The Science of Pickle Juice

A new study has revealed that pickle brine might be more effective than sports drinks at treating muscle cramps, confirming a longstanding assumption in the sports world. Football players, cyclists and triathletes have been sipping dill-flavoured drinks, including bottles of The Pickle Juice Company for years.

Those who downed the brine stopped complaining of cramping within 85 seconds - about 37% faster than the water drinkers and 45% faster than when they didn’t drink anything at all.

Dr Kevin Miller, the lead author of the study, told the Times he thinks pickle brine helps cure cramps because it triggers a nerve reaction. In fact, pickle brine seemed to ease cramp pains so quickly that he doubts it even had time to leave the athletes’ stomachs before it started to work. Instead, Miller and the other researchers argued that pickle juice might spark some kind of 'neurally mediated reflex' that helps give the right cues to misfiring muscles, which are thought to cause cramps.

Though the study offers some concrete proof that pickle juice can quickly treat muscle cramps, the salty drink is still just a drop in the ocean at major sporting events compared to water and other sports drinks.

Further resources on the above finds can be sourced from the information below:

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 May;42(5):953-61.doi:10.1249/MSS.ObO13e3181c0647e.Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypo-hydrated humans.Miller KC1, Mack GW, Knight KL, Hopkins JT, Draper DO, Fields PJ, Hunter I.

Author information

Department of Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108-6050, USA.

Richard Blanton