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Jun. 15 2010 - 5:06 pm | 326 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Pickles: Your new summer training buddy

Dill Pickle

Image by magpiebride via Flickr

A recent NY Times article touts the benefits of pickle juice in alleviating muscle cramps. According to a study published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Pickle juice “relieved a cramp 45 percent faster” than drinking no fluids and about 37 percent faster than water. In the study, athletes were asked to cycle until slightly dehydrated and then received an electrical stimulation to induce a cramp in their big toe. On average the cramps lasted about 2.5 minutes, but when the subjects sipped on pickle juice the cramps were shortened to less than 1.5 minutes.

So what exactly is alleviating the cramp? Sodium? Water? Perhaps neither. Another study indicated that since the same amount of electrical stimulation was needed to induce cramps in fully hydrated and de-hydrated muscles, water and sodium levels were not the main cause of the painful contractions. Instead, researchers postulated that muscle fatigue is the main instigator of cramps. “Certain mechanisms within muscles have been found, in animal and limited human studies to start misfiring when a muscle is extremely tired.”  Researchers  suspect that the vinegar in the pickle juice is the main player in counteracting this muscle malfunction.

While you may not be able to stomach the thought of replacing your Gatorade with pickle juice, it couldn’t hurt to keep a jar of dills on hand. And if you don’t like pickles, other foods that contain vinegar include balsamic vinegar-based salad dressing and coleslaw made with vinegar instead of mayo.


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  1. collapse expand

    Megan, I read that story, too. It was common for old time baseball players to drink pickle juice and I know several modern day football players who drink pickle juice. And swear by it. The chemistry is beyond me, but it seems to get results. Immediate results.

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Running Shorts is a part of the True/Slant network specializing in Running News, Trends, Insights and Perspectives. This blog is maintained by Megan Kretz (megan [dot] kretz [at] gmail [dot] com) and Geoff Decker (geoffreydecker [at] gmail [dot] com). Email either us with tips, suggestions or feedback. And thanks for reading!

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