You've probably heard a lot about what you're supposed to eat and drink — or not drink and not eat — after sweating out what might feel like half your body weight at the gym. Some tout the benefits of an electrolyte-heavy sports drink, while others contend that they're far too loaded up with additives and sugar to be good for you. Thanks, everyone, for clearing that one up (not). Are you supposed to have a snack right after exercise... or should you wait an hour? I've seen both recommended. And we all know that straight-up water is a pretty foolproof way to rehydrate post-sweat, but one more bottle of said tasteless beverage can be a drag. If you're in that "water is boring" camp, you might be interested (if you're not grossed out, of course) in the recent buzz around pickle juice. Is pickle juice good for you? If it is, I'm still not sure I'll be running to the store to pick some up, but I guess it's always better to stay open-minded (ugh... do I have to?) and get all the facts.
First, let's make sure we're all on the same page about pickles. ICYMI, those salty little treats you like to eat right out of the jar were actually once cucumbers, per WiseGEEK. The pickling process uses fermentation to add good bacteria for flavor and to preserve food longer. Food that's pickled in an acidic brine — a solution of salt and liquid, most often water and vinegar — can typically last for up to a year and still be safe to eat. Lots of things can be pickled, but the process is usually associated with pickled cucumbers, better known as, well, pickles.
Pickling brine is the secret sauce that helps preserve food, but it's also an ideal post-workout drink for those brave enough to give it a try. "The brine solution is actually loaded with antioxidants and nutrients," health and wellness expert Caleb Backe tells Insider. "Although it may sound off, drinking the flavorful green juice may be one of the best post-workout snacks."
"Pickle juice" — because that's a much more straightforward term than "brine" — is well suited for drinking after a lot of sweating because it can help refuel your body's potassium, sodium, and electrolyte reserves, per Insider. According to Backe, it's less about how much of these nutrients the juice actually contains and more about how quickly it can transport them throughout the body. Since you're sorely missing potassium, sodium, and electrolytes after a tough exercise session, the faster you can rebuild them, the better. Pickle juice's high sodium content can also help ease muscle cramps, which is obviously helpful after a long run or stint in the weight room.
If you want to give this a try, you could take the obvious route and save the juice that's left over when you're finished snacking your way through the jar of pickles in the fridge. Sipping that salty liquid will definitely get the job done, and it will certainly honor your grandmother's "waste not, want not!" philosophy (unless that's just my grandmother?). I understand that the idea of chugging the remains of a pickle jar isn't entirely appetizing, though, so I'm happy to report that you have another option.
The Pickle Juice Company offers a pre-packaged Pickle Juice sports beverage, which is available in their online store and at food and athletic retailers around the country. Per the company's FAQ page, Pickle Juice is an upgrade from what you'd get in a jar because it's filtered and fortified with additional nutrients to maximize benefits. "Pickle Juice is a specifically formulated beverage created for a dual purpose: addressing muscle cramps through the use of a proprietary grain of vinegar that acts as an effective neural inhibitor, and serving as a tool to aid hydration by containing [10 times] more electrolytes compared to most common sports drinks," the FAQ states.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not currently putting on my shoes to go out and buy pickle juice (or Pickle Juice), but I'm not quite as freaked out by the idea of it as I was originally. Baby steps, people.