146: The Golfer’s Guide to Hydration

Golf is hard.  And there are a lot of components that contribute to making it difficult.  Typically, in order to improve, we resort to working on our technique, getting in better shape, fighting off nagging injuries, or other methods that often take a long time and a lot of work.  But there is a secret weapon that can have an immediate impact on your game and prevent you from breaking down at the end of your round.

This week on the podcast I am talking all about hydration for golf and why it might be one of the most important, but overlooked components that could change your game.

My recent trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama allowed me to play a couple of rounds of golf in the hot, humid Gulf weather.  This got me thinking about staying hydrated on the course and wondering about some of the physiology of what is actually going on when we sweat and how it affects our performance.

So in this episode, I break down the basics of hydration/dehydration by looking at:

  • What is actually happening in the body
  • The main substances and chemicals that contribute
  • What dehydration can mean for your golf game
  • Share some of the performance products that I use/recommend
  • Give you 7 tips for fighting dehydration to keep you from giving up sloppy strokes

Below is the outline of notes for the show, including links to any resources mentioned during the show and other online articles/studies that were used to gather information.

The Golfer’s Guide to Hydration (Outline)

The body needs water for survival. (If water is the gas, electrolytes are the motor oil). It delivers good stuff like oxygen, nutrients, and hormones while removing wastes and other junk. Regulates body and cellular temps


  • Hydration: the condition of having adequate fluid in the tissues of the body
  • Dehydration: an abnormal depletion of body fluids (the body needs more fluids than are present or being input to function normally)

What’s normal hydration?

  • Body’s water % (can only really measure with a body fat scale using bioelectric impedence analysis, which sends electrical signals through the body)
    • Men 50-65%
    • Women 45-60%
  • Urine: light yellow
  • emptying bladder 5-8 times per day

What is dehydration? 2 kinds

  • Loss of
    • Water (Hypernatremic or hypertonic)
    • Electrolytes (Hyponatremic or hypotonic)
    • Both (isonatremic or isotonic)
  • Levels
    • Mild >2% (of total bodily fluids)
    • Moderate >5%
    • Severe >10% * emergency *
  • Signs of Dehydration
    • stomach cramps
    • muscle cramps
    • spasms,
    • dizziness
    • fatigue
    • nausea
    • weakness
    • confusion
    • headaches
    • dry mouth
  • Electrolytes: minerals/substances in the body that become ions in a solution and are able to conduct electricity that help the body perform their normal functions. They work both independently and with each other doing things like moving glucose and other nutrients into your cells, and helping to remove waste products and extra water from your cells.
    • Sodium: 136-145 mEq/L
    • Potassium: 5-5.3 mEq/L
    • Magnesium: 1.5-2.5 mEq/L
    • Chloride: 97-107 mEq/L
    • Calcium: 5-5.5 mEq/L

Why is this important?

Some parts of the body rely more on the “electrical functions”

  1. Brain
  2. Nervous System
  3. Muscles

The brain is 85% water. Not drinking enough water means not enough blood flow. If the brain doesn’t get circulation, your ability to focus and process on the course decreases.

The discs in your back are mainly water. Staying hydrated means more support for the spine. When the discs compress (lose water) it can put more pressure on the small intervertebral joints and even close down the space where the nerves exit. BACK PAIN

Hydration for Golf and its Effects on Performance

  • Study (by Smith, Newall, and Baker 2012) looked at 7 low handicap golfers and took them through several skills and cognitive tests
  • Hit 30 balls to given targets measuring accuracy and distance control
  • Also shown 30 different golf location images and asked to judge distance
  • 7 days later with 12 hours of restricted beverages (determined to be mildly dehydrated: up to 3%)
  • Decreased motor control and cognitive ability
  • This was the first study to show that mild dehydration can impair distance, accuracy, and distance judgment during golf performance.

The end all be all is pure clean water. The best type of water is natural Spring water.  For a much deeper dive into the topic of water, listen to episode 73 of The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson.

  • Plastics (not so much heat, but light allows chemicals to leech into drink)
  • Traces of pharmaceuticals in tap water

Different types of quality sports drinks on the market (mention a couple of brands)

*Designs for health has been our preferred provider for pharmaceutical grade supplements for years (ie. multi vitamins, fish oil, etc).  You can find the entire line of products in our nutrition shop.

Celtic Sea Salt: an organic, unrefined sea salt that has over 80 trace minerals that will help replenish electrolytes.

Typical Sports Drinks:

Gatorade/Powerade (not the same formulation as for the Florida Gators) most people (especially kids) drink these as if they are a health drink

Be aware of serving sizes. Many times the serving size is 8oz. but it is a 20oz. bottle

Amount of sugar ranges from 14-36g which is the equivalent of 3-9 teaspoons of sugar!

Alcohol/Caffeine: (diuretic) alcohol blocks the release of a hormone needed for water reabsorption (ADH: anti-diuretic hormone) Kidneys don’t reabsorb the water, they excrete it in urine.

Plus simply affects cognitive function, decision making, and

“Sober up” by drinking coffee?!

Sparkling water:

Does hydrate as well as water, but less likely to drink as much.  Also, refer back to the quality argument.

There are possible risks of damage to teeth enamel, especially w/ citrus flavored ones.

7 Tips for Better Hydration for Golf

  1. Drink first thing in the morning
  2. Higher quality water
  3. Drink ½ your bodyweight (lbs.) in ounces (drink more if you are working out or golfing)
  4. Eat more fruits and veggies (on a regular basis) these are packed with electrolytes
    • Top hydrating foods
      • Coconut Water
      • Celery
      • Watermelon
      • Cucumber
      • Kimi
      • Bell peppers
      • Citrus fruits (oranges at soccer games)
      • Carrots
      • Cultured Dairy (kefir/yogurt)
      • Pineapple
      • Broccoli/cauliflower
      • spinach
  5. Limit alcohol/coffee (or at least up the water intake)
  6. Use some sort of high-quality electrolyte and possibly amino supplement during physical activity
  7. Refuel after exercise (drink extra water/recovery drink after exercise or golf)

Articles/Resources Mentioned in this Episode*:

Robert Yang Article on Hydration

The Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson (episode 73)

Robert Yang interview on 18STRONG (Episode 42)

The Right Stuff USA

Amino Vital

Designs for Health Electrolytes

*Other Reference Articles on hydration for golf are located at the bottom of the page.


Episode Sponsors:

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RAD Roller: RADroller.com

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Reference Articles: