The majority of athletes rely on big brand sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade to help with rehydration and recovery, but a new unusual source of liquid gold is taking over. Pickle juice has fast become the drink of choice for sports people looking to replenish fluids quickly.
As disgusting as it sounds, drinking the salty, vinegary flavoured, urine coloured brine found in a jar of pickles is said to have its benefits. This isn’t the first time pickle juice has been used as a home remedy, with the liquid having a reputation for curing hangovers, easing sunburns and healing minor aliments. The recent resurgence in the juice is due to sports teams and athletes believing the brine can help fight cramps.
Pickle juice boasts a high concentration of sodium that when drunk is believed to rehydrate the body. Marathon runners have been drinking it for years and the Philadelphia Eagles famously drank pickle juice during a 2000 NFL playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys to combat the high temperatures during the match.
The rise of pickle juice as a healthier alternative to sports drinks gained traction last year after CBS News featured a segment on University of Maryland football players who were big fans big of consuming the horrid liquid.
Maryland players are following in the footsteps of Jersey Devils ice hocky player Blake Coleman, a known advocate of the juice.
While athletes swear by it, the real reason pickle juice works is isn’t because of its nutritional value but its taste.
In 2010, a Brigham Young University group performed a study and found while pickle juice did have a slightly faster capacity to relieve cramps than drinking water, it wasn’t because of the heavy salt levels in the brine but the taste.
The acidity of the pickle juice prompted “nerve signals that somehow disrupt the reflex melee in the muscles.”
In basic terms, the taste of the juice overwhelms the nerves affected by the cramping with the brain more focused on the disgusting taste than the pain in an athlete’s legs.
A separate study by Northeastern University in 2015 and published in the Journal of Athletic Training confirmed the previous study, finding no proof pickle juice was a proven remedy for replacing electrolytes.
Despite the overwhelming evidence athletes continue to drink the liquid, with the likes of The Pickle Juice Company making big bucks from products advertised to combat cramps.
The old age adage of mind over matter really seems to apply here, and as the great George Costanza once said, “It’s not a lie… if you believe it.”