You know the saying that ‘all healthy stuff tastes like shit’…well, today is no exception to that pattern of thinking.

However, today’s food product in question tastes much sweeter than the bitter taste of exercise induced cramps.

As previously discussed, cramps are associated with neuromuscular fatigue of the exercising muscle, and not necessarily due to the persons hydration status or electrolyte balance. That being said, consuming adequate fluid and electrolytes is still essential as dehydration can accelerate fatigue and could indirectly cause cramps.

So, where does pickle juice come into all of this?
Firstly, and to be completely clear…I’m not talking about eating the pickles; I’m talking about drinking the juice – approximately 1mL/kg that you weight. i.e. 80mL for an 80kg athlete.

Reason being, pickle juice is generally made from three key ingredients; water, vinegar and salt. For the cramping athlete, the vinegar is most valuable – more specifically the acetic acid found within it.

Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky [and a bit fucking sciencey]…

Exercise induced muscle cramps are thought to be caused via neuromuscular fatigue and the heightened excitability of the alpha motor neuron – which is responsible for causing the muscle to contract. Essentially, there’s an overriding signal for the muscle to contract when we become fatigued.

The exact ‘why and how’ it works is still somewhat of a theory, but the outcome is clear…It reduces the duration of a cramp.
Researchers suggest that the acetic acid found in pickle juice interacts with the nerves in the back of your throat [glossopharyngeal nerve] which sends a signal to the alpha motor neuron to calm down and relax the cramping muscle.

Therefore, on the onset of a cramp, neck 1mL/kg of pickle juice to reduce cramping times by 45% [Miller et al, 2009].

Better still, if you’re very susceptible to cramping, I would advise taking it in the early stages [in addition] of an event/game as a proactive way to decrease the hyperexcitability of the alpha motor neurone and potentially reduce neuromuscular fatigue as a result.

Some food for thought and another tool in your toolbox!

p.s. drinking straight vinegar will work too.

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