Pickle juice a cure for cramps?

A while back I wrote about how drinking pickle juice is reportedly a good way to stay hydrated when working out on a hot summer day.  Turns out some trainers also believe it’s good at warding off muscle cramps.  They claim the ratio of salt to fluid keeps cramp-prone athletes cramp free.  But is it true?  To find out, a study of male athletes was conducted at Brigham Young University in Utah. 

The subjects were forced to exercise to the point of mild dehydration.  When they reached that point, a nerve in their big toe was electrically stimulated to induce a cramp.  Half of the group was given deionized water to drink when the cramp began; the other half pickle juice.  The cramps were relieved 45 percent faster in the men drinking the pickle juice (or about 35 seconds after ingesting it).  But here’s the kicker…the pickle juice didn’t have enough time to leave the men’s stomachs, which means lost fluid and salts wouldn’t have been replenished.  So why does pickle juice work better than water?

Scientists think the acid in the pickle juice, namely a molecule in the vinegar, triggers nerve receptors in the throat and stomach that send out signals to disrupt the reflexing muscles.  In fact, in another study in which athletes were given pure vinegar to drink upon experiencing a cramp, relief came the quickest.  (By the way, drinking pure vinegar is not fun, nor recommend as it can cause serious irratation to your throat.)

So if you’re prone to cramps while working out, you may want to think about taking along some pickle juice the next time.  While not a 100 percent cure, it sure does seem to work better than the other suggestions out there like sports drinks and bananas.

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