Why Do Athletes Drink Pickle Juice?

By Ellie Smith

4 weeks ago

The surprising health benefits of sipping pickle

When footballer Kieran Trippier fell to the floor after suffering a leg cramp in England’s Euros opening match against Serbia on Sunday, he was handed two sachets by a team doctor, which he swiftly drank. Within minutes he was back on the pitch, and the team went on to win the game. So what was this miracle potion?

Turns out the defender was drinking pickle juice, which is apparently often given to the England team to help combat cramps. It’s not a new thing either – back in 2019, midfielder Lucas Torreira was spotted swigging some back in an Arsenal victory against Chelsea. 

And it’s not just footballers: pickle juice is also commonly consumed by tennis players – Carlos Alcaraz, for instance, was drinking it during his five-set win over Novak Djokovic last summer. And in 2019, American tennis player Frances Tiafoe credited pickle juice with helping him reach the quarter-finals of the Australian open. So why is this briny substance so useful for athletes?

Does Pickle Juice Aid Sports Recovery?

Pickle juice is widely used by figures in the sports world, who say it helps reduce muscle cramps, which are common during exercise – especially when the weather is hot and humid. There’s some scientific evidence to support the anecdotes: one study, published in the Journal of Athletic Training, found athletes given pickle juice reduced their cramp duration by 40 percent, compared to those given water or nothing.

According to a narrative review in Muscle & Nerve, this is likely a result of the acetic acid (a by-product of fermentation which gives the brine its sour taste), as well as the salt, which are believed to trigger the cramp-relieving reflex faster than water.

Football pitch

What Are The Other Health Benefits?

Athlete or not, it may be worth picking up some pickles from time to time. The juice has a number of other wellness benefits, including gut health perks, as it contains naturally fermented probiotics, which help keep your good gut bacteria in balance.

It also contains electrolytes in the form of sodium and potassium, which work to keep you hydrated and help maintain fluid balance in the body. For this reason, some believe it helps alleviate the symptoms of a hangover (if you can stomach it). Some people also swear by pickle juice as a remedy for menstrual cramps, although there’s no specific scientific evidence to back this up.