Is Your Golf Nutrition Below Par? By Justin Buckthorp
Today we want to help you with a common scenario if you love the game of golf.
You are playing well, the swing feels good, and you are cruising into the back nine. You want to finish strong because you know a good score is on the table.
And then something happens—your concentration drops, your energy dips, and suddenly you start making mistakes. Of course, you do what you can to hold the round together, but the momentum has gone, and you aren't the same player as an hour before.
So, what happened here?
What stopped you from maintaining the level of focus and consistency?
What was the first domino that led to unforced errors and prevented you from playing your best?
Naturally, there are a ton of possible answers here, but an untapped area could be your nutrition.
To ensure you get the most out of your game, this blog will cover some key areas for focus:
- The physical demands of golf
- The importance of nutrition for golf
- Golf nutrition checklist
- What to eat before, during and after golf
- How Kinetica’s supplements can help you on the golf course
The Demands of Golf
Golf is a sport that is played at a low intensity for long durations peppered with high intensity bursts of activity. It is considered a power sport seeing as golf shots are anaerobically driven where the player is looking to produce maximum force in minimal time. In this respect, aerobic fitness is not a priority but overall athletic qualities are.
For example, the average PGA Tour golf course is about 7200 yards, which equates to just over four miles of walking. The number of calories burned over this distance will depend upon individual characteristics, such as body weight and lean muscle mass, and whether you push a trolley or not, but it could be as high as 1,500 calories, especially when you account for a proper warm up.
Athleticism is a priority in golf. The swing is a complex motion that requires many physical attributes such as mobility, stability, motor control, strength, and power. The level of compression on the spine in the golf swing is significant, and we need these athletic qualities to attenuate force off joints as efficiently as possible.
Over six times a person’s body weight go through L4-L5 in the lumbar spine in the downswing. For a 90kg player, that’s over 500kg of vertical compression in just one segment of the spine. These demands require us to possess the appropriate levels of strength and motor control to withstand these forces and meet the demands of high frequency practice.
Let’s find out how one should fuel this activity.
The Importance of Nutrition in Golf
How we fuel the body and brain for golf is overlooked and underrated. There are probably several reasons why.
First, equipment is often the primary go-to for amateurs and pros alike. We want the latest technology because, fundamentally, golf is hard - and anything that can save us shots is worth trying. Technology tends to dominate our thinking when it comes to improving our game.
Second, we naturally take nutrition for granted. For years the culture of golf has been a bacon sandwich to start and a chocolate bar at the turn, so why change. We expect our brain and body to turn up on the first tee.
Third, we don't see many tour pros discussing how they use nutrition to fuel their performance. We see it with fitness training but not really in nutrition. Without these role models explaining how they go about eating and drinking to get the most from their game, why would you?
Today we'd like to change this. I want to offer some insight into how the pros go about nutrition for golf and offer you strategies to help you in your game.
I've been supporting players in their health and performance on the European Tour, PGA Tour, LPGA, and LET Tours since 2007. It's been an amazing experience, and tour life is filled with brilliant characters and talent.
I sit on the European Tour Medical Advisory Board and have supported Team Europe in Ryder Cup events since 2008. I have a master’s degree in nutrition, so I hope that the experience and education I have gained can help you get from your game.
Nutrition is vital in helping us shoot low scores. For sure, we need technical skill and the right technology. But what enables us to express this skill and utilise that technology is our brain and our body.
How does Nutrition impact your golf performance?
Nutrition impacts many areas that contribute to performance: our energy, our focus, our decision-making, our mood, our resilience, our movement in the swing and our fine motor control in areas of the game, such as putting.
When the adrenaline hits and you need to make a great swing or smooth putt, you need your neurology to be firing in the right way and at the right time.
In my work with players like Justin Rose over the last decade, we have focused on making sure there is appropriate energy in the tank to finish strong. After four days of competition, the last few holes can be critical. So, we look to "tick the boxes" and control the variables under our influence that might impact performance.
Nutrition and hydration significantly influence multiple systems in this respect, such as blood glucose levels, muscle performance, hormonal balance, cognitive function in the brain, and regulating emotions .
Golf is as much cognitive as it is athletic. From a cognitive perspective, golf rewards superior decision-making. The top pros are incredibly aware of the environment, the weather, the flow of the round, the need to shift strategies at a moment's notice.
The brain processes a crazy amount of data in golf, and it is down to specific neural networks to process all this information moment-to-moment and help us access our best.
One network, in particular, is relevant here. It is called the Central Autonomic Network, and it plays a huge role in cognitive flexibility, emotional intelligence and decision-making . Diet and hydration impact this network and can therefore give us a brain-based advantage in our game.
From an athletic standpoint, golf places unique demands on the body . We need sufficient flexibility to access the range of motion required for an efficient and healthy swing. We need stability in the hips, torso and shoulders to ensure control of this motion in the swing. We need strength throughout the body to be able to absorb forces from the swing. We need the power in muscles to generate force quickly and maximise clubhead speed and ball speed.
For example, when you hit the ball with a driver, research shows the club head is moving at 48 metres per second . That is fast! It also is why athleticism is essential. We need muscles and "slings" to efficiently absorb, stabilise and produce this type of load without placing unnecessary stress on joints. Nutrition plays a significant role in optimising tissue health, muscle function and joint health, so we want to make it an advantage in your game.
Golf Nutrition Checklist
To make tips easy to digest, I have split recommendations into two main categories: foundational nutrition and then how you can use Kinetica products to help you.
The Night Before:
We have a saying at my company, "Good preparation quietens the mind." Ticking the boxes, a night before we play to get the body and brain in a good place for a round or practice is worth its weight in gold.
So, what ingredients matter here? If you are a committed amateur, a game of golf might involve a 30-minute physical warm-up, 60 minutes of hitting balls and working through the bag and then four and a half hours on the golf course.
Even though much of this is not demanding aerobically, it's still six hours of activity and a lot of time on our feet. The brain is also a hungry organ in golf and consumes up to 20% of the calories we consume each day.
With this in mind, the meal the night before we play is an excellent opportunity to fuel up with lean protein, fibre, low-GI carbohydrates and healthy fats. This type of meal will balance blood glucose, facilitate a good quality sleep, ensure adequate muscle glycogen, and provide the raw amino acids ahead of time that the body and brain utilise over the following 24 hours.
A stir-fry is a good example here, and it's quick and easy to make:
Lean protein: Chicken or turkey
Fibrous vegetables: Onions, broccoli, bell peppers, bok choi, asparagus
Low GI carbohydrates: Quinoa or brown rice
Healthy fats: Olive oil or coconut oil
Anti-inflammatory support: Garlic, ginger, turmeric
Garnish: coriander and sea salt
This type of meal is a go-to for players because you can get a lot of nutrient density into your diet, and it only takes 20-minutes to cook.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you could swap out the chicken or turkey with beans and pulses. This combination of the two helps to ensure a complete ratio of essential amino acids.
Nutrition before you tee off can be influenced by timing. You don't want to eat too close to tee off if it affects your energy or digestion. Equally, you'll want to have had something within 90 minutes of starting your round unless you are used to fasting and can go extended periods without consuming any calories.
Fasting can be an effective strategy for many people in their overall nutrition. Still, the effects on health, energy and focus are unique to the individual and not something we would recommend out of the blue as a new strategy before play.
If it's a morning tee-off, then a balanced meal with appropriate protein, complex carbs, fibre and healthy fats can work well here. For example, oats with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, blueberries and a couple of boiled eggs on the side is a good start.
Oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates for the boy and brain. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds offer essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats that we can only get from our diet. Blueberries are an additional source of carbohydrates and packed with antioxidants. Two eggs give you about 12 grams of protein, which is helpful for cognition and balancing blood glucose throughout the round.
During the Round:
If your pre-round nutrition strategies have been good, then typically, we recommend players refuel three times during the round in some way or another: around holes 3-4, 8-9 and 13-14.
These fuelling opportunities will incorporate a balance of proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, but there is often a slightly different focus depending on the timing.
At hole 3-4, you might want something like a chicken wrap with salad and hummus. This food is more substantial for a reason. If you have done a good warm-up and not eaten too close to tee off, by the time you get to holes 3 or 4, you'll want to fuel up and maintain good energy. This balanced profile of macronutrients can help you here.
You might want to opt for a different strategy around the turn, with something like a bar, plus a handful of nuts and seeds if you are hungry. The Kinetica protein bars are an excellent choice because they contain 15 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbohydrates and 7.6 grams of fat.
Many other bars on the market are much lower in protein and much higher in carbohydrates, and for many people, this negatively affects energy. Other bars are super high in protein but feel very heavy to chew on and digest. The balance of macronutrients in Kinetica bars are excellent for supporting your energy and stamina on the course.
As you go through holes 13-14, you'll be hitting the final stretch and want to maintain your energy and focus to the end. How you fuel up here is unique to the individual in my experience.
Some players feel good and do well with a piece of fruit and some nuts and seeds. Others swap the nuts and seeds for something higher in protein, such as biltong. I have a few pros that are often starving at this point and will have half a wrap or a full wrap.
There's no right or wrong here per se - what is vital is to try different nutrition strategies in the latter part of your round and notice what helps you sustain energy, focus and mood going into the last few holes.
When you get your nutrition right here, you will not feel a difference in mood, energy and endurance. You will be in the zone and feeling sharp. When you get it slightly off in your nutrition in these closing holes, you will find that taking on fuel either makes you feel much better (indicative of lower blood glucose before that point) or more tired.
It takes a little fine-tuning, but the tour players I support believe that getting nutrition right is worth maybe two shots per round because of its effect on decision-making, energy, and mood.
Maintaining your hydration status is also vital during the round. Research shows that dehydration causes a deterioration in cognitive function and decision-making.
Sipping high-quality water "little and often" helps you support brain and muscle function without necessarily feeling the sudden need for the toilet. If you are playing in the heat and at risk of losing trace minerals through sweat, taking on electrolytes with your water is also valuable.
USING KINETICA TO HELP YOU
If you have an early start and do not feel like breakfast or don't usually eat in the morning, you can still take on nutrition to help you perform well. Kinetica offers a few options that are well worth trying in this respect.
The PreFuel pre-workout supplement is light and easy to take on. It contains branched-chain amino acids, B vitamins and caffeine, all of which can be excellent for the body and the brain in the morning to give us energy.
If you do not want to eat but want to take on sufficient calories before your round, the Mass Gainer called Oat Gain from Kinetica can be a good fit. Each serving contains 630 calories, which is similar to the breakfast suggested above. Mass Gainer contains 82.8 grams of carbohydrates, 45.7 grams of protein, and 12.9 grams of fat.
During the Round
You might be someone who does not want to eat much during the round, but you recognise the importance of looking after your energy, athleticism and cognition.
Apart from Mass Gainer, the Recovery supplement from Kinetica is also good. It is lower in calories than Mass Gainer (255 calories per serving) and contains 41 grams of carbohydrates, 22.2 grams of protein, and 0.3 grams of fat.
Recovery can be a good solution for those who want to replenish glycogen stores during the back nine while also getting amino acids in for muscle function and a balanced mood.
As caffeine can have performance benefits, players my opt to use caffeine during a round. A dose of 1-3mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight may have a positive effect on concentration.
Kinetica PreFuel or Caffeine Gels contain 95mg and 105mg of caffeine respectively, which may be included as part of a fuelling strategy towards the end of a round.
Post-Round and Post-Workout
Fatigue is the enemy of human performance. For this reason, athletes place a premium on renewal. Post-round or post-workout, Kinetica's Whey and Creatine can make a big difference in helping you recover faster and be ready again to practice, compete or hit the gym.
Nutrition can give you a real advantage in your game. Golf is such a brilliant cognitive and athletic sport, and with the rise of golf fitness, more and more amateurs are seeing the value in embracing all aspects of health and wellness in their game.
As I looked to show you, there are various ways to support your performance through nutrition the night before, pre-round and during the round itself. If you are a golfing athlete, recovery is also a priority. Try the Kinetica products to help you play your best; in my mind, they are well worth the investment. They can add value to your game, taste great, and give you guaranteed purity and quality because of their accreditation with WADA and Informed-Sport. Enjoy!
About the author
Justin Buckthorp is a Kinetica Ambassador, a Health and Performance specialist and founder of 360 Health and Performance, a company passionate about helping people thrive. Justin has over 20 years’ experience working in clinics, professional sport, and corporate wellness, as well as extensive training in preventative health, functional medicine, strength & conditioning, and human performance.
Justin holds an MSc in Personalised Nutrition from Middlessex University and has a vast range of experience in numerous fields. He was an educator in the fitness industry delivering courses for the National Academy of Sports Medicine in the UK, has supported Team Europe in Ryder Cup events since 2008, and has sat on the European Tour Medical Advisory Board since 2009.
Justin is motivated by helping others achieve their goals, and in 2012 he founded 360 Health & Performance which leverages technology and education to help people in sport, the workplace, and healthcare. Justin also continues to support PGA, European Tour, LPGA Tour and LET golfers, which includes helping Justin Rose win the US Open in 2013, Olympic Gold in 2016, the Fedex Cup in 2018, and go from a world ranking of 70 in 2009 to world number one in 2019.