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Surviving the Summer Sweat

By Tara Gidus
Women drinking waterYou have heard it all before.drink while you are on the course. But did you know that your game can actually suffer considerably with just minor levels of dehydration?
Effect of dehydration
Golf is mainly a game of skill. If your focus and concentration are compromised, your game will suffer. We know that skill performance can be reduced considerably if you are dehydrated. On a hot day you are at much higher risk of heat stress leading to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sweat losses of only 2% of your body weight can affect how your body regulates its temperature as well as your performance on the course. Weigh yourself before and after your round to see how much weight you lose.
Hot, dry weather can cause a lot of sweat loss, but humid weather can be dangerous because the sweat does not evaporate from the skin and you may not sweat as much as you think you are because much of the moisture is coming from the air. Try to get your tee time as early in the day as possible in the heat of the summer.
When you sweat, you are losing water, but you are also losing electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. These electrolytes are needed for fluid balance, nerve impulses, and muscle contraction. The amount of water you lose through sweat is much higher than the amount of electrolytes you lose. However, if you are sweating a lot, you may want to be aware of replacing these electrolytes while you are on the course. You can either eat food (fresh fruit, a sandwich, nutrition bar, etc.) or you can use one of the sports beverages a few hours into your round.
How much to drink
Fluid requirements vary from person to person and from day to day. Thirst is not a good indicator of when to drink. Instead, you should drink according to a schedule.
Before the round: 8-16 ounces 15 minutes
During your round: 4-8 ounces every 15-30 minutes
After the round: 16 ounces*
*If you have lost more than one pound during the round, drink an extra 16 ounces per pound lost
Drinks for on and off the golf course
Beverage options on the course
Alcohol: Even though you may want to drink beer on the course, it may cost you a few strokes. Alcohol is a diuretic and causes increased water loss causing dehydration and increased risk of heat illness. In addition, it is a depressant that can affect your balance and coordination. Finally, alcohol before or during exercise can cause fatigue due to low blood sugar, ruining concentration.
Water: Water is always the best for hydration. It is the first ingredient in all beverages. However, if you are on the course for several hours, sweating a good deal, and not eating any snacks, you may want to consider a sports beverage with some carbohydrate, sodium, and other electrolytes.
Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, All Sport): Beverages with 6-8% carbohydrate concentration which is easily absorbed and utilized during exercise. Small amounts of electrolytes sodium, potassium, chloride, and phosphorus. Contain either sucrose, glucose, or high fructose corn syrup as the energy source.
Natural sports drink (LIV): All natural sports drink. Uses brown rice syrup and agave nectar as carbohydrate source (7% carbohydrate). Contains no artificial dyes. Contains potassium and sodium.
Regular soft drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew) : Most have 15% carbohydrate which is a high concentration for exercise and can cause stomach cramping. The carbonation prevents drinking enough to hydrate properly. Soft drinks containing caffeine can act as a diuretic causing additional fluid losses.
Diet soft drinks (Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Sprite): Diet drinks are fine to drink on the course, but just like water they do not contain carbohydrate. You may need to eat something on the course if you did not have a large enough meal before you teed off. Carbonated drinks do not promote drinking as much as noncarbonated drinks.
Fruit juice, lemonade, sweet tea: These beverages are too high in carbohydrate for exercise. Fruit juice will have electrolytes, but the others do not. Because these beverages are so concentrated in sugar, they do not really quench your thirst as much as water.
Fitness waters (Propel, Vitaminwater, Fitness Water): Fitness waters are mostly water with a small amount of carbohydrate (1-2%). They are flavored and noncarbonated so they promote drinking enough to stay hydrated. Depending on the brand, many contain small amounts of various vitamins and minerals. Most do not contain very much sodium or other electrolytes to replace sweat losses. Just like regular water, drink to hydrate, but you may need a snack during your round to keep your glucose (energy) level up.
Energy drinks (Red Bull, Amp, Full Throttle): These drinks are carbonated, very concentrated in sugar, and have a fair amount of caffeine, all of which are not good choices during exercise.
Bottom Line
Hydration is important anytime you are out on the course, but extra attention should be paid during the summer months or hot climate. Water is the best at hydrating, but you may want to consider using a sports beverage or drinking water along with some strategic snacks during the round to replace your electrolytes.
Tara Gidus is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a nutrition consultant, National Spokesperson, American Dietetic Association, The 'Diet Diva' on The Daily Buzz national TV show, and a GFM Advisory Team Member. To find more about Tara, log on to
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