Milk chugging, or the gallon challenge or milk challenge, is the sport of consuming a large amount of milk within a set period of time. Although there are variations in procedure, the general parameters are that a person is given 60 minutes to drink one US gallon (3.8 l; 0.8 imp gal) of whole milk without vomiting. A gallon milk jug is a common size of milk container in the United States.
The first recorded occurrences of competitive milk chugging date back to early 1997 where there are several explanations for the origins of the challenge. It certainly existed prior to that, however. American baseball pitcher Bill Lee mentioned the challenge in his autobiography The Wrong Stuff as one of the activities that relief pitchers used to pass the time in the bullpen as far back as the late 1960s. Undoubtedly, the most highly publicized competition was one that was featured in episode five of season two of the American television series Jackass, where Dave England and Ehren McGhehey were featured in a gallon challenge segment. Filmed in Portland, Oregon in 2000, contestants were to consume one gallon of milk in an hour in a variety of flavors, which resulted in each participant vomiting. In 1999 North Carolina legislators started a yearly milk-drinking contest to promote the dairy industry.
Milk chugging has gained popularity and a following in some countries, especially the United States. The fact that it is often presented as being "impossible", as well as media coverage of the challenge, may have led to the appeal among high school and college students, as well as celebrities.
The primary difficulty in completing the challenge lies in the limited capacity of the stomach. Generally, the stomach can hold only half a gallon (1.9 L). Stretch receptors in the organ sense when its limit is reached, triggering a vomit reflex that swiftly empties the stomach. Moreover, drinking a gallon of milk is more difficult than drinking a gallon of water. The fat and protein in milk each inhibit the stomach from releasing its contents into the small intestine, forcing more of the liquid to remain in the stomach. In turn, the action of gastric acid and proteases in the stomach cause proteins in the milk to unravel and expand the liquid into a thick semi-solid substance, further reducing the amount of fluid that can be held in the stomach without being regurgitated.
It is often claimed that the difficulty of retaining milk is related to lactose intolerance: the inability of many people to metabolize lactose, a major component of milk. Sarah Ash, an associate professor of nutrition at North Carolina State University, finds this theory unlikely, as the symptoms of lactose intolerance occur in the large intestine, rather than the stomach.
There are three universal rules in what has been called the "gallon challenge", although some minor variations may exist.
Although in almost all cases, the challenge is set for one gallon, in some cases a different amount is used, such as six US pints (2.84 l; 5.00 imp pt). Other variations of the challenge require that the contestant eats nothing during the hour of ingestion, and specify that the type of milk chosen must have at least a 2% fat content (not skimmed milk).
Many high school and college students hold their own challenges: Phi Delta Tau, at the Central College in Pella, Iowa have traditionally hosted an annual gallon challenge, four Rutgers fraternities host challenges for fundraisers, some MIT students celebrated the 2010 4th of July with a challenge, Sigma Phi Epsilon at Carnegie Mellon University host their Annual Gallon Challenge on campus, as well as many other official and unofficial gallon challenges. In 2008, several members of a fraternity at Arizona State University participating in a "milk-chug" were arrested for causing a car accident after vomiting into traffic below the bridge they were competing on.
Peter Ubriaco founded the non-profit Gallon Challenge Foundation in 2004, formalizing a local gallon-challenge contest held since 2000. The organization raised donations during the yearly challenge for food and health-related organizations; after their 2006 challenge in held in New York City, they donated to the Food Allergy Initiative, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds for the treatment and cure of food allergies.
The act of milk-chugging has also been the centerpiece for a photographer and artists' show in 2005, where he featured an image entitled "Milk Chuggers" and a video called "The Milk Chugger", where he films himself drinking milk until he vomits. In 2009, Jimmy Fallon held a milk-chugging contest on NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, with guests Hélio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti. On the broadcast, Fallon wore a rain poncho and drank chocolate milk, while the drivers drank regular milk. Also in 2009, and again in 2010, North Carolina members of the General Assembly, which included Bob Atwater, William Brisson, Andrew Brock, Dewey Hill, Joe Sam Queen and Arthur Williams, competed in a milk-chugging contest, held at North Portico of the Legislative Building in Raleigh, to raise awareness in the dairy industry. Winners of the contest would receive money to donate to a charity of their choice. In 2012, it was a major part of the plot of the Regular Show episode "Guy's Night", in which Pops tries to drink an entire bottle of milk to impress his friends.