It’s a searing hot, humid day and you just reached the turn drenched with sweat. Will a bottle of water hydrate you best, or should you go for the sports drink? Maybe the caffeine and sugar in that soda will give you a boost, or should you have a couple of beers to help keep loose?
What many golfers don’t realize is that what, and how much, you drink are actually among the most important decisions you make on the golf course. Your choice can mean the difference between playing with energy, focus, and coordination, or can leave you suffering from fatigue, mood fluctuations and poor motor control. In extremely hot conditions, such as we experience regularly in South Florida, you can lose as much as two liters of water per hour. If those fluids are not replaced, the body becomes dehydrated, affecting virtually every system of your body. Your heart has to work harder, your muscles lose strength and flexibility, your brain function slows and you can experience cramping or dizziness, and even develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke. A loss of just 4 to 5% of one’s body weight can cause exercise performance to decline by as much as 20-30%! So what and how much should you drink to avoid duffed shots and missed putts due to dehydration?
WATER The human body is made up of 45-75% water by weight (muscles are about 75% water and fat is about 10%), and the body cannot survive more than a week without it. So it makes sense that water really is the best thirst quencher. However, by the time you feel thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated, which is why it is recommended that you drink water before, during and after exercise. Ideally you should have 2 cups of water about an hour before your round, then aim for half a cup every 20 minutes thereafter (adjusting for hot weather and your body size/type), and then have another cup within half an hour after your round.
SPORTS DRINKS For vigorous exercise that is over 60 minutes in duration, or if you are an individual who sweats profusely, sports drinks are also a good option. Most sports drinks have about 6 to 8% glucose per glass, and also contain electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to replace what is lost in sweat. This is important for muscle functioning and will help prevent muscle cramping and water intoxication—your blood becomes too diluted if you have lost too much sodium through sweat. However, it is important to bear in mind that each bottle contains almost 200 calories from sugar, so you may want to dilute your sports drink with water if you’re watching your weight, or if you are already eating food that contains sugar and salt.