Why Runners Should Drink Pickle Juice

You’ve seen others doing it and cringed—but there are good reasons this salty beverage it make its rounds

By Fara Rosenzweig | 01/07/2016

Move over coconut water, there’s a new beverage taking center stage: pickle juice.

Yes, pickle lover’s rejoice! You may have had to defend your love for the stuff in the past, but you may be ahead of the curve.

A number of studies have confirmed that pickle brine might be more effective than sports drinks at treating muscle cramps. One study from the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Science at North Dakota State University found that athletes who drank the brine noticed the cramps were gone within 85 seconds—about 37 percent faster than water drinkers and 45 percent faster than those who didn’t drink anything at all.

“Pickle Juice Sport is an effective, all-natural recipe made with key ingredients that are scientifically proven to block the neurological signal that triggers muscle cramps,” says Filip Keuppens, Director of Sales and Marketing for The Pickle Juice Company.

The secret? Vinegar. Researchers believe that pickle juice relieves cramps because the acetic acid (vinegar) triggers a reflex shortly after ingestion, which reduces alpha motor neuron activity to cramping muscles. In other words, vinegar sends a signal to the brain to tell the muscles to stop contracting and relax.

Beyond cramping, pickle juice provides a number of other benefits for athletes.

Hydration: Runners sweat out a lot of salt. When sodium levels drop, so does your thirst, which leads to dehydration—bad news. Sipping on 2 ounces of pickle juice can provide 200 mg of sodium, which can replenish the body’s lost fluids and prevent dehydration. Those who run for more than two hours should consider sipping on pickle juice mid-run to keep hydrated.

Hangover cure: We all indulge every now and then. And we certainly regret it the next day with the pounding headache. Hangovers are a result of dehydration. As mentioned above, pickle juice provides sodium that can replenish the body, quenching our thirst. Downing pickle juice after a night of vino can help rid the dreaded headache. Combine it with water to speed up the recover.

Restore energy: After an intense workout your mind and body are depleted. Your energy levels are at a low. To give yourself a re-boost you need to restore exhausted glycogen levels (low carbohydrates). Pickle juice is rich in acetic acid, or vinegar, which can help metabolize carbohydrates to restore energy.

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Sandy Eller

The Biggest Treasure Hunt Of All

By Sandy Eller – 5 Kislev 5780 – December 2, 2019

Ahhhh, Kosherfest.

While it is no doubt a show about the business of kosher food, the fact remains that since it focuses on all things yummy, Kosherfest definitely has an element of fun and has been dubbed by some as “the biggest kiddush of the year.” Some people eat their way through, starting with the dairy and working their way to meats, I confess that I come home starving from the show every year. For me, Kosherfest is one giant treasure hunt and for the past six years I have roamed the aisles looking for items that stand out from the crowd, which means I usually don’t have time to eat more than a nibble or two.

I got to the Meadowlands Exposition Center armed with a list of intriguing products and Zamaze, a plant protein based meat substitute, was at the top of my list. Made out of shiitake mushrooms, it comes in five varieties mimicking beef, chicken, hamburgers and bacon and while it definitely tasted more like mushrooms than like anything you would have to wait six hours after eating, I thought it was fabulous.

“You get the experience of meat and not a cheap imitation,” said Meatless Nation CEO Dan Berlin. “You won’t even miss the meat and you can have a cup of coffee with it too.”

Java’s seared and sliced frozen sushi grade tuna has been available to the food service business for two years and should be in Shop Rite stores by the time you read these words. The flavor and texture were both perfect and it is a great option for a brown bag lunch or as reprieve from tuna and peanut butter when traveling to places where kosher food is scarce. Also appealing to travelers, both business and vacationer, was Elli Kriel of Elli’s Kosher Kitchen in Dubai, offering dairy and pareve food for anyone in the Persian Gulf, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – the first openly Jewish establishment in the region.

Numerous snacks for those committed to cleaner eating debuted this year. Protein laden, vegan and gluten free MetaBalls Energy Bites were developed by a mom with allergic kids and are a great choice for adults looking for a filling, low-sugar treat and for kids, allergic or not, who attend schools that only allow nut-free snacks. B’Cuz granola bites were another tasty mom-grown product, created by Channie Metchik in response to her fruitless supermarket search for tasty, wholesome and chewy granola. There were multiple healthy cookie booths, including low calorie and high fiber Weighless Cookies, a surprisingly filling and Weight Watchers approved way to just say no to the endless munchies that can totally torpedo your diet. And while Dr. Moringa’s flourless cookies aren’t actually cookies nor are they low calorie, they are packed with natural ingredients including nuts, seeds, and oats, with some flavors approved for Pesach.

Nutritious choices were also the focus at Betterine, a coconut oil-based baking spread that can replace margarine in any recipe and is made with only four natural ingredients. While I didn’t taste the gorgeous looking Betterine-based baked goods on display, I think everyone else did – by the time I got to their booth there were just crumbs left. With the demand for natural products growing annually, Kosherfest veteran De La Rosa Vineyards is really having its moment in the sun. Their raspberry vinegar took this year’s best new product award in the spices, oil and vinegar category and their ever-growing list of products includes a three ingredient balsamic glaze and soon to be released oils made from chia seeds and Styrian pumpkin seeds, not that I have any idea what Styrian pumpkins actually are. Also riding the natural product wave was the Israel-based Bikurim whose sugar free, high protein flax bread has an eight-month long shelf life and could have a huge impact on the diabetic world when it crosses the Atlantic and hits our stores. Bikurim’s Isaac Weisz told me that someone he had given a loaf of bread to the previous day called him in tears because his blood sugar levels hadn’t gone up after eating it and he couldn’t believe that he had found bread that he could actually eat.

Root Valley Farms had a huge display of Honduran-grown veggie chips in 11 flavors, all of which are picked, processed and packaged within 24 hours. With the Central American seasons allowing for year round planting, the sugars in their assorted chips maintain their sweetness and both their mango-habanero and maple-bacon sweet potato chips were awesome. Also hailing from below the equator was Yarbae sparkling water, a lightly sweetened beverage with a natural caffeine boost from the South American yarbae mate tea leaf, great for coffee haters like me who sometimes need that extra jump start to make mornings happen. And coming all the way from Kyrgyzstan was Arashan raw white spreadable honey, which Zholodosh Beishembek described as an effective immune system booster that also makes a great facial mask.

“It’s really in style to be healthy and everybody wants to do it,” Nutrition by Tanya’s Tanya Rosen told us. With offices in just about every Jewish community in the greater New York area as well as in Florida and Israel, Rosen was at the show with new cookies, cake pops and rugelach and is releasing her first cookbook before Chanukah.

Of course, there was plenty to see that had nothing to do with organic, gluten free, non-GMO and vegan fare. The Meal Mart food truck had a steady line of people enjoying food that was anything but dietician approved and crowds gathered around Emes Charcuterie’s table, oohing and aahing over their gorgeous meats which had been aged anywhere from six weeks to six months. While I saw almost no chocolate on display at the show, Coco Jolie’s stunning hand painted chocolates were literal works of art that looked almost too good to eat, especially when packed up in treasure chests for gift-giving. After indulging in a gold-flecked domed blue square filled with chocolate ganache, I can happily tell you that they tasted as good as they looked.

Convenience was the name of the game with Ungar’s new bottled, frozen potato kugel and latke batter, a great way to minimize prep time with Chanukah just weeks away. Quick and easy was also the theme at D’Onions, pre-sautéed frozen sliced and diced onions, a business born when Paulie Shamah and her three sisters realized that while they enjoyed cooking, they all disliked caramelizing onions.

“Nobody wants to stand over the stove frying onions and we have found it to be a real marriage saver, with husbands calling and telling us that their wives’ early morning cooking had them going to work smelling like onions, which they hated,” said Shamah.

Pickles are always part of Kosherfest and after making my annual stop at Guss’ for a half sour, I visited their neighbor in the pickle juice business. Get Pikl’ed evolved when two Florida friends ran out of brine while drinking picklebacks, shots of whiskey with pickle juice chasers. The idea for marketing sediment free pickle juice began marinating in their heads and after hearing that George Steinbrenner used to buy weekly gallons of brine from Guss’ to keep his Yankee players fortified, the two decided to market their product as a sports beverage for athletes, as well as those who enjoy it in other ways.

There was plenty of buzz in the air and not all of it was business related. “Liquid paradise” is how Al-Chemy described its premium syrups, orange wine-based schnapps substitutes and their frozen margaritas, which were super popular among show goers and have been dubbed best in Miami by the Miami Herald. I skipped the wines, liquors and liqueurs and Fruits By Pesha’s enticing fresh cocktails made with their all new line of juices in deference to my diet, but did indulge in a tiny taste of a blueberry, pomegranate and tequila flavored Buzz Pop, frozen push pops made with authentic Italian sorbet and a full shot of premium liquor. These guys, which are pareve but made on dairy equipment, have a serious kick so don’t serve them to the kids. Also intriguing was Exodus hopped cider, a brand new Pesach-friendly beer-like beverage, which wasn’t quite ready yet, but will hopefully make it to the market soon.

Last but not least, I was truly blown away by Nathalie Glazier of Au Bon Cake, a professional cake designer who grew increasingly frustrated by her inability to find well designed Jewish-themed cookie cutters and similar items. Turning to her computer scientist husband, the two created a full line of 3D and resin printed items whose intricate details produce stunning baked goods. Au Bon Cake’s hamsa mold was filled with traditional lines and squiggles and their bar mitzvah boy molds come in two versions: one with a hat and another wearing a yarmulke. The Glaziers also created alef bais and English letters in different sizes and fonts, as well as stunning cake toppers, so that even home bakers can put together yummies that look truly professional.

From fresh to frozen, from the traditional to the unconventional, there is always something for everyone at Kosherfest. Hopefully, we can all look forward to seeing unique and innovative products on store shelves in the months and weeks ahead!

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Jay Ajayi

The unusual ‘sports drink’ and other tricks football players use to beat the heat during early-season games

John Roach | AccuWeather | Sep 24, 2019, 10:50 AM

The NFL is a notorious copycat league with each team “borrowing” whatever works from other teams. So it was no surprise to see the Philadelphia Eagles throw shade, of sorts, on its own players seated on the bench during Sunday’s game in Philly. As the players took a break, team staffers shielded them from the sun with what looked to be the closest thing handy.

Their opponent, the Detroit Lions, was one step ahead, already using canopies they’d brought with them to give their players a break from the sun. Temperatures in Philadelphia reached an in-game high of 88 degrees with an AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature high of 90.

Lions staff members held the sideline canopies Sunday, something they did in 2018 when the team beat the unrelenting heat and the Miami Dolphins. “I felt a notable difference – as far as temperature-wise – when you were underneath them,” Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford told The Detroit News.

It was a trick Lions coach Matt Patricia passed on to his friend, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, this summer and Belichick’s Patriots did the same thing against the Dolphins this season in Week 2. The Patriots won 43-0 in a game the coach and quarterback Tom Brady each considered the hottest game either could remember.

The effects of heat hit home for the NFL this summer when 32-year-old former NFL player Mitch Petrus died of heatstroke after working outside all day in 90-degree heat in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the AccuWeather RealFeel temperature hit 101 that day. The AccuWeather RealFeel Temperature Guide advises caution at that temperature, warning of the danger of dehydration, heatstroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps if outside for extended periods, and especially while doing strenuous activities.

The NFL sent a video to all 32 teams this summer that reviewed best practices for treating exertional heatstroke. “It is imperative that medical personnel and coaching staffs quickly recognize [the signs of heatstroke] and initiate appropriate care,” said Dr. Douglas J. Casa, CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), in a press release. KSI was founded after Stringer, a Pro Bowl lineman for Minnesota, died of heatstroke in August of 2001.

NFL teams have an array of options to beat the heat during training camps in the summer and even when high temperatures carry into September’s regular season games. Water, Gatorade, orange wedges, Pedialyte, salt pills, pickle juice, and intravenous fluids are among items used to varying degrees by NFL teams.

Wait, pickle juice?

That hydration trick perhaps was first used during the hottest NFL game in history, the 2000 season opener on Sept. 3 between the Eagles and the host Dallas Cowboys. It was 109 degrees at kickoff and Dallas lost a dozen players to heat cramps; the Eagles lost no one.

Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder credited Steve Condon, a college trainer who interned with the Eagles that summer, with the idea. Burkholder studied weather reports all week in advance of the Dallas game and had the team load up on water and sports drinks during practice. On Sunday, he doled out pickle juice, which subsequently was proven scientifically to be more beneficial than water.

“I was worried they might get sick drinking that stuff,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said at the time. “But a lot of them liked it, whatever that says about them.”

Former Eagles running back Jay Ajayi was spotted gulping pickle juice on the sideline while playing for Boise State University in 2014 and spoke about its benefits at the time: “It’s something that allowed me to stay in the games and kept me from cramping and it was very productive for me in seeing my games from 2013 to 2014 when I started using it.” Ajayi added that drinking pickle juice was a hydration strategy he planned to bring with him to the NFL.

Today’s precautions and preparations are a far cry from what football players did decades ago. “When I played high school football, it was taboo to drink water,” Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Savarese told AccuWeather. “We used to take salt pills, we didn’t drink water, and we wore long-sleeve shirts. I don’t know how we survived … Coaches today are much more educated and much better at what they do than years ago.”

So where might NFL’s copycats break out the pickle juice, Pedialyte or canopies this Sunday?

Three games played in potentially heat-impacted areas will take place under retractable domes that likely will be closed so that the air conditioning can do its thing: Tennessee at Atlanta, Carolina at Houston and Seattle at Arizona.

Three others could bring temperature-related troubles, with the Los Angeles Chargers at Miami at 1 p.m. ET, where AccuWeather forecasts a high of 86 with a RealFeel of 93. Cleveland will visit Baltimore at 1 p.m. ET, where the forecast calls for 85 degrees with a RealFeel of 90 and it will be very warm and humid. And Jacksonville will travel to Denver at 2:25 p.m. MT where it will be 81 with a RealFeel of 82.

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Frances Tiafoe credited a victory in the Australian Open with drinking pickle juice

Pickle juice: Why athletes are turning to an unusual drink to boost performance

BBC Sport | January 22, 2019

When American tennis player Frances Tiafoe said pickle juice had helped him reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, plenty of people were a little taken aback/grossed out.

After all, who swigs the remnants of a jar of pickles to boost their sporting performance?

More people than you might think, actually.

Taking the Australian Open in isolation, two of the sport’s rising stars – Tiafoe, 21, and Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, 22 – have been spotted drinking it in Melbourne this week.

And widening the sample size a little, a photographer snapped Arsenal’s 22-year-old Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira drinking from a bottle labelled “pickle juice” in the Gunners’ 2-0 victory over Chelsea last weekend (although he did swiftly spit it out!).

Is this sport’s latest fad? And what is the science behind it all? BBC Sport finds out.

Tiafoe’s not-so-secret weapon

Unseeded Tiafoe was a surprise quarter-finalist in the Australian Open, and made further headlines with his choice of replenishment following that win over Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the last 16.

Speaking about the gruelling four-set match, which lasted three hours and 39 minutes in the Melbourne heat, Tiafoe said: “I had the break, but started to feel my body.

“He played a good game to break me. After that, as you asked me, I was trying to stay alive. I was downing pickle juice, having that like Kool-Aid, just trying to get that done.

“I’m talking straight up: just downing it. It tasted terrible. I’m feeling terrible right now, man.”

The following day, Medvedev took time out from his match against Novak Djokovic to down some of the pungent fluid.

John Millman, the 2018 US Open quarter-finalist, was commentating on that match for television and was asked about the pickle juice.

“It helps the cramps,” said Millman. “There’s a lot of salt in it.”

When asked how it tasted, the Australian replied: “Terrible.”

It tastes bad… but does it actually work?

In a word: Yes.

Dr Mayur Ranchordas – a senior lecturer in sport nutrition and exercise metabolism at Sheffield Hallam University – has used the technique with professional cyclists and Premier League footballers.

And while, he says, the results are compelling, it is not necessarily for the reasons you might initially expect.

“Pickle juice contains sodium, potassium and vinegar and the obvious conclusion would be that it replaces sodium and salts lost when playing sport in a hot and humid environment like the Australian Open thus prevent cramping,” said Dr Ranchordas.

“However, how it really works is that it triggers a reflex in the mouth which sends a signal to stop muscles from cramping. That’s why it is drank at the onset of cramp.

“It stops cramping 40% faster than drinking water.”

Dr Ranchordas says it is particularly effective as a treatment for cramps in warmer conditions or when sporting occasions last longer than anticipated – be it a five-set tennis match or in extra time of a football game.

Just last month, India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara was shown grimacing on TV as he took the foul-tasting fluid on board during a marathon innings in oppressive heat in Adelaide.

What else is it good for?

The internet is full of stories of how pickle juice can cure alcohol-induced hangovers. One website even suggests pickle brine is the definitive hangover cure in some eastern European countries.

Throw in the fact it contains antioxidants, is said to help control blood sugar levels and boost gut health and you’re on to a winner next time you reach for a nice refreshing glass of the stuff.

And the craziest thing of all?

It is actually good for your breath, because it kills bacteria which breed in your mouth and create a stink.

Now you’re convinced, right?

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Staying on top of your nutrition will help offset the cramping process.

Muscle Cramps: Causes and Remedies Based on Latest Science

CTS Coach Corrine Malcolm lays down the latest science

When it comes to cramping, especially exercise-associated muscle cramping (EAMC) almost everyone has a story. A story about that one time, in that one race, where that one muscle seized. Exercise-associated muscle cramps are defined as painful spasms, and involuntary contractions of skeletal muscles that occur during or immediately post exercise. So, for the purpose of this article, that would exclude cramps that occur outside of the context of exercise, or that are caused by underlying medical conditions such as nocturnal cramps, hypo/hyperthyroidism, and central or peripheral nervous system diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Cramping is by no means a new topic in the endurance community, and because EAMC can be debilitating in a race scenario cramping remains a hot topic. There have been decades of research dedicated to trying to figure out how we cramp, why we cramp, and how to stop cramps once they start. Despite our long affair with EAMC, we are not much closer to fully understand their etiology. If anything, our new understanding of EAMC is that they are complicated and likely stem from multiple compounding factors that make any one treatment or preventative technique unlikely to work for everyone, every time.

The Old Theories About Cramping

The advancement that has happened over the past 5 to 10 years however, is a clear move away from the original “dehydration & electrolyte imbalance theory” and an increased focus on the “altered neuromuscular control theory”. Starting in the early 2000s, study after study appeared that looked at hydration status and blood-electrolyte concentrations in endurance athletes, and over and over again there was no significant difference in the hydration status or blood-electrolyte concentrations of athletes who cramped and athletes who did not cramp on race day. Moreover, if you think about it, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are a system-wide issue, which should cause system-wide muscle cramping. However, EAMC is most commonly localized two one or two major muscle groups and frequently occurs unilaterally. What that means is that EAMC primarily occur in asymmetry (one calf cramps). However, if muscles are cramping bilaterally (both calves) or become generalized/full body cramping, this can be tied more closely to extreme dehydration or hyponatremia, or a more serious medical condition.

What this means is that although we should not completely eliminate dehydration or electrolyte imbalances entirely from the EAMC guidebook, there is likely more going on. Most likely, hydration and fueling problems act as one of the many players that work together to lead to EAMC.

The New Theories About Cramping

The newest theory knocking at the door is the altered neuromuscular control theory. The premise of this new theory is that EAMC is most closely linked to the tenuous relationship between your nervous system and muscles contractions. This theory suggests that EAMC are a combination of several factors coalescing in a perfect (terrible) storm, overexciting your alpha motor neuron, ultimately resulting in a cramp. The variables that are seemingly most important to causing this heightened fatigued state are: inadequate conditioning (particularly for heat or altitude), muscle damage, previous injury to both the cramping muscle or in the compensating muscle group, and certain medications like albuterol, conjugated estrogen, and statins. These variables can easily build off each other, snowballing into that cramp-prone state we’ve all seen happen on race day. These factors also explain why EAMC seem to been seen more frequently at hot races where muscles fatigue more quickly at the same work load, and why athletes with a history of previous cramping are most likely to experience cramping again. This also explains why we almost always see EAMC in races and not during training because we are placing a heavier demand on our muscles than we normally do.

What Happens When A Muscle Cramps

So how exactly do cramps happen and how do we try and treat them?

As mentioned above, cramping is the result of your alpha motor neuron becoming overexcited. Your alpha motor neurons are the largest neurons in your spinal chord and they directly innervate your muscle fibers, the stretch sensor, of your skeletal muscle. Their job is to send the message to your muscle to, “Contract! Contract! Contract!” We only move, pedal, kick, or stride when our alpha motor neurons work in perfect harmony with our Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs). GTOs are the other half of the contraction-relaxation pattern our muscles rely on.

When alph motor neurons and GTOs are both functioning properly, the GTOs act as the inhibitor to muscle spindle contractions. Basically, your alpha motor neurons and muscle spindles are the active “Contract! Contract! Contract!!!” command and action, while the GTOs are the inhibition to the contraction and allow the muscle to relax. As our muscles fatigue, there is an increased firing from the muscle spindles to keep “Contracting-contracting-contracting!!!” while, at the same time, there is a decreased response from the muscle GTOs to relax. When both of these things happen, we get an over excited alpha motor neuron that causes the contraction to win out time and time again, resulting in a contraction that won’t stop or, as we’ve all experienced, a cramp.

What Muscles Are Prone To Cramping

Muscles that are most likely to experience EAMC are muscles that are contracting in a shortened position. This is particularly true of muscles that cross two joints including your muscles that make up your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, your biceps brachii, and the long head of your triceps. EAMC are not limited to biarticulated muscles but they are the most common locations of cramping in runners, swimmers, and cyclists. Part of the reason for this is that when muscles have to contract in a shortened position, or through a small arc of movement, your GTOs produce less inhibition to the contraction than normal, due to altered muscle tensions. This can be made worse if you have an injury or an imbalance that causes you to decrease your normal range of motion.

The beauty of this knowledge is that one of the ways to stop EAMC once they’ve started is to stop and give your muscles the opportunity to lengthen. You can do this by stopping and passively stretching the muscle or by moving that muscle through its full range of motion. What you accomplish by doing this is creating a change in tension in the muscle, thereby increasing the GTOs’ inhibitory input to the alpha motor neuron and relaxing the muscle.

So why do people drink pickle juice?

Pickle juice appears to be more than folklore when it comes to stopping EAMC in their tracks. In a now famous 2010 study, researcher Kevin Miller and his colleagues brought pickle juice mainstream. For decades, athletic trainers and coaches had anecdotally been prescribing pickle juice, apple-cider vinegar, and mustard to treat EAMC, but there had been no concrete evidence as to why these various concoctions were stopping cramps. Playing into the electrolyte and dehydration theory, it was initially believed that the sodium in pickle juice was aiding in correcting an electrolyte balance in the cramping athletes. However, the result was happening so rapidly (30 seconds) it was deemed unlikely that the small amount of pickle juice ingested could possibly alter the athlete’s blood sodium concentrations in that short timeframe. What the scientific community began to conclude was that something in the pickle juice was abating the cramps via another mechanism. A new idea emerged that a neural reflex in the mouth, oropharynx, or esophagus could quickly disrupt the alpha motor neuron, stopping a cramp. This discovery has led to the development of several new anti-cramping products.

This new area of research (and the associated sports products) is based on stimulating transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. TRP channels are ion channels in the body that help mediate a variety of different sensations including pain, tastes, hot, cold, and pressure. Many TRP channels that help us differentiate temperatures are also activated by various molecules found in spices, such as capsaicin (chili peppers), menthol (mint), cinnamaldehye (cinnamon), shogaol (ginger), and allyl isothiocyanate (wasabi). Two channels of particular interest to researchers in this are the TRPA1 and TRPV1 channels that are found in our mouth, oropharynx, esophagus, and stomach. Given how fast the acetic acid in pickle-juice works to abate a cramp, it is very likely it stimulates TRP channels above the stomach, which makes this a particularly interesting way to address cramps once they start.

What this means is that strong sensory stimuli activated at these specific TRP channels, by a TRP agonist, or activators for each channel, like capsaicin, could potentially cause the alpha motor neurons to become less excited, which would in turn diminish or stave off a cramp (16). There are two possible scenarios being considered by researchers and companies cashing in on this new theory: 1) pre-ingestion of a TRP agonist might increase the threshold one has to reach in order to cramp, thereby keeping the individual out of a cramp prone state longer, and 2) ingestion of a TRP agonist at onset of a cramp will “trip” our electrical wiring, causing our muscle spindles and GTOs to work in harmony once again by decreasing the excitability of our alpha motor neurons.

What You Can Do About Cramping Today

So what does this mean for us right now? What the literature is currently telling us is that, although there is not yet strong evidence to support the idea that ingesting a TRP agonist pre-activity will successfully stave off a cramp, there is fairly strong evidence that ingesting a TRP agonist at the onset of cramping is likely to help abate the cramp and temporarily prevent subsequent cramps from occurring. I would add that at this time more research needs to be conducted on the most researched TRP agonist, HotShot, and other products containing TRP agonists like mustard, apple-cider vinegar, menthol etc. We are just at the beginning stages of understanding the complexities of TRP channels, the electrical component of EAMC, and their physiological intricacies.

So what can you do right now?

  • Experiment! Anecdote is not science. The brain is incredibly powerful, and placebos can have very real effects on physiological symptoms and performance. It doesn’t mean that something will not work, but the reliability of such methodologies remains unproven.
  • Train yourself specifically for the event you are undertaking. It’s thought that when the demand you put on your muscles does not match up with the training you’ve done, you are more susceptible to cramping, as evidenced by most cramp occurring during a race or event. This applies to athletes who go into events without acclimating to heat or altitude, who go faster than they train, and who fail to prepare for the types of terrain they will be competing on. Nothing can protect you from being underprepared for an event, not even the powerful miscalculation of our own limitations.
  • Work on form, mobility, and range of motion. Muscles most affected by EMAC are those that are confined to a small arc of motion, in a shortened state, and used repetitively. For runners, avoid heavy braking and focus on manipulating your stride length (in training for race day) so that you can maintain adequate hip and knee flexion and extension. For cyclists, make sure you’re seat position is high enough to allow for greater range of motion.
  • Fuel adequately. Glycogen depletion and inadequate fueling can lead to premature muscle fatigue and increase your risk of cramping.
  • Learn to recognize your body’s pre-cramping state and respond accordingly. Slowing down or stopping to stretch cramp-prone muscles could save you from that DNF, or from crawling into the next aid station.
  • Be reflective. Evaluate the training or race-day scenarios that may have brought you to your knees. What factors may have combined to lead to the over-fatigued state? For me personally it’s been a journey of rejiggering my biomechanics and imbalances.

By Corrine Malcolm, CTS Coach

Originally Published:

2019 Kettle Moraine 100

Mind the Woods Trolls—A Reasonable Runner’s Guide to Finishing Your First Ultra

Five surprisingly useful tips you’ll only hear from a non-pro.

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher Oct 9, 2019

100 miles is a lot of miles to run.

Fortunately, if you google “how to run 100 miles,” you will find a lot of useful, sophisticated tips and guidelines by professional runners and coaches. I am not a professional runner. These tips probably shouldn’t be categorized as sophisticated, but they did get me through my first 100 at the Kettle Moraine Endurance Runs. Really, that might make them more useful, because again, I’m not a professional runner. I’m a dad. I chug Coke mid-race. And I tend to hallucinate in the woods (it helps).

1. Find a training partner who is also an infant.

So, unless you’re Zach Bitter or Camille Herron, or are planning to run your first 100 in Reykjavik during summer solstice, chances are that a good chunk of your race will be run at night. This means that you will likely be sleep-deprived, bleary, and bushes may start to look like squatting woods-trolls. I’ve heard that some runners address this in their training by doing a bunch of night runs, which sounds unpleasant. Lucky for me, I had a shortcut. Three months before I started training for my first 100, my daughter was born. This angelic little howler made sure, as my training cycle progressed, that I never ran on a full night’s sleep. (Hello, Mr. Bush Troll).

An additional benefit here is the cross-training. During a 100, you’ll engage parts of your body in ways you’ve probably never done before, so it’s a good to strengthen a variety of muscles in advance of your race. For me, weightlifting and burpees were subbed out by baby-lifting and burping, rock climbing replaced by rocking back to sleep, pushups by pushed-strollers, strategic fartlekking by strategic fart-listening (Do we have to change our 76th diaper of the night, or can we sleep for another 8 minutes?). You get the point.

If you don’t happen to have an infant on hand, you could always adopt a whole litter of puppies. Or a Chia Pet somehow hooked up to a bullhorn. Or just go ahead and do those night runs.

2. Find a training partner who is also a two-time Badwater finisher.

In addition to the aforementioned nonsleep-training partner, I strongly recommend doing at least some of your runs with a training partner who has run 135 miles through Death Valley on the hottest day of the year. Twice. In my case, this was Jay, who I met in the woods running one morning. After exchanging details about our planned runs, he asked me to extract a loose ear-bud from his ear-drum with an ear-stick (which, for the curious, is just a regular stick). Operation successful, we finished our morning runs together, and soon started doing most of our weekly long runs together, and eventually weekly back-to-back long runs. Every time I’d feel tired, say, 15 miles into a run through the slightly bumpy footpaths of the southwestern Ohio woods, I’d think about my present company trying to make sure he stayed on the yellow line in the middle of the road so that his shoes didn’t melt on the asphalt, running in heat so severe I’ve heard it described as “similar to that feeling when you open an oven set to 400 degrees,” for, you know, 120 miles longer than we’d just run. And then, all of a sudden, I wouldn’t feel quite as tired anymore.

Of course, your training partner doesn’t actually have to have finished Badwater (twice!?!). They just have to be tougher than you are.

3. Find a jar of pickle juice and chug.

Most 100-mile training plans will tell you to make sure to practice eating, in training, the foods you plan to eat on race day. And indeed, for the first 37 miles of my 100, I managed to stick to my strict regimen of ingested 100-125 calories every half hour in the form of Salted Caramel GUs, Maple Sea Salt RX Bars, Honey Stinger waffles, and Spring Energy ElectroRide, pow, blam, zop, UltraFood, et cetera. And that went great. Until mile 38, when I couldn’t swallow another bite or swallow of any of the aforementioned delicacies, and my stomach began to seize up like there was a miniature woods-troll implanted therein, squeezing at my stomach lining and neighboring organs with all of his stumpy might.

Not a nice feeling.

Fortunately for me, the race directors and volunteers at the Kettle Moraine 100 had been doing this longer than I had, and when I stumbled miserably into the 40-something-mile aid station, I was offered a cup of pickle juice.

Would that I could write a psalm or sonnet about pickle juice.

Pickle juice!

Shall I compare thee to a sweet milkshake?

Thou art more lovely and more tasty, at least at mile 40-something.

For whatever scientific or mystical reason, within five minutes, almost all of my stomach cramping had cleared, and I was able to run and to eat again. I made the decision, then, to go with my gut, quite literally, and spent the rest of the day (and night) eating bagel bites, watermelon, veggie soup, bean burritos, and downing obscene quantities of Coca Cola. Should I have trained with a jar of pickle juice in hand? Perhaps. Or maybe we just need to make peace with the fact that over the course of 100 miles of running, one cannot plan for things to go as planned.

4. Find a big package of bite-size candy bars and meditate on their significance.

Okay, so this metaphor is going to be a bit of a stretch, but I think this is actually the most genuinely useful piece of advice I have to offer. A few years ago, Karl Meltzer set the fastest known time on Appalachian Trail fueled by beer and candy bars. But most of us are nothing like Karl Meltzer, and this tip actually has little to do with his AT record, other than that I love that fact about his diet and wanted to sneak it in here somewhere. This tip has to do with the concept of “bite size.”

When you run 100 miles, you should make sure to spend as little time possible thinking about the fact that you are running 100 miles. In other words, if, at mile 22, you feel tired, and you think, “I’m tired and I’ve got 78 more miles to go,” yikes. Not good. But if, at mile 22, you feel tired, and think, “I’m tired, but I’ve only got 2.6 miles to go to the next aid station,” (where I’ll get to drink some pickle juice? Or at least get a smile and a high five from a volunteer), that seems doable. You’re an ultrarunner, after all. You can always run another 2.6 miles. Same goes for mile 43, and mile 71, and mile 86. Break it up into bite-size sized pieces, and your chances of finishing the race skyrocket.

Sounds strange, because of course, on some level, your brain knows that you’re trying to run 100 miles. You’ve been training for this for months and months, maybe years. But your brain’s ability to trick your brain is phenomenal, and critical. Perhaps more phenomenal and more critical, even, than any bodily feat required to run 100 miles.

When I stumbled into the 62-mile turnaround, just before 8:00 PM, I felt my mind starting to slip into panic mode. I was arguably more tired than I’ve ever been, and had unarguably just run farther than I ever had. . . and I had another middle-of-the-night trail marathon and a half to go. Possible? No way. Impossible. Maybe I should just stop here. But I caught hold of my mind just before it spiraled down this fluffy, downy, warm, soothing, beckoning rabbit hole that ends in a DNF. So, I sat down. Changed my socks. Asked a volunteer at the aid station for a cup of coffee. Brushed my teeth. Put on a new shirt. Nodded to Jay, who had flown to Wisconsin to pace me from mile 62 until the end, and I said, “Hey, look at this, we’re just starting another weekend run together. How’s it going, man? I’m feeling great.” And we set off, as the sun set, with just a few miles to go until the next aid station.

Bite size. You can always run another few miles. And though I’ve never tried it, I am confident it’d be easier to eat an entire package of bite-size candy bars than to eat one super-long candy bar. Not that I recommend doing either. (Although after your 100, you may want to. Or you may never want to look at anything sweet ever again, your teeth rotting from having just imbibed ~62 liters of Coca Cola (and pickle juice).)

5. Laugh throughout the process.

Running 100 miles is something you have to prepare for seriously, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be serious the whole time you prepare, or while you race.

Because let’s face it: You will probably end up pooping or at least think about pooping in some very strange places. (Let’s pray this three-leafed plant is not poisonous.) Let’s face it: There will almost certainly come a time in which you feel like you are running as hard as you can, but are, in reality, moving about as fast as your 96 year-old great uncle Merv. After his CrossFit class. Let’s face it: Running is a funny way to spend so many hours of your life. And a beautiful one, too.

When you stumble out of the 96 mile aid station, the first rays of dawnlight cracking over the hills, you might find yourself on the brink of tears as you realize that you are going to finish this run, that there’s only one more bite-sized chunk to go, zero more cups of pickle juice.

And you might laugh through the tears welling in your bleary eyes, and then glance over to smile at the photographer crouched between the trees, and then realize that the photographer is not a photographer, but a tree stump.

And you might finish, and give a huge, sweaty hug to your infant training partner, and to your two-time Badwater-finisher training partner who paced you through the night, and to your partner who supported you throughout this crazy process, and your family members and friends who think you are nuts but love you anyway, and are proud of you. You might then eat a whole bag of bite-size candy bars, or you might just crawl down the rabbit hole of furry, downy sleep that ends not in a DNF, but rather begins in having just f’ing F’ed your first 100-mile ultramarathon.

Because let’s face it: it’s quite strange to be alive, to be human, but in the midst of all this strangeness, it’s a pretty damn beautiful gift to get to spend hours running, on pavement or on treadmills or on trails, alone or with company, for 100 miles or for one, laughing as you go.

Moriel Rothman-Zecher is a writer and trail runner based in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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