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A Closer Look

Explaining the science behind Phil Mickelson's coffee and fasting combo

May 25, 2021

Icon Sportswire

The sight of Phil Mickelson sipping from an oversize coffee mug during tournament rounds has become almost as ubiquitous as his signature thumbs-up. As a tireless pitchman, Mickelson no doubt has recognized the branding opportunity his historic PGA Championship win has provided his fledgling Coffee For Wellness brand.

But the question remains—does the stuff actually work?

According to Dr. Ara Suppiah, a physician, a Golf Digest contributor and a medical adviser for Mickelson, the answer is yes—but with some needed context.

For starters, Mickelson’s incredible body transformation, which has resulted in a slimmed-down physique and allowed him to maintain remarkable speed through the ball at age 50, really started with the practice of regular 36-hour fasts that helped reduce inflammation in his body. After being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis more than a decade ago, the golfer embraced fasting during off weeks as a way to boost his immune system and clean toxins from his body.

“I believe fasting has been a big part of my ability to recover, to get in better shape; to recover, to eat less and to not be held hostage by food,” Mickelson said in an interview with GOLFTV (below). “I love food. I’ve always craved food and now I don’t. Now I feel better when I eat less and I eat healthy, and have more energy throughout the day.”

Watch the entire interview with Mickelson below:

To Mickelson, coffee has been a valuable complement to this effort. According to Suppiah, who began working with Mickelson shortly after serving as the U.S. team doctor at the 2016 Ryder Cup, Mickelson always loved drinking coffee, but he wanted to be able to do so in an athletic context.

“Phil is a very cerebral guy and likes to bounce ideas off of people,” Suppiah said. “He realized fasting would be better for him to take stress off the body so he decided to put a blend together that would allow him to do what he needs to do.”

Even when not fasting, Mickelson’s coffee blend is suited for the unique challenges of tournament golf. As with regular coffee, it has caffeine for bursts of energy. But since most coffee drinkers know too much can lead to edginess or the shakes, Mickelson adds an ingredient, L-theanine, designed to calm the nervous system.

To counter the inevitable hunger cravings of fasting, Mickelson also includes medium chain triglycerides (MCT) oil, also a component of the popular Bulletproof coffee blend, which provides calories while also boosting metabolism. He adds collagen, a protein that can promote healthy joints and skin; salt to counter the loss of electrolytes during competition; and lastly cinnamon, an antioxidant that also dulls some of coffee’s bitterness.

Suppiah says all of these ingredients make sense for Mickelson and plenty of others, with perhaps two exceptions. The doctor says he’s not convinced of the benefits of collagen. And since MCT oil is a fat that can increase cholesterol, it’s an ingredient that should be consumed in moderation for people with heart conditions.

“But even Phil uses this strategically,” Suppiah says. “He goes on these 36-hour fasts and just sips this throughout the day.”

There was perhaps no better endorsement of that strategy than at Kiawah, where golfers decades younger succumbed to the difficult conditions while Mickelson seemed largely unflappable. Although he doesn’t fast during tournament weeks, the golfer is still disciplined with what he consumes, often relying on little more than nuts and his beloved coffee in the throes of competition.

“There’s a phrase I love,” Suppiah said. “A man with an empty stomach has one problem. A man with a full stomach has many.”