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Coffee & Your Golf Performance

by Coach Stephen on

If you’re anything like me, then you love a good cup of Joe, or maybe three.

And we’re not alone, as caffeine is the most popular psychoactive drug in the world, with coffee being the main source for getting it into our systems.

But coffee can be a sort of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde drug.  With all kinds of conflicting information in the media about both the health and performance benefits and the potential pitfalls, it can be confusing, to say the least.

So today, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts/experiences with coffee and golf performance, as well as the it’s overall effects on your health and wellbeing.

Does coffee improve or hinder your golf performance?

Well, as usual… it depends.

Several factors to consider:

  • Are you a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine?
  • How often do you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages?
  • How solid are your other nutritional and lifestyle habits, especially water consumption?

How well does your body metabolize (clear) caffeine?

A simple way to categorize people would be as either “fast” or “slow” metabolizers of caffeine.  On the slow side, these golfers will have some of the negative effects associated with caffeine – jitters, an extended period (5+ hours) of that “rushed” feeling in the body and/or mind, and that upset “coffee stomach”.  If you’re in this category, you probably already know it.  Obviously, these types of effects would be detrimental to your golf performance (or most any performance, for that matter).

If you’re fortunate, then you’ll find that you’re a “fast” metabolizer, rarely experiencing any of the above symptoms, except when you consume really large quantities.  You’ll usually have a sense of alertness and an increase in energy for a couple of hours.

Caffeine also interacts with hormones, the most prominent one being cortisol.  Cortisol is that “fight or flight” response.  Cortisol is naturally elevated in the morning (which is a good thing).  However, for some golfers, consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening can keep cortisol levels higher throughout the day.  That’s not good.  If your cortisol levels are an issue (your MD can test for this), then keep your caffeine intake to early morning.

How often do you drink coffee, tea, Red Bull etc.?

The good news is that for both slow and fast metabolizers, studies usually indicate that a moderate amount of daily caffeine is associated with many health benefits, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even cancer.

However, most studies don’t suggest that more is better.

And as for the cancer prevention that the media jumped on a few years ago, there are some details that should be addressed.  Headlines were stating that “Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants!”

While there are antioxidants in coffee, the only reason it could be called the number one source, is because people in the US eat so few greens and vegetables!!  Coffee may be the number one source for my fellow Americans, but only by default.

Is coffee part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle plan?

The benefits or drawbacks of coffee on your golf performance can be affected by the quality of your overall golf nutrition strategy.  Of primary concern for my golfers would be dehydration.  Although there have been a couple of studies showing that moderate caffeine intake doesn’t have a noticeable impact on overall hydration levels, this isn’t what I’ve experienced personally or been reported by my golfers.

Studies are interesting and are part of the puzzle.  However, here at Renegade Golf, we’re committed to results. And the vast majority of my golfers feel and play better when they are strict about their water intake.  I would suggest increasing your water when consuming caffeine.

So assuming that you are:

  • a fast metabolizer of caffeine
  • you consume it in moderation
  • and have an overall healthy lifestyle…

Can coffee benefit your golf performance?

The answer, according to both scientific studies, and 14 years of working with golfers, appears to be YES.

The benefits are both mental and physical.  Studies and empirical evidence point to a reduction in perceived exertion (less feelings of fatigue late in the round), as well as mental acuity, reaction time and visual-spatial reasoning (as in course management decisions).

Bottom Line:  Depending on your individual makeup, moderate doses of caffeine before a round can prove to be beneficial to your golf performance.  Test it out.  Pay close attention to how you feel and play on caffeine and without it.  Do your own studies, and share your results.

Pour yourself a cup of Joe… And Get After Old Man Par!

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