Better Body Composition for Improved Performance 

Welcome back to the Nutrition Series! If you have not already, make sure you go back and read Part One where we talk about Energy Balance. It will help you tremendously to read that before heading into the weeds here a bit deeper.

Just to touch on our overall concept….as a junior, amateur, or professional golfer; to maximize performance, recover to the best of your ability, be competitive in the sport, and maximize longevity, a healthy body composition is highly supported. According to the “American Council of Exercise”, a qualified athlete would have a body fat of 14-20% for women, and 6-13% for men. Because of our biological differences, women tend to have a higher body fat percentage than men all around. While this range may vary another 1-2% for each group, and it is not necessary for an amateur to be in these eact ranges, it is a good reference in which we can see a higher percent of Lean Body Mass (LBM) will be more of a benefit to the athlete. LBM includes more than just our muscle, but the more we have as opposed to fat, results in more muscle fiber recruitment and more efficient energy sources, leading us to more strength and power potential! If we can dial in our macronutrient intake, we can change our body composition to a place where this is possible.

Source: 

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Now, since you’ve found your Total Daily Energy Expenditure amount in Part 1 and understand the concept of energy balance, we can optimize performance even further by dividing these units of energy (calories) up into the required Macronutrients. 

MACRONUTRIENTS

Macronutrients are what make up the energy content of the foods we consume between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Technically, alcohol is also a macronutrient, but it is an empty calorie with no nutrition, and despite being perhaps a golfers favorite macro, we will not take these into account. These three main macronutrients not only make up the “calories in”, but have a large effect on the “calories out” portion as well (which we talked about in Part One). The breakdown and split of the macronutrients we consume can have a large effect on our recovery, our muscle growth, our energy, how we sleep, etc. So yes, this is pretty important. Now you could ask me, “Well, you said calories in vs calories out is the most important thing so couldn’t I just eat whatever type of food I want while staying in an energy balanced state with my calories??”. My answer is yes, you could! However you would probably feel like trash, have a very hard time gaining or maintaining muscle mass, and putting on more club head speed. For long term health and performance benefits, it will do you good to be aware of the composition of your calories and why. Let’s touch on these one at a time…

PROTEIN

Arguably the most important macronutrient, protein is for more than just building muscle. It is involved within every process in our body. Hormones send signals to organ systems to carry out function, but cannot without the enzymes in which proteins provide us with. It helps us improve upon recovery, increase LBM with adequate intake and resistance training, and stimulate growth of the muscle. Without adequate intake, these things will suffer along with our quality of life. Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. The correct amount and type you get in your diet is important because 9 of the 20 amino acids that we need are deemed “essential”, which means our body cannot make them ourselves. 

In numerous studies, high protein diets have shown to increase satiety (2). They are usually a bit more on the voluminous side of foods since they are not as calorie dense. There is also some evidence that the blood amino acid profile concentrations in the time period after a meal contribute to the satiety effect in the body. Large increases in this send more of a “fullness” signal to our brains (3). 

CARBOHYDRATE:

Carbohydrates also have many health benefits, especially for the athlete. All carbs end up as sugar (glucose) in the body after digestion. This glucose is utilized by the brain as its primary fuel source, and can also be stored in the liver and muscles for use when needed for high intensity anaerobic exercise. Think exercise such as sprinting, lifting heavy, SWINGING A GOLF CLUB, etc. For the athlete, it will be of benefit to include these, especially around training times. Carbohydrates also work with protein to drive muscle protein synthesis, the mechanism in which drives muscle growth. Since it is not an essential nutrient, but shows high performance benefits, we can undulate our carbohydrate intake from day to day. On a higher intensity or higher activity day, it can be of great benefit to drive our intake up, and then on more sedentary days drive them down slightly. This is not necessary, but some athletes may enjoy the high and low days and even see more benefit in them in terms of recovery and satiety. Carbs are also voluminous as they also yield a lower amount of calories per gram than fats.

FATS

Fats or “Lipids” are the third macronutrient, and are a very important part of our diet whether you consider yourself an athlete or not. They form the outer layer of our cells, help to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, and they are stored for energy. They are stored much more efficiently for energy as they serve almost double the amount than proteins or carbohydrates. High fat diets can be tough to be in a caloric deficit because of this. Keeping your fat intake at an optimal level is important for hormonal balance. A diet that is low in fat, less than 20% or so, can dramatically drop testosterone levels, which will have a huge impact on our LBM and strength. For the purpose of keeping this blog digestible (no pun intended), we won’t go into the different chains of fatty acids of the different types of fats which include poly-, mono-, unsaturated and saturated.

How Much Should I be Eating:

Now getting into the meat and potatoes of how much of these three you should actually be consuming. As far as protein intake, a good rule of thumb is to stick to 1g/lb of body weight, with the low being at .8g/lb and the high at 1.2g/lb. This seems to be the most reflected in the literature, and as the carbohydrate and fat content day to day may vary with activity levels, your protein intake should stay consistent. Remember the higher your protein intake is, the more calories you will burn on a daily basis because of it’s higher TEF (Part 1). There are research studies that actually show that you can increase your protein intake along with your calories to a certain degree and not see any weight gain because of its effect of your “calories out”(4). If you are in a pretty aggressive caloric deficit, it may not be a bad idea to actually increase your protein intake to the higher end as LBM is affected the most by a caloric deficit and low protein levels. 

Carbs and Fats we can choose to split in numerous ways. After you find your total caloric content, and then our protein intake, the leftover calories we have will be distributed to carbs and fats. Just be aware as your carb content goes up, your fat intake will have to go down to equate for overall calories. If you are a high performing athlete, it would be of benefit to include a higher carb lower fat diet as it has high supporting evidence behind it. A higher fat, lower carb may be of benefit to someone who is pre diabetic or prone to it as the research also shows some support behind that. Now as mentioned above, we want to make sure fat is at least at 20% of total calories for hormonal reasons. I would recommend between 25-35% for the athlete, and the remainder of the calories coming from carbohydrates. Let’s do an example below:

Athlete A

Female

150lbs

5feet 5inches tall 

27 years old 

Exercises 6-7 days per week

TDEE: 2443 kcal

Protein: 150g

The 150g of protein will equate to 600 calories (150g x 4cal/g). 

After we subtract the 600cal from her initial 2443 that leaves us with 1843 calories to distribute to carbs and fats. 

In this case let’s say we want to keep her higher carb to support her training and do a lower fat percentage of 25%. 25% of 2443 would be 610 calories which would be 68g of Fat (610cal / 9cal/g). 

Now we just need to determine the remaining calories to determine the carbohydrate content! We have 1233 calories remaining for carbohydrates, which will equate to 308 carbs (1233cal / 4cal/g). 

You can use this sample to figure out your own macro targets using your own anthropometrics, and have a good balance between the three macronutrients that will optimize your LBM vs Fat Mass. As you can see by all of the above info, a balanced diet is highly supported in all of the science and literature when it comes to optimizing performance and effective body composition that you can sustain for a long time. When you restrict one entire macronutrient like in many of the diets today, you are missing out on all the benefits of that macronutrient and have to make sure you supplement correctly to get the specific requirements you are missing out on. Not to mention your performance will one way or another suffer. Although you can adapt to using fats as a fuel source for energy over carbohydrates, you will also be using the most non efficient fuel source and leaving a lot in the tank as it pertains to strength and power.

As with training and anything else, the largest factor of seeing results and a trend that will allow you to make adjustments is consistency. Along with this, when choosing your macronutrient splits, also keep the following in mind. Pick something you enjoy and can adhere to, and pick something that satiates you and doesn’t leave you hungry. 

  1. How To Interpret Your Body Fat Test, Evans et al. <https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/blog/how-to-interpret-your-body-fat-test/>
  2. Protein, weight management, and satiety. – NCBI. Retrieved January 2, 2018, from https://www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18469287
  3. (n.d.). The macronutrients, appetite and energy intake – NCBI – NIH. Retrieved August 22, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4960974/ 
  4. (2014, May 12). The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body …. Retrieved August 26, 2018, from https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-11-19
  5. Norton, Layne, and Peter Baker. Fat Loss Forever: How to Lose Fat and Keep It Off. Publisher Not Identified, 2019.