Health & Fitness Articles

Thanks for visiting my health and fitness articles page. These articles cover a variety of topics such as workout routines, general health, fitness, nutrition, chronic disease and anti-aging strategies. These articles are published in 5 local newspapers in Georgia and are uploaded here the following Monday after each print publication.
I wish you the best in health and fitness~
Wade Yoder, Master Trainer & Fitness Nutrition Specialist
Is Your Muscle In A Pickle? Try Pickle Juice

Just recently after a hard leg workout I got a very uncomfortable round of leg cramps. Most times I'm moving around a good bit after a workout, but this time I was mostly sitting at the desk or on the road, so my legs had the opportunity to stiffen up. Out of curiosity I started researching the cause or physiology of cramps.
This is the best explanation I found: cramps can occur when muscles are unable to relax properly due to myosin fibers not fully detaching from actin filaments. In skeletal muscle, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) must attach to the myosin heads for them to disassociate from the actin and allow relaxation, the absence of ATP in sufficient quantities means that the myosin heads remain attached to actin. 

What this means to me: when muscle energy (ATP) is low it can cause the muscle to get stuck in a contracted position instead of the normal sliding back and forth. So if ATP depletion happens when we work our muscles more then they're used to getting worked, it stands to reason that our muscle glycogen (muscle energy) that is used for ATP, is low in this overworked area and we have a fuel shortage. At this point a quick absorbing fluid with carbohydrate/sugar/glucose may help. 
A really neat function of the body is its ability to direct nutrients to the highest demand areas first. One of the best things we can do to enhance transport of these nutrients is physical movement and I have noticed when I do an active cool down and light stretching after a workout, I don't have cramps. Could this mean that when we deplete the energy in a muscle group, the physiology of light movement (of these areas) helps pump in hydration and nutrients to build new ATP in these areas that just caught the shaft?

Note: if you have problems cramping during physical activity, try warming up this area of the body with light activity about 5 minutes prior to the intense activity. This should increase blood flow and nutrients into this area and work in much the same way as light activity and stretching after intense activity.
One of my elderly members was having problems with cramps and when I asked about her diet, I found out that she makes most of her food and pretty much had salt eliminated from her diet. After suggesting adding in extra salt her problems with cramping seemed to go away. However "most of us probably get more then enough salt if we eat restaurant prepared foods regularly." I would aim for about 3/4 - 1 teaspoon daily depending on activity levels and bodyweight. This would come to approximately 1,725 - 2,300 mg of sodium. Our daily amount doesn't have to stay the same, if we take in more or less then we should one day, we can simply adjust our intake the next day. However if you have blood pressure or water retention problems I would keep the amount "per meal" monitored closely.
Pickle juice: my cramping disappeared soon after drinking about 2-3 oz. of pickle juice and eating one, so I decided to look at the ingredients in a jar of pickle juice and work my way backwards to learn a little more about the individual ingredients that make up pickles and their juice. I wanted to see what makes it so effective and to possibly get a better picture of what causes a cramp in the first place.
The most obvious ingredients are: cucumbers, water, vinegar, sea salt, calcium chloride and sodium benzoate.

Cucumbers: cucumbers are primarily made up of water and help us hydrate. They also contain potassium and potassium helps maintain good muscle contraction all over the body and helps ensure that our central nervous system works well. Without getting a lab analysis done, I'm not sure how this applies to the juice but I have used pickle juice only and it works the same way in relieving cramps.

Vinegar: vinegar is known not only for its food flavoring and pickling capabilities but for powerful medicinal effects dating back to Hippocrates. And if it permeates our muscle cells like its flavor permeates food it may be a good reason it also gets to the cramp site as rapidly as it does.

Sea salt: Our body is 75% water and the water that is held in our cells, tissues and organs is a salty watery solution similar to that of the ocean. Sea salt has other minerals in it as well so sea salt is definitely my preference.
Calcium chloride: increases cell membrane permeability.

Sodium benzoate: helps liberate heat and is used as a treatment for urea cycle disorders due to its ability to bind to amino acids. This leads to excretion of these amino acids and a decrease in ammonia levels.
I'm sure each of the ingredients listed above have many other usages or applications, but I only zeroed in on the ones that seemed might apply to cramp relief.  
Question: if ATP (muscle energy) is lacking and causing muscle fibers to stick together and if pickle juice helps remedy this, is it possible that consuming a little pickle juice before extreme exertion, long bouts of activity or a workout might increase muscle energy and help prevent cramps as well?
 Either way, it seems pickle juice might have more value then just keeping the dills wet until consumption!


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