Hydration considerations for travel
6th November 2009 By: 14310

Dehydration not only impacts on your ability to train, perform and recover, but can also have serious medical side effects.

In our last article we looked at food requirements and considerations for travel. Hopefully the article helped you gain an appreciation of how important addressing your food requirements is when competing across the globe. The other aspect of that performance-nutrition equation is, of course, ensuring adequate hydration measures are taken into account, especially when travel and environmental conditions can alter hydration status considerably. As you are well aware, dehydration not only impacts on your ability to train, perform and recover, but can also have serious medical side effects.

Now, just to recap a little of the physiology before we get onto the practical issues. Fluid is essential to maintain blood volume, regulate body temperature and allow muscle contractions to take place. During exercise, blood vessels dilate to help heat escape (this is why we turn red), but the main way the body maintains optimal body temperature is by sweating. When core body temperatures rise, heat is removed from the body when beads of sweat on the skin’s surface evaporate. So while sweating is actually an important cooling technique, over time if not adequately replaced, sweating can actually result in losses of body fluid. The types of factors affecting sweat rates are;

Temperature – The hotter it is the more you sweat. Training regularly in high temperatures on consecutive days will compromise your hydration status. This will affect your ability to train well and as a result, potentially affect your skill acquisition and ultimately your performance as a golfer, both in training and in games. Humidity - The more humid it is, the more you sweat. Individual Variation – As you are no doubt aware, some people simply sweat much more than others. Intensity of exercise – The harder you work, the higher the sweat rates.

So what does this mean for my performance?

The things that are affected by dehydration are;• performance, endurance, • recovery, concentration, • co-ordination, skill and • decision making • fatigue, headaches, dizziness and cramps can result.

ASK YOURSELF THIS…………What would it mean to your result if you experience even just one of these side effects? Could it be the difference between a win, a triple or even missing a cut?

So at what point will these things occur?

Most people assume the effects of dehydration only occur when a person is severely dehydrated, but this is not the case. These changes can happen at as little as 2% dehydration.

For e.g. If a 65kg golfer has lost 1.3L of fluid, this is 2% of their body’s total water content. Most people wouldn’t even be aware when they have lost 2%, it’s not obvious and they won’t have begun to feel thirsty, yet they could still have poor judgment, skill and decision making all affected. Thirst is not always a reliable indicator of fluid requirements and you cannot train your body to become used to dehydration – this will not “toughen you up”.

Exercise resulting in 2.5% loss of fluid = 45% reduction in capacity to perform.

So how can I prevent all of this?

Easy! Mke fluid replacement a priority during training, practice and tournaments. By drinking regularly during exercise, you can prevent declines in concentration and skill level, improve perceived exertion (i.e. how hard it feels like you are working), prevent excessive elevations in heart rate and body temperature and overall improve your performance.

Estimating fluid losses is an important part of this. You can easily estimate your own fluid requirements by weighing yourself before and after tournaments and practise sessions. Each kilogram of weight lost is roughly equivalent to one litre of fluid. Adding on the weight of any fluid consumed during the exercise session will provide an estimate of total fluid loss for the session. For example, an athlete who finishes an exercise session 1 kg lighter and has consumed 1 litre of fluid during the session has a total fluid turnover of 2 litres. If this was a 4 hour session, this player now knows their approximate sweat rate under those conditions and can develop a hydration plan to match.

For example, you could fill results in for yourself.

Pre training/ tournament weight

Post training/
tournament weight


% lost

Amount of fluid consumed

Total Turnover

Hourly sweat rate











Monitor your typical sweat losses over a number of tournaments, training and practice sessions (as well as under different environmental conditions) and develop a hydration plan for before, during and after the sessions that replace these losses.

Plane Travel

The risk of becoming dehydrated on short flights is only moderate, however for long haul flights, it is well worth considering. Pressurised cabins causes increased fluid losses from the skin and lungs. The humidity inside the cabin is 10-15%, which means that moisture is being drawn from your body. It is inadequate to rely on cabin service for fluid as the serve sizes of drinks is very small and opportunity to drink is infrequent. Players should take their own supply of bottled water onto the flight to supplement any fluids supplied. Aim to drink approximately 1 cup (250ml) per hour during the flight. Caffeine-containing fluids such as tea, coffee and cola drinks may cause increased urine production, but can still contribute to a positive fluid balance in athletes (especially in those who regularly drink caffeinated drinks). Alcohol should be avoided on flights.

Hotel Air-ConditioningThe process of cooling the air causes a great deal of moisture to be lost from it (ever notice how much an air conditioner drips while it is working?). The relative humidity drops 50-70% as the air is cooled. This cool, dry air pulls moisture from your lungs as you breathe and this can increase dehydration.

Caffeine Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it increases the volume of urine produced (fluid lost) by the body. Caffeine-containing drinks can be used as a re-hydration beverage as long as the increase in fluid lost as urine is not greater than the amount of fluid that is consumed from drinks such as tea and coffee and cola drinks. Non-caffeinated fluids (e.g. water, sports drinks, juice, cordial) are more effective for hydrating, and are therefore still the preferred choice, but the regular caffeine drinker does not need to avoid caffeine-containing drinks altogether.

Alcohol Alcohol will act as a diuretic (i.e. you urinate more regularly) and as a result interferes with re-hydration and other recovery processes such as glycogen re-synthesis. Alcohol also dilates blood vessels which can increase blood flow to soft tissue injuries, making them worse. In other words does the exact opposite to ice on an injured area.If you choose to drink alcohol after exercise, look after your recovery needs first (i.e. replacing fluids and carbohydrates and proteins) and then enjoy an alcoholic beverage in sensible amounts.

What about alcohol and performance?

Alcohol prior to tournaments will:• Increase the risk of injury by 20%. (Depresses Central Nervous System, impairs co-ordination, alertness and judgement)• Exacerbates dehydration. (diuretic effect)• Reduces aerobic performance.• Does not assist in fuelling muscle glycogen stores.• Decreases athletic performance by about 12% for 36-48 hours afterwards.

Competing at altitude

There are nutritional and hydration considerations for competing at altitude, ideally golfers would reach tournament destination in time to acclimatise. At both rest and during exercise there is an increase in metabolic rate and an increased utilization of blood glucose, with a corresponding reduction in the use of dietary and stored fat as a fuel source. In addition to fluid losses that occur via sweating, considerable fluid is lost due to breathing in cold and or dry air.


If the tournament is being held in hotter or more humid conditions than those that you are used to, then it is likely your fluid losses during matches will be higher. Arriving in enough time to acclimatise to the new location is ideal as well as having a good pre, during and post match hydration plan.


  1. Start matches hydrated, get into the habit of taking a water bottle with you everywhere you go and sip fluids regularly throughout the day leading up to training or tournaments. Have a drink with all meals and snacks.
  2. Immediately before exercise consume about 200-600mL fluid. This helps to hydrate and as well as prepare the gut for future intake
  3. Allow for frequent opportunities to drink during tournaments and ingesting fluid very early in exercise and continue this throughout the whole event. It might help to have a mL/hole plan with your fluid intake. Most athletes can tolerate 200-300 ml every 15-20minutes or about 600- 1L per hour. It is much better to aim for small volumes regularly than trying to guzzle large amounts in one hit, this can leave you feeling uncomfortable.
  4. Water and Sports Drinks are good fluid choices. Volume of fluid intake is better when drinks are cool (not cold), flavoured and contain sodium, so you may consider sports drinks during or after session that are greater than one hour and or when training or playing in hot conditions.
  5. If you are a heavy sweater or suffer from cramps, sodium replacement will also be necessary. While Sports Drinks can help with this, you can also include additional salty (not fatty!!!!) foods. (e.g. bread, crisp breads, low fat savoury crackers, breakfast cereals. If you know that you will be competing in hot weather, or if you are a heavy, salty sweater, it is OK to add a little salt to your meals.
  6. Aim to recover 150% of fluid lost in the first few (4-6) hours after exercise. This takes into account any fluids you continue to lose after activity because you are still sweating and any losses as a result of going to the toilet. For example, if you lost 1 kg (1000 mL), you will need to drink 1500 mL to fully re-hydrate.
Article from Ladies European Tour:
Published: 6/11/2009

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