Should you be drinking pickle juice post-workout?
“If you’ve ever experienced an unexpected leg cramp during your daytime activities or a painful Charley Horse in the middle of the night, it’s easy to understand why many people are willing to brave the sharp, unpleasant taste of pickle juice for a little peace of mind,” says Dr. Gregory Primus, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Advocate Trinity Hospital, in Chicago.
Some fitness gurus believe the sodium and residual potassium in pickle brine alleviate muscle cramps by rehydrating the body more efficiently than water and sports drinks. On the other hand, some researchers say it’s the off-putting, acidic taste of pickle juice that triggers muscle relaxation, which wards off cramps.
So, can pickle juice work to keep you free of muscle cramps?
Maybe. And only if your cramping is induced by strenuous exercise like long-distance running, intense sports training or hot yoga, where you sweat profusely and lose a lot of electrolytes over the course of an hour or longer.
“If your doctor has prescribed a low-sodium diet, or if you are considered at risk for hypertension, diabetes, kidney or heart disease, drinking the amount of sodium in a couple ounces of salty pickle brine several times a week could be harmful,” Dr. Primus says. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure and lead to kidney disease or dementia, or cause a heart attack or stroke, he adds.
Also, if you are experiencing muscle cramps absent of continuous, high-intensity workouts (or no workouts), Dr. Primus recommends seeing your physician. “Persistent muscle cramps can potentially signal inadequate blood supply to the limbs or mineral deficiencies caused by medications, so it is always best to work with your doctor to make sure your leg cramps are not linked to more serious health concerns,” he says.
Dr. Primus, who played professional football before launching his medical career, recommends rehydrating by drinking plenty of water during and after light-to-moderate-intensity cardio and strength training workouts to reduce the possibility of leg cramps. Additionally, you should never underestimate the importance of stretching before and immediately after every workout to reduce muscle cramps, he stresses.
About the Author
Cassie Richardson, health enews contributor, is regional coordinator on Advocate Aurora Health's Public Affairs team. She has more than 10 years of experience in health care communications, marketing, media and public relations. Cassie is a fan of musical theater and movies. When she’s not spreading the word about health and wellness advancements, she enjoys writing fiction.