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Influence of Nutrition on Physical and Mental Energy
By: Alice Mooney (profile)
This article on sport nutrition brings you a selection of recipes chosen for their taste, nutritive value and ease of preparation.

Tournament days and summer days are the perfect time to experiment with healthy salad snacks as a small meal or as an accompaniment to an evening meal.  I have chosen these recipes to share with you based on their taste, nutritive value and ease of preparation.  I write these recipes from my perspective, as a sports scientist and from my early influences creating dishes from fresh food at home and in my parents’ restaurant in South Co. Dublin, Ireland.  While I now think mostly from an injury prevention perspective, I do believe that good nutrition principles play a crucial role in maintaining good health, energy levels for training and performance and preventing illness in a holistic approach.  I appreciate players and readers are situated in different corners of the world where local ingredients in Turkey and Australia for example, may be very different.  However, these recipes are very open to substitutions not only with respect to what ingredients can be sourced locally but on your taste preference, so feel free to be as creative as you wish!  Whether you prepare your own meals or whether you are on tour eating in hotels and airports, this article is intended to give you some insight to healthy choices to compliment your busy and physical lifestyle.  The key message is to aim to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods that will maintain energy balance.


Recipe 1: Carrot and Toasted Seed Salad              Serves 2


Carrots (fresh and tender) x 6 medium sized

Pumpkin seeds x 1 small handful

Sunflower seeds x 1 small handful

Sesame seeds x 1 small handful

Pine nuts x 1 small handful

Fresh parsley x 1 small handful

[note: most supermarkets and health-food shops offer packets of mixed seeds as well as individual packets].

Lemon Garlic Dressing:

Extra virgin olive oil x 4 tablespoons

Garlic x 1 crushed clove

Zest and juice of ½ a fresh lemon

Wholegrain mustard x 1 teaspoon

Sea salt and black pepper

Optional extras: sultanas, pomegranate seeds to add sweetness and colour.


  1. Grate carrots
  2. Place seeds and nuts on a dry frying pan (without oil) and toast on a low heat for about four to five minutes until they begin to tan and smell toasted
  3. To make the dressing:

Pour olive oil into a small bowl

Add crushed garlic

Finely zest half a lemon and squeeze the juice removing any pips

Add wholegrain mustard and a little sea salt and black pepper to taste.

  1. Mix carrots, seeds and dressing well together and garnish with fresh parsley.
  2. Serve with crusty wholegrain bread as a snack or with baby new potatoes and lean grilled meat or fish as a more substantial meal.
  3. Enjoy with a drink of hydrating mineral water, detoxing green tea or vitamin C rich cranberry juice.
Carrot and Toasted Seed Salad and Char-grilled Asparagus and Feta Salad

Influence of Nutrition on Physical and Mental Energy

As a game of golf and indeed a full tournament is a long event, maintaining optimum energy levels for the duration is vital.  A high fat or high sugar meal pre-performance can leave you feeling sluggish, heavy and lethargic.  Low GI (glycaemic index) foods maintain a steady release of energy to you during the day through tasks of training, playing, competing and recovering.  Low GI foods are typically low sugar or no sugar foods that will avoid “peaking and troughing” of both physical and mental energy.  High GI nutrition (for example, a can of Red Bull!) will cause a fast energy peak followed by a fall in blood-glucose resulting in uneven and unpredictable energy availability.  Balanced physical energy will provide a base for a more consistent performance.  Steady mental energy will help protect you from losing concentration which is vital for making key decisions, staying alert, focused and prevent you from feeling or becoming distracted.  This in turn will help mood, confidence and stamina.


How are the nutrients in this salad useful?

Carrot and Toasted Seed Salad is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.  Carrots are rich in micronutrients, like beta-carotenes a precursor for vitamin A, which contributes to healthy eyes and good vision.  The bright colour of carrots and their light, crunchy, texture make these root veggies attractive to eat raw which also retains their high nutrient content that can sometimes be lost in cooking.  Vitamin C known for its immune protective properties against colds, flus and winter bugs is abundant in carrots, and as this vitamin is water soluble, it is required every day.  Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of vitamin E.  Vitamins C and E are anti-oxidants which function as a defence system to help prevent infections, cancers and diseases by reducing free radical damage in the body. The high caloric content of seeds mainly comes from a healthy lipid profile of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid that helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and increases good HDL cholesterol in the blood ideal for a healthy heart and body composition.  Seeds are packed with fibre, protein and essential minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.  They are also rich in some B-complex vitamins such as vitamin B6 pyridoxine, B1thiamin and folic acid that assist in energy metabolism releasing all-important energy from nutrients.


Recipe 2: Char-grilled Asparagus and Feta Salad               Serves 2


Asparagus spears x 1 bunch

Broccoli stems x 1 bunch

Cos (romaine) lettuce x 1 bunch

Feta cheese x 100g

Sundried tomatoes x 6

Balsamic Dressing:

Balsamic vinegar x 25 ml

Extra virgin olive oil x 50 ml

Walnut or hazelnut oil x 25 ml

Dijon mustard x 1 teaspoon

Garlic clove x 1 crushed

Sea salt and black pepper



  1. Rinse asparagus, broccoli and Cos lettuce in cold water trimming away any rough ends
  2. Preheat a ridged griddle pan
  3. Toss the asparagus and broccoli in a little olive oil, season with sea salt and lay flat on the heated pan
  4. Char-grill for around five minutes turning two or three times until “al dente” or tender crisp
  5. Take off the pan and set aside
  6. Cut feta cheese into cubes
  7. To make the dressing:

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and mustard

Slowly stream in the olive oil and walnut oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing

Season with salt and pepper

  1. Serve by laying Cos lettuce on a plate topping with asparagus spears, broccoli stems, feta and sun-dried tomatoes.  Drizzle dressing over the salad.
  2. Enjoy!

To make this salad vegan or dairy free substitute the feta with puy lentils and toasted walnuts.  To make it more protein rich add a soft boiled or poached free-range organic egg and/or lean turkey breast.  For variation, use baby raw spinach or fresh rocket leaves instead of Cos lettuce.

How are the nutrients in this salad useful?

Green leafy vegetables are iron rich and full of goodness.  Iron is an important mineral for optimal aerobic endurance performance such as golf.  Iron is a component of oxidative enzymes which function in aerobic metabolism.  In addition iron is a component of haemoglobin involved in the formation of new red blood cells in the body2, which play a role in oxygen delivery to skeletal muscle while you walk around the golf course taking many all-important swings.  Iron deficiency among athletes (and non-athletes) presents as anaemia, a low blood haemoglobin concentration resulting from inadequate dietary iron intake.  It may also be due to weak absorption of dietary iron or a deficiency in vitamin B12 or folate.  Vitamin C compliments iron absorption in the body.  In the female athlete, iron is important during menstrual cycles and in pregnancy to help prevent tiredness and fatigue.  

Broccoli is a vegetable source of calcium and feta cheese a dairy source of calcium.  Higher intensity exercise may promote calcium loss, especially in women.  In terms of musculoskeletal injury risk, stress fracture among athletes is commonly associated with lower bone density and lower calcium intake which indicates the significance of including dietary sources of calcium.  Broccoli is also a source of beta-carotenes and vitamin C.  Asparagus, a herbaceous spring and summer plant is a source of fibre, folate which is understood help prevent cognitive impairment, vitamins A, C, E and vitamin K which is essential for strong bones.

Feta cheese contributes protein for the growth and repair of new muscle and connective tissue1 which makes it good recovery nutrition.  In terms of the saturated fat content of this salad, feta is the source however it is noteworthy that fat is also fuel providing energy availability during performance so “a little of what you fancy” is mostly fine.  Salt content in feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes is beneficial to replace sodium lost through perspiration1, re-balancing essential electrolytes.  Sun-dried tomatoes add rich colour and flavour and olive oil based dressings in both salads provide healthy unsaturated fats.

Reminiscent of other advice on applied nutrition strategies, food choices are very individual and different plans work for different people.  I know athletes who compete in ironman (full distance triathlon) who enjoy fish and chips and a beer the night before a race and others who rise at 04:00am to drink beetroot juice.  

To conclude, even during busy times on tour, try to choose a varied selection of fresh nutrient rich foods to fuel your body keeping you light on your feet and full of energy.

Best Wishes, Alice

For more recipes contact  Twitter @alicemooney14


  1. IOC 2011. International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement on Sport Nutrition 2010. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29, S3-S4


  1. Maughan, R.J. 1999. Role of micronutrient in sport and physical activity. British Medical Bulletin, 55, 683-690
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