April 2013

April 2013: Tips from a Golf Pro

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Nutrition and your golf game

It is no secret that eating better will make your body feel better, and the better you feel the better you play. But what constitutes eating better, and how is it that doing so will allow you to concentrate better and longer, reduce inflammation and have better endurance in a sport that requires all of the above…and then some? To learn more about how nutrition affects your golf game and gain a huge advantage over the couch potatoes, continue reading.

It is widely agreed upon among strength & nutrition disciplines that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This goes for all golfers, especially those who play the majority of their rounds in the morning. What you eat for breakfast sets up how your brain will function for the day and can have a far greater effect on our game than you think.

However, breakfast is often eaten one-two hours prior to your tee time, and even a good one (see examples below) will not sustain you until you make the turn. To maintain energy and focus, eat proper snacks every three to four holes.

Even if you eat the right breakfast and snack every three to four holes, your round will probably not end prior to lunchtime. Eating lunch five to six hours after breakfast is common. But if you ate breakfast one to two hours prior to your tee time and your round takes four to five hours to play, that places the lunch bell somewhere on the back nine. Even though you are snacking, you better have the right food available or your focus, energy, blood sugar and insulin levels all suffer.

The most widely accepted nutrition advice recommends grains and small amounts of protein. However, research with athletes, executives/employees and children has repeatedly shown that a diet high in protein is much better for mental acuity, focused energy, slow rises in blood sugar and fewer insulin spikes, all of which are vital to performing your best over a four to five-hour round of golf. Eating more protein also limits the inflammatory response in the body and can benefit all golfers. If you don’t believe me, put an oat or grain in water and watch how its size nearly triples. This also happens to your soft tissue when consuming oats and grains. A sample of what to eat and when follows:

Breakfast. Eating a meat (grass fed as opposed to grain fed) and nut breakfast is highly recommended (NOTE: you can substitute organic eggs for either). The meat allows for a steady and slow rise in blood sugar and the nuts provide healthy fats, allowing the blood sugar to stay stable for extended periods of time. This allows you to maintain focus and keep your internal rhythm constant. If, however, you consume grains and sugary juices, your insulin spikes as does your internal rhythm, thus your body and internal rhythm are on a constant teeter totter. This is illustrated when you play well for a few holes then suddenly are unable to focus or hit the shots you want—all because you either didn’t eat breakfast or ate the wrong things. If you have nut allergies, you can substitute low glycemic fruit such as apricots, blackberries, papaya, or peaches. I also recommend taking a teaspoon or tablespoon of Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil or Omega 3 Fish oil to further reduce the insulin and inflammatory response.

Snacks. It is wise to eat snacks high in protein for the same reasons stated above. These would include foods such as beef or turkey jerky, nuts (cashews, almonds, or walnuts—not peanuts as they are susceptible to fungus). If you are allergic to nuts or have to have carbohydrates, try avocados, blueberries, or nectarines.

Lunch. Packing chicken breasts, sliced turkey, ham or roast beef without bread of any kind will allow you to maintain all the positive results associated with a high protein diet. If your snacks were sufficient to get you through the round without losing energy or focus, having a salad of assorted greens, vegetables and grilled chicken or steak will help replenish the needed minerals and vitamins lost during your round. It also helps muscles to recover and rebuild while keeping inflammation to a minimum (for more on inflammation reduction, read the March issue of CH2 or CB2).

Eating well plays a much larger role in your ability to play to your potential than most golfers realize. What you eat is a major factor in controlling factors you can’t see and often blame yourself for, i.e. lack of focus, mental clarity and the inability to maintain rhythm and tempo. These elements of the game are controlled from within, and if you are putting things into your body that conflict with your objectives, how can you expect to play well?

I personally know of a local golfer who applied the above nutritional strategy to his game. He ate organically, and the meat and eggs were grass fed. In fact, he doubled his consumption of red meat, eggs and protein along with a mixture of vegetables and low glycemic fruits and supplemented with the items mentioned in last month’s article. Not only did his game performance improve, but his cholesterol level was reduced from 205 to 185 (without medication), and not once during the year did he eat oatmeal or grains. I know these things as fact, because that golfer was me.

For more information on what and how to eat to improve your golf game, contact the GPA-Hilton Head and allow us to provide you with a healthier way to eat for improved performance, more enjoyment and a better overall golf game. Contact us at (843) 338-6737, Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head or online at golfacademyhiltonhead.com.

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