Exam Room – Fuel Your Body Like the Pros

Exam Room – Fuel Your Body Like the Pros

We are getting into the peak of golf season and it is that time of year in Texas for extreme heat. Chirosport wanted to share some tips about hydration and proper nutrition for playing your best golf this summer. Improper hydration and nutrition could be hindering your body from peak performace, especially if you struggle toward the middle of the round. It is something that even the best players deal with, so we want to share some knowledge about how to fuel your body properly. 

Your body is made up of 75% water and your brain is made up of about 85% water, which is why proper hydration is crucial for focus and endurance. Studies have shown that just a 1% loss of water can impact performance, a 2% loss places you at risk for nausea and fatigue, and a loss of more than 3% places you at risk for heat exhaustion. 

Fueling your body for golf seems simple right? Grab a quick breakfast at a drive through on the way to the course, have a hot dog at the turn and a beer and a burger after your round. But this is not a recipe for optimum performance. The average round of golf takes around four hours and the key to keeping your body fueled is to keep energy and blood sugar levels as stable as possible. Having foods high in sugars such as candy, breads and potatoes, cause spikes in insulin (the hormone released after eating) and then crashes in blood sugar. A better option would be foods high in protein and healthy fats, examples include eggs, bacon, nut butters and avocados. You also want to think twice about that banana on the driving range before you tee it up, as it will cause a drop in your blood sugar around the fourth hole, leaving you wondering where your golf ball is going. The key is keeping your blood sugar stable with minimal spikes in insulin.

Before we dig deeper into more nutrition let’s talk about hydration. Hydration, you might be thinking, “That’s easy. Drink more water.” However, hydration can be more complicated, because the average American, including many of our patients and clients, are chronically dehydrated. The rule of thumb for normal hydration during the day without physical activity is, half your body weight in ounces. For a 200 pound male, that is 100 ounces of water, or about six bottles.

In addition, you have to find out how much water you need during physical activity. This is easy, just take your weight before and after the activity and find the difference. This difference is how much water you have lost, unfortunately not how much fat you lost during the round. Weight loss from physical activity doesn’t happen until hours and days afterwards, when your body finally utilizes excess calories to replenish your muscles and energy storages. Instead, this is the amount of water lost during activity, and in turn is the amount needed to be consumed in order to avoid dehydration. One pound is equal to 16 ounces, or one water bottle, so you can now add this amount to your daily intake goals.

Hacks for hydration pre-round can actually start on Friday, if you are playing over the weekend. Getting your body hydrated the day before your round will give you a leg up over your buddies who were out drinking the night before. Unfortunately, alcohol and coffee dehydrate your body, muscles and cells. So be careful with having too much caffeine in the morning before teeing it up. I tell all my patients to drink a bottle of water as soon as they get up, since your body has not had any water since the night before. Try drinking a bottle of water Saturday or Sunday before your round.

Drinking water during your round can be tricky, but you don’t want to wait until you get thirsty. You are already showing sign of dehydration if you are thirsty, and your performance is likely compromised. We recommend taking about 50% of your daily water intake during this long period of activity. If your set water intake is 100 ounces, try to get 50 ounces. This equates to 3-4 water bottles, which is easy to consume if you plan to drink a water bottle every 3-4 holes. 

During and post round is where electrolytes become important. Gatorade and Powerade are two of the most well known sports drinks, but we do not recommend those products. First off, they do not even contain all 5 electrolytes, they only have sodium and potassium. There are 3 other equally as important electrolytes: calcium, magnesium and chloride. Secondly, these sports drinks contain a lot of sugar. Remember what we said earlier, sugar causes spikes in blood sugar, and causes you to crash later on. We want to avoid this by using a product that has electrolytes, but not the sugar. Other minerals such as phosphorus, zinc, selenium, vitamin c, copper, chromium, B-vitamins and amino acids are an added bonus. Having these electrolytes and minerals during and after will improve on course performance and improve your recovery so you can return to the course (or your honey-do list) the next day. You will be surprised how well your body recovers the day after the round if you have proper hydration and electrolytes after you play.

Some brands that we recommend instead include; BioSteel, Vega hydrator, Nuun, Pedialyte and EmergenC.

Combining proper hydration with proper nutrition is the best way to fuel your body. A typical round of golf burns about 800-1000 calories (more if you are walking) and this amount of calories should be consumed before activity, so that your body does will not use other fuel sources, wasting energy and compromising your muscles. We recommend a balanced breakfast that includes foods high in protein and fats, like eggs and bacon with avocado, to give us consistent and sustained energy. It is acceptable to have some fruit, however keep it to fruits that have lower sugar content and are higher in fiber such as avocados, black and blueberries, apples and raspberries. We want to avoid fruits higher in sugar such as bananas and oranges, and limit potatoes, grits, breads, cereals and grains to keep blood sugar levels stable. 

Instead of grabbing a Snickers or hot dog at the turn, let’s shoot for sustained energy and stable blood sugar throughout the round.  Examples include nuts, nut butters, protein shakes or jerky. What do these foods have in common? They are all high in protein and fats, to give you consistent energy throughout the day. It is better to snack on these foods throughout the round, rather than having one big meal at the turn, which will cause a spike in your blood sugar around the 13th. Common snacks you see on tour such as bananas are not ideal on course snacks and you will never see our players eating these during tournament play.

The focus of post round fueling is to replenish your body. Foods high in protein are beneficial, and this is where we finally recommend some type of carbohydrate intake. Examples include chicken, meats and fish combined with a complex carbohydrate vegetable such as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, brussel sprouts or sweet potatoes. A protein shake post round is also a good idea, to replenish muscle damage and replace your amino acid storage caused during the round. 

This is what the best players in the world do. Their performance is based on how they feel and take care of their bodies. To recap, drink more water the night before and during your round.Eat fewer carbs before and during your round. Choose better on the course snacks. Skip the burger and beer after and go for lean protein and complex vegetables. Try to implement a couple or all of these tips in your round and you’ll be surprised how good you start to feel, and how much your golf game improves.