Nutrition & Hydration

The benefits of good nutrition and hydration are widely documented and include the following:

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Brain health
  • Protection of bones and teeth
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Maintenance of healthy weight
  • Improved energy and concentration

Sports nutrition is based on the cornerstones of good daily nutrition and hydration. These will have as much influence on physical performance as specific strategies on the actual days of training or competition.

A round of golf places some specific demands on physical performance that need to be addressed with individually tailored nutrition and hydration plans. These include:

  • Energy cost = 4.8 METs
  • Distance covered = 11-17000 steps or 4-8 miles
  • Energy expenditure = 1200 kcal per 18 holes

There is sound evidence that the timing of nutrition & hydration prior to training/competition and consumption of carbohydrates & water during sustained exercise (>45-60 minutes) will greatly improve performance. In addition, research has shown that even mild dehydration (1-2% of body mass) significantly impairs cognitive-motor task performance. Therefore, in addition to good daily habits, golf nutrition strategies generally address three key areas of training/competition:

  • Pre-round/training nutrition & hydration
  • Nutrition & hydration during round/training
  • Post-round/training recovery
The Eatwell Guide is a pictorial illustration of a healthy eating model, which offers evidence-based advice for day-to-day nutrition and hydration.

The Eatwell Guide

Pre-round/training nutrition & hydration

It can take 3-4 hours to fully digest a large meal, so this is the time that should be allowed prior to training or competition. The meal should typically be:

  • High in complex carbohydrates (to maximise glycogen stores) e.g. pasta, rice, cereals, root veg
  • Moderate in protein e.g. milk, eggs, fish, chicken/poultry
  • Low in fat and fibre

This can be supplemented with a small carbohydrate-rich meal or snack approximately one hour before competing. Guidelines for hydration prior to training or competition are as follows:

  • Drink 500ml of water up to 2 hours before 
  • Drink another 250ml around 30 minutes before

Nutrition & hydration during round/training

It is important to balance the amount of carbohydrate taken in during the round with the demands of the sport and the body’s ability to metabolise. With regard to hydration, fluid loss through sweating varies greatly between individuals. Weighing pre and post round could give a more accurate idea of hydration requirements. A loss of one kilo during the round would require replacement of one litre of fluid. Some general guidelines are as follows:

  • Consume around 30-35 grams of carbohydrate per hour during the round
  • Drink approximately 100ml of water every 10 minutes (this will vary between individuals)

Post-round/training recovery

In nutritional terms, the focus of recovery is to replace the nutrients and fluids lost through exercise. Two actions performed at this time, Refuel and Rehydrate, together with Rest and Repair form the 4 “R’s” of an overall recovery process. Most important to note is that metabolism is raised for approximately 30 minutes after exercise and this is the most effective time window for the body to uptake and replenish lost nutrients. Nutritional requirements of recovery are as follows:

  • Carbohydrates (to replace any remaining loss and restore glycogen levels) e.g. pasta, rice, cereals, root veg
  • Protein (1/4 of daily requirement for amino acids, the building blocks of lean muscle mass) e.g. milk, eggs, fish, chicken/poultry
  • Water (to replace any remaining fluid loss through sweating)
  • Electrolytes (to replace chemicals lost through sweating)
  • [/themeone_ul]

    The body not only requires carbohydrates for muscle metabolism, but also for proper function of the immune system. Prolonged endurance training (>90 minutes) can cause a slight drop in immune function for 24-36 hours, so effective carbohydrate replacement is needed to avoid coughs and colds.


    Hargreaves, M. (2001). Pre-exercise nutritional strategies: effects on metabolism and performance. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26(Supplement), S64-70
    Hargreaves, M. et. al. (2004). Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fat ingestion: effects on metabolism and performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(1), 31-38
    Hawley, J.A. & Burke, L.M. (1997). Effect of meal frequency and timing on physical performance. British Journal of Nutrition, 77(Supplement 1), S91-103
    Lemon, P.W. (1995). Do athletes need more dietary protein and amino acids? International Journal of Sports Nutrition, 5(Supplement), S39-61
    Smith, M.F. et al. (2012). Effect of acute mild dehydration on cognitive-motor performance in golf. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(11), 3075-3080
    Suzuki, M. (2003). Glycaemic carbohydrates consumed with amino acids or protein right after exercise enhance muscle formation. Nutrition Reviews, 61(5, pt.2), S88-S94
    Tipton, K.D. et al. (2001). Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. American Journal of Physiology, 281, E197-E206
    Volek, J.S. (2004). Influence of nutrition on response to resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(4), 689-696