More Pickle Juice!

Yesterday was a loooong day on the tennis court and resulted in full lower body muscle cramping for several hours.  What to do?

Morning Match

Matt Davie and I played our final round robin match vs. the tough team of Don McGoldrick (NY) and Bob McAfee (MA)… and it was a “barn burner”!  They won the first set 6-4 and they were up a break and serving at 2-0, game point, when Matt and I came alive.

We broke and won SIX games in a row to level the match and bring it to the deciding 10-pointer.  They took the lead and had three match points, serving at 9-6.  Somehow, we made it 9-7, 9-8, 9-9 and then I served for the match at 10-9.  Game, set, match for us … in just over two hours.

Quick Turnaround

We finished our match just before 2 p.m. and were due back on the court for a tough semi-final match vs. #2 seeded Fred Drilling and long-time partner Clive Kileef at 2:30 p.m.  So, I changed my clothes and downed a banana.

It turned out that wasn’t enough for what was ahead.  Matt and I went up a first-set break, with Clive serving at 2-4; and we had two break chances to go up a commanding 5-2.  We didn’t convert and they ended up running four straight games for a 6-4 first set.

The second set, Matt and I again game back to take it 6-2 … but I warned Matt that I was really tiring.  I had no gas left in my tank and they cruised to a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 victory.

The Aftermath

That match was about 2 ½ long; so having played over three tough hours on Wednesday, we had just short of another five hours on the court Thursday.  I crawled up the hill to the scoring table and sat down.

Then it started … I couldn’t stop sweating and felt like I would black out.  All the guys around were very concerned and very helpful… giving me water, salt pills, and a food bar.  Matt volunteered to drive me home; and on the way there, the muscle cramps started.

I have had them before, but this was the worst ever… and my whole lower body cramped for a solid two hours.  I drank pickle juice, took electrolyte pills and went into my whirl pool.  Finally, at 3 am the cramps had subsided.  And this morning (altho I am now SEVEN pounds lighter than yesterday) I feel OK – and glad we don’t have another match today.

Any good suggestions (other than “don’t play so much”)?

To see who else made it into today’s final matches, just click HERE.

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

19 thoughts on “More Pickle Juice!

  1. This is a strong reason the format is too much tennis per day. The older we get the more we can be affected, and you are in better shape than most.

    Phil, true on all counts. thanks, george

  2. George,

    Take pickle juice to the court.
    No beer – only pickle juice.
    And, when you go dancin’, put a nickle in the Pickleodian, not the Nickelodian!
    That’s the only way to avoid being in such a PICKLE!

    Glad you’re OK! Great playing!

    Nick, saw your NH picture this morning!! come on down south. george

  3. George,
    I take magnesium daily to thwart off potential leg cramps. Usually get them in my calf at night and have been getting them less frequently. Also, google soap leg cramps.

    Ken, tks. george

  4. My suggestion is to take the Electrolyte pills BEFORE you need them, and drink an Electrolyte drink during the match. Also, don’t sit down. (Seems like when I cramp it’s usually when I’m resting.)

    Terry, yes, i should have taken the pills before the match. And i never sit during a match. thanks, george

  5. For my night-time leg cramps, I stretch my legs every night just before going to bed….helps a lot. I don’t cramp at night any longer.
    Also, I take two potassium pills every day……don’t know if this helps, but it can’t hurt!

    John, ironically, my Doc told me my potassium level is TOO HIGH and i should cut back on bananas!! george

  6. Pickle juice never worked for me but I do take the magnesium at night and alpha lopoic acid in the a.m.
    During the matches I also take Bloks by Cliff Bars. They are like a gummy bear but replace electrolytes and can get them with caffeine or without, they don’t have a lot of sodium. They give you a little quick energy when you need it on the court. A lot of my tennis and golf friends are now using them. Cramps are awful. Feel Better.

    barbara. thanks, i will check Bloks out. george

  7. If it’s more than one body part (calf only, quad only, etc) than you usually need more than pickle juice. You were smart to also take a lot electrolytes. Sounds like you were also severely dehydrated – you should never lose 7 pounds that quickly! And you may have also needed glucose.

    The one thing people fail to think about many times is that the heart is a muscle, too. When it cramps, things go south very quickly. Think about that. Cramps that involve multiple body parts for multiple hours need to be taken very seriously.

    Best be very careful over the next few days and weeks. Get a good electrolyte combo that you take every day, no matter whether you play or not. Rest, drink lots, and be nice to yourself.

    Seems like the guys enjoyed this format! I hope they are giving some good feedback.

    Joann (Princess of Quite a Lot), great advice and a warning i shall heed! thanks, george

  8. Having experienced the same, drink pickle juice after your first match, get in system. Then have some as you play second match.

  9. I played the singles at the Quail Ridge event this week. Prior to my second match I drank a gallon of water. I had a 4 hour match against the #2 seed in very humid conditions. Throughout I drank water mixed with power aid and coconut water. Early in the third set I got a cramp in my calf. On the changeover I took Cramps Away and within minutes the cramp was gone and never returned. Later in the third set my opponent twice took a break for cramping while I was serving. I let him take the breaks, though found out later he should have been defaulted if he could not continue with a non injury break. That night I drank plenty of water and gator aid and was fine the next day for a 2.5 hour semi. Years ago I would suffer with cramps before I learned how to prepare.

    Doug. A four hour singles match?!?! I will look for Cramps Away. Where do you get it? George

  10. Hi George, Tums work for me. Sometimes a struggle to get to the bathroom for the tablets so I keep them in my night stand.

    Dave. Thanks. George

  11. Recent research shows that Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar helps. It is probably the ingredient in pickle juice that causes it to be effective. You get the help without the pickles. I have used it and found it to be excellent. I put a couple of tablespoons in my water bottle. I have a friend who’s getting night cramps and they were alleviated by using this product.

    Bill. Thanks. I will try it. George

  12. I agree with most of the comments made so far.
    When you lose seven pounds in a day, it is mainly water weight that is being lost. It is essential to replace water at a rate that equals the loss. Even if one does not feel thirst, it is still necessary to drink large quantities of water at each changeover.
    Cramping occurs due to electrolyte deficiency. It is predominantly the potassium, sodium and magnesium loss that results in cramping, therefore, it is important to drink one of the many electrolyte replacement beverages prior to, during, and after intense exercise, but be sure to make water the main replacement liquid.
    Dehydration and cramping may be more common in seniors, but it is by no means limited to them. I have seen young tennis pros cramp and vomit in prolonged matches, particularly in the heat.
    We all have to learn to pace ourselves as we age. Five hours of tennis on a hot and humid day is more than we should ask of our bodies.
    That said – do as I say, not as I do.

    michael, words of medical wisdom! thanks, george

  13. Can’t find any reference about cardiac muscle cramping, though coronary artery spasm is a “thing” – unrelated to skeletal muscle cramping. Have only ever read that skeletal muscle cramping is “benign” – it only hurts like hell.

    Have been a long time cramper and heavy sweater. Tried all the above remedies (other than that “Cramps Away” stuff). Nothing helped – other than the two bags of salt water they dripped into me once in an emergency room. Had actually purchased an 18 cent bottle of white vinegar and swallowed a big gulp of it earlier that day. No help, but my throat hurt for a week. 🙂

    I don’t even remember how I learnt of it, but, like Dave, Tums works for me. It actually *stops* the cramping after it has started. It works *so* fast that it makes me wonder how much of a “psychic” component is involved. There *might* be a little magnesium in them to go with the calcium. May have to chew them every few hours through the night if playing more than one event at a tournament. No idea why some things work for some of us and not for others.

    Your cramping starting in the car reminded me that I’ve unable to both get *out* of the car and, on another occasion, get *in* the car. Full body cramping is not fun.

    Kevin, i think i will try the apple cider vinegar and carry some Tums in my tennis bag from now on! thanks, george

  14. Agree with electrolyte liquids and magnesium pills–also lots of anecdotal evidence that apple cider vinegar is effective–You were clearly significantly clinically dehydrated so drink more fluids than you think you need–stay healthful–PLEASE!!!

    Doc, a friend told me today… a good rule of thumb: drink a quart of water for each hour of play in the heat. thanks, george

  15. Late to the mix… I will be the contrarian here 🙂

    First, I believe…we drink way too much water! Especially when playing sports and/or exerting ourselves.

    I’m not an MD, but I have been studying, reading and paying close attention for over 15 years now…and continuing to read and study most days.

    I believe from all this sweating in the Naples heat, you deplete some serious “mineral” reserves. From my experience, it’s the minerals -and how they work together and for each other and when they dont that creates the problems. A salt pill or pickle juice “might” be too much for our delicately balanced internal water system.
    Replacing these minerals should happen in a more ‘easy and natural way” – (an crazy example but with scientific research behind it – floating swimming/hanging out in the Gulf more for a “mineral bath” if you will. )

    There is AMAZING new and quality research out there, making a very logical and deeply researched case, that we are wrong about the “electrolyte drinks, and water intake during exercise” (or drinking 8 -8 ounce glasses of water per day)

    I think the electrolyte pills are half decent….. but the problem with them is the commercial salt they are made with.

    I will send you some links to read and look at George.
    Happy Season 🙂


    Marc, i cannot go with the “too much water” theory; and have the cramps to prove it. thanks, george

  16. George your cramps are NOT due to not enough hydration that’s all.
    That’s why I’m suggesting to look at other avenues.
    All I’m saying is that hydration is not the issue….and suggesting some other reading 🙂

  17. Not sure about pickle juice but I know what works for sure against even the wildest cramps: Mustard. Have seen it many times work within a few seconds. It never did not work for anyone. Just put a bunch of mustard packs from a fast food restaurant in your tennis bag. As soon as the cramps start suck one out.

    Rich Neher, Publisher, TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS,

    Rich, wow, that is a new one to me! thanks, george

  18. I met Dr. Allen Lim on a bicycle tour (Ride the Rockies). He is a physiologist, sports scientist, coach, nutritionist, and all-around endurance sports smart-guy, who has created a company (ScratchLabs) with hydration products to help endurance athletes. read more at
    I personally use his products.

    RAndy, thanks for the link. george

Comments are closed.