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Is Pickle Juice Actually Helpful?

Got cramps? For years, coaches and trainers have been touting pickle juice as a performance booster and recovery aid, but is this just an old wives’ tale or is pickle juice actually helpful? While some people are skeptical about pickle juice’s purported benefits, others have sworn by it for literally centuries. To help make sense of the science behind pickle juice, this blog post will dive into the potential benefits of pickle juice for athletes and discuss how it can be part of a healthy sports routine.

What is Pickle Juice?

Pickle juice is exactly what it sounds like: the liquid left in the jar after pickles have been made. This liquid usually contains vinegar, salt, and other spices that give pickles their distinctive flavor. It also contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, depending on the recipe. Since pickle juice is quite acidic, it is believed to have health benefits, especially for athletes. 

This is not to be confused with the product called Pickle Juice. That’s actually something a whole lot more interesting that you can learn about in episode 20 of my podcast.

Research on Pickle Juice

Several scientific studies have been conducted to evaluate the potential benefits of pickle juice for athletes. The results have been mixed, with the main claims they research being that pickle juice can improve athletic performance and reduce muscle cramps. One study found that drinking pickle juice after exercise can reduce muscle cramps. The study examined the effects of drinking pickle juice versus plain water after exercising at a high intensity. The results showed that drinking pickle juice resulted in a reduction in muscle cramps compared to drinking plain water. Another study examined the effects of drinking pickle juice before exercise to see if it would increase electrolyte levels thereby hopefully improving endurance and performance. There was no measurable increase in levels immediately after and even one hour after.

Benefits of Pickle Juice

After reading several research study abstracts and lots of blogs on the topic, it seems like the main benefit of drinking pickle juice is purely in its ability to stop cramps when they occur. However, the mechanism described as to why the cramps stop doesn’t appear to be because electrolytes rushed to the scene of the crime. It appears that it has something to do with a reflex in the throat that triggers inhibition of cramps, which is the same mechanism that the product pickle juice utilizes. 

Potential Risks

Despite its potential benefits, there are some potential risks associated with drinking pickle juice. One of the main risks is that pickle juice is high in salt. The excessive salt intake can lead to dehydration and other health problems. It is important to keep in mind that pickle juice should be consumed in moderation and not used as a substitute for water. In addition, the acidity of pickle juice can cause irritation to the stomach. It is important to drink pickle juice in moderation and avoid drinking it on an empty stomach. The research typically points to only consuming 2-3 ounces of pickle juice at a time.

Final Thoughts

Pickle juice seems to help with cramps, but why it helps isn’t for the reasons you think. So what? If it’s not harmful (it’s not), and helps you get through a match or bracket, it’s worth considering keeping it as a part of your anti-cramp toolkit. Keeping a 2.5 oz bottle or two of Pickle Juice in your bag – whether it’s the product by the same name or the real thing (they do the same thing) – just might mean the difference between taking home gold or silver!