Best Golf Snacks for Energy on the Course
Planning the right golf snacks for a day on the course can help ensure you have the energy needed to compete at your best. Let’s take a look at how to plan the best golf snacks to help you stay fueled and hydrated through the last hole.
Carbohydrates for Energy on the Golf Course
Golf is considered a low-energy expenditure sport, which requires coordination and fine-motor skills1. Total energy needs vary based upon the number of holes played, the layout of the course, as well as whether you walk the course or ride in a golf cart.
Carbohydrates in the diet provide the body with the energy needed for activity. Foods that contain carbohydrates include grain, fruits, starchy vegetables, and dairy. Enjoying carbohydrate-rich snacks on the course can help ensure golfers energy needs are met throughout the day.
Golfers following a gluten-free diet can still easily meet their sports nutrition needs with carefully planned snacks. If you need ideas, my blog Gluten Free Carbohydrates for Athletes, may be of help.
Golf Snacks: Mini-Meals
In addition to carbohydrates, plan for snacks that can serve as mini-meals during the day. You can do this by including a source of lean protein with your carbohydrate-rich snack.
Some easy snacks to throw into your golf bag or cooler include:
- Fruit: Bananas, apple slices, oranges, grapes, dried fruit, applesauce squeeze pouches
- Bars: Granola bars, breakfast bars, fig bars, carbohydrate-based sports bars
- Breads and Grains: Mini bagels, dry breakfast cereal, pretzels, pita chips, snack crackers
- Protein: Jerky, nut butter, nuts, deli meat, string cheese
One of my favorite easy-to-eat snack ideas is build your own trail mix. Simply mix together your favorite whole grain crackers, dry cereal, pretzels, dried fruit, seeds, and nuts. Pack the mix into individual serving size bags to enjoy on the golf course.
Hydration on the Golf Course
When planning golf snacks, don’t forget about the importance of hydration. Dehydration can negatively impact sports performance and cognitive function. It also increases your chance of developing a heat-related illness, especially when exercising in a hot and humid environment2.
Golfers should aim to start the day on the course in a hydrated state. Consuming fluids with your breakfast as well as in the hours leading up to competition is important. Also consider including sodium during this period, either from the food you eat or in a sports drink. The sodium will stimulate thirst, thus encouraging you to drink, and also help your body hold onto the fluid you consume2.
During activity, golfers should aim to minimize the amount of dehydration that occurs2. When you sweat, you lose both fluid and electrolytes. The main electrolyte lost in sweat is sodium. Thus, when considering hydration needs, it is important to focus on replacing both fluids and sodium.
Individuals vary greatly in regard to the amounts of fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat. Therefore, it is best to work with a Sports Dietitian who can help develop an individualized hydration plan that meets your specific needs.
Packing sports drinks to take with you on the golf course can be a good option. Sports drinks are formulated to contain carbohydrates, sodium, and a small amount of potassium. When consumed during activity, the carbohydrates in the sports drink provide energy for the working muscles. The sodium and potassium in the sports drink helps replace electrolytes lost in sweat.
When selecting a sports drink, it is important to recognize that not all sports drinks contain the same concentration of carbohydrates, sodium, and potassium. When looking for a sports drink to consume during activity, check for the following2:
- Carbohydrates: 6-8% carbohydrate concentration (14-19 g carbohydrate/8 oz)
- Sodium concentration: 20–30 meq per L (~110-165 mg sodium/8 oz)
- Potassium concentration: ~2–5 meq per L (~20-50 mg potassium/8 oz)
Review the nutrition facts label of the sports drink you are considering to see if it contains the nutrients you need in the correct amounts for activity.
Reduced or Zero Sugar Sports Drinks
If you have planned a variety of carbohydrate-rich snacks to enjoy on the golf course, a reduced or zero sugar sports drink may be a good option for hydration. The reduced/zero sugar sports drinks provide the same electrolytes as regular sports drinks with less (or no) carbohydrates. If you are meeting your carbohydrate needs through your snacks, the reduced/zero sugar sports drink can help with replacing electrolytes lost in sweat.
Individual Packets of Sports Drink Mix
Consider keeping individual packets of sports drink mix with you in your golf bag. You can easily grab a bottle of water from the club house to add in the sports drink mix. This is a great option if you are traveling for competition and want to ensure you have your favorite brand and flavor of sports drink available.
Avoid energy drinks when you are spending a day on the golf course. In addition to caffeine, energy drinks often contain a proprietary blend of ingredients. The blend may include ingredients such as: taurine, B Vitamins, guarana, green tea extract, L-carnitine, ginseng, ginger root, and chromium. The combination of ingredients may have a synergistic, stimulatory effect in the body and lead to health concerns.
If you need extra energy while on the golf course, eat one of the snacks you have packed. Foods that are high in carbohydrates provide the body with energy and can give you the boost you need.
If you feel you have an ongoing lack of energy, make sure you are getting enough sleep each night to allow your body time to rest and recover. Also consider meeting with a Registered Dietitian who can create an individualized meal plan to meet your specific sports nutrition needs.
Plan Your Golf Snacks Ahead
As you prepare for your day on the golf course, it is important to take time to plan what snacks you will take with you. Don’t count on being able to grab the snacks you need to support your sports nutrition needs from the club house alone.
Make sure to consider what you will need to carry your snacks with you on the course. Also think about whether or not you will have a cooler to keep foods and drinks cold throughout the day.
Don’t Forget About Food Safety
Taking steps to minimize the risk of foodborne illness is important. Keep food safety in mind as you prepare your golf snacks to take with you on the course.
Clean Hands Before Eating
The first step to food safety is washing your hands. On the golf course it is not likely you will have the chance to wash your hands with soap and running water each time you want to eat. This being the case, make sure to pack hand sanitizer to take with you on the golf course. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
Choose a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. To apply the hand sanitizer, rub the gel all over your hands and fingers. Continue rubbing your hands together until they are dry. Make sure to use the hand sanitizer prior to eating.
Cold Food Cold
Another important step to ensure food safety is holding cold food cold. If you plan to take perishable foods, such as meat, cheese, and cut fruit, with you as snacks they need to be stored in a cooler. Perishable foods should not be left out of the cooler for more than 2 hours. This time frame decreases to 1 hour if the temperature exceeds 90 °F. If food is left out over these time limits, throw it away – it is not worth the risk of getting a foodborne illness.
Use extra caution with maintaining temperature control for the following foods:
- Deli meat
- Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products
- Mayonnaise or products containing mayonnaise (tuna or chicken salad)
- Eggs (hard-boiled eggs, egg salad)
- Sliced Fruits and Vegetables (especially cut melon)
To reduce the amount of time food is out of the cooler, pack individual servings of items rather than one large container. This way you can grab a snack size serving to enjoy without exposing the rest of the food to the heat.
Practice Your Golf Snacks
During golf practice, try out different types of snacks so you can determine which snacks work best for you. Just as you practice your golf strokes and putting skills, you want to practice your sports nutrition fueling plan. Knowing you have a sports nutrition plan in place can give you confidence that you are fueled to perform at your best.
You are now set with ideas on the best golf snacks to pack to help you stay fueled and hydrated to perform at your best. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is another key sports nutrition strategy for golfers. For breakfast ideas, check-out my recent blog: 3 Keys to Building Healthy Breakfasts for Athletes.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.
- Rosenbloom, C. A., & Coleman, E. J. (2012). Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals (5th ed.). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- American College of Sports Medicine, Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, E. R., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 39(2), 377–390. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597