Do’s and Don’ts of Golf Nutrition

With the ever-changing competitiveness in the sport of golf, an athlete must have the right nutritional foundation in order to achieve optimal performance. An athlete must know what type of nutrients they need to consume before, during, and after training, practice or competition. Listening to your coaches and trainers is important, but if you do not take care of your body the way you take care of your swing, it could hinder your performance and produce adverse effects.


The Don’ts

When competing, an athlete will pretty much do anything they can to gain an edge over their opponent. Nutritionally a golfer will try to best their opponent by having more energy. This will lead to the athlete loading up on energy bars, drinks and supplements that have cheap/synthetic nutrients, high sugar concentrations, and stimulants (like caffeine). This usually, if not always, leads to the dreaded crash after a short duration of high energy levels. A sugar crash can cause an athlete to have confusion and difficulty concentrating on daily tasks, as well as hunger, irritability, headaches, fatigue, lethargy and anxiety. All of these are detrimental for an athlete and are usually the main items they are trying to avoid. Also, having sugar the night before a round can lead to restless sleep and may cause the athlete to be sluggish in the morning.

Don’t think that since you are in the midst of competition, that it is unacceptable to eat. Food is fuel for the body and needs to be treated as such. Not eating for 4-5 hours will leave the body malnourished and without the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients to provide maintenance and recovery for the body. One of the main symptoms of malnutrition is fatigue and the main indicator of malnutrition is a poor diet. If an athlete does not consume enough calories for their body to perform, and recover, their diet needs to be re-evaluated.

Since you are an athlete and likely to have a high energy expenditure throughout training and competition, do not think that overeating will give you a competitive edge. You do need to consume more nutrients than the average male or female, which will be explained below, but eating too much may lead to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, depression, bone deterioration, or stroke, which could all have dramatic negative effects in your performance.

The Do’s

What does a balanced diet, which is one that helps improve performance, look like? The following will describe types of foods to eat, macronutrient daily percentages for athletes, and a “6-hole nutrition plan” developed by sports nutritionist Matt Jones, featured in Golf Digest.

  • Eat nutrient dense foods:
    1. Eat the highly nutritious and nutrient dense foods that are available to you while getting rid of sugar, processed foods and junk foods. Although this will take away from your daily caloric intake, it will increase the nutrient value ingested by the body. Seven examples of nutrient dense foods are: wild-caught Alaskan salmon, bone broths, kale, raw garlic, sprouts, egg yolks and liver.
  • Managing your Glycemic Intake:
    1. Glycogen is a form of glucose that serves as a form of energy storage for humans.
    2. Minimizing grains, breads, starches and sugar will help regulate healthy blood sugar levels which could prevent a “sugar crash”.
    3. Eating foods that are relatively low on the glycemic index will help fight excessive body fat, fatigue and blood sugar imbalances.
  • Consume superfoods and supplements:
    1. Superfoods contain high levels of vitamins and minerals that are essential for the body; they help prevent our bodies from cell damage and help prevent disease.
    2. Some examples of superfoods are acai, goji berries, cocoa and chia seeds.
    3. Supplements are great to take if an athlete is allergic to a specific kind of food/nutrient.
      1. If an athlete is lactose intolerant (cannot digest the sugars in milk) and cannot drink milk, they might have a deficiency in calcium, Vitamin-D, magnesium, B12. Although they can get these vitamins from other foods, they can also get these vitamins by taking a nutritional supplement.
  • Consume healthy fats:
    1. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, some nuts and seeds. They are necessary for the immune system and help with hair, skin, endocrine glands, brain and the nervous system.
  • Consume the appropriate number of macronutrients for athletes.
    1. Protein: An athlete should consume 1.5-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight
      1. Amino acids (building blocks of protein) help the body regenerate cells and aid in muscular recovery.
      2. Good protein sources are lean meats (chicken and turkey), fish, eggs and some dairy.
    2. Carbohydrates: An athlete should consume 5-6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day (keeping in mind that the higher the carb is on the glycemic index, the more detrimental to the body; sugar or maltose is the highest on the GI, and the lowest on the GI is peanuts).
    3. Fats: 20%-35% of an athletes diet should be fats, such as: fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin cooked as well as, lard, cream, cheese, and milk products.
  • Drink Water: The human body is 50%-65% water. The amount of water an athlete should drink in ounces is their body weight in pounds multiplied by 0.5-1.0. This recommendation takes into consideration the amount of fluids lost during a weight training session, practice session, and competition.
  • The “6 Hole Meal Plan”:
    1. Before a Round: Consume a protein rich meal (eggs, meat, fish) paired with healthy fats (nuts, avocado, salmon) and mostly low GI carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and beans and some high GI carbohydrates (potatoes, quinoa, rice, or whole-grain breads).
    2. Holes 1-6: Eat foods that will help stabilize energy levels. Eat low GI carbohydrate foods: apples, pears, oranges, or berries paired with nuts. All of those foods are low in the glycemic index which have a slow sugar release resulting in sustained energy.
    3. Holes 7-12: A golfer will want to sustain their energy through foods, or snacks, that have a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Larabars ® are a great snack for this distribution of nutrients.
    4. Holes 13-18: The objective here is to maintain concentration over the last of the clutch shots. Higher carbohydrate snacks (bread and dried fruit) will give you the highest spike of blood sugar and allow you to have an increase in alertness.
    5. After a Round: Should be similar to the pre-round meal to help restore energy levels to their homeostatic state.


The current methods junior golfers are utilizing during training put more of an emphasis on moving the body with efficiency and speed, paired with strength and power. In order for an athlete to be able to achieve optimal performance, they need to have a foundation in nutrition. Every athlete is different in how their body reacts to training, nutrients, stress, and determination, but the above information can be applied to all athletes in order to achieve optimal performance. Always consult a health care professional or dietician before starting a new nutrition plan.


Shawn Mehring

IJGA Director of Performance Training

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