Challenging Conventional Wisdom with VeloNews Columnist Trevor Connor – EP035

 In Podcast

“Take an electrolyte pill for cramping! Make sure to stay hydrated! You’ve got to clear the lactic acid!” Conventional wisdom tells us that cramping is a hydration issue, that we need at least eight glasses of water a day, that the burn we feel when working hard is lactic acid buildup… But today’s guest is challenging conventional wisdom with the latest research, asking you to forget everything you thought you knew about what causes cramps, how much you need to hydrate during a race, and what is really happening with lactate during a tough workout.




Trevor Connor is best known as a cyclist, racing in the Pro Peloton for nearly 20 years. Soon after retiring from cycling at 38, he became Dr. Loren Cordain’s last graduate student at Colorado State University, where his research focused on the effects of a Paleo diet on autoimmune disorders. After adopting the Paleo diet himself, Trevor came out of retirement to become the top ranked 40-plus rider in the US. In fact, he is fresh off a 13th-place finish at the Tour of Tobago—where he took on a dual role as commentator and competitor!

Trevor also writes the Coaching Section of international cycling magazine Velo and runs his own coaching business. He recently managed the semi-Professional Team Rio Grande, the top-ranked development squad in America. Today he challenges several of our traditionally accepted beliefs, discussing the myths around cramping as a hydration issue, the right way to warm up before a race, and why we need to rethink cryotherapy. Trevor shares the latest research about the prevention and treatment of cramping and which recovery methods seem to be most effective. Listen in and learn how sweat analysis can help determine the right hydration plan for you and how to design the right warm-up for recovering from injury.

Topics Covered

[1:02] The definition of a ‘pro’ cyclist

  • Unique sport in that amateur teams compete in pro races
  • Trevor wanted to race for Canada, so didn’t go pro
  • Part of Team Rio Grande (top-ranked development squad)
  • Never got pro card, but raced against pros regularly

 [3:38] The myths around cramping

  • Thought to be electrolyte, hydration issue
  • Can’t be solved with electrolyte pill
  • Studies by Dr. Schwellnus disprove theory
  • Schwellnus developed altered neuromuscular control theory
  • Muscle spindles and Golgi tendons prevent muscle from stretching/contracting too much
  • Cramps occur when out of balance (too much contraction)
  • Only happens with muscle in shortened state (knee bent)
[7:10] Trevor’s take on the prevention of cramping

  • Stretch to lengthen muscles
  • Cramping is a fitness issue (body not used to intensity)
  • Plyometric work in weight room during off-season
  • Endurance work via longer rides
  • High-intensity work as season gets close
[9:23] How to treat cramps when they do occur

  • Stretching
  • Pickle juice
[11:17] Sports cramping vs. health-related cramping

  • Sports cramping caused by damage, muscle fatigue
  • Cramping in other situations (i.e.: at night) has other causes
[12:48] Trevor’s thought around the hydration issue

  • People on all sides in science community
  • No science behind ‘eight glasses per day’
  • Overhydrating during marathons causing deaths
  • Intentionally dehydrating by 3-5% has zero impact on performance
  • Hyponatremia caused by drinking too much, not sweating enough
[16:28] Trevor’s advice about determining your individual hydration needs

  • Check your weight after race/long ride
  • Should have lost only one kilo (two pounds)
  • If you’ve lost four kilos (12 pounds), you’re dehydrated
  • Dehydration contributes to cardiac drift
  • Maintain blood volume to avoid negative impact during training
[18:35] The value of sweat analysis

  • Concerns re: heat before 2008 Olympics
  • Canadian National Center studied athlete sweat rate
  • Customized drinks to replace sodium, potassium and other electrolytes
  • If sweat mostly fluids (low osmotic pressure), mix less concentrated drink
[21:14] The relationship between sweat and fitness

  • Body sweats to evaporate fluid
  • Process gets rid of heat
  • As become fitter, body gets better at sweating ‘just right’ amount (all evaporates)
  • All less efficient in extreme heat
[23:31] The surprising research around warming up

  • Effects of warm-up disappear ten minutes into race
  • Little warm-up necessary for five-hour road race
  • Warm-up necessary when need to be at best right away (e.g.: 20-minute time trial, track race)
  • Easy warm-up (20-minutes of easy riding, two sprints) proved best for endurance events
  • Give yourself at least 12 minutes between warm-up and start of race
[28:03] How to approach warming up after an injury

  • Experiment to find what’s right for you, even if contradicts research
  • May take longer to get muscles moving
  • Many ways to produce same movement
  • Injury may stop from using ideal muscle firing patterns, rely on secondary
  • Warm-up may help retrain neuromuscular system
[31:47] Trevor’s controversial article about lactic acid

  • Challenged belief that burn caused by lactic acid buildup
  • pKa value of lactic acid = 3.67
  • pH of blood won’t drop below 7
  • Lactic acid can’t exist
  • Buildup of lactate related to transporting hydrogen ions (remove from cells)
  • Paper supported by ground-breaking researcher, Professor Brooks
[37:46] The surprising research around recovery

  • Massage, stretching shown to provide no benefit
  • Cool down, icing may be counterproductive
  • Foam rolling, compression clothing are beneficial
  • Research based on experience, not scientific
  • May need to reconsider long-standing myths (i.e.: ice baths)
  • Dig into research for real-world applications
  • Massage study measured effectiveness through time trial
[42:10] The current research about cryotherapy

  • Only use to treat extreme inflammation of very bad injury
  • Inflammation important part of healing, adaptation process
  • Ice baths, regular icing slows healing, causes scarring in muscle tissue
[43:32] Compression clothing and recovery

  • Body has spongy, thick dermal layer that absorbs compression
  • Compression clothing effective only ‘if it hurts’
  • Must wear 24-48 hours to benefit

Learn More About Trevor Connor

The Paleo Diet Author Archives: Trevor Connor

Trevor on Twitter

Fast Talk Podcast



Fast Talk Podcast 30: Why We Can’t Talk About Lactic Acid

Fast Talk Podcast 26: Cramping Myths Debunked

Fast Talk Podcast 16: Forget What You Though You Knew About Warm-Ups

Waterlogged: The Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports by Timothy Noakes

Trevor’s Post on Lactic Acid Myths

Trevor’s Post on Cardiac Drift




Recommended Posts
  • Reply

    Awesome podcast! i so enjoyed listening to it. I also learned a lot from it. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Comment