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Athletes: Drink Pickle Juice to Relieve Muscle Cramps

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Kim is a holistic health coach and a toxic-free lifestyle consultant. She obtained her studies from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Learn how pickle juice can help you become a better athlete.

Learn how pickle juice can help you become a better athlete.

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

Jason Witten swears by this drink: Pickle Juice Sport

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, exercise-induced muscle cramps are caused by dehydration from exercise in extremely hot weather and not drinking enough water.

Causes of Muscle Cramps

  • Dehydration
  • Loss of electrolytes
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Exercise in extreme heat (loss of sweat and electrolytes)
Cheapest sports drink in the world! This is a diluted version of my water and pickle juice!

Cheapest sports drink in the world! This is a diluted version of my water and pickle juice!

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 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 replenish the lost fluids from sweat, while the vinegar penetrates the muscle and helps with recovery.

Brandon Brooks, the founder of Pickle Juice Sport, claims 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.

Cramping up during a game is NOT FUN!

Cramping up during a game is NOT FUN!

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 to 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.

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This study was also published in the American College of Sports Medicine, Journal of Athletic Training, and in Athletic Therapy Today.

I hope they start passing out pickle juice at marathon events soon! Renee Davis at Wiesbaden Half Marathon. I hope they start passing out pickle juice at marathon events soon!

I hope they start passing out pickle juice at marathon events soon! Renee Davis at Wiesbaden Half Marathon. I hope they start passing out pickle juice at marathon events soon!

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

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

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.
  • Helps to remedy 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 the body again, dilute some pickle juice with water and drink it.

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 leftover brine from your mom’s pickle jar in your water bottle!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Kim Lam


Davey on September 21, 2016:

Drink two tbl spoons per day.

horton on July 22, 2016:

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.

Kim Lam (author) from California on January 30, 2013:

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

Cathy Nerujen from Edge of Reality and Known Space on January 28, 2013:

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. :)

Kim Lam (author) from California on January 11, 2013:

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

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on January 11, 2013:

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.

Kim Lam (author) from California on January 08, 2013:

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

Faith A Mullen on January 08, 2013:

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!

Kim Lam (author) from California on December 23, 2012:

Thanks Debby, Have a great holidays! Take care!

Debby Bruck on December 22, 2012:

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

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on August 30, 2012:

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.

Amanda Bennett from Nova Scotia on March 08, 2012:

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

Kim Lam (author) from California on March 08, 2012:

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!

Amanda Bennett from Nova Scotia on March 08, 2012:

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??

Audrey Howitt from California on March 08, 2012:


Jennifer Essary from Idaho on March 08, 2012:

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

Kim Lam (author) from California on March 07, 2012:

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.

Amanda Bennett from Nova Scotia on March 07, 2012:

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

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 07, 2012:

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!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on March 07, 2012:

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!!!

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on March 07, 2012:

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

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on March 07, 2012:

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.

Theresa Ventu from Los Angeles, California on March 07, 2012:

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!

910chris from North Carolina on March 07, 2012:

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!

Yvonne Spence from UK on March 07, 2012:

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.

mattymonkey on March 07, 2012:

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!

Kim Lam (author) from California on March 06, 2012:

Dr. Pervez,

Thank you for reading, and voting it up!

drdspervez from Pakistan on March 06, 2012:

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


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