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Pickle Juice for Cramps in Pickleball

by | Jul 24, 2022 | Pickleball

Does drinking pickle juice for cramps actually help?

Yes! A 2010 research article suggests that drinking “small amounts” of pickle juice for cramps helped relieve symptoms within 35-seconds in hypohydrated people. [1]

* Click to see the recommendation.

One source suggested that 1ml per Kg of bodyweight is a recommended dose. That equates to 1ml per 2.2-lbs of bodyweight. A 150-lbs person would drink approximately 1/4 cup of pickle juice for cramps.

What is hypohydration?

I would call hypohydration “dehydration” but the technical definition of hypohydration is a 2% body water loss of body mass. [2]

* Note, I realize body mass and body weight are not the same thing, but for simplicity I will be using these terms interchangeably in this article.

Normal Body Weight Hypohydration
150-lbs < 147-lbs
200-lbs < 196-lbs
125-lbs < 122.5-lbs

 

Common causes of fluid loss:

  • Breathing – humans can lose 250 to 350 mL/day via respiration. This is increased with physical activity
  • Urinary loss – urinating may contribute to between 500 and 1000 mL/day of water loss. Medication, caffeine, or other ingested substances may increase this number
  • Defecation – fecal material may contribute to between 100 and 200 mL/day in water loss
  • Sweat losses from sports and athletic participation may account for between 455 and 3630 mL/day of water loss. [2]

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Pickle Hydrate Shot for Cramps Relief- Electrolyte Replacement Pickle Juice Drink Extra Strength, Sugar-Free, Rehydration Pickle Brine Sports Drink with no Caffeine Gluten-Free (2 Oz-12-Pack)

Homemade Pickle Juice for Cramps Recipe

Nothing beats homemade pickle juice.

Sweet or spicy, flavored or plain, you have control of the taste and ingredients when you make it yourself.

Organicfacts.com has an Amazing Homemade Pickle Juice Recipe that includes the most basic essentials: water, white vinegar, and kosher salt. Some of my favorite optional ingredients include ginger and garlic.

Here is a video from YouTube showing you a slightly different recipe for making homemade pickle juice for cramps. Remember, it is the bring that may be helpful, not the pickled cucumber. So the brine from other pickled veggies might be more palatable for you.

What is a muscle cramp?

Muscle cramps are described as involuntary, often painful, localize muscle contractions of a muscle group or individual muscle fibers. When it happens, a muscle cramp may last for a few seconds or a few minutes.

If you touch the area of muscle while it is actively cramping it will feel hard to the touch.

What causes a muscle cramp?

The cause of a muscle cramp depends on the conditions upon which the cramp happens. For example, heat-associated muscle cramps often happen while playing sports or performing vigorous activity in warm temperatures.

The human body produces sweat as a method of cooling the skin. This sweat production drains the body of water which then results in a disruption to the body’s electrolyte balance.

Cramps are commonly associated with disruptions to the body’s electrolyte balance due to its affect on the body’s electrical systems. [3]

While the exact cause of a muscle cramp is poorly understood, below is a list of conditions associated with muscle cramping.

Different Conditions Associated with Muscle Cramps

Nocturnal Leg Cramps

Nightly leg cramps affect approximately 37% of people over the age of 60. The calf muscle is the most common site of cramping, but the hamstring is also common.

Although the exact cause of this type of nightly leg cramps remains unknown, predisposing factors include electrolyte disturbances, neurological disorders, hormonal and metabolic disorders, nerve root compressions or compressed arterial vessels.

Associations have also been identified with people taking medications such as diuretics, beta-blockers, and statins.

Personal Account

I can tell you that the only time I get muscle cramps is at night when I have been noticeably dehydrated during the previous day. I have noticed that I experience calf cramps at night while I am sleeping. Especially when I stretch and in the stretching process I plantarflex my ankles, forcefully tightening my calf muscle.

 How I stop calf cramps at night.

When I feel the calf cramp starting it wakes me and I have learned that if I immediately, forcefully and actively dorsiflex my ankle there is a good chance I can inhibit or stop the calf muscle cramp.

This technique is called reflexive inhibition. In order for my brain to activate the muscles that dorsiflex my ankle, it must simultaneously inhibit the muscles that plantarflex my ankle. Since the calf cramp is happening in my ankle plantar flexors then this active inhibition will reflexively inhibit the spasm.

Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramp (EAMC)

There are currently two hypotheses for why exercise-associated muscle cramps happen.

1.) Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance is the most commonly attributed reason for exercise-associated muscle cramps. As a person exercises that persons body temperature rises. 

In an effort to cool the body, sweat is released through the skin and while the evaporation of that sweat cools the skin, if that water isn’t replenished by the athlete, a resulting electrolyte imbalance will occur possibly leading to cramping.

2.) Peripheral neurological disorder is a more recent theory linked to muscle cramps. Explained in plain language, as a muscle repeatedly contracts there is an increase in the afferents from the neuromuscular spindles and Golgi tendon organs. Basically the outgoing and incoming neurological information gets thrown out of whack and the result is a muscle cramp.

 

Does drinking pickle juice STOP muscle cramps while playing pickleball?

The simple answer is… probably yes.

While drinking small amounts of pickle juice for cramps has no known negative side effects, the possible benefit of replenishing lost electrolytes or simply the placebo effect of drinking pickle juice for cramps might make it worth trying.

There are no formal dosing amounts indicated in the clinical research, so perform your own experiment. For myself, I will try a 1 ounce dose of high quality pickle juice the next time I am playing pickleball or participating in any high intensity sport in warm or hot temperatures.

I will also monitor my body weight and attempt to replenish my fluids at a rate equivalent to body weight loss.

References:

1. Miller KC, Mack GW, Knight KL, Hopkins JT, Draper DO, Fields PJ, Hunter I. Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 May;42(5):953-61. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c0647e. PMID: 19997012.

2. Sawka MN, Cheuvront SN, Kenefick RW. Hypohydration and Human Performance: Impact of Environment and Physiological Mechanisms. Sports Med. 2015 Nov;45 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S51-60. doi: 10.1007/s40279-015-0395-7. PMID: 26553489; PMCID: PMC4672008.

3. Noonan B, Bancroft RW, Dines JS, Bedi A. Heat- and cold-induced injuries in athletes: evaluation and management. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2012 Dec;20(12):744-54. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-20-12-744. PMID: 23203934.