Just when we thought buzz ingredients couldn't get any wackier, well, they do. Forget coconut water for a post-workout nutrition hit -- long distance runners and workout junkies are now drinking pickle juice. Yep, the water in a jar of pickles.
The reason? It's thought that the brine from a jar of pickles aids in treating muscle cramps.
"This has been an interesting new development, but so far we have limited research to determine the effectiveness of pickle juice. Anecdotally it appears that it may be helpful in preventing and treating muscle cramps," Jemma O'Hanlon, accredited practising dietitian, told The Huffington Post Australia.
"It's thought that the vinegar in the juice stimulates receptors in the mouth, oesophagus and stomach, and that this allows the receptors in the muscle fibres to relax where a cramp is occurring."
Pickle water is mostly made up of vinegar. While some may find the tangy, acidic-tasting liquid nice, it might not be the best drink to skoll after a gym session.
"What we do know about vinegar is that it has an anti-glycaemic effect. Essentially this means that it slows down the digestion of starches, meaning that blood sugar levels will not rise as high."
"The juice from pickles can contain a substantial amount unnecessary kilojoules (from vinegar and sugar) and salt, not to mention being quite sour and unpleasant to drink. I wouldn't recommend that pickle juice is something that Australians start drinking, unless it is under the guidance of a health professional," O'Hanlon said.
If you do want to leverage the benefits of vinegar, it's probably better to consume it in smaller doses, and in dressings instead of drinks.
"Vinegar is commonly used to make dressings and sauces. A good way to lower the GI of a salad is to add a vinegar-based dressing. You could make up a simple one from scratch using extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and some wholegrain mustard," O'Hanlon said.
In terms of what athletes should be drinking when they train, not surprisingly, water is the best. Specifically formulated sports drinks are also useful, in moderation.
Formulated sports drinks play an important role in many athletes' diets as they provide the balance of electrolytes and hydration that athletes need. Although we're starting to see some athletes using pickle juice to assist with cramps, this is not a not a replacement for formulated sports drinks. Athletes dietary needs vary significantly depending on the type of sport they're involved in and their individual nutrient needs, so I'd always recommend consulting an Accredited Sports Dietitian to advise on which beverages are most suitable."
"Water will always be the best drink for all Australians to enjoy. Sports drinks should be limited as they contain added sugar and can increase the risk of dental cavities and excessive weight gain, not to mention have a negative effect on our bone health. Sports drinks should only be consumed by sports people taking part in long duration endurance activities," O'Hanlon said.
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