Perhaps you’ve seen the ads for #ITSTHENERVE floating around Facebook, and perhaps you’ve even clicked on them only to find a tease of information about something coming. Well, this is it, and now it’s here.
HotShot is a blend of organic ingredients that “fix” cramps by focusing on the nerves, not the muscles. Founder Dr. Rod MacKinnon and friend, Dr. Bruce Bean, started researching the phenomenon after suffering arm-stopping cramps while sea kayaking. What they claim to have found is that cramps start in the nerves regardless of hydration or effort intensity. The next step was to find a way to stop them…
For the solution, we’ll summarize a bit of their origin story:
“Rod heard stories about cyclists … using pickle juice to treat muscle cramps (and) marathon runners who used mustard stirred into warm water to relieve their cramps. How could it possibly work? What did pickle juice and mustard have in common? All of a sudden it occurred to him that maybe it was the activating effect of pickle juice and mustard on TRP channels in the mouth … It’s the stimulation of the sensory nerves in the mouth, esophagus and stomach that triggers a response from the nervous system and calms down the motor neurons in the spinal cord. This was Rod’s ‘Aha!’ moment: The nervous system could be prodded, using those very receptors, to cue a cascade of nerve stimulation, also involving pathways from the mouth, esophagus and stomach, projecting signals to the motor neurons of the spinal cord.”
Basically, the ingredients stimulate the TRP ion channels in the mouth, which tell the overexcited nerves causing the muscle cramp to chill out, thereby relieving or preventing the cramp.
So what are the ingredients? They’re not listed anywhere on the website, but we tested pre-production samples under the #ITSTHENERVE label. That one shows the effective ingredients to be Cinnamon, Ginger and Capsicum. The only difference we’ve found on their current website is a slight reduction in sodium (now 40mg) and a different thickening agent that shouldn’t affect taste or performance.
When we spoke with Pickle Power at Sea Otter this year, they said it’s really the ascetic acid in the vinegar that disrupts the nerve signal to reduce or stop cramping…not their incredibly high sodium content. There’s also vinegar in mustard, hence that product’s inclusion in folk remedies.
HotShot’s ingredients are different -there’s no vinegar here- but in my testing delivered near immediate results. The biggest test was on a long, sustained climb at the Mavic carbon clincher launch. I started feeling the twinge of a hamstring cramp midway through the longest climb, so I pulled off, downed a shot, and within minutes was pedaling back at full steam and the pre-cramp twitches were gone. I finished the rest of the ride (two-plus more hours) free of issues.
Yes, that capsicum burns the throat a little, but not too bad. I felt it’s, um, tingle with each inhalation for the next 20 minutes, but that, too, wasn’t so bad. It was actually a nice distraction from the leg burning climb. I imagine this product would not be the best solution for my two friends that get the hiccups from spicy foods, though. For everyone else, it’s worth a shot (pun intended). Suggested use is 15-30 minutes before riding and/or during riding if you feel cramps coming on. Each shot should last for 2-3 hours.
They retail for $35 per 6-pack ($5.83 per 1.7oz serving), which ain’t cheap. But if you’re prone to cramping and already dropped $40 or more on a race entry, it might be worth the insurance.