Currently professional, college and high school football teams and college and high school cross country track teams will soon be beginning their hot summer practices. They will also begin their need to drink pickle juice as a way to help stave off muscle cramps. Runners and bikers, especially those in the very warm southern climates also know full well the benefits that pickle juice provides. Pickle juice can definitely help to prevent muscle cramping.
Pickle juice contains salt, calcium chloride and vinegar. The basic ingredients are similar to what you would find in isotonic drinks. Where pickle juice has acetic acid, isotonic drinks contain citric acid, like the sports drink featuring the name gator and power in it.
Sometimes you may sneak a sip of juice from the pickle jar. That’s OK. That seemingly worthless liquid, which often gets tossed into the trash when the pickles are gone, could be the key to athletic endurance and avoiding debilitating leg cramps?
The use of pickle juice as a defense against muscle cramps first attracted headlines when the Philadelphia Eagles credited pickle juice with their cramp-free win over the Dallas Cowboys in the over-one-hundred-degrees Texas heat. Rick Burkholder, the Eagles’ head trainer, called it his “secret weapon.” Pickle companies (such as Mt. Olive Pickle, Vlasic Foods and Golden Pickle) claim that pickle juice is similar to an isotonic beverage and can prevent muscle cramps caused from strenuous exercise.
Golden Pickle has even created a sports drink, appropriately named “Pickle Juice Sport.” Golden Pickle claims that Pickle Juice Sport has “approximately 30 times more electrolytes than Powerade and 15 times more than Gatorade.” It is even endorsed by Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten.
So how does this work? Muscle cramps are caused by dehydration from exercising in hot weather and not drinking enough fluids. How could pickle juice help? When you sweat during exercise, you lose a lot of salt and minerals. These minerals and salt are also known as electrolytes. This loss of electrolytes can cause muscle cramping, especially in hot, humid weather. Cells in the body use electrolytes in the cell fluid to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses to other cells. In the case of my bike ride, I had to be able to use my muscles in both a pulling and contracting motion, or muscle contractions. Pickle juice has a very high salt, or electrolyte content. Therefore, drinking pickle juice before and during exercise could possibly provide your body with enough salt, that your muscles will not cramp.
Confused? Don’t be. Anything liquid containing any or all of the four commonly considered electrolytes, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium will work to help to prevent muscle cramping. Obviously, the more the better. Give it a try on a daily basis and see for yourself. Don’t worry about how people look at you when you tip that empty pickleless laden jar of liquid up to your lips.
Research Study to Support this OMG Moment:
~Although there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of pickle juice as a method of preventing dehydration and muscle cramps, the is little scientific evidence supporting or refuting these ideas. Dale, et al. examined the effectiveness of pickle juice as a preventative measure for exercise-associated muscle cramps compared to Gatorade. This study compared the pickle juice from Vlasic Pickles to the carbohydrate sports beverage Gatorade. The two beverage samples were analyzed in a food-composition laboratory to determine the amount of salt, potassium, calcium and magnesium in each product. Pickle juice was found to have considerably more salt than the carbohydrate beverage. Dale et. al. concluded that pickle juice can be used as a remedy for muscle cramps. However, the study warns of the danger of ingesting large amounts of salt and suggests that athletes should dilute the pickle juice with a sufficient quantity of a hypotonic or isotonic solution. Two ounces is the suggested serving size of pickle juice.
~ Researchers suggest that the pickle juice acts on neural reflexes — a plausible suggestion, given that earlier experiments have found that vinegar can provoke reflexes and affect neurotransmitter levels. This fits with an alternate theory that cramps have nothing to do with dehydration or electrolyte loss, first proposed in the 1990s by Martin Schwellnus of the University of Cape Town:
“Schwellnus et al. proposed that [cramps] were due to neuromuscular fatigue. Neuromuscular fatigue is thought to create an imbalance between muscle spindle and Golgi tendon organ activity, resulting in increased alpha motor neuron excitability. Thus, if [cramps] are caused by an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory stimuli at the alpha motor neuron pool, pickle juice ingestion may cause an increase in inhibition from supraspinal sources, thereby resulting in cramp alleviation.”