Muscle Cramps and... Pickle Juice?

Muscle Cramps and... Pickle Juice?

A friend of mine is an avid tennis player and often struggles with muscle cramps during matches. We were recently talking about his options; as the saying goes, "Let food be thy medicine" - but even I wasn't sure which foods would provide quick relief to an ailing athlete suffering from muscle cramps.

He told me he tried pickle juice and noticed an immediate relief in his cramping. He wanted to know what the mechanisms were behind the magic of pickle juice! It was a fascinating question and one I had to do a bit of research on!

You probably know that when you sweat, you are not only losing fluids, but electrolytes as well. Most tennis players compete in tournaments in the heat of the summer and lose high levels of electrolytes, especially sodium. Sodium is responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contractions, so as this nutrient is depleted, cramping usually occurs.

It seems that a slight dose of sodium might be beneficial to more quickly relieve muscles cramps. In a study, participants were given 2.5 oz of pickle juice; those that were given pickle juice, versus other participants simply given water, noticed a 40% decrease in the length of their cramping periods. However, increased levels of sodium were not found in the blood plasma soon enough to relieve cramping at the rate it was reported. More likely, the sodium played a role in inhibiting the firing of neurons that impact muscle cramping.

If you are an athlete competing in extreme heat and often suffer from cramping, this may be beneficial for you. Research remains limited and the benefits of pickle juice are all theoretical. Remember: when engaging in any physical activity, always make sure you are drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated. If you are struggling with cramping and are not ready to experiment with pickle juice, this Blast may become your new best friend.

Cramp Recovery

  • Half a small cucumber
  • 1 stick of celery
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ red apple
  • half a peeled lemon
  • Coconut water to max line
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

Do you have any tips or pointers for dealing with muscle cramps?

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics

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