Should Golfers Go Low Carb?

Yep that’s right – two posts in two days! Well I haven’t been that great at posting of late so this my attempt to make up for it.

Today’s article is something I’m really excited about too. There’s not enough nutrition content on this site because, quiet frankly, it’s not my JPD-nutrition-stronger-golfarea of expertise. Fortunately I know someone for whom it is.

Jordan Donohue is a BSc in Human Nutrition and owner of JPD Nutrition. JPD nutrition is awesome at providing cutting edge, evidence based nutrition (a lot like we try to do here at Sronger Golf for golfers strength and fitness). Jordan is also a damn stand up guy. You can find him on his facebook page and his website

So over to Jordan…

 

The following article is going to explore whether or not going low carb is a good idea for golfers. Nutrition plans are never simple and when designing them we have to take into account the following:

-Energy systems used during golf and training

-The goal of the nutrition plan

-The goal of the training session (gym/golf training)

Nutrition For Golf

I really do not mean to offend anyone when I say this but Golf is a low ‘intensity’ sport from a purely physiological standpoint (there are no sprints, jumps, maximal efforts etc.). It is VERY important to understand this, as it determines what fuel is used during a round.
Golf typically comprises of two movements for which we must consider the energy demand:

– Hitting the ball – High intensity over a very short duration (< 2s), energy demand not very high

– Walking between hitting the ball – low intensity demand over moderate distances, energy demand not very high

Due to golf’s low intensity it is very rare that a player would ever be working at over 50% of their VO2Max at any given point on the course (unless said player was VERY unfit). Although there are individual differences, at exercise intensities under 50% of VO2Max the predominant substrate being oxidised is fat (with very minimal carbs).

Because of this golfers might consider looking at the amount of carbohydrates they eat on the days where they are simply playing golf. Take a look at these examples, estimate their relative intensities, and think about what type of fuel (fat or carb) is predominantly used.

Playing Golf:

Majority of the time you are walking at a very low intensity. Hitting the ball is a powerful movement but it’s over within seconds… followed by another low intensity walk.

The Driving Range:

Different fuel needs to playing golf. No walking whatsoever and often involves hundreds of swings. It wouldn’t be classed as high intensity but it isn’t as low intensity as a round of golf. It would be hard to give an evidence based answer due to the lack of research in golfers but logic suggests that an increased carbohydrate intake on driving range days could be warranted.

 
The Gym/Strength + Conditioning:

Clearly during your gym/strength + conditioning session you are operating at a much higher intensity when compared to playing golf/driving range days. Again, it is difficult to find out exactly what percentage of VO2MAX you are operating at but we can safely assume that for some of the workout you will be primarily oxidising carbohydrates.

Tailor Your Nutrition to Your Energy Demands/Goals

Essentially, your carbohydrate requirements are VERY different depending on the fuel demands of each particular session. If you are fond of the idea of going low carb remember it will only be of benefit on certain days. Your strength + conditioning day is NOT one of them (unless your goal is weight loss). In the world of sports nutrition it’s important to remember that your nutrition plan should always be tailored to the energy demands of that particular day or session. Your nutrition must also support your desired training/performance outcome. Nutrition for performance and nutrition for weight loss are VERY different things, remember this and you’ll be miles ahead of most players/practitioners. If you would like online nutrition coaching to help periodise your diet please get in contact with me.

A Random Thought About Walking Between Shots:

As I was writing this article I started to think about golf (obviously). More importantly, I started to think about the fact that I didn’t have a golf trolley or cart when I played… I used to carry my bag everywhere with a full set of clubs! For the athletically gifted among us this probably wouldn’t increase our carbohydrate needs by much, but for those of us who aren’t as fit it could increase the percentage of our VO2MAX we operate at while walking around the links. As mentioned earlier, the higher percentage VO2MAX we operate in, the more carbohydrates we burn. So… IF you go low carb you are more entitled to a golf trolley or cart!

Body Composition

We need to get one thing clear, going low carb alone will NOT improve your body composition (fat loss). To lose weight you have to be in a calorie deficit, the macronutrient you manipulate in your diet (fat or carb) is somewhat irrelevant. The reason why people lose weight when they go low carb is simple. The majority of us over consume carbohydrates more than any other macronutrient. By eliminating carbs you are dropping your calories without realising it. You may also be increasing the body’s ability to oxidise fat but that’s a biochemistry conversation to be had on another day.

An improvement in body composition (fat loss) is almost always advantageous unless your sport requires you to be a little heavy (think offensive lineman in the NFL). However, being in a calorie deficit, with the goal of fat loss, is NOT advantageous for performance. During calorie deficits you will have less energy and will not train with the same intensity. I always recommend losing weight in the off season precisely for this reason. We must differentiate between nutrition for weight loss and nutrition for performance.

Conclusion

It is vitally important that you differentiate between performance nutrition and nutrition with the goal of fat loss. If you are happy with your body composition and want to go low carb you should consume the same amount of calories as you did when your diet was high carb, you are simply changing the ratios of each macronutrient. If you are unhappy with your body composition and want to lose fat, going low carb may be a good idea, but you still have to account for your calories. Going low carb alone will not make you lose body fat – the reason people lose weight on a low carb diet is because they typically over consume carbs.

I recommend golfers go low carb on their playing days and consume moderate amounts of carbohydrates on their driving range/S+C days. They should also go low carb on the days where they do nothing (sitting in the computer chair at work all day then going home to bed).

Take home message: Periodisation is key!

Did I just blow your mind? Leave a comment, then share with EVERYBODY!

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