Dr. Bruce Bean is a professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. He is also the co-inventor of HOTSHOT.
While sea kayaking with a friend and his respective co-inventor, and experiencing severe cramping in their arms, they became intrigued about why we have them and how to prevent them.
Here's a highlight reel of our conversation with Dr. Bean.
Dehydration: the original myth
- According to Dr. Bean’s research, electrolyte imbalances and dehydration are the classic myth that the causes cramping.
- One study found no difference between water loss and sodium levels of runners that cramped and runners that did NOT cramp
So what does cause cramping?
- Finding: muscle cramps are largely due to the hyper-excitability of the neurons that actually control the muscle contraction. This loss of control is what leads to the spasms, cramping.
- In lemans terms, uncontrolled firing of the neurons that signal a muscle to contract.
- Dr. Bean found that people in hotter climates had been using pickle juice/brine to reduce cramping. After Miller, et al. ran a study utilizing pickle brine, they found that ‘yes’ it did reduce cramping.
- However, this effect happened within 90sec of consuming it; an effect that is way too quick to be related to electrolyte balancing.
- The suggestion was that somehow the brine was stimulating some neurons in the mouth/esophagus to stimulate a reflex that was reducing cramping.
- They used this information to formulate a beverage that included as many of these compounds as possible (garlic, mustard seed, pickle, etc.) to stop cramping in its tracks.
How does this work?
- Dr. Bean says we are activating nerves (especially vagus nerve) in the mouth that stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain > spinal cord which control the excitability of the motor neurons.
- HotShot utilizes this from a chemical perspective
- Found to also reduce muscle soreness after intense training.