When I was in college, there was an impressively divey bar near campus that was packed basically every single night of the week.
It was a place that obviously hadn’t been touched since Henry Hill’s gang ran a point-shaving operation out of the basement back in the 1970s and the bathroom had a single urinal situated directly next to a toilet out in the open that gave you literally no privacy if something happened to come knocking at your back door.
It wasn’t exactly an ideal situation for a bar that could fit a couple hundred people (or for whoever had to clean the walls of the Dunkin Donuts next door that provided a fair amount of cover if you weren’t in a position to wait ten minutes for your turn).
During my nights there, I usually waited as long as possible before I peed for the first time, which usually resulted in me doing my best reenactment of that one scene from A League of Their Own.
The reason I tortured my bladder as much as I did was to avoid the fate that comes with “breaking the seal,” a phenomenon that seemingly results in an exponential number of trips to the bathroom once you open the floodgates.
If Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Theory” is true, then I am a drinking expert, but I recently realized I’ve accepted the fact that breaking the seal is a thing despite knowing nothing about the science behind it.
So, is breaking the seal real or just another drinking myth? Here’s what the real experts say.
The Science Of Breaking The Seal
Alcohol starts messing with your organs as soon as you start drinking thanks to its ability to make your brain stop doing the things it normally does to allow you to be a functioning human being.
One of the first victims are the kidneys, which usually rely on a substance called “vasopressin” whose job is to suppress your urge to urinate (it’s what’s responsible for making sure you don’t have to wake up every three hours to use the bathroom at night).
The kidneys are responsible for reabsorbing water back into your body but drinking causes them to work about as hard as a mall cop on night duty, which leads to more fluid being diverted to the bladder (and results in an unquenchable thirst for Gatorade when you wake up with a hangover).
Alcohol serves as a diuretic and drinking makes your kidneys decide dealing with water is someone else’s problem, which results in more liquid getting channeled directly into your bladder.
As if that wasn’t enough, one expert says alcohol may also irritate nerves in the bladder, and this combination of factors can lead to an increased urge to urinate as you continue to drink over the course of the evening (or day. Or morning. I’m not judging you).
It takes some time for these effects to kick in which means it can take a while until you reach a point where the seal has to be broken.
However, simply opening the floodgates will have no impact on how much you’ll urinate after your inaugural pee. Your kidneys get less effective with every drink, which is the real reason you have to go more frequently as you continue to imbibe.
It’s also commonly accepted that people consume more liquid than usual when they drink, so it’s only natural that you’re going to make more trips to the bathroom than you normally would.
Drinking beer or mixed drinks may exacerbate the problem compared to ripping shots thanks to sheer volume (carbonation can also increase pressure) but they’re all going to have an impact on how your body processes things (and how often you pee).
Is Breaking The Seal A Myth?
Based on the evidence presented, it would appear that I’ve been lied to my entire life as breaking the seal does not, in fact, appear to be a thing.
If anything, you’re only doing a disservice to yourself by having to deal with the discomfort that comes with holding it in, so there’s no need to pull a Tom Hanks whenever you get your drink on.
Feel free to use these facts to be “that guy” the next time the topic comes up.