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Emilie Peloubet


Ok, sometimes you may sneak a sip of juice from the pickle jar. But could that seemingly worthless liquid, which often gets tossed into the trash when the pickles are gone, be the key to athletic endurance and avoiding debilitating leg cramps? Some anecdotal evidence says “Yes”! But what does science say? Before you get yourself in a pickle, let’s find out!



            Pickle juice is the liquid substance used to give cucumbers their salty, sour taste. It is usually made of water, salt, calcium chloride and vinegar (acetic acid), and occasionally contains flavorings like dill or “bread and butter”.



The use of pickle juice as a defense against muscle cramps first attracted headlines when the Philadelphia Eagles credited pickle juice with their cramp-free win over the Dallas Cowboys in the over-one-hundred-degrees Texas heat. Rick Burkholder, the Eagles’ head trainer, called it his “secret weapon.”  Pickle companies (such as Mt. Olive Pickle, Vlasic Foods and Golden Pickle) claim that pickle juice is similar to an isotonic beverage and can prevent muscle cramps caused from strenuous exercise. Mt. Olive Pickle asserts that “an athletic trainer from the University of Northern Iowa” uses pickle juice to avoid muscle cramps in athletes. (

Golden Pickle has even created a sports drink, appropriately named “Pickle Juice Sport.” Golden Pickle claims that Pickle Juice Sport has “approximately 30 times more electrolytes than Powerade and 15 times more than Gatorade.” ( It is even endorsed by Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten.



So how could this work? To begin with, let’s discuss the cause of muscle cramps. Exercise induced muscle cramps are caused by dehydration from exercising in hot weather and not drinking enough fluids. How could pickle juice help? When you sweat during exercise, you lose a lot of salt from your blood. These salts are also known as electrolytes. This loss of electrolytes can cause muscle cramping, especially in hot, humid weather.  Cells in the body use electrolytes to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses to other cells. In this case, these impulses are responsible for muscle contractions. Pickle juice has a very high salt, or electrolyte content. Therefore, drinking pickle juice before exercising could possibly provide your body with enough salt, that your muscles will not cramp.



Although there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of pickle juice as a method of preventing dehydration and muscle cramps, the is little scientific evidence supporting or refuting these ideas. Dale, et al. examined the effectiveness of pickle juice as a preventative measure for exercise-associated muscle cramps compared to Gatorade. This study compared the pickle juice from Vlasic Pickles to the carbohydrate sports beverage Gatorade. The two beverage samples were analyzed in a food-composition laboratory to determine the amount of salt, potassium, calcium and magnesium in each product. Pickle juice was found to have considerably more salt than the carbohydrate beverage. Dale et. al. concluded that pickle juice can be used as a remedy for muscle cramps. However, the study warns of the danger of ingesting large amounts of salt and suggests that athletes should dilute the pickle juice with a sufficient quantity of a hypotonic or isotonic solution. Two ounces is the suggested serving size of pickle juice.

            Medical professionals believe that salt plays the major role in preventing the dehydration that causes muscle cramps, but it does not necessarily have to come from pickle juice. Kurt Spindler, the Director of the Vanderbilt Sports Medicine Center, suggests that athletes salt their food to avoid muscle cramps.



More scientific research is needed to determine the effectiveness of pickle juice as a muscle cramp remedy. If you are an athlete that does not like pickles, do not fret. It seems that you may be able to receive the same benefits by increasing your salt intake. But remember, there can be too much of a good thing. If you are on a salt-restricted diet, you may want to look elsewhere for a muscle cramp remedy.



Muscle Cramps. (2005) A-Z Health Guide from WebMD. Retrieved      September 18, 2006.   


Frankenfield, G. (2000) Football Players Say Pickle Power Packs Punch. From WebMD. Retrieved September 18, 2006.


Dale, R. B. Leaver-Dunn, D. Bishop, P. (2003). A compositional analysis of a common acetic acid        solution with practical implications for ingestion. Journal of Athletic Training. 38(1) .57.


Russell, A. (2002). Sports Medicine. Patient Care. 13(2).16


Mount Olive Pickles:


Golden Pickle Juice Sport Home Page:






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