I used to suffer terribly from cramps after a hard bike race or ride. I’d get screaming painful leg cramps in my quads and hamstrings. Years ago, I’d be driving back from a race and suddenly cramp so brutally that I’d almost get in an accident, as I jerked the car off the road and fell to the ground in deep pain.
Sometimes, my legs would cramp up in the middle of the night and I’d end up standing in the dark living room, digging my fingers so hard into those muscles to try and stop the pain that I’d end up with dark bruises.
It was agonizing and no matter how much water or gatorade I drank, the cramps were inevitable. Then, my genius wife started googling around for natural cramp remedies for cyclists. That’s when I discovered pickle juice.
It’s been literally a miracle cure for cramps. I can be in screaming pain, drink a quarter cup of pickle juice and within 30 to 60 seconds the crams are gone and stay gone for hours and hours, if not permanently. Let me tell you, it’s a beautiful thing.
While the pickle brine is loaded with sodium and electrolytes, not even the top sports scientists know how and why it works so well. One theory is outlined on the Healthline website: “While it hasn’t been proven yet, researchers posit that pickle juice may help cramps by triggering muscular reflexes when the liquid contacts the back of the throat. This reflex shuts down the misfiring of neurons in muscle all over the body, and “turns off” the cramping feeling. It’s thought that it’s specifically the vinegar content in pickle juice that does this.”
I’ve read that during the London Olympics, the Australian team made special trips to get their pickle elixir. Writing for Cyclingtips, sports dietitian Alan McCubbin recounts the tale. “I first became aware of athletes using pickle juice to treat cramping shortly after the London Olympics, when colleagues at the Australian Institute of Sport had discussed it in a conference presentation. Apparently the Australian team paid a visit to the McDonald’s in the Olympic Village at the end of each day, asking the bemused staff for their empty pickle jars, from which they’d extract the juice to give to athletes the following day.”
All I know it, pickle juice has made a massive positive effect on my recovery and enjoyment of cycling. I take a small jar with me in the car so I can swig it right after I finish a ride. When I get home, it’s a shower and a shot of pickle juice. Depending on how the legs are feeling, I will also drink a little pickle juice right before bed to avoid cramps at 3am.
If you haven’t given pickle juice a try, I’d highly recommend you test it out. Quads and hamstring are big muscles and when they cramp, it’s serious pain. You need the power of the pickle.