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The science behind the folklore: How drinking Pickle Juice alleviates cramps & speeds recovery

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salt

Usually urban legends are little more than myths. But every once and awhile there is a nugget of truth behind them, as in the case of athletes drinking pickle brine to prevent cramps and speed recovery. 

The founders of The Pickle Juice Company wanted to get to the science behind the folklore after the unexpected victors of a high-profile football game played on a hot day attributed their success, and lack of cramping, to sipping pickle brine.

After isolating each component of pickle brine through laborious tests, the founders discovered that vinegar was the magic ingredient, but they weren’t sure why, explained Filip Keuppens, VP of global sales and marketing at The Pickle Juice Company.

Several years later, an independent research team lead by Dr. Kevin Miller​ found the answer after testing the effects of pickle brine on subjects who underwent artificially induced cramping. The team observed that electrolyte levels remained consistent, even though the cramping would stop, which lead them to conclude muscle cramps are actually “a corrective reactionary response from your brain to your muscle – essentially saying something is wrong … let’s try to engage that muscle and correct whatever it is that is going on, and that hyper engagement of the muscle is what we know of a cramp or Charlie horse,”​ Keuppens said.

He further explained that pickle brine relieves cramps within 30 to 90 seconds by effectively overwhelming the neuro receptors and causing them to reset the neurological impulse that originally dictated the cramp.

Pickle Juice is not pickle brine

Pickle Juice from the Pickle Juice Company more effectively triggers this response and reaction than pickle brine from a jar of dill spears in the fridge because it includes only the necessary ingredients – alleviating your body from processing spare ingredients and spending energy that it could dedicate instead to providing fuel or pain relief, Keuppens said.

In addition, he noted Pickle Juice uses highly purified water that is run through three filtration methods and then is fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. It also uses a proprietary vinegar that is not available to the average consumer.

The result is a higher quality product that is more akin to a sports car than family sedan, he said, explaining: “They are both cars, [but] one is going to perform a lot better than the other.”

From juice to gel

Pickle Juice comes in a variety of sizes, including 2.6 ounce shots for fast use during athletics, 8-ounce bottles for sipping before or after an event and a 16 ounce multi-serve bottle that is popular among older consumers who keep it on their bedside table to sip on in the night if frequent leg cramps wake them up, Keuppens said.

But the newest addition to the lineup, in beta-testing now, will be a Pickle Juice gel pack that is a “hyper-concentrated, thickened product specifically for endurance athletes,”​ Keuppens said.

He noted that the company has proven efficacy of the product and seen “some great results from our trials,”​ but it will be a few more months before the product is on store shelves.

In addition to innovating new products, the company is exploring different packaging solutions for its existing products to help make them more eco-friendly and easier for large scale users, Keuppens said.

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1 comment


Posted by J Larsen,

There may be two separate outcomes. The immediate outcome is cramps.

The longer term outcome is bone health. If you read the sweat study research, there are a variety of minerals being lost.

Therefore folks who train/sweat regularly should consider mineral supplements. In the Klesges basketball player study, the Ss lost roughly a gram/day of calcium in sweat and had bone effects. In the Lappe et al Navy BT study, supplementing with D and calcium reduced stress fractures by 20%.

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