In April, a Notre Dame senior named Emmet Farnan running a half-marathon handicapped himself by shotgunning a beer at each of the race’s 13-mile markers. People gawked at his self-destructive routine, but Farnan managed to finish the race with an impressive time of 1:43:42. It’s hard not to wonder: Will athletes be cracking open cold ones instead of Gatorades in the future?
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, a brewery famous for its IPAs, certainly has reason to hope so. In March 2016, it launched SeaQuench Ale — a light, sour-flavored beer that allegedly hydrates people as they drink it. Aside from having a low-calorie count that keeps people from realizing they’re drinking liquid bread, the beer is brewed with strains of barley that supposedly contain high levels of potassium and also sea salts containing sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and even more potassium.
These are, not incidentally, the same minerals in sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, which help people recover faster when they’re severely dehydrated because so many of those salts — commonly referred to as electrolytes — are lost while we sweat.
But Tara Condell, a registered nutritionist and dietitian at Top Balance Nutrition, is not impressed with SeaQuench Ale. She tells Inverse that all those electrolytes won’t do much to hydrate anyone since anything containing alcohol will do the opposite.
“I believe it’s misleading to call any alcohol ‘hydrating’ without proper evidence to back up the claims,” Condell says. “Although SeaQuench Ale has a lower ABV than some beers, we don’t know what the threshold percentage is for when alcohol maintains hydration or causes hypohydration status.”
Alcoholic drinks have a dehydrating effect on people, making them a poor choice for athletes or anyone else looking to hydrate themselves. That’s because alcohol keeps your body from producing vasopressin, an anti-diuretic hormone. Normally, vasopressin in the bloodstream tells the body not to urinate so much; but when you’re drunk and there’s less vasopressin around, you go to the bathroom much more often, pissing out the rest of your body’s water. This dehydrates you more rapidly, as your body quickly becomes low on water, as well as all of the sodium and potassium that gets flushed down the toilet.
As of yet, there’s no published evidence that SeaQuench Ale will hydrate anyone, so perhaps don’t bring it to the gym as a sports drink replacement. In his interview with USA Today, however, Dogfish Head co-founder Sam Calagione said that two years of research with a company called Sports Science Insights (owned by the former director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute) went into this drink, which he called “the most objectively thirst-quenching beer.”
Word is out on whether SeaQuench Ale will quench parched runners, but it’ll guarantee to still give them a buzz — you’ll want to take that into account if you want to try your hand at a beer marathon down the road.