Dietary habits significantly affect your body weight, body composition, and physical health. Because most Americans consume too many calories for their level of activity, about three out of four adults are overweight, predisposing them to various diseases and degenerative problems. You should be aware that excessive body fat increases your risk of heart disease, joint problems, diabetes, low back pain, and many types of cancer. Of course, extra fat also interferes with proper swing mechanics and optimum golf performance. Conversely, reducing excess fat weight through proper nutrition and sensible exercise can result in improved swing technique and reduced fatigue during your game.
Understanding the problem is only the first step in making lifestyle changes that can lead to a more desirable body weight and better golf performance. Eating for the purpose of lower golf scores is advisable from a health and performance perspective. In addition to keeping your weight down, you keep your accessible energy stores up throughout a full game of golf. The physical improvements that result from strength training will motivate some golfers to modify their eating habits to further enhance their playing abilities. Others might need specific nutrition programs that present daily menus and dietary information. An excellent resource in this area is Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
In addition to knowing how to count calories and determine the fat content of various foods, be aware that eating too little protein or calcium can lead to a weak musculoskeletal system and even os- teoporosis.lnsufficient iron in the diet can cause anemia, and excessive sodium intake contributes to hypertension. Of course, we want just the opposite to feel and function better both on and off the golf course.
Eating foods high in fiber, low in fats, and rich in vitamins and minerals is essential for optimum health and physical function as well as for disease prevention. Potassium, for example, which is abundant in bananas and cantaloupes, is involved in every muscle contraction. Vitamins A and C, found in many fruits and vegetables, are important antioxidants (nutritional bodyguards) that protect the body cells from potentially harmful chemical reactions.
While nutritional supplements can supply vitamins and minerals, dietitians recommend that such supplements not substitute for well- balanced diets that include a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, as well as lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Human nutrient requirements are too complex (and too little understood) to be adequately supported by pills, and only a varied and well-rounded diet can provide the proper foundation for optimum nutrition. You should be familiar with the food categories and daily servings recom- mended by the United States Department of Agriculture in the Food Guide Pyramid. You also should understand that a well-balanced diet is not the same as a low-calorie diet designed for losing weight. Be sure your physician or a registered dietitian approves any reduced-calorie diet.