When I was young I used to play allot of sport but one thing about sport that I didn’t like was that sometimes I would get cramp, none of my school friends talked about cramp it seemed that it was just me, I was quite a fussy eater when I was young I wouldn’t eat fruit or veg and bacon and Lucozade were my favourite foods, not good for any athlete, I was a big fan of sweets in particular sweets called Opal fruits. I played rugby and basketball in winter and did a mixture of athletics from high jump, (school record), to 100 metres and 200 metres I could play these sports all day without a single thought for food, I remember getting very painful stiffening in my thighs which would not go away for what seemed like an eternity when in fact it was most probably a minute or two but as anyone will tell you when you are in pain for a minute it can feel like for ever, the worst thing is that whatever you do the pain just seems to be there and then suddenly as if by magic it’s gone, the problem that I found was that because you had just had that bad experience the thought of it happening again is ever present. even as a young lad I thought there must be some way to stop this from happening again so talked to people and all the people would say was don’t worry it’s just cramp, just cramp, I can tell that you have never had it, well so I thought. To my amazement the more that I opened up and talked to people the more I realized I was not alone in this. Some of the things that were suggested were drink more fluids, stretch and warm up, I did these things and they worked to a point but not always, so I did more talking and more question asking and the one thing that came up quite often was salt, but when I was young I wouldn’t eat salt, and then one day I tried it on chicken which I didn’t like because it tasted very plain and tasteless, but when I tried it with salt I was hooked, the cramp seemed to go away and my appetite got better when I realized the effect that salt had on the taste of food.
Well for years I was happily taking my “anti cramp solution” then suddenly, STOP salt is bad for you it was in all the newspapers on the t.v and all the ways that it could be shown that salt was bad it was shown. So being responsible and thinking that sport and athletics are good for you, what is the answer ? For years I cut down on my salt intake and sure enough there was that nasty cramp again. So if salt is so bad when I don’t take it why do I feel bad ? It seems that there is a new kid on the block when it comes to stopping cramp and that is pickle juice. I found this article written by John Davis who explains what was found in a recent article.
“Muscle cramps. Those words alone are enough to make most people cringe. At some point we have all been through those sudden, intense moments where a cramp hits you hard. As you instinctively grab for the muscle in pain, you swear that you are going to research how to prevent this…..as soon as this excruciating pain goes away.
You finally remembered, and you are on a mission to find the best solution to your running cramps. This is the article for you. Rather than looking at what one friend told another, we are going to look into the science behind using pickle juice as a cure for cramps, and you may be surprised by what we found!
We have previously covered what causes exercise-associated muscle cramps, the painful and seemingly random muscle spasms that can fell everyone from recreational marathoners to professional basketball players.
Popular wisdom holds they’re caused by a lack of electrolytes, but scientific research shows that it’s more likely that muscle cramps are due to the failure of a neuromuscular mechanism that usually keeps extreme muscle contraction in check.
Like any ailment that affects athletes, there’s a veritable arsenal of remedies and tricks that runners and athletic trainers swear by to prevent or clear up a muscle cramp. Some of these remedies end up being subjected to scientific testing to validate or bust them.
One simple trick—gently stretching out the cramping muscle—proved to be quite successful, and gave researchers a clue as to the real mechanism behind cramping.
Did I read that correct? Pickle juice?
Yes, believe it or not, old-school athletic trainers swear by gulping down a mouthful of pickle juice as a rapid cure for muscle cramping.
The logic behind this was that the liquid left in the pickle jar is incredibly salty and full of electrolytes.
But here’s the paradox:
As we saw last time, there’s fairly strong evidence that your body’s electrolyte levels have no bearing on whether or not you develop muscle cramps during exercise.
So in theory, pickle juice, despite its reputation, shouldn’t do anything to alleviate muscle cramping.
What happens when you put pickle juice to the test?
Here’s the deal:
Exercise-associated muscle cramps can be tricky to study in a controlled environment, because the cramp location and severity can vary from person to person. A better way to study cramps in a controlled environment is to artificially induce them.
By electrically stimulating a leg nerve in just the right way, researchers can cause cramps on demand. Then, by using an electromyography machine, or EMG, they can quantify the length and severity of a muscle cramp.
A 2010 study using just such a protocol was published by Kevin Miller and colleagues at North Dakota State University and Brigham Young University.
In the paper, the researchers used an electrical current to induce foot cramps in a group of 12 volunteers. Two cramps were induced, each separated by 30 minutes.
The first cramp was a baseline test to establish what a “normal” muscle cramp looks like in terms of its EMG signal and its duration. Then, a second cramp was induced, and the subjects immediately ingested two to three fluid ounces of either water or pickle juice.
A week later, the experiment was repeated with a cross-over design, meaning the subjects who received water the first time got pickle juice the second time, and vice versa.
To guard against any possible placebo effect, the researchers used nose plugs to prevent the subjects from smelling the liquids they drank, and even blinded themselves to which solution was being administered to which subject.
This is crazy:
You might be wondering:
Do the impressive effects of pickle juice revive the “cramps are because of electrolytes” hypothesis?
Miller and his co-workers designed another experiment to test this idea.
This time, nine healthy men underwent three trials where they were given two to three fluid ounces of pickle juice, a sports drink, or plain water.
After ingesting the liquid, Miller et al. took blood samples every few minutes over the course of the next hour, then analyzed the water and electrolyte content of the blood samples to observe the impact of each liquid.
None of the three liquids produced any substantial changes in electrolyte or hydration levels, which is perhaps not surprising considering how small the ingested volume of liquid was (2-3 fluid ounces) when compared to the amount of water in the entire body (several gallons).
Miller et al. conclude that any explanation of the efficacy of pickle juice that is related to electrolytes or hydration isn’t satisfactory—the electrolytes in 2-3 ounces of pickle juice are negligible when compared to sweat losses during exercise.
Further, there’s no way the electrolytes could make their way into the blood within a minute or two after ingestion.
Here’s why it works:
The researchers propose that the acidic pickle juice triggers a reflex when it hits a nerve center on the back of the throat. This reflex sends a signal to the nervous system to shut down the overactive neurons causing the cramp.”
This study has helped me with my cramp because I now drink pickle juice if I know that my workout is going to be more intense than usual.
Tai Chi Push
I have found that after drinking my pickle juice it is a good idea to warm up slowly and some may disagree with this but I find that dynamic stretching before a workout is very helpful and when I finish my workout I do some dynamic and static stretching to warm down and some gentle Tai Chi moves. After all of this I do some gentle self- masage either with my hands or with a foam roller.