Kevin C. Miller, certified athletic trainer and assistant professor of health, nutrition and exercise science at NDSU, has investigated whether pickle juice affects muscle cramps.
In previous research, Dr. Miller found that 25 percent of certified athletic trainers surveyed use extremely small amounts of pickle juice to shorten the duration of athletes' cramps, under the assumption that the pickle juice replenishes salt and fluids lost to sweat. What really causes the cramps and how to relieve them quickly are some of the areas of scientific study.
Miller and researchers at Brigham Young University studied healthy male college students in an exercise lab. Subjects in the study bicycled in 30-minute sessions to achieve mild dehydration.
The tibial nerve in the men's ankles was then stimulated, which causes a muscle in the big toe to cramp. When subjects drank nothing, the subjects' cramps lasted two-and-half minutes on average.
After resting, cramps were induced again, but this time, men in the study immediately drank 2.5 ounces of deionized water or they drank pickle juice strained from a jar of dill pickles in a double-blind fashion.
Blood samples were taken before and after the men drank the fluids to see if blood sodium, potassium, magnesium, or calcium levels changed after drinking.
Study results show that pickle juice relieved the cramps about 45 percent faster than if the men drank no fluids and about 37 percent faster than those who drank water.
"Even more interesting is that study results showed there were no significant changes in the blood following ingestion of either water or of pickle juice," says Miller.