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Muscling Up or Trimming down– what do golfers need?
By: Kellie Hogan (profile)
When discussing the nutritional needs of my golfing clients, one of the first questions I ask them is….. “Can you achieve and maintain a suitable level of body weight, lean muscle mass and body fat suitable for the sport?”

When discussing the nutritional needs of my golfing clients, one of the first questions I ask them is….. “Can you achieve and maintain a suitable level of body weight, lean muscle mass and body fat suitable for the sport?” This might seem like a reasonable enough question, however interestingly, one that is rarely addressed by golfing athletes.  In many sports, athletes require specific physique characteristics to be successful. For example, gymnasts need to be small and lean in order to propel themselves across the floor, bar or beams or to somersault effortlessly through the air. Swimmers require broad powerful shoulders to battle the resistance of the water and still generate speed. Golf, perhaps more than any other sport, has a tolerance for a range of body shapes, heights and physical characteristics. 

When talking about physique management, most people automatically assume we are talking about controlling body fat levels. Body fat is commonly referred to as “dead weight”. This term is used as the additional weight that fat adds does not offer any real functionality for most people in a non-contact sport such as golf. Some might argue that more weight may provide more momentum and as a result perhaps drive the ball further.  However, in my opinion, given that the whole body provides a smaller transfer of weight than say a sport such as discus or shot put, I don’t believe that being heavier in itself will make a sizeable difference to performance. On the other hand, high body fat levels may increase fatigue in golfers as a result of having to carry extra weight around the course, and would therefore be a considerable disadvantage.

Let me use an example to highlight the point. Imagine having a vest or pack back attached to you with 10 kilograms of lead weights inside and you had to complete your usual 18 holes. I can assure you, you would become more tired more quickly with the excess “dead weight”. Fat also acts as an insulator, so athletes carrying excessive amounts of body fat may find coping with hot and humid conditions a little more challenging than their leaner counterparts.

When trying to decrease body fat levels, athletes should be looking at decreasing their overall fat intake in order to consume fewer kilojoules. Simple things like using reduced fat dairy, trimming visible fat from meat, avoiding deep fried foods and high fat treats such as biscuits, cakes, ice-cream and chocolate can all help in minimizing fat stores. If your diet is already low in fat, you might need to consult a Sports Dietitian to discuss other strategies such as portion control, meal and snack timing and composition.

On the other hand, some golfers may benefit from increasing their lean muscle mass, which in turn increases their strength and power and therefore their ability to drive the ball further. There are some important things to note when attempting this.

Physical activity burns up energy.  If you are not eating enough food, the body uses up its stores (fat and muscle) to keep it going. When combining muscle building with physical activity, it can significantly increase your kilojoule requirements. These requirements might be above and beyond your appetite and it becomes difficult to consume the sheer volume of food needed to replace what is being used up - let alone the extra that is needed for muscle growth!!! Timing and transporting of food can be hard also when there is so much to be eaten so being organized is the key.

Step One: Training
  • Effective weights training program, tailored to individual requirements.
Step Two: Increase energy (kilojoules/calorie) intake
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Snack on high carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat food between meals such as fruit, sandwiches, yoghurt, milk (See the Sports Dietitains Australia website and the Australian institute of Sport Website for suitable snacks for athletes). If feeling too full, reduce fibre intake. For example, use white bread rather than wholegrain.
  • Be organized – prepare meals and snacks in advance and have them handy so you can’t skip them.
Step Three: Balancing Protein, fat and carbohydrate
  • Carbohydrates are most important – your body will use up muscle protein if intake of carbohydrate is too low.
  • Include one protein food at each meal and snack. Protein foods include lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts legumes and reduced fat dairy foods.
Step Four: Monitor progress
  • Gaining weight is not easy, expect gains of about 0.25 – 0.5 kg per week.
  • Rapid gains will usually mean a gain in undesirable body fat.


Protein requirements of athletes are greater than non-athletes.  However, increased requirements can usually be met through increased food intake, as a result of a greater appetite. The body can actually only use a certain amount of protein each day (about 1.7-2.0g/kg body weight).  Excess is just treated as waste and is excreted. This puts extra load on the kidneys whose job it is to excrete the by-products of protein. As a general guide, if you are completing about 2-3 weights sessions per week, you should be consuming about 1.2-1.5 g protein /kg. Over the course of the day, this would be about 80g of protein for a 60kg golfer.  As you can see in this table, animal based foods tend to be richest in protein, however, even foods we traditionally think of as being carbohydrate foods such as bread and pasta, still do contain some protein, therefore, I find those athletes who are meeting their overall carbohydrate and kilojoule needs, tend to be meeting protein needs anyway. Examples of those not likely to meet protein requirements are those on very restrictive diets and vegetarian or vegan athletes.


Typical Serve

Protein Content

Meat Poultry and Seafood




100g cooked


Ham/salami/corn beef

1 slice (30g)



1 (90)g cooked


Chicken/turkey (lean)

100g cooked


Seafood, flesh only

100g cooked


Dairy Food



Milk (incl soy milk)

250ml glass


Cheese, hard

20g slice


Cheese, cottage

1 Tblspn (20g)


Yoghurt, flavoured

200g carton



1 Scoop (50g)


Cereals and Cereal Products




1 cup cooked



1 cup cooked


Bread/Fruit loaf/Crumpet

1 slice (30g)


Breakfast cereal

I cup (30-45g)






1 cooked





Baked Beans

1 Cup (220g)





Liquid Meal supplement

1 cup (250ml)


Protein Bars





1 cups /125gr wholegrain cereal
1 cups/500 mls reduced-fat milk
1-2 slices wholegrain toast with 1 egg or 200g baked beans.
1 glass/250 mls fruit juice


1 piece fruit and 200g low-fat yogurt or

1 salad sandwiches or roll with 80g lean meat or 100g chicken or 40g reduced-fat cheese, or 2 eggs, or 100g canned fish in springwater
300 mls flavoured reduced-fat milk

30g Nuts + 1 serve fruit

Lean meat (150 g) or skinless chicken (185 g) or fish (250 g) – grilled or cooked with minimal oil
I cup cooked cooked rice, pasta or 1 medium potato
Medium serving vegetables or tossed green salad
(no oil Dressing)


1 piece fresh fruit and 2 scoops of low-fat ice-cream or 200g reduced fat yoghurt or custard.

The information in this article is for general information only. If you require more specific information, contact a Sports Dietitian. Once gain for credible sources of sports nutrition information on the web, check out the Sports Dietitians Australia website, at and the Australian Institute of Sport Website at

Happy Golfing.

Kellie Hogan
Sports Dietitian/Nutritionist
B Hlth Sci. (Nutr&Diet) (Hons) APD SDA

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