Is hydration really that important?

Yes! Fluid loss of as little as 2% of body weight in adults, and 1% in youths, can affect the body and the brain’s ability to function and has a negative impact on play. This equates to 3 pounds in a 150-pound adult and just 1 pound in a 100-pound youth. Golfers of all ages and ability levels need to be adequately hydrated to maintain strength to hit the ball, maintain focus throughout every shot, and have enough energy to finish strong.

What should I drink to stay hydrated?

Drinking plain water replaces fluid losses, helps to cool the body, and improves blood circulation, which we need to move nutrients and oxygen throughout the body and the brain. On a cool day, when you don’t sweat, you may only need to drink plain water. However, if you sweat a lot playing golf in hot and humid weather, you lose both water and electrolytes (particularly sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium). These electrolytes are important for fluid balance, energy level, and muscle activity. So, if you don’t replace them you may start to feel weak, tired, and lack focus. Electrolytes can be replaced through food, however, during long hot rounds on the course, adding an electrolyte tablet or powder can help keep you optimally hydrated.

What about sports and energy drinks?

Sports and energy drinks contain sugar and/or caffeine which may not be needed by most golfers. If you feel you need a boost of energy, carry snacks with you such as fruit, trail mix, granola bars, whole grain pretzels, peanut butter crackers, or a sandwich. Small to moderate amounts of caffeine may help improve concentration and energy for some golfers, but too much caffeine can be detrimental causing headaches, shakiness, irritability, nausea, and gastrointestinal issues.

Can I drink beer while I play and still stay hydrated?

Consuming alcohol during play not only increases your risk of dehydration, but also impairs play. It decreases concentration, agility, motor skills, balance, strategic decision-making, and the ability to regulate body temperature (particularly concerning in hot weather). While some casual golfers may drink a beer or two on the course (and if you do this, also bring plenty of plain water and snacks!), saving the drinks for the 19th hole can save your game and your health.

So how much do I really need to drink to stay hydrated?

The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that adults drink 16-20 oz of fluids within two hours prior to exercise; 4-8 oz every 15-20 minutes during exercise; and replace every pound lost due to sweat with 24 oz of fluid after exercise. While these are general guidelines for all sports, keep in mind that each golfer’s needs are different depending on body size, energy output, weather conditions, sweat rates, and length of time on the course. If you have a hard time keeping track of how much you are drinking, use a water bottle that has ounce markings on it.

How do I know if I am getting dehydrated?

Some signs of mild to moderate dehydration are dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, dry mouth, cessation of sweating, and an increased heartbeat. Signs of severe dehydration that may require emergency medical care include mental confusion, severe weakness, high body temperature (over 104℉), and loss of consciousness.

Is it true that you can actually drink too much water?

Yes! Overhydration (hyponatremia) is a serious condition in which too much water has been consumed compared to how much fluid has been lost. When this happens, sodium and other electrolyte concentrations in the blood are watered down. This leads to mental confusion, vomiting, swelling of the hands and feet, and headaches. Emergency medical attention is needed if this happens.

In a nutshell, what are your recommendations for staying hydrated on the course?

Practical tips for staying hydrated:

1. Start your round well-hydrated.
2. Carry water with you at all times.
3. Make a plan to drink at regular intervals (for example, 4 oz at the end of each hole).
4. Add some electrolytes to your water on hot days.
5. Eat hydrating snacks such as fruit and vegetable sticks.
6. Rehydrate with water and eat some food after a round before you unwind with a cocktail.