Welcome to Play Smart, a game improvement column published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday by Game Improvement Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen (who you can follow on Twitter here).
When Rory McIlroy first burst onto the scene, he had a wonderful quality about him. He was just a kid, with a boy’s face and some baby fat still on his bones. He reminded you of your son, your brother or your nephew – but he did things to a golf ball that most grown men could only dream of.
Things were going well too. He turned pro at 18, and within two years he won on both the PGA and European tours, earned nearly $10 million in prize money and finished in the top 10 in two of his first four major starts as a professional. .
Then came a health problem that would prove to be career-defining: a back injury before the age of 20, which sidelined him at the start of the 2010 season.
“It was a wake-up call,” Rory told GOLF.com. “The doctor told me that I might not be lucky next time. That could stun me for a long time. It was the first time I thought maybe I couldn’t do what I love, which is playing golf.
Rory’s New High Protein Diet
When Rory set about protecting his golf swing from injury, he encountered a situation that many juniors find themselves in: he had a lot of flexibility, but not a lot of strength. It created a lot of movement in his swing that he didn’t have the strength to control. This made him prone to hyper-extension, says Rory, which occurs when your joints exceed their normal range of motion.
To prevent this from happening – and therefore avoid injury along the way – he needed a diet to help him cut the fat and replace it with the muscle he worked hard to build in the gym. .
“I had to increase my protein intake a bit,” he says. “I would eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight. I always do that; 170 grams per day of protein.
Her new high-protein diet also involved cutting back on two of her favorite guilty pleasures: chocolate and ice cream.
Both of these foods were once a pleasant mainstay of his diet, but now he enjoys them in moderation — and firmly rejects the idea of cutting any food out of your diet altogether.
“I don’t think you want to demonize food,” he says. “It’s about being able to work it into your diet so you can have it once in a while and feel good and not feel guilty. There is so much guilt associated with eating. If you can break that mental barrier, you’ll be better off.
If you dream of losing weight, maintaining a healthy relationship with food is equally important, Rory continued. Only by adopting healthier habits can you maintain it in the long run.
“I don’t think a food is necessarily bad. It’s more like treating it like a treat,” he says. “I allow myself ice cream once in a while because I like it and you still have to enjoy what you eat.”
While ice cream remains an occasional treat, he has cut out pork and eggs and maintains a gluten-free diet. He identified these foods more recently as part of a temporary elimination diet to improve his digestion.
“It just doesn’t fit my body,” he says. “It’s more of a personal thing that’s unique to my body.”
As for advice for the rest of us looking to use Rory as inspiration to eat a little healthier ourselves?
“Eat more protein, that’s the most important thing,” he says. “More protein, more fat, less carbs.”