Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nutrition for Golfers

About Golf 

Golf is primarily a game of skill that can be played for recreation as well as at elite level in national and international tour events and professional level on the world tour circuit. Golfers can play at a professional level either through an apprenticeship or by attending Player's School. Professional golfers can associate themselves with golf clubs and provide golf tuition and run clubs. Others spend their time competing within the professional circuit. A typical round of golf (18 holes) takes 3 to 5 hours to complete, depending on the skill level of the golfer. While the average length of a course is 7km, a golfer could walk 10 to 20 km (depending on the accuracy of shots) to complete a round.

Training and Competition

Recreational golfers practice their game by playing rounds. Professional golfers however can spend up to 8 hours a day on the golf course working on specific skills, playing practice rounds or competitions. During a tournament, most players will participate in a practice session at the end of the day’s game. Complimentary training, including strength training, aerobic conditioning and flexibility also feature in most players’ training schedules to strengthen muscles involved in playing the game, improve their endurance and minimise the risk of injury.

Tournaments are conducted as a single round on one day or as multi-day competitions of two or four rounds on consecutive days.

Golfers’ physiques vary widely and top players come in all shapes and sizes. Although the nature of the game is lower intensity, higher body fat levels may impair performance through greater heat intolerance, (and thus a greater susceptibility to physical fatigue) and an increased risk of injuries.

Training Diet Golfers of all levels need to eat well to perform at their peak. The nutrition plan for golfers is primarily to prevent fatigue and maintain concentration over 3 to 5 hours (during which a round is played) to optimise skill and performance. A balanced diet that provides a wide variety of foods, including carbohydrate and protein and smaller amounts of fat are the keys to optimal performance on course, along with a good hydration plan.

Golfer physique, Low Body Fat.

A balanced diet for golfers includes:

Moderate amounts of foods rich in carbohydrates.Low glycaemic index (GI) choices such as pasta, multigrainbread, porridge, baked beans can be better options to sustain training requirements and preventfatigue.

Takeaway foods and processed snack foods suchas lollies, crisps, pastries, cakes and soft drinks kept to a minimum.The focus should be on nutritious low-fat foods andinclude small amounts of foods rich in mono- andpolyunsaturated fats e.g. avocado, most types of nuts, plant-based oils and fish.

Consume alcohol in moderation if you choose to drink.A small amount of alcohol in the training diet isacceptable, but too much will lead to weight gain.Alcohol slows down rehydration, so is not the bestchoice immediately after exercise. Alcohol can alsoimpair recovery so ensure that your rehydration andrefuelling needs come first. Keep track of the numberof drinks you have and avoid alcohol 24 hours before competition.

Fluid needs

Dehydration results in impaired skill performance,impaired ability to focus and concentrate for longer periods, fatigue and can contribute to heat stress. As golf is largely a game of skill it is very important golfers consume adequate fluid to maintain hydration.Fluid requirements vary largely depending on the players’ size, gender, time in play and environmental conditions.

During competition and practice/training rounds access to adequate fluid on the course is an important part of maintaining hydration. Fluids should be carried in the golf bag and efforts should be made to keep the fluids cool to promote better intakes.

Fluid requirements generally increase as the temperature increases so golfers should monitor their average sweat rates by weighing themselves before around and then again after in different playing conditions. The weight deficit needs to be replaced by1.5 times the amount of fluid lost, so:1kg body weight lost = 1L fluids lost = 1.5L to recover Sports drinks such as Gatorade® are ideal for longpractice rounds and competition as they replace fluidas well as carbohydrate and electrolytes.

  1. Know your sweat rates in different conditions and aim to drink 80% of this during play; e.g. if you lose approx. 800mL per hour, you should aim to drink 640mL per hour.
  2. Increase your fluid intake in warm weather and chill your drinks in the freezer a few hours before you play or overnight to keep them cooler.
  3. Include water and sports drinks to replace fluid,electrolytes and carbohydrate.Hydration is the golfer’s own responsibility

What should I eat pre-event?

Golfers can be expect to play a round for up to 5 hoursso it is important to eat a pre-event meal which contains carbohydrate to prevent fatigue. Low GI carbohydrate foods may provide an advantage as theyare digested slowly, delivering a more sustained fuel release, however the evidence is equivocal.

The pre-event meal should be something enjoyed by the player, does not cause stomach upset and contains some carbohydrate-rich foods to top up glycogen stores and blood glucose levels for optimal performance and concentration levels.

Some suggestions for a pre-event meal:
  1. crumpets with jam or honey + flavoured milk
  2. baked beans on toast
  3. breakfast cereal with milk
  4. bread roll with cheese/meat filling + banana
  5. fruit salad with yoghurt

What should I eat & drink during competition?

A round of golf can last anything up to 5 hours so it is necessary to replace fluid and carbohydrate. It is also common that during a round, a golfer will miss a meal and therefore needs to replace these nutrients in a convenient form, usually before and after a round.

It can be important to replace carbohydrate during a round, if for nothing else but to maintain concentration and accuracy of shots.

Sports drinks can be ideal for convenience as they provide the key nutrients all in one: fuel, fluids and salt. Other good options include fruit, breakfast/cereal/sports bars, and vegemite or jam sandwiches.

What about recovery?

Although the 19th hole (the club room bar) is often the place for recreational golfers "recovery", professional golfers should look to recover fuel and fluid stores through good food choices immediately after the 18th hole before alcohol comes into the picture.
The recovery choices become critical when playing multiple rounds in one day or backing up for a 4 day tournament.

As a rule of thumb, aim to consume a recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing a training session or competition. This snack should contain carbohydrates, protein and a source of fluid, for example;
  1. a salad sandwich with a bottle of sports drink
  2. a bowl of cereal with fruit and milk
  3. cereal/muesli bars + 200g tub yoghurt + fluids
  4. 1 pc fruit + 300mL carton low-fat flavoured milk

The next meal should resume the normal training eating pattern, and should again contain carbohydrate-rich foods, a source of protein and fluids. Players should try to consume this meal within 3-4 hours of finishing a competition.

Other Nutrition Tips

For professional golfers, life is spent travelling the globe on the international tour circuit, so eating in unfamiliar places is very common. It is wise to be well prepared when travelling internationally and it is recommended to research your destination, the common foods eaten normally and the foods that will be available at the venue and accommodation.

The more you know about where you will be playing the better prepared you will be. It may be necessary to bring your own supplies of suitable snacks for on course (e.g. muesli bars, breakfast cereals, etc packed in your luggage) or even your own sports drink and drinking water if you are unsure about the sanitation of where you will be playing. It is a good idea to make a few phone calls before you travel so that you can arrange suitable meals at your accommodation and know what extra supplies you may need to bring.

Credit to Keryn Kondoprias & Daniela Manche

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