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When it comes to folk remedies, professional athletes are miles ahead of the game. Whether putting butter on a burn or rubbing dirt on a cut, they’ll do just about anything if they think it’ll help them get through a game.
Including drinking pickle juice.
The practice of downing cucumber brine isn’t a new one. It’s been used for decades and got media attention back in 2000 when Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder credited pickle juice as the secret weapon that helped his team stomp the Cowboys in Texas Stadium. On that day, temperatures on the field soared above 110 degrees — the perfect conditions for a cramp-fest.
But the Philadelphia players, dosed with the neon elixir, avoided the crippling injury and won running away, 41-14.
As it turns out, this is one of those rare occasions where the science caught up to the practice.
A study done last year at BYU proved the efficacy of the folksy curative. Subjects exercised to the point of mild dehydration and had cramps induced. Those who drank pickle juice felt relief within 85 seconds, almost twice as fast as water or other sports drinks.
“Pickle juice is a natural source of sodium as well as other electrolytes,” says Buccaneers team nutritionist Kevin Luhrs. “Sodium is a component of sweat. The rationale is that sodium from the pickle juice helps replace sodium losses from sweat and even helps retain water in the body.”
Although Luhrs said he doesn’t use pickle juice with any Buccaneers, he says the practice is common around the league. Dez Bryant reportedly loves it. Jason Witten even endorsed a bottled version called Pickle Juice Sport back in 2006. Packers defensive end Jarius Wynn used to swear by it.
“I used to drink pickle juice in high school to keep the cramps down,” Wynn says. “It was good when I was young, especially playing in the South where is gets really hot.”
Wynn has switched to coconut water or other electrolyte-laden
drinks. But Pickle Juice Sport founder Brandon Brooks says he provides his product to nearly two dozen teams and more than 100 professional athletes.
His sales are up so much (54 percent from last year alone) that he can’t produce enough of the drink to sign on with any more large retail outlets.
Now with the science to back it up, pickle juice appears to be here to stay. It probably won’t hit the shelves of 7-Eleven anytime soon, but the curious can simply grab the jar of dills from the refrigerator door next time they wake up with a knot in their calf.
Makes you wonder if a shot of olive juice might be good for more than just martinis.