Athletes Drink Pickle Juice for Muscle Cramps
How to get rid of leg cramps!
I was first introduced to pickle juice at a volleyball tournament. Here I am gulping down Gatorade to quench my thirst and as I look over at my teammate, she's drinking the brine straight out of a pickle jar. I didn't think much of it until a few months later, when my calves cramped up right before our semi-finals game. Someone gave me a bottle of pickle juice to drink. To my amazement, it turned out that the pickle juice immediately cured the muscle cramps.
To satisfy my curiosity, I did some more research on this green concoction. It turns out professional athletes have been drinking cucumber brine for over a decade now. Philadelphia Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder shared the secret weapon that led his team to victory over the Dallas Cowboys back in 2000. The two teams battled for hours in 110 degrees heat—players were having cramps and suffering possible dehydration. Burkholder's players chugged down pickle juice all day to avoid injuries and cramps and walked away with a 41-14 victory. Don't play another game without it. Get Juce Here.
What causes a muscle cramp?
There is nothing more annoying to me than getting a painful muscle cramp in my calves during a volleyball game. If you've ever had a cramp, you can remember the intense sharp pain that can render your legs momentarily immobile.
Typically, exercised-induced muscle cramps are caused by dehydration from exercise in extreme hot weather and not drinking enough water. Some common causes are:
- Loss of electrolytes
- Muscle fatigue
- Exercise in extreme heat (loss of sweat and electrolytes)
How does it get rid of muscle leg cramps?
Since one of the causes of muscle cramps is depletion of one or more of electrolyte, pickle juice replenishes the right balance of salt, electrolytes, and vinegar in your body. The salt retains the fluids, electrolytes replenishes the lost fluids from sweat, while the vinegar penetrates the muscle and helps with recovery.
Studies done on athletes drinking pickle juice
A scientific study was performed in Utah, where Dr. Kevin C. Miller decided to test this theory. Healthy male college athletes from Brigham University participated in his study by biking a series of 30-minute sessions in a warm laboratory, causing them sweat until each had lost 3% of body weight through perspiration. Basically they biked to the point of mild dehydration.
The scientist induced the muscle in the big toes to cramp up by strapping a contraption that sent electrical shocks. The cramps lasted about 2 Y2 minutes. Blood samples were taken before and after the men drank the fluids to see if there were any changes in blood sodium, potassium, magnesium, or calcium levels.
One group drank water, another group drank the pickle juice strained from a classic Vlasic dill jar, and the rest of the athletes drank nothing. The men who drank pickle juice stopped cramping in less than 2 minutes. The men who drank water continued to have cramps. Miller believed that the cramping was caused by sweat-induced dehydration, which leads to loss of sodium and potassium.
There was another puzzling result. How can this salty and vinegary drink reach their toes so quickly? The study showed that the pickle juice did not affect the changes in their blood. The pickle juice did not even leave their stomach during the experiment! Does that mean mild dehydration was not the only culprit?
Miller thinks that the juice triggered a reflex (from receptors in our mouth) that tells your brain to send a signal to the muscles to relax by sparking some "neural mediated reflex." Those reflexes give us the cues to misfiring muscles which causes cramps.
Dr. Miller stated :
"Pickle juice, and not de-ionized water, inhibits electrically induced muscle cramps in dehydrated humans. This effect could not be explained by rapid restoration of body fluids or electrolytes. We suspect that the rapid inhibition of the electrically induced cramps reflects a neural mediated reflex that originates in the pharyngeal region and acts to inhibit the firing of alpha motor neurons of the cramping muscle."
The study concluded that drinking pickle juice relieved the muscle cramp 45% faster than by not drinking any water, and 37% faster than drinking water. Dr. Miller suspects that ultimately, it's the vinegar in the pickle juice that activates the receptors. This study was also published in the American College of Sports Medicine, Journal of Athletic Training, and in Athletic Therapy Today.
Other medical uses for pickle juice
Mild arthritis/muscle ache
Athletes are not the only ones drinking pickle juice. Try pickle juice if you get a leg cramp in the middle of the night. My mother brings pickle juice with her on the airplane when she has a long flight. Her legs tend to stiff up from sitting too long.
A hangover is not just a result of a long night of partying, but also means that your body is severely dehydrated from loss of electrolytes. To replenish body again, dilute some pickle juice with water and drink it.
**CAUTION: As always, consult your physician prior to making any drastic changes to your eating and drinking habits.
Wrapping it up
Personally, I think pickle juice really does provide quick relief from muscle cramps during my intense games. Although pickle juice is not as popular or widely used compared to conventional sports drinks, more and more athletes are switching over to this magical drink. Instead of buying expensive sports drinks, pour some left over brine from your mom's pickle jar in your water bottle!
Don't just take her word for it.. Try it yourself. We've already nicely packaged some pickle juice for you with the on-the-go athlete in mind. Throw Juce in your bag and get out the door. Keep a few in there, so you don't let it cost you the game or your training.