination of carbohydrates plus protein. Carbohydrates help to replenish energy lost and protein helps to support muscle recovery.

Supplementation

There are a number of supplements that golfers may consider using to help support their overall nutrition plan. Some supplements may be more suited to day-to-day use while others may be useful before, during or after a round of golf. Here are examples of supplements that can be utilized around a round of golf.

  • Protein Powder post round to help support muscle recovery. 20-40g as soon as is convenient post-round. 
  • Caffeine before a round to help support focus. Trial individual amounts in training pre competition. 2mg per kilogram bodyweight approximately 60 minutes pre-round
  • Electrolyte beverages to help support hydration
  • 5g Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) during the round at regular intervals
  • 3-5g Creatine (daily) to help support overall performance

In summary, there are many different nutritional factors to consider in the pursuit of becoming a better golfer. Having a dialled in nutrition plan will help ensure that you are fully prepared to play your best the next time you hit the golf course.

Happy golfing!