Golfers can spend hours on a golf course, and whether it is a hot, sunny day in Phoenix or a chilly day in Chicago, golfers get hungry. But the question is, “What’s in your golf bag to snack on?” because that snack can determine how the rest of your game goes that day.
Golf requires power in each swing of the club, but it isn’t a high glycolytic sport, meaning, it doesn’t demand high levels of glucose in order to function like a 2-hr basketball game requires. Golfers need steady energy for focus and concentration, and to get through hours of walking or standing on the course. They do not need a bolus of sugar-laden snacks that will only spike their energy briefly, then leave them crashing shortly after, or inflamed and more susceptible to injury.
Packaged and processed foods are designed for convenience: Open wrapper. Eat. Done. However, the convenience of those snacks is what makes them so detrimental to your health. Most processed foods are full of refined carbohydrates, sugar (including high fructose corn syrup), additives, artificial flavors, and colors, and really don’t contain any real food in their ingredient lists at all. Scary! Most people know this, but the lure of their simplicity, low cost, and high palatability make them seem like a good snack to bring along for a game. Sorry, Snickers, but you aren’t so ideal.
Golfers need sustained energy, and the macro that gives that the best is fat. Yes, fat. It is satiating, filling, and calorically dense, so you don’t need to eat a lot of it to feel satisfied. But what is a good source of fat on the golf course? For sake of convenience—because let’s face it, you are on a golf course, and you’re standing, not sitting—I’m going to give you one of my top favorites that you can DIY: trail mix.
DIY: Trail Mix
Raw nuts and seeds (or roasted but without added oils) are a great source of sustained energy. They are packed with antioxidants, contain protein, fat, and fiber, are low carb, and are easy finger foods. Some of my favorites include almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Making your own trail mix is a great way to fuel on the course. What’s wrong with store-bought, pre-assembled trail mix? Well, sadly, a lot of things. Most have added vegetable oils such as canola or sunflower seed. These oils are sub-par, pro-inflammatory, and not something you really should eat for optimal health, let alone, optimal performance! Oftentimes trail mix also has dried fruit in it. Again, what is wrong with dried fruit? Isn’t it just fruit that is dried? Well, sometimes it is, but most times they’ve added those same vegetable oils to them along with added sugar. Think Craisins…they sound like a healthy idea, but they have added cane sugar and are processed with sunflower oil, so, they really aren’t that great for you in the end.
So, what should you add to your homemade trail mix? Items like dried plantains (think “bananas”, but a slower carb), baked (in coconut oil) sweet potato chips (crunchy, a bit sweet, and salty), or even some dark (74% or higher) chocolate chips—because who doesn’t like chocolate?—can add some tasty carbs to get you going, but are not highly fermentable in the gut like most dried fruits are. Just be mindful of the outside temperature, because we all know how chocolate in the heat turns out! If you think you can tolerate some dried fruit, make sure no sugar has been added, and go with something you know you digest well.
The main takeaway is that your fuel needs to match your energy demands. If athletes are sprinting or have to be explosive many times throughout a game or sport, then their fuel needs are different than that of athletes who need to keep a steady pace with great focus. You always want your fuel to be clean and burn clean, and healthy fats such as those found in nuts and seeds meet both of those requirements. You can make a big batch at home, keep it in the fridge (to avoid oxidation in the nuts), and portion what you need for your day on the course in a Ziplock bag. And with your DIY trail mix, you can still: open the bag. Eat. Done.