The hydration recipe every golfer should know to think, feel, and play their best
Koji Aoki / Aflo
Even if you don’t know much about nutrition, you probably know that high-sugar drinks are a no-no. But what PGA Tour performance dietician Ryan Harmon has noticed is that golfers are taking it to an extreme: They think the answer to proper on-course hydration is sugar-free liquids. And that’s actually not what your body needs. Without sugar, which is a carbohydrate, you can’t properly hydrate.
“You don't want the sugar too high, but a lot of people feel like they shouldn't have any sugar at all in the fluid that they hydrate with. And the issue with that is that all the science shows that we actually absorb more of our electrolytes when there's a little bit of sugar in there,” Harmon said. “So if you have a few different kinds of carbohydrate sugar in your drink with your electrolytes, that's going to be the best option.”
Some sugar (but not too much)
Drinking plain water isn't enough; you need sugar, salt and electrolytes to maximize your hydration, Harmon explains. You need to get them either through adding an electrolyte powder to your drink, or snacking on foods that contain the correct balance of carbohydrate and sodium. Salted cashews and bananas are two good options. Dehydration results in a decrease in cognitive as well as physical performance, so it's worth stashing a few packets of electrolyte mix in your bag to have on hand during hot rounds.
"Hydration and snack recommendations for the course are complex because it's not a one size fits all scenario," Harmon says. The only way to create an optimized hydration plan is to work with a sport dietician, but there are some basic guidelines you can follow: First, start hydrating before you get to the golf course. Once you’re on-course, “The general recommendation is to consume 4 to 8 ounces of fluid with electrolytes every 15-20 minutes. Athletes incorporating salty snacks and carbohydrates may not require the use of an electrolyte powder, unless they are a salty sweater or a heavy sweater,” Harmon said.
Harmon recommends these electrolyte powders that you can mix into your water on the golf course: