How Pickle Juice Changed the World of Sports: Food Innovations From the Football Field

Pickle juice is one of football’s enigmatic contributions to science.

The Philadelphia Eagles started their 2000 season at Texas Stadium in Dallas. They opened with an onside kick, recovered the ball, and quickly threw a touchdown pass. Sure, they were a losing team, expected to lose against the Cowboys, and here they were pulling ahead. But that’s not what set the game apart. It was 109 degrees, the hottest game ever played.

Imagine being a 300-pound guy, in tights, running around, running into other big guys while wearing 30 pounds of equipment. You’re going to sweat. A dozen Cowboys did so much sweating, they dropped out of the game with heat-induced muscle cramps. All the Eagles stayed in and the team won 41-14. The Eagles’ secret weapon? They fought off cramps with pickle juice.

Pickle juice has long had a reputation for curing hangovers, easing sunburns, or reducing the blisters on Nolan Ryan’s fingertips. But the 2000 game in Dallas really set the ball in motion. Now, there are pickle juice products (sort of the Schlitz of sports drinks) and at least one researcher attempting to unravel the drink's mysterious effects.

Following the "pickle juice game" in Dallas, Kevin C. Miller, then a doctoral student at Brigham Young University, got wind of the story. For his dissertation, he looked into the role that pickle juice can play in muscle cramping. Miller, who’s now a professor at North Dakota State University and the world’s leading expert on pickle juice (perhaps its only expert), performed another experiment in 2009.

He went out to Sam’s Club and bought two big 5-gallon buckets of Vlasic dill pickles. He lugged them back to the lab and drained out all the pickles. (He gives them away to students or fellow faculty). Miller had 12 healthy volunteers pedal for 30 minutes on stationary bicycles. When the riders became measurably dehydrated, he induced muscle cramps in their toes with electrical shocks and administered one of three things: nothing, ionized water, or pickle juice. Riders drank the equivalent of about 1 milliliter for every kilogram of body weight, so a 150-pound guy got about 2 ounces. Last May, he published the study, which showed pickle juice relieved cramps 45 percent faster than drinking nothing and 37 percent faster than water alone.

Here’s the thing: There’s no way the salty, vinegary liquid laced with sodium benzoate could actually reach your big toe or your stomach in 85 seconds, so there’s something else going on.

Miller suspects that the juice (probably the vinegar) triggers a reflex that tells our brains to tell our muscles to relax, something Bob Murray, a former Gatorade researcher who runs the firm Sports Science Insights, confirmed. “Scientists have known for a long time that the mouth has a lot of receptors. When we consume something, it gives the body the first sign of what’s on the way.”

This advances the theory that the limits of the human body—from fatigue to cramping—may have less to do with our muscles and more to do with our mind. Another study found that when cyclists on stationary bikes swished a carbohydrate-laced energy drink in their mouths, they didn’t even need to swallow the mixture—and voila! merely the presence of carbs in the mouth was enough to trick their brain into thinking the body would soon have more energy. One of the authors of that study, David Jones, a professor at the University of Birmingham's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, says something slightly different appears to be going on with pickle juice.

“When a part of our body is hurting, the natural reaction is to hold or rub that area. However, a similar amount of pain relief can generally be obtained by rubbing other parts of the body and this certainly works as a way of relieving cramps,” he told me. “So I think the pickle juice is providing a bit of a shock to the system and you could probably get the same result by providing a bit of pain elsewhere on the body.”

In other words, drinking pickle juice could be like spraying Icy Hot on your skin, except it's vinegar hitting the back of your throat—temporarily taking your mind off what's the matter with your muscles. Which could also mean that drinking carbonated water or eating wasabi might function the same way. Even if you’re not watching the Super Bowl this weekend, it's worth thinking about how sometimes the strange things we eat and drink can bring a very different kind of relief.

Halftone illustration adapted from a photo (cc) by Dom Dada

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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