Endurance Athletes Turning to Pickle Juice to Fight Cramps
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN Forbes DAILY BY Blake Williams
Don’t treat the symptom, treat the cause.
A basic principal of the medical community, that thought process is what stuck out to Filip Keuppens when he was introduced to a product designed to combat and prevent muscle cramping.
“To find a product that really addressed muscle cramping at the root, neurological cause rather than the physiological symptom – which is how we’ve been treating cramps since the beginning of time – I thought was really cool,” he said.
That’s the claim made by The Pickle Juice Company, a drink designed to help endurance athletes recover, and one that tastes exactly how you would imagine, for which Keuppens is now the Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing.
In simplest terms, the contention is that a property of the vinegar in the juice (which Keuppens is quick to point out is far more than just the left over brine from the jar of pickles sitting in your fridge) engages the same neurological receptors in the brain that cause muscle cramps and thus prevents those neurons from firing. Other sports drinks, Keuppens said, don't treat cramps in the same way.
When the product was developed in 2001 the company was confident their product worked, but was unsure as to why. A 2010 study led by Kevin C. Miller, a Ph. D in the North Dakota State University department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences shed some light on the products efficacy.
Miller’s study concluded that ingesting pickle juice (used generally here and not in reference to the trade name that employs Keppenf) can result in cramp alleviation.
“It is unknown which ingredient in pickle juice may initiate this inhibitory reflex,” Miller writes in the study. “We propose that it is the acetic acid (vinegar) in pickle juice, not the electrolyte content, which triggers this reflex.”
Regardless of why it works, The Pickle Juice Company is confident that it eliminates muscle cramps, so much so that the company’s entire marketing strategy is about product discovery – letting it prove its worth.
It’s done so with distance biker Danielle Girdano, who is training for a bike ride from Chicago to Los Angeles along historic Route 66 to raise money for childhood obesity and the Highway for Health. Girdano, who is not affiliated with The Pickle Juice Company, said she discovered the product in 2009 and wouldn’t train without it.
“Anytime I’m training for a major event it’s just been a part of my routine,” she said. “It’s just been calculated into my plans.
“One time when it did come to play, we were in Minnesota and I was actually on a mountain bike and we were going through rough terrain and very high altitude and my leg just seized. Right away we went to the cooler and I popped one and probably a couple minutes I was good. Then I got back on the bike and kept chugging along. It’s days like that can really kill you, if you get 80 to 90 miles behind schedule that’s hard to make up.
That’s all well and good, but most of us aren’t biking 80 or 90 miles in a week, let alone a day. What about for your more recreational athlete?
The Pickle Juice Company sent me some samples so I could give it a whirl. Now, I am far from an endurance athlete, but I thought I would try it after an average run. After running three miles on a particularly hot day I had some mild cramping and drank the juice. I had been somewhat skeptical, but the cramps rapidly dissipated and I felt fully recovered from the run quicker than I normally would.
I only had one problem with the drink and apparently it’s not uncommon.
“The only negatives we get are subjective based on flavor,” Keuppens said. “We kind of joke if you don’t like the flavor, what do you hate more, cramps or pickle juice? I think I’ve had one person tell me they’d rather suffer through cramps.”
I didn’t love the taste – and neither did my girlfriend, who felt one sip was all she could handle after a morning workout – but the effects were noticeable.
While you may not be hankering for pickle juice after a long workout, if you’re cramping it just might treat your symptom.