Monday, January 26, 2015

TEDtalk on Food

"Food is more than the nutrients it contains."--Dr. Joanna McMillian

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pickle Juice for Muscle Cramps?

If you are an athlete you are probably no stranger to cramps. Unfortunately, the exact reason for cramping is questionable. However, there are two theories that look to shed some light on the cause. The first theory is that muscle cramps are caused by an abnormality of neuromuscular control, or an imbalance in nerve signals to muscles. The treatment for this theory is to stretch the cramping muscle. The second theory is related to the hydration status of an athlete. Dehydration can mean a loss of the essential electrolyte, sodium, among others. As the theory goes, it’s the loss of these serum electrolytes and dehydration that are responsible for cramps during exercise. This is where pickle juice may have the ability to treat muscle cramps.

Recommending pickle juice to treat muscle cramps in athletes is not uncommon. In fact, 25% of athletic trainers advocate drinking pickle juice to treat and prevent exercise-associated muscle cramps. (1) Some clinicians even claim that drinking 30 mL to 60 ML of pickle juice relieves an exercise-associated muscle cramp in as little as 30 seconds after ingestion. (2) The problem with this claim, however, is that acetic acid – the primary ingredient in pickle juice – delays gastric emptying. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that pickle juice could be absorbed and available for a cramping muscle within one minute. (3) In contrast, some health care professionals discourage athletes from drinking pickle juice. It is thought that the high salt content and low fluid content of the pickle juice will only prolong dehydration and increase the risk of hyperthermia in hot and humid environments. (4-5) However, according to one study consuming 1 mL/kg of body mass of pickle juice will not increase an athlete’s risk of dehydration. (6) 

So while the evidence supporting the use of pickle juice for exercise-associated muscle cramps is lacking, it is still important to ensure proper hydration and include adequate amounts of salt in your diet. Always consult with a sports dietitian to ensure that you have a proper hydration strategy in place and your nutrient requirements are being met for optimal athletic performance.

Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a freelance writer on topics of fitness and nutrition, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Once Gavin becomes an RD, he will aim to achieve the distinguished Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential. Gavin can be reached at

Miller KC, Knight KL, Williams RB. Athletic trainers’ perceptions of pickle juice’s effects on exercise associated muscle cramps. Athl Ther Today. 2008; 13(5):31-34.

Williams R. Those devilish cramps. Train Condition. 2000; 35(suppl 2):S24.

Liljeberg H, Bjorck I. Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a stratch meal with added vinegar. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998; 52(5):368-371.

Eichner ER. Muacle cramps: the right ways for the dog days. Coach Athl Dir. 2002; 72(August):3.
Dale RB, Leaver-Dunn D, Biship P. A compositional analysis of a common acetic acid solution with practical implications for ingestion. J Athl Train. 2003; 38(1):57-61.

Miller KC, Mack G, Knight KL. Electrolyte and Plasma Changes After Ingestion of Pickle Juice, Water, and a Common Carbohydrate-Electrolyte Solution. J Athl Train. 2009; 44(5):454-461.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Food Trends for 2015

The holiday season is finishing up while New Year’s comes with a fresh perspective on what’s to come in 2015.  Overall, these trends coincide with Paleo or “caveman” diets and the movement towards consuming more local foods.  Despite the conflicting research on if there is any benefit to gluten-free foods, the gluten-free market continues with a health ‘halo’ around it which will continue into 2015.  The following trends are a smattering of what's to come in the next 12 months. 

1.  Fat phobia is waning.  Butter sales are currently at a 40 year high according to ABC news.  If you scroll through social media, particularly, Pinterest, you will find thousands of recipes and images of everything wrapped up in bacon or avocados.

2.  Locally sourced meat is gaining in popularity.  Along with this, expect CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes to grow alongside it with local produce, local beer, etc.  Find your own local food at:
3.  Food blogging will continue to take off as will TV health experts.  More consumers will get their health and dieting information from TV doctors and celebrity chefs.
4.  Harissa is taking over for Sriracha.  Harissa is the Tunisian version of ketchup, where its blend of spices mixed with olive oil go on just about everything.
5.  Low-carb still stands.  Despite Atkins falling out of fashion, low-carb diets are dressed up in the ever popular Paleo diet (or other ‘clean eating programs’).
6.  Ramen grows up.  Your dorm room staple is now mainstream.  San Francisco and NYC restaurants have been using this Japanese staple for a while.  Research from Technomic’s MenuMonitor tracked an 18.2% increase from March 2013-2014.

Gina (Lesako) Volsko is a Columbus, Ohio based RD and the SCAN blog coordinator.  Contact her at to be a SCAN blogger.  You can find her blogging at Sport2Fork.