When it comes to running, Adam Marsh is “always open to the latest and greatest,” the 46-year-old tells The Post.
From donning silly-looking minimalist running shoes to ripping shots of beet juice in the morning to rev his endurance, Marsh, who lives in Soho, is game for anything that might give him a speed bump.
The finance-tech worker also “loves a cold, draft beer” — so, naturally, when he spotted suds with running-inspired names (“Flyby,” “Repeat,” “Race Pace”) and fitness-boosting claims, he was intrigued.
Marsh is exactly the type of person the booze industry hopes to snare with its new, big “wellness” push. Faced with declining sales — a recent analysis from booze data tracker IWSR shows that worldwide alcohol consumption fell by 1.6% in 2018 — and an increasingly fitness-obsessed populace, beer, wine and spirits have gone on a health kick. With buzzy ingredients and slick marketing, alcohol companies are trying to position booze as a fun alternative to Gatorade (or, hey, water) after a hard workout.
Beer, which has seen the biggest decline in sales across alcohol categories, is working especially hard to shift its image from frat boys with flabby bellies to fit folks who need to quench their thirst — and replenish their electrolytes, meaning nutrients the body loses during a sweaty workout and fitness training — after 10K races and CrossFit classes.
There’s the Sierra Nevada-owned brewery Sufferfest, whose pale ale, Fastest Known Time, has about as much electrolyte-replenishing sodium as many sports drinks. There’s also Harpoon Brewery’s new Rec. League pale ale, a 120-calorie light beer with an ingredient list akin to a protein bar’s (highlights: kasha, chia seeds, sea salt, omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants). 26.2 Brew, released earlier this year by Boston Beer Co. and named after the number of miles in a marathon, touts that it’s “for runners, by runners” on the company’s website.
26.2’s creator, Shelley Smith, tells The Post that suds like hers make sense for fitness freaks’ work-hard, play-hard lifestyles.
“Many of the running clubs I am a part of go out for beers after our runs, and it’s always a great way to celebrate crossing the finish line,” says Smith, a marathoner and triathlete. Her brew gets its electrolytic kick from Himalayan sea salt. (Runners regularly worry about sweating so much during long workouts that they require extra salt, and Himalayan salt is thought to be especially rich in beneficial minerals. It also happens to be the only kind of salt health-crazy Boston hero Tom Brady consumes.)
Meanwhile, Zelus Beer Co. in Massachusetts sponsored a first-time marathoner named Will Vital to blog about his running and drinking.
“I have seen some benefits with hydro-friendly beers,” Vital writes on the blog. “Beer itself can definitely help replenish glycogen stores in the body and when proper electrolyte balance is achieved, the body’s recovery time can be enhanced.” ‘Alcohol is dehydrating — that’s the opposite of what you want.’
But experts aren’t drinking the ultra-hydrating Kool-Aid.
“Alcohol is dehydrating — that’s the opposite of what you want,” Dr. Michael Crupain, a preventative medicine specialist and in-house adviser at “The Dr. Oz Show,” tells The Post.
And while many of these beers mention electrolytes in their marketing, he says that’s not something most of us need to worry about.
“You have to be doing some really, really intense exercise, like more than two hours,” to need to consume supplemental electrolytes, he says.
Hydrating beers aren’t the only drinks that may be masquerading as healthy alcohol choices. For vino lovers, there’s FitVine wine and its eye-roll-inducing slogan: “We crush grapes, you crush life.” The California wine company, which started selling at Bed, Bath & Beyond this year, feature less than 1 gram of residual sugar per 5 ounce glass, compared to 1 to 10 grams in typical dry wines. The website gives you a pretty clear image of who the target demographic is, with images of trim women in leggings and yogic quotes (“Savasana. Then, Syrah”). The California-based importer, Dry Farm Wines, also offers wines with less than a gram of sugar, and advertises its offerings as “keto-friendly” and “Paleo-friendly.”
Spirits, too, are getting in the healthy spirit: Gem & Bolt mezcal — made with organic agave and damiana, a plant with supposed mood-boosting properties — professes on the company’s website to be a “clean” spirit that reflects “deep care for what we take into our bodies.” Late last year, it was joined by Ketel One’s Botanical line of lightly flavored and infused vodkas sans sugar, artificial sweeteners and carbs — not unlike regular vodka. (Naturally, they’re a regular advertiser on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop podcast.)
But no matter the fancy ingredients and marketing, alcohol isn’t healthy.
“It’s toxic, which is why we get intoxicated,” says Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone.
All alcohol, she explains, is metabolized by the body in the same way — regardless of “herbs or sodium or other ingredients.” US dietary guidelines recommend that alcohol be consumed “in moderation,” meaning up to one drink a day for women and two for men.
Marsh avoids drinking during the week but says he likes to reward himself with a cold one after his weekend long runs of 15 to 20 miles. He hasn’t noticed that the special runner beers leave him feeling any better than regular brews.
“I’m not sure I see a huge difference,” Marsh says, then jokingly offers up an alternative.
“Gatorade and vodka sound delicious to me,” he says with a laugh. “That sounds like a great recovery drink.”