The Truth Behind These Super-Common Sports Nutrition Myths

Is pickle juice really a muscle cramp cure-all?

Related To:
849215342

849215342

Photo by: jacoblund/iStock

jacoblund/iStock

Everyone from professional athletes to occassional gym-goers are considering the latest sports nutrition methods to get that performance edge. The problem is, these crazy-popular strategies aren't always all they're cracked up to be. We asked our nutritionist to break down common sports nutrition trends to find out which ones really work and which ones should be sidelined.

827817194

827817194

Photo by: Antonuk/iStock

Antonuk/iStock

Myth: Pickle Juice Cures Muscle Cramps

In recent weeks, closet pickle juice sippers are coming out of the shadows and proudly chugging day-glow pickle juice on social media. According to the rumor mill, pickle juice helps exercise induced muscle cramping, which can be caused by a variety of factors including lack of fluids, electrolyte depletion and under-fueling (not eating enough calories). Some athletes have reported that tipping back some pickle juice after cramps start helps to shut down and shorten the duration of symptoms, but according to research, this relief may be more about the jolt of acidity from acetic acid in the pickle juice rather than the electrolytes floating in that salty green liquid. Plus, small studies from 2009 and 2014 found no big changes in electrolyte blood concentrations from drinking pickle juice which may mean it won’t give the boost you're expecting.

Bottom line: Pickle juice may be worth trying for those that cramp often, but those prone to heartburn or suffering from hypertension may find this can do more harm than good! Traditional forms of replenishment such as sports drinks, high sodium and high potassium foods should remain go-to sources of recovery. There’s no need to down pickle juice if you find it gross or hard to swallow (literally).

637229718

637229718

Photo by: a_namenko/iStock

a_namenko/iStock

Myth: You're Not Eating Enough Protein

Gram for gram, most folks tend to take in plenty of protein per day. Though the type of exercise and level of intensity may dictate a need to increase that protein dosage. On average, an athletic 150-pound person requires about 70 grams of protein a day which can be achieved by eating 2 eggs for breakfast, 6 ounces of chicken with lunch or dinner and 6 ounces of Greek yogurt as a snack. For best results, protein intake should be spread out throughout the entire day and should come from sources with a wide range of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins in the body). Protein sources with all those amino acids can be found in animal-based foods (eggs, dairy, meat) as well as plant-based foods like quinoa, soy, or combinations of grains and legumes such as rice and beans.

Bottom line: Aim for high-quality protein and be sure to spread your intake throughout the day to maximize your performance.

959053386

959053386

Photo by: ThitareeSarmkasat/iStock

ThitareeSarmkasat/iStock

Myth: Go Keto

High fat, low carb, Paleo- and Ketogenic-style diets continue to flood the news cycle but don’t believe the hype surrounding these fads. Aside from being incredibly hard to adhere to, these programs can also be dangerous when followed long term. Excluding food groups means cutting back carbs, vitamins and minerals, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies, illness and injury.

Bottom Line: Fad diets like Keto could lead to decreased performance.

819331842

819331842

Photo by: cmannphoto/iStock

cmannphoto/iStock

Myth: Coconut Water Is Better Than Sports Drinks

Bottled versions of coconut water (the clear liquid from the inside of coconuts) have become a fridge staple in many households. They're touted as a natural alternative to sports drinks, but there’s more to the story. Like sports drinks, coconut water can provide some fluid and carbs, but the electrolyte composition is very different. Sports drinks are modeled after sweat and contain more sodium than potassium, but coconut water contains little sodium and 4 to 5 times more potassium.

Bottom Line: Since sweat losses typically yield more sodium lost than potassium, some sweaters may want to reach for a sports drink with more salt instead of coconut water.

672627592

672627592

Photo by: GeorgeRudy/iStock

GeorgeRudy/iStock

Myth: You Need More BCAAs

Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the specific group of amino acids vital to muscle building. This is why you can find them added to a staggering number of pills, powders and other products marketed to athletes and fitness enthusiasts. However, a study from 2017 found that these BCAA supplements fall short in their ability to build muscle. The truth is, better BCAAs (that actually help build muscle) can be found in large amounts in foods like eggs, chicken, beef and cottage cheese.

Bottom Line: More is not better. Eat your BCAAs through healthy food instead of reaching for supplements.

Related Links:

Keep Reading

Next Up

Leafy Greens: Amazingly Delicious and Powerful Super Foods

These are some of our favorite foods! With multiple benefits including vitamins, nutrients, fiber and more, they can help your body function at its best.

These Are the Nutrition Trends Coming Your Way in 2019

Here's how we'll all be staying healthy in the future.

The Ultimate Healthy Cooking Playlist

Here are eight food-inspired songs that will inspire healthy cooking at home.

Skinny Cocktails

Simple swaps to lighten up your cocktails

Nutritionist-Approved Favorites From Food Network Chefs

A registered dietitian highlights some of her favorite healthy recipes from Food Networks biggest stars.

How Much Water Do You Need to Drink Each Day?

Find out if you're drinking enough water and staying hydrated during the summer months with these tips from Food Network.

Roasted Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese

Roasted jalapenos and a modest amount of strongly flavored cheese go a long way in flavoring this lightened-up macaroni and cheese.

Top Healthy Recipes of 2011

You’ve been clicking, searching and cooking up recipes from FoodNetwork.com all year long. Here are our most popular healthy recipes of 2011.

First Steps for Getting Healthy This Year

We all make New Years resolutions, especially about getting healthier. Don't know where to begin? Here are some simple first steps

There's A Healthy Upside to Feeling Busy, Study Shows

A jam-packed calendar might not be such a bad thing.