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Diet and Sleep - Keeping You on Course

Being alert on the golf course is the number one priority. Diet and sleep work together to make sure you are at your best on every hole right back to the clubhouse. What we eat can influence our sleep and how we sleep can influence what we eat. Athletes monitor both diet and sleep closely knowing that these both impact performance.

How A Bad Night's Sleep Impacts Your Appetite And Food Cravings


There are a few ways in which sleep may influence our appetite, how much we eat and what we eat. A good night's sleep, in terms of duration and quality of sleep, can help support the hormones ghrelin and leptin that keep our appetite in check. Leptin lets our brain know when we have had enough to eat and suppresses appetite.

Ghrelin lets us know when we are hungry and increases our appetite. Lack of sleep appears to suppress leptin and its ability to regulate appetite which may lead us to eating more than we would normally. This could lead to weight gain. Overeating can also leave us feeling sluggish, which is not what we want when striving to play at our best. It appears a good night’s sleep is important to regulate our appetite to fuel our body as it needs.

Sleep and Food Cravings

Lack of sleep may also influence what we choose to eat. Increased activity in the part of the brain that influences ‘food desirability and pleasure’ happens with a lack of sleep, increasing our desire for high-energy (kilojoule/calorie) food, which is typically high in sugar and fat. Even though sweet foods might give us a burst of energy when feeling tired during a golf round, they aren’t the best foods for sustained energy over 9 or 18 holes.

If you find you are craving sweet foods, try opting for more nourishing options such as a handful of nuts mixed with dried fruit, a tub or pouch of yoghurt, or a sandwich with cheese and salad. Even a punnet of fresh berries as you work your way around the course or working at your desk can provide a sweet flavour along with plenty of nutrients and only a small amount of sugar. This will fuel you and fill you up with more sustained energy and nutrients.

Body Clock

Sleep is involved in regulating our body clock and digestion influences it too.

Aligning our body clock with the body's metabolic functions such as blood sugar control is important for reducing the risk of long-term health conditions.

It can also play a part in body weight management. Research around this biological clock and timing of eating is known as chrononutrition. It suggests we eat within a 10-hour or less window at times when our body is expecting to eat, such as during the day rather than at night.

This generally means an earlier dinner time and possibly moving breakfast a little later in the morning. It is also beneficial to think about eating around training and playing. Recovery nutrition, with protein, carbohydrates and fluids is important to take into consideration along with the timing of food intake and developing an individual plan that suits your routine.

From the evidence, it seems a good night's sleep and focusing on eating during the day rather than at night may be beneficial for health and wellbeing, although further research is still needed.

What Foods Should I Eat For Better Sleep?

Research has shown a Mediterranean-style diet which is rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, oily fish and legumes, has been linked with better sleep. The lower intake of sugar alcohol and saturated fats in the Mediterranean pattern of eating could also be an additional benefit. Many of these foods, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes are high in dietary fibre, which according to research, relates to better overall sleep quality, higher sleep efficiency and fewer sleep disturbances.

Start small and pack a container of nuts and seeds in your golf bag, then add a can of brown lentils to your lunchtime salad or evening meal to reap these benefits. Certain foods such as kiwifruit and drinking tart cherry juice may help with sleep improvements in people with sleep disorders, but these are no miracle cures.

One study with kiwifruits had participants eat two kiwifruits one hour before bed resulting with some improvements in sleep. Another study, with participants drinking tart cherry juice concentrate before bed may have a benefit for those suffering from sleep disturbances.

Both kiwifruit and tart cherries contain a hormone called melatonin which is involved in regulating sleep.

This might explain research that suggests there might be some improvements in sleep; however, more research is needed. There has also been some research which suggested drinking tart cherry juice by endurance athletes resulted in a reduction of inflammation and enhanced recovery. You could discuss this with an Accredited Sports Dietitian. Neither is a miracle sleep cure.

For a good night’s sleep, it seems to come back to the general Dietary Guidelines for good health, particularly a diet rich in plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes.

What Foods Should I Avoid For A Good Night's Sleep?


Although alcohol might help you fall asleep, it interferes with your sleep quality. Alcohol also has a diuretic effect, meaning it increases the passing of urine which may wake you during the night, disturbing your sleep further and interfering with your rehydration strategy if you have been out on the course all day.


Caffeinated foods such as green and black tea, coffee and caffeine-containing soft and energy drinks can give you a sense of alertness which may be a possible pick-me-up when fatigued; however, depending on your body’s ability to break down caffeine and the time you drink it, caffeine might delay the onset of sleep and keep you awake. Be mindful of how many caffeinated drinks you have in the day and if the timing is influencing your ability to fall asleep, this is individual.

Not only is a good night’s sleep important to how you feel, your energy levels and alertness, but it can also influence the foods you crave and how much you eat.

To maximise your performance on the course, think about good quality sleep and diet working together to have you at your peak.

Fact: A good diet and good sleep work hand in hand!


Smoked Salmon and Spinach Omelette

Serves 2   
Prep time: 15 mins  
Cook time: 5 mins

Packed with protein and healthy fats, this recipe is a winner for everyone and is FODMAP friendly for those who need it. A few simple ingredients make this meal suitable for anytime of the day. It’s the perfect brunch or work from home lunch!

  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g smoked salmon, sliced
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • cracked pepper, to taste
  • 50g goat’s cheese

  1. Heat the olive oil in a small omelette frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Saute the salmon and spinach for 1 minute.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and pepper.
  4. Spread the salmon and spinach evenly in the pan and pour over whisked eggs. Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then flip and cook on the other side until golden.
  5. Sprinkle with goat's cheese and serve.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are the name of 5 naturally occurring sugars that sometimes are not well absorbed by your small intestine for individuals with medically diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  More information about a low FODMAP diet and plenty more recipes can be found on the healthylife website here

Remember, foods contain FODMAPs in various amounts and serving size is important. If you're unsure whether a particular food is suitable for you, how much you can eat or whether or not you might stack your FODMAPs when you combine different foods, check in with your healthcare professional.

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Thai Green Lentil Curry

This recipe shows how delicious lentils can be, adding to your vegetable and plant protein intake. The Living Healthy Report 2023 discusses legumes and lentils being one of the most important foods in your diet to help reduce the burden of disease and increase your years of healthy living. It’s a must-have for your weekly meal rotation!

Serves 8

Prep time:  20min

Cooking time: 30min


For the curry paste:

  • 2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced 3-4 green chillies (depending on how much spice you desire)
  • 6 spring onions, thinly sliced (green portion only)
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated galangal
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (including stems)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 lime, zest and half its juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

For the curry:

  • 2 cups canned lentils, washed and drained
  • 400g can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tsp soy sauce (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • 2 red capsicums, cut into strips
  • 3/4 cup baby corn
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into circles
  • small handful spring onions, thinly sliced (green portion only)
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges (for serving)    
  1. Place all the curry ingredients in a food processor. Whiz everything together until you end up with a thick, green paste.
  2. Warm the curry paste in a large pan on a low heat for 2-3 minutes until extremely fragrant.
  3. Add the lentils and stir, coating the mixture in the curry paste. Cook for another 4-5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the coconut milk, vegetable stock, soy sauce, and coconut sugar and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.
  4. Turn the heat down. Add the capsicums, baby corn, carrots and spring onions and allow the curry to simmer for at least 15 minutes until the sauce thickens.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Divide curry between plates. Serve with rice and a wedge of lime.

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Words: Simone Austin

Chief Health Officer Healthylife & Accredited Practising Dietitian & Advanced Sports Dietitian