As a professional athlete, healthy eating is not only a personal choice but also a professional necessity. Growing up in Venezuela, I was fortunate to have my mom help me make good choices, so eating well at home was easy. When I first came to the U.S on a golf scholarship to the University of Southern California, I had to get used to shopping for my own groceries and doing my own cooking. It was quite an adjustment! I have to admit- I often took the easy route, opting for pre-prepared options. Though my metabolism kept the damage of these not-so-healthy habits to a minimum, I began to notice a difference in how I was feeling. I started to get stomachaches and my unstable energy levels were affecting my physical and mental performance.
I share my background with you in an effort to help you understand how and why I have become so conscious about what I eat. Even while out on Tour, I maintain a strict food regimen which makes it easy to eat healthy while traveling. As a professional golfer, most of my tournaments are 3-4 day events, beginning on either Thursday or Friday. I arrive on Monday to start my preparation, playing the course, developing strategy, getting used to the grass, weather, etc. Imagine spending an entire week in one location, training then playing the competitive rounds, just to leave Sunday night for the next event and do it over all again. I might have 3, 4, at times 10 tournaments in a row. That’s a ten week stretch on the road. I won’t lie to you, it would be very easy to eat whatever is put in front of me but once you turn healthy patterns into habits it’s all about preparation from there.
I want to give you a few tips that have really helped me. I think they can help those of you who travel regularly as well as those who find themselves eating out at restaurants often:
Stay Hydrated: Always have a beverage with you. With my active lifestyle, I try to drink at least 2 liters of liquids a day; ideally 3. It’s easy to keep track if you have a bottle, or cooler that can hold at least a liter. Just make sure you finish it all before you add more. Think of your body as a plant; it is most effective if you water it with consistency. A few sips here and there is better than overflowing your body, (or the plant’s pot) trying to get your daily intake all at once. Plain water can sometimes get boring, so I’m always on the look out for natural, low-calorie beverage options to help me mix it up!
Make protein your best friend: We’ve all have heard that protein keeps your muscles strong, healthy and lean. Beyond that, I have learned that it also helps to keep my sugar level consistent. This is important because it allows me to concentrate and perform better for longer periods of time. A round of golf is around 4-5 hours. I need to make sure that by the time I’m on my 18th hole, I am just as focused as I was on the 1st tee. I like to eat some sort of protein at every meal including my snacks.
Look forward to your snacks: No matter what you choose, it is important to switch it up every once in awhile! Get creative so you look forward to your snack. That way when the big meal comes you’re not starving… Help your appetite! Processed foods have too much salt or sugar, and contain unpronounceable ingredients so opt for natural foods. I like all types of fruits but find apples, peaches, bananas, plums, cherries and grapes are the easiest to travel with. For those of you who can have nuts, eat a few with your fruit to help level out the natural sugar rush. My personal favorite is Hummus with carrots and celery. Yogurt and hard boiled eggs are a good idea for people who are not lactose intolerant. You can’t go wrong with protein like shakes, deli turkey breast slices, etc.
“No Butter, Please!”: We don’t know much about what is in the food we order at restaurants. However, we do know that they will make whatever we order taste good. Veggies are usually very plain in flavor, so most places will end up adding butter to make them more yummy! I see that as yucky! We all know butter isn’t good for our health, particularly when you have no idea how much butter is being used. With that in mind, every time I order veggies or even a piece of protein I make sure to tell them “no butter, please!”
Cooking on the road; hard but not impossible! Luckily the tour gives players the option to apply for “host housing” arranging for us to stay at a house near the golf course with a family willing to share their home with us for the week. Other than helping with expenses, it is very nice to meet welcoming people that make you feel at home. It is also nice to be able to have use of a full kitchen. If host housing is unavailable, I try to look for hotels that have a kitchenette. Worst case scenario? A room with a refrigerator, where I can keep all my snacks. It is an awesome feeling to know that you are doing something good for yourself. Try cooking more on the road, it can be hard, but it is certainly not impossible!
Dark chocolate for Sweet Cravings. Make sure that the first ingredient is cocoa. The ingredients are listed from the most used ingredient to the least. Therefore, try not to choose a chocolate that lists cocoa butter or sugar as one of its top contents. Believe me, you will be surprised how many of them are like that!
All in all, I like to view myself as a Ferrari, as one of, if not the finest car on the market. It should be given the best fuel so it can run and perform to the best of its ability. The body is my machine, if I feed it with the best food I can, I will perform to my highest potential. For me, it’s on the golf course, but everyone can use proper food choices to be more efficient in whatever they do. Good luck, and have fun with it!
About the Author:
Veronica Felibert is a Professional Golfer with the LPGA and a Team Arteasan Athlete. She started playing golf at age 7 and credits her parents and sister as the people who most influenced her golf career. Felibert enjoyed a successful amateur career, winning the Venezuelan Junior Stroke Play Championship, the Venezuelan Junior Championship and Venezuelan Junior Match Play Championship. She played collegiate golf at the University of Southern California and turned professional in November of 2009. When she’s not on the course, her hobbies include running, cooking, spending time with friends and family, shopping, eating sushi, dancing and watching movies.