Although Gatorade and other kinds of energy drinks are a common source of rehydration for athletes, one particular preservative juice is becoming a more popular alternative. Pickle juice, which usually consists of water, salt, calcium chloride, vinegar and dill, has been frequently used to boost athletic performance and maintain stamina. Athletes and sports trainers have long considered its effects to be conducive to improving one’s game and reducing fatigue, but there was rarely any scientific evidence that backed up such claims until two years ago. Consuming pickle juice, at first, seemed more like a meaningless trend than a proven formula, but more and more studies have recently shown that the practice has some merits.
In 2010, The New York Times reported that a group of students from Brigham Young University conducted a study to see whether pickle juice had any effects on athletic performance. Ten male students exercised on a semi-recumbent bicycle that only worked the leg muscle. They cycled in 30-minute sessions until they each lost 3 percent of their body weights to perspiration. The men then had the tibial nerve in the men’s ankles electrically stimulated, so that the toe of the unexercised leg (the leg that did not pedal) cramped. Some of the men drank deionized water to treat the cramp while others drank from a jar of Vlasic dills. Those who drank the pickle juice were relieved of their cramps within 85 seconds, while the other group that drank water continued to experience muscle pain. The study’s authors concluded that pickle juice “relieved a cramp 45 percent faster” than not drinking at all and 37 percent faster than water.
Still, researchers have had some trouble explaining the cause of muscle cramps.Â Some believe that cramping is the result of sweating-induced dehydration and the loss of sodium and potassium, while others have said that muscle exhaustion is the primary mechanism that leads to the spasm. As a result, the debate has made it even more difficult to pinpoint the scientific effect pickle juice has on the body and whether the juice has any sort of unworldly power on athletes.
Regardless, pickle juice has been credited by some for significantly helping players perform at a high level under intense weather. According to Yahoo!, Philadelphia Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said that the juice helped the team defeat the Dallas Cowboys on a day when field temperatures reached 110 degrees in 2000. None of the players on the team seemed to be seriously affected by the heat during the match, and the Eagles eventually won 41-14. Other players have even endorsed it as an energy drink. In 2006, for instance, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten voiced his support for a bottled version of the juice called Pickle Juice Sport. The company has seen its profits rise ever since.
For some, the idea of drinking pickle juice may sound both absurd and disgusting, but for those who are desperate to find a quick and easy solution to limiting cramps, it may be the only answer. Even though scientists have yet to reach a consensus on its specific effects on the body, many agree that it does, for some reason, help athletes reduce fatigue and muscle spasms. Who knew?
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