Eat Better, Play Better: 13 Healthy Foods and Drinks to Play Your Best Round of Golf

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We all know food is fuel. What we put into our bodies determines how well we perform, both mentally and physically. Eating healthy on the golf course will give you a competitive advantage and lower your score. Athletes do everything possible to perform at peak levels, adopting a complete balanced diet is a key factor.

What should you eat and drink before and during a round of golf?

That depends.

You could eat and drink whatever you want if you’re not too serious about your game or if you’re determined to have a rollicking good time. Load up the cooler with beer and other favorite beverages. Eat everything in sight at the golf course—all those salty, fatty and sugary foods and snacks.

On the other hand, if you want to eat healthy and use food as fuel, and if your goal is to sustain your energy and concentration so you can play your best, then read on.

There’s no big secret to healthy eating and drinking for golf. It’s the same dietary advice you might expect for other situations. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is to think ahead and not solely rely on what’s available at the golf course. It’s about changing behavior. Packing some healthy snacks and making better choices at the course are relatively small achievable goals.

What follows are the information, lists and tips I gleaned from articles at Golf Digest, Southern California Golf Association, Golf Channel, Fox Sports and a handful of golf blogs.

justin-rose-eating-healthy-while-golfing

What to Eat and Drink on the Golf Course

Here are foods we found to be the most beneficial and healthy to enjoy on the course.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Not only are they easy to carry and eat, hard-boiled eggs are high in protein for lasting energy and focus.

Fresh Whole Fruit: Bananas, Apples, Grapes, Pears and more

Among the best things you can eat. Whole fruits are packed with dietary fiber and important nutrients like potassium.

Nuts: Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Peanuts and more

Nuts offer healthy protein, fats and minerals that fill you up and help you power through your round. Plus, they’re easy to carry and munch on.

Trail Mix

Make your own and it will be healthier (no preservatives and other additives). Toss dark chocolate chips, mixed nuts and fruit like raisins in a bowl. Stir it up and package it in small plastic bags.

Jerky: Beef, Turkey, Chicken

Jerky is packed with protein that gives you energy and without a heavy feeling in your stomach. All-natural brands are better because they aren’t high in sodium and don’t have preservatives.

Peanut Butter Sandwich

Peanut butter contains healthy fats, vitamins and minerals—and it’s a great source of protein. Spread it on whole grain bread for long-lasting energy.

Popcorn

Make your own and bag it for a high-fiber snack. Avoid lots of butter and salt.

Turkey and Ham Roll Ups

Put turkey and ham slices in a sandwich bag for another easy high-protein snack on the golf course.

Fresh Veggies: Carrots, Celery Sticks, Cucumber Slices, Cherry Tomatoes, Bell Peppers

You can’t go wrong with veggies. They have lots of fiber that fill you up and help you focus on your game.

Hummus

Made from chickpeas, hummus is a good source of protein, fiber and carbohydrates.

Fiber Crackers

A healthy cracker on which to spread peanut butter and hummus.

Nutrition, Granola and Protein Bars

These are tricky. While some deliver health benefits, many are not healthy because they are high in sugar and loaded with additives. It’s better to steer toward whole foods like those mentioned above. (More about these so-called health bars on the what-not-to-eat list, below.)

Drink Lots of Water

Water is the best thing to drink, hands down. Be wary of sports drinks, which are often loaded with sugar even though they tout replenishment of electrolytes and more.

What are the Best Foods to Eat Before and During a Round of Golf?

Matt Jones is a sports nutritionist who has worked with European Tour players. In a 2015 story in Golf Digest, Jones talked about the best foods to eat before and during a round.

“Before a round begins, you should consume a meal rich in protein, healthy fats, low-glycemic complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and beans, and small quantities of whole-grain starches such as potatoes, quinoa, rice or whole-grain breads,” Jones said.

Dietary needs change once the round begins, added Jones, who developed an eating plan called “Super 6 Strategy.”

Stabilize energy levels on the first six holes, eating fruits like apples and oranges and snacking on nuts. To maintain energy on the middle six holes, consume foods that include protein, fat and carbohydrates. Consider peanut butter and tuna sandwiches made with whole grain bread. The goal is to finish strong on the final six holes, where an energy boost is needed. High-carb snacks such as dried fruit can lift your blood sugar and game down the stretch.

And throughout and after the round, “drink a lot of water,” Jones said.

What NOT to Eat and Drink While Golfing

andrew-beef-johnston-eating-a-burger

Where’s the Beef? Burgers though deliciously tasty, are high in saturated fat, calories, salt, and cholesterol. Earning them a spot on our list of foods to avoid.

Why are the following foods and drinks on the no-no list?

A variety of reasons, including too much sugar, high in sodium, bad fats and carbohydrates, too much caffeine, empty calories and sedative effects (beer and alcohol).

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these not-so-healthy foods and drinks. Instead, eat that loaded hot dog and guzzle that cold beer after the round. And grab that donut and diet soda long before or soon after golf rather than between nines.

Here are foods and drinks to avoid:

  • Hog dogs

  • Hamburgers

  • French fries

  • Donuts

  • Fried breakfast

  • Pancakes

  • Most breakfast cereal

  • Most granola, nutrition and sports bars

  • Pretzels

  • Coffee

  • Fruit juice

  • Soft drinks and diet soda

  • Energy and sports drinks

  • Beer and other alcoholic beverages

bubba-watson-eating-donuts

Sorry Bubba, donuts made our list of foods to avoid.

The truth is, I already knew much of the above, and perhaps you did, too. However, when it comes to making healthier choices, we probably can’t hear it too much.

When you and I do make healthier choices, remember that it’s possible to actually enjoy them, in addition to feeling more energetic and focused. (Apples are delicious. Beef jerky is chewy and satisfying. Carrot sticks are at least crunchy.)

This healthier fuel can help us feel and play better. We might even cut a few strokes from our score. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Neil Sagebiel

Neil Sagebiel is a golf writer and author of two golf books published by St. Martin's Press, THE LONGEST SHOT and DRAW IN THE DUNES. He lives in Floyd, Virginia.
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