As if running a mile in under five minutes wasn't hard enough, James Nielsen did it while drinking beer.
In a record-breaking race now seen on YouTube by over a million people, Nielsen, of Novato, California, ran the Beer Mile, "a perhaps less prestigious (although still extraordinary) feat of athleticism in which a competitor must finish a 12-ounce beer before each of the four laps on a 400-meter track, with penalties for throwing up," Runner's World reported. He clocked in with an official time of just 4:57.1.
Most of us can't even dream of running a sub-five-minute mile. And most of us don't even want to dream of chugging four beers while doing so. "That was really painful," Nielsen says in the video, just after having crossed the finish line. And it's not at all hard to believe him.
"Consuming four 12-ounce beers within five minutes in itself is unwise," Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., deputy director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, writes in an email to HuffPost Healthy Living. The average beer contains about 14 grams of alcohol per 12 ounces, he says, so four in such a short period of time is more than enough to increase blood alcohol concentration to the level considered legally drunk. "That being said, it is very unlikely that by the time of completion of the five-minute run the athlete would have absorbed the majority of alcohol, most would still be in the intestinal system," he says. "So the effect of the beers on the runner during the run itself are likely to be from the discomfort of ingesting 48 ounces of fluid."
To compare, if you were rehydrating during a run with some plain, old H2O, you'd only aim to take in eight ounces every 15 minutes.
Keep in mind, Nielsen is flying. He won two college championships in the 5,000 meters, won the 2007 Eugene Marathon and even qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials, Runner's World reported. Were we mere mortals to attempt such a race with our mile times well above five measly minutes, we'd be giving the alcohol more time to enter the bloodstream, which could result in tell-tale signs of intoxication like stumbling or inability to
walk run in a straight line. Not only does that sound not so conducive to running, but it could lead to injury, Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, writes in an email.
However, its combination of water, carbs and even some of the electrolytes (in the form of salt) we lose when we run has caused some to wonder if beer might actually be helpful to exercise. "Although I don't recommend athletes train with beer, it's definitely not the worst thing to drink on a run," Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, LDN, writes in an email. But it's not perfect: The alcohol content not only dehydrates you but may slow muscle recovery, Men's Fitness reported, so it's best to save your brews for some fitness-free fun, in moderation of course.
Bottom line: "This certainly looks like a unique type of drinking game for those with outstanding abilities," says Warren, "but, like all drinking games, they are dangerous and should not be encouraged." We're impressed -- and a little nauseated -- by Nielsen's feat, but... don't try this one at home.
Watch the video of Nielsen in action below -- if you dare.