Plasma and electrolyte changes in exercising humans after ingestion of multiple boluses of pickle juice

J Athl Train. 2015 Feb;50(2):141-6. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-50.2.07. Epub 2015 Jan 6.


Context: Twenty-five percent of athletic trainers administer pickle juice (PJ) to treat cramping. Anecdotally, some clinicians provide multiple boluses of PJ during exercise but warn that repeated ingestion of PJ may cause hyperkalemia. To our knowledge, no researchers have examined the effect of ingesting multiple boluses of PJ on the same day or the effect of ingestion during exercise.

Objective: To determine the short-term effects of ingesting a single bolus or multiple boluses of PJ on plasma variables and to characterize changes in plasma variables when individuals ingest PJ and resume exercise.

Design: Crossover study.

Setting: Laboratory.

Patients or other participants: Nine euhydrated men (age = 23 ± 4 years, height = 180.9 ± 5.8 cm, mass = 80.7 ± 13.8 kg, urine specific gravity = 1.009 ± 0.005).

Intervention(s): On 3 days, participants rested for 30 minutes, and then a blood sample was collected. Participants ingested 0 or 1 bolus (1 mL · kg(-1) body weight) of PJ, donned sweat suits, biked vigorously for 30 minutes (approximate temperature = 37 °C, relative humidity = 18%), and had a blood sample collected. They either rested for 60 seconds (0- and 1-bolus conditions) or ingested a second 1 mL · kg(-1) body weight bolus of PJ (2-bolus condition). They resumed exercise for another 35 minutes. A third blood sample was collected, and they exited the environmental chamber and rested for 60 minutes (approximate temperature = 21 °C, relative humidity = 18%). Blood samples were collected at 30 and 60 minutes postexercise.

Main outcome measure(s): Plasma sodium concentration, plasma potassium concentration, plasma osmolality, and changes in plasma volume.

Results: The number of PJ boluses ingested did not affect plasma sodium concentration, plasma potassium concentration, plasma osmolality, or changes in plasma volume over time. The plasma sodium concentration, plasma potassium concentration, and plasma osmolality did not exceed 144.6 mEq · L(-1) (144.6 mmol · L(-1)), 4.98 mEq · L(-1) (4.98 mmol · L(-1)), and 289.5 mOsm · kg(-1)H2O, respectively, in any condition at any time.

Conclusions: Ingesting up to 2 boluses of PJ and resuming exercise caused negligible changes in blood variables. Ingesting up to 2 boluses of PJ did not increase plasma sodium concentration or cause hyperkalemia.

Keywords: hyperkalemia; hypernatremia; osmolality; potassium; sodium.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beverages*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Eating
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Cramp* / etiology
  • Muscle Cramp* / prevention & control
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Physical Conditioning, Human* / adverse effects
  • Physical Conditioning, Human* / methods
  • Plasma Volume / drug effects
  • Potassium / blood*
  • Sodium / blood*
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Sports


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • Sodium
  • Potassium