Strength & Speed

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S&S Articles

Mouthpiece for Weight Training?

Posted by Evan Perperis on January 10, 2015 at 7:15 AM


I consider my approach to training grounded and backed by science. This article from the Wired is one of the many I have read that say having a mouthpiece in and clenching your teeth while lifting reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, so lower cortisol will result in better muscle growth.

I decided to buy the Under Armour mouth guard as a test. Initially it felt a little weird breathing through the mouth guard and having something in your mouth while training. However, now I love it. Clenching during heavy movements (squats, leg press and deadlifts especially) just feels right. UA’s is also low profile enough where you do not make a scene with something big and bulky in your mouth. The mouth guard still allows you to speak normally and (based on science) should improve lifting.

When training I follow an approach that I learned from cycling. With cycling, they try to improve every aspect of every part of their bikes and bodies. The idea is if you make enough changes that result in fractions of a percentage of improvement, the combination of all these changes will be a measurable improvement. If you think buying this product will immediately add 50 lbs. to your deadlift, you are wrong. However, I did feel like I could lift a couple of more pounds while wearing the mouth guard. Whether it was a placebo effect or actual improvement, I am not sure. The bottom line is, I feel like I can lift more when clenching my teeth. This does not even take into account the true value of the guard, which is lower cortisol levels, something that requires lab equipment to measure. If you are committed to maximizing your potential, this is a good product for you.


Under Armour UA ArmourBite® Mouthpiece

Under Armour UA ArmourBite® Mouthpiece


Why Am I Not Gaining Muscle?

Posted by Evan Perperis on January 4, 2015 at 11:45 AM

I get just as many questions about having trouble gaining weight as I do about losing weight. The problems are usually obvious when you look at someone's diet, eating schedule and post workout routine. These are the top 5 reasons that people fail to gain muscle.

#1: Not eating frequently enough


Typically guys (and sometimes girls) will ask me how do I gain muscle weight? The statement is often followed up by I am eating a ton but not putting on muscle. My first question is always how many times a day are you eating an actual meal. Junk food and snacks do not count as meals. Usually the answer is three or less. If you are not adding muscle, add more meals. Your body will be able to process the food better along with supplying a consistent stream of energy throughout the day. The spike in protein every 2.5 to 3 hours will help spur muscle growth.

If you are trying to put on muscle and are eating less than five meals a day that is the wrong answer. Five meals a day should be the minimum. If you cannot eat that often because you feel full, try eating healthier food and in smaller portions. This will allow you to eat more often because it is less filling. Once you are used to the constant feeding you can then add in more protein and more carbs.

#2: Eating Too Much Garbage


This one is often tied to not eating enough. Often the people who complain are eating Big Macs or some other unhealthy fast food for one or more of their meals. When you consume these super high calorie/fat meals, it fills you up for the rest of the day. This will result in missing the other meals you had planned for the day. Stay away from garbage food except as a final meal for the day (as long as you do not mind putting on some fat with that muscle). This will ensure you hit your goal number of meals and goal macronutrients for the day.

#3: Not eating before bed


While you sleep for eight hours a night, your body is still fueling itself but you are not eating anything. This is also the prime time for muscle recovery and growth. If you are going to bed without protein in your stomach, you are shortchanging your gains.

A slow digesting protein is preferable, specifically casein protein. Add in some healthy fats to slow down the digestion process while you sleep. Do not feel like spending money on supplements? Use cottage cheese, it is naturally high in casein. If you do not like cottage cheese then stick to a slow digesting protein that contains fat such as a lean steak or salmon. This should literally be the last thing you do before bed. Eat your steak or casein shake, and then get in bed.

#4: Not eating immediately upon waking


Similar to the last mistake, many people are shortchanging their gains around sleep time. After 8 hours of sleeping with no food, your body needs protein to start building again. It is important immediately upon waking to eat some fast digesting protein and some carbohydrates. Your body had burned off many of its carbohydrates (glycogen) while you slept and now it needs more so it can use the protein for building instead of for energy. Try eating egg whites immediately, you can cook hard-boiled eggs a week in advance or of you prefer, go with freshly cooked egg whites in the morning.

#5: Middle of the night snack


I occasionally do this while bulking for a bodybuilding competition or if I feel my training volume is very high. It is the middle of the night snack. Typically, I need to get up to pee at some point in the night due to my bedtime protein shake. Prior to going to bed, I preposition food in route to the bathroom. This allows me to squeeze in more protein in the middle of the night.

I have done this in the past with precooked and peeled egg whites, which requires a little bit of effort. I have also done this with chewable amino acids or amino acid pills. The amino option is easier and makes it easier to fall back asleep afterwards. I recommend Endurance Aminos. Despite the name, the amino acids these pills contain are good for both endurance exercise and muscle building.

If you do not normally get up in the middle of the night, I would recommend not doing this. I think a continuous sleep cycle is more important for your body to maximize muscle gains then forcing your body out of its natural cycle just to squeeze in more nutrients. After all, you growth hormone spikes when you sleep and sleep is where you build muscles.

 -Evan Perperis

The Most Common Mistake by Runners and Weightlifters

Posted by Evan Perperis on December 28, 2014 at 12:15 AM

I had trouble deciding who the biggest offender of this common mistake is. I originally had it as a running mistake but I have seen an equal number of people at the gym making the same mistake. The biggest mistake most people make is lack of variation.  Everyone is guilty of it, me included. Once you develop a routine, it becomes hard to break from it. However, changing how you exercise, forcing your muscles to adapt is how you get stronger/faster. I will start with runners.

For runners, the issue usually lies with a lack of a training plan. Many runners will follow their "usual" running "schedule" and then not understand why their speed has hit a plateau. If you run 5 miles everyday year round at the same pace your body will eventually be able to handle the stress and stop adapting. In order to get faster or have more endurance you need to change either duration or intensity. This means add speed work or add mileage to your weekly total.

I see it all the time with people..."I can't get faster". Well what have you changed to improve? Nothing? Then why are you expecting a change? I have also heard "I've reached my physical limit". Bullshit. You may have reached your physical limit running 15 or 20 miles a week. A change in training will cause better adaptation. I change my marathon-training plan every year adding speed, distance or both, which is why I am faster every year. I cut a 1hr 30 min from my first marathon (which I didn't train for). My gains get smaller every year but they are still there. I cut 8 min from my marathon time from 3 years ago and cut 2 minutes last year. This is with alternating my focus on running and weightlifting. A pure running approach will lead to better improvements.

Next on the list is weightlifters but this is more common with non-competitive weight lifters. Most serious bodybuilders or power lifters do not make this mistake as often since they are usually following a specified training plan.  Many gym goers will follow the same exercises for the same rep scheme week after week and year after year without much improvement. Your workout routine needs variation to grow. That does not mean change you exercises every week but it should change over the course of months. One technique I found useful in the past is to pull out a several week workout plan from a magazine or book then follow it through to completion. Afterwards I will switch up the plan following a different plan. This ensures I am not just falling into the habit of following the same routine month after month.

As a drug free athlete the part of the year I make the most lifting gains comes from following a power lifter style workout for a couple of months (usually 5x5 for four weeks, then 3x3 for 2 weeks, then 2x2 for a week or two). Even though my main goal is body improvement and not strength gain, after a powerlifting phase I will be able to lift higher weights for 10 reps (resulting in a better body). This is especially important for drug free athletes since strength gains do not come as easy. If you regularly attend the gym and have never followed a powerlifting split for a couple of weeks you need to try it. The strength gains you will receive are significant. These gains will provide benefit regardless of your goal.

So make sure you change up your routine if you want to see gains. This is not just for exercise routine but also diet. More protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats will result in muscle gain. Keep changing things up to avoid stagnation. Everyone is guilty of lack of variation, me included. If I chose a more challenging plan, I could improve more. If you look at your long-term running or lifting schedule and none of it pushes you out of your comfort zone you are wrong. So push yourself if you want to see a change. Remember, if you are not actively trying to improve, chances are you are slowly sliding backwards.


The Importance of Rest

Posted by Evan Perperis on December 6, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Rest is a simple concept but can be overlooked if not scheduled properly. Rest can be broken down further into two categories, sleep and rest days. Sleep is simple to explain but hard to apply in practice. In order for your body to recover to the best of its abilities and grow the strongest/fastest you need to sleep close to eight hours a night. Everyone is different so some people require a little more or a little less than eight hours a night. Eight is generally a good starting point.

Occasionally I hear people make statements like I only need to sleep four or five hours a night to function. Let us be clear, the eight hours of sleep requirement is to maximize growth and fitness gains. You can sleep significantly less than that and still improve or still be functional. I have done events where I was only sleeping an hour or two each night for day after day. I was still able to function but my ability to perform tasks properly was severely degraded.

Sleep is important for several reasons. The first is when you sleep your growth hormone spikes helping you recover and improve. Without adequate sleep you will not get as productive a spike in growth hormone. Another reason is sleep consolidates skills you have learned over the day in your brain allowing you to perform what you learned that day much easier the next time. As you sleep your brain essentially organizes and stores the information learned throughout the day. Without adequate sleep you will not “learn/store” the correct actions to improve. Remember how many of your initial fitness gains come from neurological improvement. This is where that neurological improvement takes place.

Rest days are also important. Do not do the typical gym rat action of I am going to work out Monday through Friday and then take two rest days on the weekend. Your body will perform better if you space out the rest days by taking your two rest days separated slightly. I often like to use the Wednesday and Sunday rest day split. This allows me to catch up on sleep on Wednesday if I start getting behind allowing me to hit the gym harder on Thursday. The Sunday rest day allows for more family time and/or church attendance.

I like to do absolutely no physical activity on my rest days. Some people will still go for a short jog. I generally discourage this because I think complete rest is not only important physically but also important mentally. Having a day with no physical activity can help reset your brain so you can train harder the rest of the week.

10 Simple Rules for Cutting

Posted by Evan Perperis on December 6, 2014 at 5:45 PM

I get a lot of emails and messages regarding cutting body fat and maintaining muscle.  Ideally, I like people to read my book or talk to me for a long period so I can properly explain how to accomplish a successful cutting phase.  However, most just want the down and dirty.  So here it is, the quickest way I can summarize cutting:

10 Simple Rules for Cutting Fat While Maintaining Muscle


1. Eat 6 smaller meals a day.  Eat until you feel full but not stuffed.  Undereatting will lead to overeating at the next meal.


At each meal:

2. Eat a low saturated fat protein (chicken, fish)

3. Healthy fat (avocado, almonds, olive oil)

4. Slow burning (low glycemic) carbohydrate (oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice, wheat based products)

5. Include fibrous vegetables like broccoli or spinach in all meals to help fill you up (these don't count towards your total carb numbers)

6. Never drop below 1,200 calories (creates problems that will just result in gaining the weight back in the near future).


7. Don't eat carbs within four hours of bed time (so last meal of the day has no carbs)

8. Eat 1g if carbs per lbs of lean body weight

9. Keep protein high, fats in the 60-90g range and carbs as directed by in step 8.  

10.  Lift hard and heavy to prevent muscle loss (talking bodbuilding rep ranges 6-12, not powerlifting ranges 2-5)


Hardest Part About Amateur Competitions

Posted by Evan Perperis on December 6, 2014 at 5:40 PM

One of the hardest parts about amateur competitions whether it be running or bodybuilding is dealing with other commitments and people. As a professional athlete, people are more likely to understand that you can't eat a certain food or go out drinking because of an athletic event. As an amateur though it's a different story.

People who don't live around you 24 hours a day have trouble understanding why you won't have a beer or one piece of fried food.  They do not understand why you will not go out drinking a week before an important race.  Most people have trouble grasping how damaging a night of hard drinking is when you are trying to win a race, step on stage at 5% bodyfat or just achieve a personal best.  

Even though most people who compete in athletic events are amateurs, it doesn't mean that they are not looking to perform at their best. This can be difficult for people who do not compete to fully grasp. For running you can usually get away with a little more variation in day to day activity. However, for things like bodybuilding, it needs to be part of your life every hour of the day.

Check out this clip from "Raising the Bar" regarding dietary variation, living a little and the six foods that work (possibly the best documentary on bodybuilding).  Even as an endurance athlete, the part when he talks about "living a litte" will definitely resonate with you.  

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Welcome to the Strength & Speed Articles Section

Posted by Evan Perperis on December 3, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Previously we have just been posting our articles directly to Facebook.  Starting in December of 2014, we will be posting our articles directly to the Strength & Speed website.  Topics will include improving strength, improving speed, race reviews, supplements, nutrition and opinions regarding physical fitness.  

If you have any specific requests feel free to message us and we will get to your question.  Our staff is made of experienced athletes in both the strength and endurance world.  Check back frequently for updates from now on.  Thanks for following and enjoy!