Eating Like a Healthy Golfer
Ever considered changing your dietary inputs for the sake of your golf game, but didn’t know how to go about it, or even where to start? This was the case with a recent soon-to-turn pro golf student who visited us for a golf-science consultation (that being one that covers not just the golf swing but also fitness, nutrition, sports psychology and injury concerns). This golfer had been “on the couch” for 18 months because of an injury, so was desperate to lose weight, but we did not want her to run out of energy over 18 holes of competitive golf.
In order to get her some meal planning recommendations (which only a registered dietician, not someone with a mere masters’ degree in nutrition, is eligible to do), she visited a local, well respected “performance center” in the DFW area. All she got was a folder full of printouts pulled off the Internet! If the advice was not going to be a personalized recommendation for a daily meal plan to help her with slow-and-steady weight loss, as well as what to eat on competition days, anyone could have given this golfer some useful tips! This article is dedicated to all those who just want some simple yet scientific tips toward a healthful diet, with no crazy dieting and a lot of healthy eating.
So, first off, what are calories anyway? In simple terms, calories represent the energy available from food. Each person, based on their sex, age, weight and height, requires a certain amount of energy (calories) that are adequate and sufficient for all their daily activities. These include calories used by the body for its basic life processes (while resting); to digest any food eaten and convert it to useful bodily matter; and to allow for any daily physical activity a person might undertake.
Thus, to plan a daily food intake that is at the same time enough but not excessive, the first requirement is to calculate (not guess) how many calories per day one should consume. Then, if desired, a safe weight loss strategy can be planned with a caloric deficit of 3500 calories per week, or 500 calories per day (not easy), through a combination of less calories eaten per day and more exercise.
So, how might one know how to calculate their daily caloric requirement? There are many great websites into which one can simply input one’s sex, age (years), amount of physical activity per day, weight and height to get a good approximation of how many calories of food to consume per day. One website with good information, which also explains the formulae on which the calculations are based, is www.globalrph.com.
Suppose our golfer from out of town discovered that her ideal caloric intake for weight maintenance was 1800 – this number of calories might just be a deficit from what she already eats, so that is a good starting point without trying to rush into drastic weight-loss! What could she do next? For anyone with no idea of where to begin planning suitable meals, an easy first step is to go to choosemyplate.gov to get a simple visual of how much fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy should be in your meal choices. This concept is much simpler than trying to calculate how many carbohydrates, proteins and fats are in each item you eat. It also helps to ensure that a person gets those most important micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – too.
The next step would be to go grocery shopping to stock up on the right foods. It has been well said that one should avoid anything that one’s great grandmother would not recognize as food – for instance, anything that comes out of a packet and is as distantly related to food as a pig is to a wild boar! Another tip is to shop the periphery, not the middle, of your typical grocery store, as all the healthy foods are usually kept there.
While making sure of the main food groups, it is simple enough to avoid any foods that you are allergic to, are medically required to avoid, or simply do not like. It’s really that simple for the average weekend golfer. With regard to actual meals – which should include breakfast, lunch, dinner and a small in-between snack – a good rule of thumb is “breakfast like a king and dine like a pauper” which allows enough time to digest it all during the parts of the day a golfer is likely to be most active.
On the day-of? Prefer to have a breakfast (do not avoid one) high in slow-burning carbohydrates; drink a lot of water or other healthy (i.e. without artificial colors or preservatives or excessive sugars) fluid; eat small snacks on the course, which include bananas, dates or nuts; and then follow up with a protein-rich dinner which will help you to recover and recuperate from a (walking, less so for cart) round of golf. While one’s nutritional plan should have some scientific basis, it need not be as technical as people make it out to be – our intrepid golf student from out-of-town being a case in point!
Kiran Kanwar is the developer of The Minimalist Golf Swing System -100% scientific, simple and specific. She has BS degrees in physics and math); MS degrees in sports science and nutrition; and is pursuing a PhD in biomechanics. She is a Class A Member: the LPGA, The NGA of India, The PGA of India. Visit her website: www.mgs.golf