Think twice the next time you go to toss your empty pickle jar! If you're in the market for a low-sugar, all-natural electrolyte replacement, you should not let that juice go down the drain. Pickle juice could be your new go-to sports drink.
Sodium helps the body retain fluids, which is essential for long endurance workouts, marathons, or any other endurance activity; not having enough fluids in your muscles when you sweat intensely can result in serious dehydration, cramping, and plain old post-workout discomfort. Since pickle brine is very high in sodium, experts wanted to see if drinking this pungent stuff could help after a tough workout.
Brigham Young University conducted a small study to determine whether pickle juice could alleviate exercise-induced muscle cramps. Male participants exercised on a semirecumbant bike for 30-minute sessions (with five minutes of rest between) until each lost three percent of his body weight through perspiration and was mildly dehydrated. Then, each man had the tibial nerve in his ankle electrically stimulated so that his toe cramped. Researchers concluded that pickle juice relieved the muscle cramping about 37 percent faster than the men who just drank water. Since the study was so small, this evidence alone isn't enough to canonize pickle juice as the best sports drink out there. However, many athletes and coaches have sworn by pickle juice's ability to improve athletic performance. One Philadelphia Eagles trainer went as far as to credit his team's pickle juice habit for players' improved stamina and endurance in hot temperatures (even though he doesn't know why it works.)
Others say that pickle juice's electrolytes can come in handy after a different type of "endurance" activity: a long night of drinking. Dr. Oz suggests tossing back 1/4 cup of pickle juice when you first wake up to replenish electrolytes and alleviate hangover symptoms.
I'll admit it: pickle brine is an acquired taste. But if you suffer from cramps or would love an all-natural alternative to Gatorade after a long workout or night on the town, taking a big swig from that jar might be worth your while.