My interest in preventing muscle cramping was sparked by recent products with pickle juice instead of the typical fruit flavored electrolyte drink. While my true preference of a Dill pickle is on a grilled cheese sandwich, I was open to sample a pickle juice drink while performing high interval Sufferfest training. Why pickle juice… once you get beyond the taste/image, there are several documented benefits for consuming pickle juice while exercising.
Pickles are made from cucumbers, salt, vinegar and dill. The overall taste of the pickle juice is quite sour and of course salty and there have been many “old athletic tales” of pickle juice reducing and preventing muscle cramping. I do feel that this process is due to the high level of sodium that is in the juice. There are several recent studies that show that it has a direct stimulating effect on the nervous system (maybe just because of the taste shock value). Pickle juice is an old athletic trainers secret but was difficult for many people to get by drinking pickle juice, so it has remained unknown.
Review of the research there are two studies in Medicine Science Sports Exercising 2010 and Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences that show that the consumption of pickle juice during high levels of intense exercise has an inherent effect on the stimulation of the nervous system’s response in the reduction of muscle cramps. There are a few products that are out on the market one called Tripwire Fuel Shot by Infinit Nutrition and the Pickle Juice Sport company. Each of these have their own formula, taste and juice ratio. While pickle juice has that pungent taste, I am more apt to a lesser version of pickle juice in Tripwire that is not as concentrated/overbearing with the same benefits. Also Tripwire is formulated with some carbs and natural electrolytes for easier digestion and absorption during higher aerobic training.
So, if you can get past the concept of the salty bitter taste, I do feel that the overall benefits far exceed the notion of drinking pickle juice while riding a bike on a hot day will reduce cramping, dehydration and improve overall performance.