Golf Science – Beating the Heat

Golf Science – Beating the Heat

By: Kiran Kanwar

Summer is here and Texas will continue to get hot, hotter and hottest. And while the temperatures rise, so too does the avid golfers’ interest in playing the game we all love. So, it becomes vital to protect oneself in a number of ways including through wearing the right apparel (sweat-wicking shirts and perhaps a hat or visor) as well as using sun protection for the skin. One article from Golf Australia even advises that a tournament should be cancelled or postponed if the ambient temperature is greater than 36°C (97°F) or the relative humidity is greater than 25%.

Perhaps the most important thing to guard against is the likelihood of dehydration. The human body is 75% water, while the brain is 85% water. Thus, it becomes important to not lose more than 1% of one’s body weight through sweat, which increases in hot weather. While it is not easy to be constantly weighing oneself, the general rule-of-thumb is that urine should not be a dark color – as dark, or darker than, apple juice, according to an article on a nutrition news website.

The website also mentions that it is not only fluid (water or other liquid) intake that matters, but also the quality of carbohydrate-containing foods consumed. For instance,  summery fruits like melons, oranges and strawberries not only have high water content but can also help to replace the important minerals lost during sweating, especially sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride.

Research has shown that there are specific times and quantities of fluid intake that are ideal when spending many hours in the sun expending a lot of energy (such as when walking the golf course and perhaps carrying a golf bag). According to advice provided specifically for golfers by the European Tour Performance Institute, hydration should begin up to two hours before a round of golf if it is expected to expend a lot of energy (perhaps not the case for those riding in a cart!). Then there should be some liquid intake every ten minutes followed by further carbohydrate, mineral and fluid intake post-round, especially one involving over ninety minutes of an endurance workout such as walking up and down a hilly golf course. While providing details of fluid intake in terms of both quantities and timing with respect to physical activity, the ETPI article also makes suggestions for the timings and contents of meals before, during and after a long bout of exercise. 

There are a vast variety of bottled drinks to choose from, and some brands make a variety of scientifically researched products to match and replace the consumption of body sugars and salts through their drinks. One well-known brand has four hydration products – one with less sugar for short-duration, light workouts and others for heavy, all-day exercise. A great home-made alternative is a lemonade which can be made to contain the perfect amount of sweetening and salts to suit an individual’s dietary requirements.

An article in a scientific journal is titled “Are we being drowned in hydration advice? Thirsty for more?” and mentions muscle cramps, reduced cognitive and motor performance with lack of adequate hydration. However, it also goes on to warn of the dangers of excessive water intake, which can lead to hyperhydration and hyponatremia (basically involving too much water intake).

So, while summer with its long days, is the perfect time to play a lot of golf, some sensible protection from the elements will make for a safer round with perhaps better performance too.