By Karen Harrison, IJGA Director of Health and Athletic Development
Adequate hydration is vital for good health and optimum sports performance, even in the winter. Consuming water and carbohydrates with sporting activities lasting longer than 40-60 minutes can be performance-enhancing.
Ensuring adequate hydration is a MUST for a golfer who spends up to five hours playing a tournament round and countless hours practicing outdoors.
Let’s examine proper hydration for the young golf athlete in more detail.
Will Dehydration Affect My Game?
General symptoms of dehydration are easily recognized. Signs of mild dehydration include headaches, fatigue/weakness, dizziness, dry skin/lips, nausea, and muscle cramps.
More severe dehydration can cause vomiting, confusion, and agitation, with extreme cases leading to convulsions and unconsciousness.
Playing in heat and humidity magnifies the importance of maintaining hydration since these factors increase the risk of dehydration and dangerous rises in core body temperature (usually referred to as heat exhaustion or heat stroke).
Related Post: First Aid Issues You May Encounter During a Round
These heat-related illnesses can occur even while exercising in a temperature environment (only mid-60s °F!). However, with preparation and monitoring, most healthy children and adolescents can safely participate in activities in warm to hot conditions. Thus, most heat-related illnesses are preventable. Awareness of the risk factors for dehydration or exertional heat illnesses is the first step toward prevention.
Other risk factors include insufficient consumption of fluids during play, poor fitness, inadequate pre-hydration, little sleep or recovery, illness, improper clothing, or two rounds played in one day.
The potential for poor fluid management to negatively influence performance is substantial, especially in the heat. Studies illustrate that even mild dehydration has been shown to reduce the muscular coordination required during sports skills (motor performance), affect mental clarity (focus and the ability to concentrate, decision making), and alter the perception of fatigue.
In 2012, Smith and colleagues conducted research demonstrating that mild dehydration negatively affected swing mechanics and decision-making, including the ability to judge distance changes in slope and recognize differing shades of green.
Ultimately, this led to a reduction in both the distance and accuracy of the golf shots measured.
How to Know If You Are Dehydrated?
One of the simplest ways to know if you’re dehydrated is to assess the color of your urine. Generally, pale yellow indicates that you are well-hydrated. Urine darker than the color of apple juice may indicate dehydration.
Secondly, and more accurately, determine your sweat rate and fluid loss during exercise under differing environmental conditions. Measure your weight before and after training, noting how much fluid is consumed.
The total amount of fluid lost can indicate the amount of water loss per hour. It will differ between individuals and according to the climatic conditions.
Preparation allows you to develop your hydration strategy for both practice settings and tournament conditions. Stay hydrated on the golf course to improve the quality of your practice and maximize performance. The pros do it!
How Can I Stay Hydrated on the Course?
In a conversation with former LPGA player Sue Kim, she related her problem with drinking on the course; “I would never drink enough during a tournament. I simply forgot to drink”.
Her solution? Kim modified her pre-shot routine. Arriving at the next shot, her routine began with a few sips of water. It helped her to maintain a hydrated state during a round, and the action became automatic, ensuring she didn’t forget to drink.
- As a guide, 13 -16 year-olds need 1.6-1.9L of total fluid daily (from food and drinks). Exercise will increase this amount.
- Bring adequate water to the course/practice range. There may not always be opportunities to purchase water when needed (e.g., ninth hole).
- Be aware that thirst may not indicate how dehydrated you are.
- Develop your customized fluid replacement strategy and evaluate it in training before attempting it during a tournament.
Consuming fluids before exercise
- Aim to start your practice/tournament in a well-hydrated state – check your urine color (ideally, it should be pale yellow).
- Consume 5-10 ml/ kg BW water before exercise (i.e., 120 lbs. or 55 kg = 275-550 ml or 8-16 fluid oz.)
- Consider sodium in foods/fluids, as it will help you to retain fluid during exercise.
- Aim for 0.4-0.8 L of fluid per hour (130-250ml every 20 minutes).
- Water is the number one choice for fluid replacement in most instances.
- Consume small volumes of fluid frequently throughout the exercise/round/practice.
- Avoid over-drinking. Hyponatremia (low blood sodium level) is the risk of consuming too much water, with symptoms similar to dehydration.
- Recommendations are to consume enough fluid to minimize loss of body mass (1-2% loss)
- There may be a case for sports drinks in certain circumstances when a source of carbohydrates and electrolytes (primarily sodium) is required (e.g. when access to food is limited).
- Cold drinks reduce core body temperature during exercise in the heat and increase the tendency to consume more fluid. Flavored waters may also increase consumption.
- Avoid energy drinks at all costs!
- The goal is to drink 150% of the fluid lost during exercise (based on weight). Yes, more than you lost; this accounts for the obligatory urinary losses.
- Eat a meal post-practice/tournament – it will provide the carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes (Sodium and Potassium) necessary for recovery.
The optimal strategy for fluid intake for young golfers will vary based on climatic conditions, the opportunity to eat/drink, gastrointestinal comfort, and an individual’s physiology and biochemistry.
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Consider the hydration recommendations and develop your customized hydration strategy for both practice sessions and tournament rounds. It should be considered an essential element of a golf athlete’s preparation.
Start Training at IJGA
IJGA offers a world-class training environment to help you elevate your golf game. Our coaching team and staff are on-site to provide golfers with instruction and information on nutrition and hydration.
Contact IJGA for more details on our programs.