Sport maxims about H20 don’t hold water

Whether it’s golf, training or just going about our daily business, we are bombarded with messages that we must drink water—and lots of it.

Two of the most common messages are:

  • Performance detiorates when you are dehydrated by as little as two percent of body weight
  • Once you’re thirsty, it’s already too late

Well, it turns out that like a lot of information that is held to be sacrosanct, it’s not the gospel truth.

A new study published by Dr. Stephen Cheung, a physiologist at the Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, showed that losing even three per cent of body mass through dehydration has no discernible effect on performance. (For more, check out this Globe and Mail article.)

As Alex Hutchison wrote in the Globe, “Instead of striving to replace every drop that you sweat, it now appears a little thirst isn’t the end of the world.”

This finding has confused many people, including golfers who have been implored by their coaches to drink lots of water before, during and after games. ‘Make sure you take a sip on every tee.’

Like technical golf instruction, when taken to extremes, many things that we obsess about, or believe are absolute musts, can actually hurt our performance because we worry about them. For example, if a golfer is fussed about being thirsty, he will be distracted.

Let’s be clear: staying hydrated remains vitally important to overall health and performance in all aspects of our lives. It’s just not as important as many made it out to be.

So what’s the take-away for golfers focused on performance?

  • Avoid sugar-laced drinks, alcohol and caffeinated beverage; they contribute to dehydration. They do not count as water intake.
  • Don’t be a party animal the night before an important round. You’ll go into the round with a water deficit and your thinking and body will suffer.
  • Prepare for every round by ensuring you have a full water bottle that you can refill during your round.
  • Use your common sense and drink throughout the round. Your body will remind you to drink water. Go figure, eh?

The debate around hydration is a good reminder that in our information-overload society, there’s a tendency to get uptight about all this stuff we believe we must do.

I lean toward moderation in most things. Being a little chill nearly always works out better than being stressed.

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!