Staying on the ball: Golfers look for an edge in their hydration

Kathryn Rem

Jon Mason was looking for a beverage that would increase his focus, stamina and energy while playing golf. He couldn’t find one to his liking, so he quit his real estate career and developed SwingJuice.

Now on the market for two years, SwingJuice is a hybrid energy drink, what Mason calls “a combination sports and energy drink. It’s a natural product. We’re in Whole Foods now, trying to cater toward a more healthful consumer.”

SwingJuice is one of hundreds of energy and sports drinks — a $3 billion industry — that promise to boost the performance of golfers and other athletes.

Each is concocted with a unique blend of ingredients that commonly include caffeine (for alertness), taurine (for fatigued muscles), B vitamins (to convert sugar into energy), sodium (for hydration), gingko biloba (for concentration), ginseng (to boost energy), glucuronolactone (to increase feelings of well-being), L-Carnitine (to increase metabolism), niacin (to ease anxiety), antioxidants (for body recovery) and/or some form of sugar.

“Golf is a funny sport in that the slightest component can help or hurt your game,” said Mason, president of Lincoln, R.I.-based SwingJuice. “Golfers are looking for an edge, something that’s healthful but at the same time tastes good.”

SwingJuice contains gingko biloba, ginseng, taurine, caffeine, niacin, vitamin D and B vitamins.

Another drink geared specifically toward golfers is 418 Energy, which claims to increase energy, improve focus and provide pain relief.

“Eighty percent of golfers play with some sort of inflammation and pain,” said Jim Keenan, marketing director for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based 418 Energy. “They can take this instead of pain relievers.”

The product is a performance drink, he said.

“Every golfer has a shot or two they would like to take back. This drink helps with that. They’re not tiring on the back round and they’re not playing with pain. They get an extra boost without the crash and burn,” said Keenan.

Ingredients in 418 Energy include caffeine, taurine, glucuronolactone, L-Carnitine, cat’s claw (to lessen inflammation) and bacopa monniera (to increase concentration).

When it comes to choosing an energy or sports drink, Sara Lopinski, clinical dietitian at the Center for Living at St. John’s Hospital, recommends giving thought to why you want one.

“If hydration is the goal, water is always the best choice, but an electrolyte-replacement beverage, such as Gatorade, could be appropriate in situations where an athlete might be sweating heavily,” she said.

“Some sport drinks are loaded with caffeine, which might not be the best choice due to the diuretic effect. Other drinks claim the addition of vitamins and minerals. An athlete is not going to develop a nutrient deficiency following an athletic event, so this would be an expensive way to obtain added nutrients when a person could just take a regular daily multivitamin mineral supplement,” Lopinski added.

Nonetheless, a curious golfer may want to spend a few bucks to test one of the drinks. It just may put a zing in the old swing.