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Can pickle juice stop muscle cramping? How my self experiment is working out

Posted Aug 09 2011 5:00am

A few weeks ago, I said that I was going to test the theory of pickles stopping muscle cramping in marathon runners . The science is that the vinegar in pickles sends a message to the brain to tell the affected muscle to stop cramping , and this all supposedly happens within a few minutes.

I’m now a believer in pickle power.

It took too much effort to complete many of my runs this summer before I started on pickles. My body just could not handle the heat and I was doing good just to hold a 9-minute-mile over the course of an hour. (And I have several sub 20-minute 5ks under my belt.)

Yet on every run since July 24, I’ve eaten a pickle about 20 minutes before my run. I’ve felt more in control of my breathing, my legs, and most importantly, my hydration. The water I drink on the run seems to work now, as opposed to just sitting on my stomach doing nothing.

I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the salt and potassium in the pickle. But I’m not so sure. All summer, I’ve been popping salt pills and electrolyte tabs and drinking Gatorade and Powerade, and none of that stuff has done what a good old dill pickle has done.

For Saturday’s 14-mile run, I ate my usual pickle slice 20 minutes before the run. And I also cut a bit size piece of pickle, wrapped it in foil, and put it in the same baggy I use to keep my GU and salt pill. During the run, I drank plenty of water and Powerade and had a salt pill. But midway through the run, I was still feeling pretty bad, sluggish, and my head was cloudy. (I’m sure much of ill-feeling had to do with the fact that the route included the mountainous Mt. Bonnell.)

At Mile 9, I pop that bite-sized pickle slice in my mouth. And instantly, well, within a minute, I felt pretty good and was able to run the last 5 miles pretty hard.

I’m not saying that pickles make you faster or give you more endurance. Pickles don’t erase pacing mistakes, or diet mistakes.

But I am saying that, for me, the pickles have had such an affect that I feel more like myself while running in the heat. I don’t have these weird energy lapses as I’ve had for most of the summer. I guess its something about the distilled vinegar in each pickle, or something.

Again, I’m only two weeks into this experiment with myself and there are still other variables I need to solve for, but all things being equal, the pickles have given me the best hope yet that I can finally solve my marathon muscle cramping.


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