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Attention Athletes- Drink Pickle Juice to Relieve Muscle Cramps!

Updated on March 16, 2016
Turtlewoman profile image

Kim is a board-certified Holistic Health Coach, Healthy Living and Cleanse Consultant, and studied under Drs. Andrew Weil and Walter Willet.

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.

Jason Witten swears by this drink: Pickle Juice Sport

Source

Cheapest sports drink in the world!

This is a diluted version of my water and pickle juice!
This is a diluted version of my water and pickle juice! | Source
Cramping up during a game is NOT FUN!
Cramping up during a game is NOT FUN! | Source

I hope they start passing out pickle juice at marathon events soon!

Renee Davis at Wiesbaden Half Marathon
Renee Davis at Wiesbaden Half Marathon | Source

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:

  • Dehydration
  • Loss of electrolytes
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Exercise in extreme heat (loss of sweat and electrolytes)


Pickle Juice Sport: how does it get rid of muscle leg cramps?


Jason Witten, Cowboys tight end, endorsed a bottled version called Pickle Juice Sport in 2006. Since one of the causes of muscle cramps is depletion of one or more of electrolyte minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, Pickle Juice Sport 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.

Brandon Brooks, founder of Pickle Juice Sport, claim that the "pickle juice has 10X more electrolytes than Gatorade and 15X more than Powerade." I was amazed that this drink also has an impressive 890mg of sodium in 8oz., zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E which aids in muscle recovery, immune system.

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 ½ 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.

The electrolytes in the pickle juice come from the cucumber, salt, and the fermentation process. Pickles also have magnesium and potassium.

Source

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.
  • Cures hangovers. 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!


All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2012 Kim Lam (Turtlewoman)

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    • drdspervez profile image

      drdspervez 5 years ago from Pakistan

      It is a nice and informative hub and I rated you up. :)

      DR.DURRESHAHWAR PERVEZ

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Dr. Pervez,

      Thank you for reading, and voting it up!

    • profile image

      mattymonkey 5 years ago

      as a sportsman and a long term sufferer from cramps, very interesting. Next time I wake up at 2am with cramps, I know what to do!

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      Very interesting hub. My kids quite often get cramp after sports so I will see if I can get some pickle juice. My mother gets leg cramps at night so it might be good for her too. Thanks for a very useful hub. Voted up and sharing.

    • 910chris profile image

      910chris 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I read about this 2 months ago I think. The article stated that the company, "Golden Pickle" is exploding as more people hear about there product. I have yet to try it, but I think I will very soon. Great Hub voted up!

    • the girls profile image

      the girls 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Informative hub. I am already a pickle/cucumber fan. I use the brine for cooking but this time I'll pour some to my water bottle. Voted up!

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      This is a very well written article on a very interesting concept. My husband and his mother like to drink the pickle juice just for the taste alone. It appears they were getting additional benefits as well.

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou, MPH 5 years ago from USA

      This is my first time hearing about drinking this to prevent muscle cramps. That is very good to know. Thanks for this hub.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      My granddaughter who is 5 yrs old drinks it and likes it, I guess I'll do shots with her the next time around. Great hub!!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Vicki L Hodges 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      You answered my question about pickle juice--thank you and great job! It's good for cramps and hangovers, too, huh? That's cool. Informative, wonderful hub. Voted everything, except funny, including up!

    • halfpintohoney profile image

      Amanda Bennett 5 years ago from Nova Scotia

      My son Loves pickle juice!! He asked me one day when he was about 2 if he could drink the juice!! When I said no, he said why not?? My dad lets me!! lol Turns out they drink it together, lol

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      halfpintohoney- Your son is funny!

      Victoria Lynn- Thanks! What a great question...I hope we win! ;-)

      Sunshine625- Lol...oh grandma, I guess shots of pickle juice is better than alcohol. Too funny.

      Journey*- Thanks for stopping by...glad you found the article useful!

      homesteadbound- It is an odd topic, isn't it? I don't mind the taste either.

      the girls- Thanks for commenting. Many people use the brine to make more pickling goodies. It's completely recyclable!

      Melovy- Definitely, let your kids try it if they ever get cramps. Thanks for reading!

      mattymonkey- Thanks for stopping by! Hope you like the taste!

      910chris- I wouldn't be surprise if more companies start producing their version of this sports drink. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Jennifer Essary profile image

      Jennifer Essary 5 years ago from Idaho

      Interesting. Voted up, useful, and shared with my massage therapy friends.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Fascinating!!!

    • halfpintohoney profile image

      Amanda Bennett 5 years ago from Nova Scotia

      Here's a question along the same lines!!

      Canned mushroom juice?? Yes or No?? lol

      My little guy has asked me on a number of occasions if he could drink the canned mushroom juice!! The thought really grosses me out, but is it as bad for him as I think it is??

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 5 years ago from California

      Hi halfpintohoney, kids have interesting taste buds!

      I wouldn't let your 2 yr old drink canned mushroom juice, or anything from a can. There are many scientific studies to back up the dangerous effects of BPA and other gross chemicals that can cause health problems. I would err on the side of caution. If he really really wants to drink it, there are mushrooms that are preserved in glass jars. Try Amazon if you can't find them in your supermarket.

      However, if it's "pickled mushrooms" the brine is ok to drink in moderation since the pickling ingredients are the same is the same. Hope that helps!

    • halfpintohoney profile image

      Amanda Bennett 5 years ago from Nova Scotia

      Thank You!! That's what I figured, lol

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      I will have to try that for muscle cramps. If it's the vinegar - I don't mind drinking that by itself but I'm sort of wary of too much salt water.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 4 years ago

      Dear Turtle Woman - This article is so useful and awesome that I am going to share it to my 15,000 followers on Twitter! Blessings to you, Debby

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 4 years ago from California

      Thanks Debby, Have a great holidays! Take care!

    • Faith A Mullen profile image

      Faith A Mullen 4 years ago

      Another great hub! I have a friend who swears by pickle juice for menstrual cramps. Now I'm thinking it may be worth a try!

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 4 years ago from California

      Hmm, I have not tried it for menstrual cramps! Thanks for sharing!

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Off to the supermarket to buy some pickled cucumbers. I've had leg cramps for three days now! So looking forward to relief. Thank you so so much.

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 4 years ago from California

      GoodLady- Hello and thanks for reading. Did it help?

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 4 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      Wow, I love juices and fruit drinks of all kinds but I didn't know about how good pickles are. :P

      I learned a new valuable thing here today. Thank you, and for following me on Twitter. :)

    • Turtlewoman profile image
      Author

      Kim Lam 4 years ago from California

      Hey Astra! Nice to meet you! Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      horton 8 months ago

      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.

      Unless she flies a private jet, not many airlines will let you do that be it in US or any other part of the world.

    • profile image

      Davey 6 months ago

      Drink two tbl spoons per day.

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