Getting leg cramps in the middle of a workout, or just while going about your day, can be an agonizing experience—one that, in the moment, you’ll do just about anything to ease. Maybe even chug some pickle juice?
Muscle cramps, which tend to be more frequent in warmer months, have long thought to be due to dehydration and electrolyte loss, although research is starting to show things may be a little more complicated than that. Cramps can also increase in frequency during pregnancy, as a person gets older, or with medical issues such as diabetes or illnesses that affect the liver, thyroid or nervous system.
Whatever is causing your cramps, if you’ve ever heard that drinking some pickle juice can help relieve your symptoms, it’s true.
Pickle juice can relieve muscle cramps in seconds
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The next time you find your legs cramping up, swig a little pickle juice, as there’s evidence to suggest that it can offer quick relief from the pain of cramps. The pickle juice hack is one that sports coaches have sworn by for years, and they seem to have been on to something, as science may have determined a mechanism for pickle juice’s effectiveness as a cramp reliever.
As a number of (small) studies have shown, ingesting a small amount of pickle juice can alleviate cramps within seconds, and said relief is thought to be due to stimulating a nerve at the back of the throat. (The effect is too quick to be explained by electrolytes or other nutrients in the juice.) One hypothesis of how this works is that pickle juice triggers TRPV1 receptors, which tells our nervous system to stop cramping.
It doesn’t take a lot of pickle juice to be effective—one tablespoon will do the trick—and you won’t have to wait around for it to work.
Other possible foods to help with muscle cramps
TRPV1 receptors are triggered by strong tastes like pickle juice, or anything else that is overly spicy, sour, or other-wise intense-tasting. (This website has previously suggested sour candy as a possible cramp reliever, although science has not specifically addressed the question of whether Sour Patch Kids work as a cramp cure.) If you hate pickle juice or don’t have any on hand, some other foods that can potentially alleviate cramps include mustard, hot peppers, ginger, and vinegar.