In this podcast I interview the one and only Dr. Layne Norton and we talk contest/photo shoot prep, how to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss while cutting, reverse dieting, and more…
Mike Matthews: Hey. It’s Mike. This is an interview that I conducted with Dr. Layne Norton somebody you’ve probably heard of if you’ve been kicking around the fitness space at all, and you’ve definitely heard of if you are familiar with body building or power lifting specifically. But in case you don’t know who he is Layne is one of the prior the most respected coaches and educators in the space. He has PhD from the University of Illinois, I believe it is in nutritional
Sciences, but specifically regarding protein and how protein works in the body.
He is a weight lifter, he is a competitive body builder. I’m not sure what he won in terms of his career as a body builder, but you can just look at his pictures online, and see that he clearly knew what he was doing. There’s a point where it seems he switched over more to power lifting, and then just got insanely strong.
I remember seeing videos of him, squatting 600 pounds, benching close to 400, pulling 6, 700 pounds, just absurd strength. He has kind of been behind the scenes and helping a lot of different celebrities get ready for movies roles and such. Cool guy, obviously he really knows what he is talking about.
What I particularly like about Layne and his work and his approach is he is very well versed in the scientific side of things, but also, he has a ton of experience. He’s worked with so many people, and he is seeing just about everything. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He knows what is scientifically sound. But then also, sometimes there are certain little subtleties of special when you want to get into really good shape.
There are certain subtleties that you don’t find in the literature, you don’t find in research. There are things you just have to learn. Maybe if it’s just you, you will learn it discovering it in your body. In terms of Layne, it’s not just his body. He’s worked with so many people that he’s just very, very knowledgeable. His approach is very practical and very balanced. I think you will like what he has to say. Let’s get to the interview. Hey Layne, thanks for taking time to do this.
Layne Norton: No problem Mike. I appreciate you having me on.
Mike: I really appreciate you doing me the favor.
All right, so let’s jump into it here. One of the things that I’m commonly asked about or asked for is tips and tricks for looking as good as possible usually on a specific day or maybe it’s for someone’s going to be going out of town for…or going on a little vacation for a few days, single guys want to look good on the beach and stuff.
Obviously most people know or at least the listeners are going to know that you got to be lean as the first that’s the foundation. But is there anything else that you found just in your experience as a prepping for shows and stuff that can help you Senshi boils down to just maybe look a little bit leaner or a little bit fuller on a certain day or a few days.
Layne: Right. I’m probably going jut to put a long list because I do not have the magic trick. I don’t have any list of things that are going to make you look like a god or goddess. I think that actually most people end up doing more harm than good in the last few days before show or shoot or anything like that by doing things like cutting out water, cutting out sodium or anything like that.
Mike: And why is that? Because that’s the common lot of people they hear that. They hear, “Oh, what should I do with my sodium potassium? What should I do with drinking water?
Layne: First things first, muscle is 70 percent water. Let’s say you could suck all the water out of your muscle. You would be left with what looks like very soft tissue stringy tissue, spongy tissue, that’s what muscle is. When your muscle is full of water is when it looks hard it presses against the skin. You have more vascularity because you have more muscle tissue pressing those blood vessels towards the skin. Full muscle of water is fantastic. Now, people will say, well I’m not taking the muscle of water or I’m not taking the water out of the muscle, just the subcutaneous layer.
Well, they need to take a basic chemistry class because there’s something called the Le Chatelier’s principle which is basically if you have different processes that are connected. You cannot mess with one without affecting the other. There’s muscle amount of water that the holds. Then there’s an interstitial amount of fluid you hold. Let’s say you took a diuretic and you cut water or anything of that sort of thing. You would lose some water out of the interstitial layer. But you would also lose exactly the same…
Mike: Just as much.
Layne: Well actually lose more of the muscle because you got greater percentage of body water inter‑cellularly than you do extracellularly. The goal would be to maintain that ratio. So, you would actually lose more. Not on a percentage basis, but on an absolute basis, you would lose more out of the muscle tissue. All you’re basically doing is flattening yourself out overall. That’s what you’re doing. In regards to water, I think it’s a bit silly.
It’s come about, I think, because people when they had to make weight for competitions like wrestling, and that sort of thing, would always cut water. This archaic type or way of doing things got passed on to physique competitions. What would happen is people in wrestling, they would cut weight, and they’d notice at the end of the weight cut ‑ I mean, we’re talking about the 20’s and 30’s ‑ through the weight cut, they’d look much harder. Well, they lost a lot of body fat.
Mike: Sure, yeah. [chuckles]
Layne: But they’d always, at the end of the weight cut, they would cut water to lose an extra bit. So that just got assumed that that was something you needed to do. What you’ll find is a lot of “dogma” of what we do in the fitness industry, really is nonsensical and is passed down through archaic things that really have no bearing and should have no place in fitness, but we just continue to do them, just because it’s the way it’s always been done.
Mike: Right, and just kind of passed down from coach to coach, where it just becomes a kind of “lore” almost.
Layne: That’s exactly right. And nobody can actually explain scientifically how it works because it doesn’t work scientifically.
I actually had a client or not a client, but somebody I was talking to backstage at the, I think it was the Arnold and they told me, “I know what you say makes sense. I’ve observed this myself. I cannot bring myself to do it. I cannot bring myself to do it the way you describe.” Because there’s safety in numbers. If I try something different, and it doesn’t work, then I’m out an island. But it’s easy if I’m a sheep, and I follow everybody else, and if they all look…if it doesn’t work for everybody, at least I’m in a group. There’s comfort there.
It’s really a weak‑minded way of thinking, to be honest with you. What I’ll always get is I’ll get people saying “Lane, people in the Olympics, they’re all cutting their water, look how great they look.” The point is not do they look great. The point is, “Would they look better if they had not done that?”
The answer is “Yes!” You can look at pictures of these guys and gals, in the gym, a couple days before the show, before they start cutting their water and sodium. Or actually, the more telling thing is you’ll always get people the night after the show, the morning after the show, they’re posting these pictures. “Look at me after a cheat meal.” They look insane. They look better than they did on stage.
Mike: Yeah, that’s like a common complaint with competitors. They always look better five days later.
Layne: Right, and it’s like “Why didn’t you do that?” The other thing that’s interesting, and that’s going to lead into my war on sodium, so they will post those pictures. They will look at that and say “Wow, I should look better.” They’ll go “You know what? I just didn’t carb up enough.” Most of these guys are eating five, six, 700 grams of carbs per day leading into the show, to carb up.
No dude, it wasn’t the carbs. What happened was you went out at your “cheat meal”. You drank water and ate sodium because you didn’t need to worry about it anymore. That’s what finally allowed you to fill out and look vascular and hard. That’s the difference.
You’re already eating a ton of carbs. What do you think eating more carbs would have done? You only have so much muscle glycogen in the average human being. The average human being only needs 400 grams of carbs to max‑out their muscle glycogen. If you’re 250 pounds and shredded maybe you need four, five, 600 grams of carbs. But you don’t need 1000 grams of carbs three days in a row.
There’s this lore that we need to cut sodium and water, and with regards to sodium, I actually think cutting sodium may actually be worse than cutting water. I wish I had a graph I could put up, but there was a study done at Harvard, back in like 1991. It was looking at… they were doing it for the Army, it was commissioned by the Army, because they wanted to see what happened with electrolyte depletion.
So they had people basically go on a salt‑free diet for seven days…I’m sorry, six days. And they tracked three different things. They tracked their level of blood sodium, their level of urinary sodium excretion, and they also tracked their aldosterone levels. Aldosterone, for those who aren’t familiar, aldosterone is a hormone that makes you retain water. What aldosterone does is it senses reductions in sodium, and as sodium is reduced, it causes you to reabsorb.
It increases sodium re‑absorption, in order to re‑absorb sodium, you also have to reabsorb it with water it the kidney. Basically, it’s a hormone that’s going to help you retain more water. OK? If you cut sodium, what’s going to happen is… What they found in this experiment ‑I’d like to tell you what’s going to happen, what they found in this experiment was very cool, very interesting.
After two days all the aldosterone levels had doubled and urinary sodium excretion had been cut by almost 90 percent. Your blood levels of sodium didn’t even change. Your body perfectly conserves your blood levels of sodium. Now extend that out to six days at the end of the experiment, blood sodium levels were still almost exactly the same. They were perfectly conserved.
Mike: That’s amazing
Layne: This is something you don’t realize. If you could actually change the levels of your blood sodium, you could die. Your blood sodium levels control your electrochemical gradient across you cells and that is critical for the most basic of functions.
Mike: Yeah. This reminds of the pH type stuff. Like pH scams of “drink this water and you improve the pH of your blood.” If you change the pH of your blood more than just a minute amount you die, so…
Layne: Exactly. The other thing that, not to go off on a tangent, but they will talk about the pH. Everything has to go through your stomach. This is how you know these scams are BS. Everything has to go through your stomach. You ingest it, right? Your stomach has six molar hydrochloric acid. It is one of the most powerful acids known to man.
If six molar Hydrochloric acid isn’t getting out of your stomach, what makes you think that any other acid is getting out of there? What makes you think that anything is actually going to change, that your body is actually going to allow it into circulation. Again, by changing your food you can change your urinary pH. It doesn’t change you blood pH.
This is a great example. Their urinary sodium changed a bunch. If you just looked at urinary sodium, you’d say, “Wow, their sodium levels are dropping.’ But if you looked at your actual blood, doesn’t change at all. Same thing with pH. Exact same thing. It’s interesting that you bought that up.
Mike: Yeah I wrote an article about it recently. I was getting asked about it I was like, “It’s time to just debunk this.”
Layne: Exactly. Let’s be honest. It’s the same reason this water cutting and all this stuff came about because it’s just easier for people to believe there’s a magic solution. You got to be consistent, you got to be lean. There is no magic solution.
Mike: You got to tough that out because you know the leaner you get the less…if you’re losing half a pound of fat a week, you’re doing well and that’s a grind.
Layne: At six days, and we’ve talked about what happens at two days, at six days of sodium depletion, their urinary sodium output was almost nothing. It was less than ten million equivalents which is very, very low and their blood sodium was perfectly conserved. Their aldosterone, I think it was four or five times elevated. It was way up there.
Here is the big pump. First, we’ve established that by cutting sodium you’re raising aldosterone, making you retain water and you’re not actually impacting your blood sodium levels. It’s an exercise in futility, so we’ve established that. Now let’s look at the real problem with sodium depletion.
The first thing is that when do people really start cutting sodium when they are getting ready for a show or photo shoot? It’s about two days out, right? About two or three days out. And that means you’re going to be stepping onstage or you’re going to be stepping into your photo shoot with your aldosterone levels at at least double. Right when you want to look your best, your body is releasing hormones that make you retain water. Fantastic.
Mike: To clarify, the body is not going to stuff all that water in your muscles either. That would be nice, but that’s not how it works
Layne: That’s my next point. What happens is since you’re reabsorbing that sodium, that water but since you’re cutting your sodium your blood pressure is lower and so all the sodium and water you’re absorbing You don’t have the pressure to hold it in your vascular system and so it leaks into the interstitial layer.
So congratulations, you’ve actually done the one thing…even though your body as it is holds water a lot in a good way, you hold it inside the muscle more than outside the cell, you’ve actually done the exact opposite of what you wanted. You put more water in the interstitial layer and less inside the muscle, congratulations. This is why people say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
This is why you hear people all the time say, “I looked so much better a week before the show or a day after the show. What happened?” You changed everything, your body is used to be in this certain kind of rhythm and all of a sudden you go ahead and changed everything and you expect it not to fight you?
I was talking about it with my friend Banesco the other night. We were having a very deep scientific discussion. We were talking about how amazing the body is. The biggest thing your body is trying to do is one, trying to survive. Two, trying to reproduce. I should say replicate because even on the most basic level cells try to replicate. Three, it’s fighting for homeostasis. It wants to stay at where its accustomed to being at, where it likes being at. If you try to mess with that. Your body is going to really start fighting.
The other thing about cutting sodium is at the time you’re cutting sodium most people are loading carbs. Well, you’re cutting sodium two three days out from a show and most people are also loading carbs at this time. Well, check out how great this is. The glucose transporter in the small intestines. This is the transporter that takes glucose from your…we should actually clarify your digestive system as most people don’t understand is separate from your body.
Think of it as a tube starting at your mouth and ending at your butthole. [laughter] As bad as that sounds.
Mike: That’s how it works.
Layne: This tube has bulges and it goes around and around but essentially it’s a tube and that’s your digestive system. It is sealed off from the rest of the body. If you actually had it stuff from your GI or interacting with the rest of your body, you have major problems. That’s what we call things like ulcers and sepsis and that sort of thing. That just doesn’t happen unless you’re in some sort of diseased state. We’ve established that.
If you’re going to get nutrients from the food you eat they have to be transported across mostly the small intestine. That’s where glucose is transported. You’re loading carbs. The glucose transporter in the small intestine is sodium dependent. They’ve actually shown in research that if your restrict sodium you can reduce the activity of this transport.
Now, not only have you reduced your vascularity, reduced your fullness, put water at the wrong place where you don’t want it, you have also reduced the effectiveness of your carb load. Not only are you putting water where you don’t want it, you’re increasing on aldosterone. You’re not even getting the glucose that you want it, because that transport…
Mike: What’s that increase carbohydrate intake, you will also want ideally and increase in sodium levels?
Layne: I don’t think you have to necessarily increase sodium levels. You just don’t want to be depleting it. It doesn’t have to be a super high sodium level. As I’m going to get to, I actually think that having a higher rich sodium meal a couple of hours before you are going to do whatever photo shot or…
Mike: Going on stage or something.
Layne: …competition, can actually be more be quite effective for making you look harder and more masculine. If you every been dieting, think about like if you went out to whatever, Chipotle and have a big burrito, what happens about an hour or two hours later? You look freaking vascular and hard. You know what I mean?
If you maintain that, if you eat burritos all day, the next day you are going to look really washed out, filmy. But just for one meal, that sodium will increase the pressure in your vascular system, it will put more fluid in your vascular system.
People all the time, they are looking for a magical pre‑workout in terms to increase their pump up. I just want to give you a good pump. If you want to get a good pump, go and eat a jar of pickles before you go workout. Go eat a jar of pickles…
Mike: And some carbs.
Layne: …and some carbs two hours before you to go workout. I promise you will have the best pump you will ever have. [laughs] Nothing increases plasma volume like solutes. Sodium is really, really powerful solute. Not only is sodium not evil but it actually can be very useful and I use it with my clients.
I just had a girl win her figure pro card, and she was given a pop tart and literally dumped a salt packet in a Gatorade two hours before she went out on stage, that was her two hour meal was a pop tart and some salt packet and some Gatorade.
Layne: It worked great. It’s one of those things where people just…there’s this dogma that has been around for so long. I should qualify that. Whenever somebody’s sodium intake is heading into say a peak week, I don’t really mess with it too much.
If somebody is used to eating let’s say 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day, I’m not going to bump them up to 5,000 milligrams a day. I’m not going to deplete them down to 1,000. I’m going to stay on that normal range. It may go up and down a little bit.
They can go up to 2,800 or something like that. It may go down to something like 1,600, 1,700. But it’s going to stay in that normal range of what their body is used to. I’m not going to shock their body and start getting their body to get ready to send out panic signals.
For the two hour out meal or whatever I’m “loading them with” before stage, it’s going to be something that they are used to be able to handle. I’m going to load somebody whose normal sodium intake is 1,000 different than I’m going to load somebody whose sodium intake is 10,000. I’ve seen the girl I was just talking about, her average sodium intake per day was 12 grams, 12,000 milligrams.
Mike: I assume she has a balance it with potassium somewhat, so I mean.
Layne: Yeah. Of course, but here’s the other big myth of sodium is that sodium causes high blood pressure. Sodium, you have to understand, your body is in the same way we talked about how if you deplete sodium, your body will just decrease your urinary excretion of sodium.
If you increase sodium, it will just increase sodium output for about 90 percent of the population, about 10 percent of the people who salt sensitive and need to control their sodium intake.
That can take a couple of days to get as we talked about, it can take like two days to get really those systems wrapped up. The criticism I’ll get is, “I add salt to my food and for a couple of days, I was really looking soft.” What they will typically do is they will go back to a low sodium diet. Whereas, if they had just maintained that higher sodium intake…
Mike: Let their body adjust.
Layne: …their body would have adjusted, exactly. The point is you want to stick with what your body is used to. If you are somebody who doesn’t eat that much sodium, then don’t load them that much sodium. That two hour out meal from stage or whatever it is, I will usually and again, I don’t cut water. They have their normal water intake on show day.
But usually what I will do is I will give them from anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of their normal sodium intake in that meal. It’s high, but it’s not so high that their body can’t accommodate it. That’s how I will approach it and that has always worked really, really well. That’s one thing.
The only other thing I would say that I really mess with in terms of peak week is when somebody gets close to…no, I actually in terms of carb loading, I do what I call front‑loading. If somebody is competing on Saturday, their highest carb load days will be like Monday, Tuesday and then I’m tapering carbs down on to near their normal level by the time it’s Thursday, Friday.
People would go, “Why do you do that?” Well, I don’t think it’s any magic or anything like that. I just look at it from a practical standpoint. If you get somebody carb‑loaded, that glucose, the glycogen, it’s not going a lot of places. Most of glycogen, you don’t lose it unless you use it. If you are not actually out being active, most of the glycogen is not going away.
If you front load, you are going to fill up. Why do I chose to front load as supposed to be back‑loading which is what most people do before Thursday or Friday just before a show or shoot or whatever it is? Well, it’s a very practical reason if I miss and I load somebody too aggressively and they start spilling over.
Now, I’ve got days to fix it. Whereas, if I’m loading on Thursday, Friday, I might have hours to fix it on show day if there’s spilling over. I would rather have days to fix it in order to make some adjustment as opposed to get to show day, that morning they wake up, they are spilled over, and now I’ve got to tell them, “OK, go out and do 20 minute of HIIT cardio or…”
Mike: Or go sweat.
Layne: Right, something really drastic that’s actually going to cause a problem in the other direction as well. I would just rather be able to make those to be able to nice and slow and make subtle adjustments. That’s just my personal preference. I’m not a slave to any one way of doing things.
In fact, I have one guy who just for whatever reason, he just looked better the day after his highest carb day. I tried a front‑load on him a few times. He looked good but it wasn’t on his best. We back‑loaded on him one time he won his pro card. It was just a case of watching somebody, observing somebody over enough period of time. But for most people I find that that front‑loading protocol is the most predictable and it works really well.
Then the other thing I mess with is I will reduce fiber intake. Fiber is great, fiber pours fluid into the GI which makes you feel full and when you are dieting that’s great. But when you are getting ready to step on stage, you don’t want to be feeling full in your GI. You want to feel empty essentially.
You want your muscles to be full, but you want your GI to be essentially empty or feel empty. About 24 hours before stage or shoot, I will basically tell, “You don’t have the completely cut out fiber. It doesn’t have to be completely sugar intake, but just don’t consume any really dense foods like broccoli, a bunch of oatmeal or anything like that. Just go with lower residue foods.”
Mike: Yeah, that makes sense.
Layne: Those are my “tricks”. You know what’s funny is that I always think of myself as a real moderate. I’m not telling anybody, “Cut this, cut that.” I’ve had people tell me, “Wow, man you are so extreme, your methods are so extreme.” I’m like, “Only in the fitness industry would somebody who is a moderate be considered extreme.”
Mike: When extremism is the norm.
Layne: Exactly. I always tell people, “Look, you might be able to mess with a bunch of these variables and every once in a while catch lightning in a bottle and it just happens to get right.” I’m not willing to sacrifice 30 percent chasing three percent if that makes sense.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. My experiences are right along the same line, just to chime in for listeners that I’ve tried manipulating many things like you’ve said. I don’t compete, but I do photo shoots here and for just work related things.
Everything you are saying was my experience, boiled down to just get lean enough and keep my water intake where is normally is, keep sodium, potassium where is normally is, and I play with carb. I find with my body, if I eat a bunch of carbs, I would tend to watch more toward the front‑loading where I would eat a bunch of carbs, fill up and then just maintain it for a few days.
My experiences are right along the same line. It’s that it really just boils down to getting lean enough and having a bit of a tan, so you can see what you got. [laughs]
Layne: Like I said, it could be much easier for me to tell people, “If you do this, this is this magic thing that…” I’m not willing to lie to people. [laughs] I’ve had all the time say, “Why should I hire you, it’s just that simple?” I’m like, “Maybe you shouldn’t.” [laughs]
Mike: It’s a point of learning your body but the advantage of having someone like you is that you’ve worked with so many people, you have seen everything. Sure, it’s simply until something goes wrong, then you are like, “Well, what do I do now?”
Layne: I will tell people, “Here’s the deal. The real benefit to having a coach is somebody who’s emotions are out of it.” You know what I mean? Somebody who is not freaking out because they gained half a pound one day whereas you are going to freak out.
Mike: I think right now it’s like two hours of HIIT or something. [laughs]
Layne: Exactly. The point of a good coach is just somebody giving you unbiased second eye to essentially you don’t even know when to make adjustments and that sort of thing, anybody who is hiring somebody for magic.
In fact, there’s a girl that I’ve been working with. her name is Katy Rutherford and she is…Instagram, Katyann100, you all should follow her because you will be wowed by her. She is a power lifted and figure competitor. In fact, she just did her first series of shows.
In a three week time span, she won a figure show. The next week, she won a power lifting meet. The following week, she won another figure show. I don’t know so many people who have done that. But she posted pictures of her before she started working with me and then after. People were freaking out. They were like, “Oh, I wish I had the money to work with Layne, and if only I could work with Layne all the stuff.”
I came on there, I was like, “Look, I appreciate the flattery, but you guys are thinking I have some kind of magic solution and I don’t. It’s not a magic solution. Katy worked really, really hard for a really long period of time. That was the magic and she listened to me. That’s the magic right there.”
Like I said, I think people sometimes they think they will work with this person and if you are hiring a coach, like we said, to get magic, you are going to be probably disappointed.
Mike: I’ve had a similar experience where I don’t do really much one‑on‑one. I help a lot of people over email and social media. I don’t charge them for answering questions and stuff. I’ve had a lot of cases when people do ask me for one‑on‑one type stuff, my reply is, “I don’t have so much time for it.” Also, I just try to explain the exact same thing that like, “Look, I really lay out everything on my website, in my books.”
You just got to put all the little pieces together correctly, work and it just takes time. Anybody is going to sell you on if they say they have some super special insights into how to train, how to diet, it’s going to blow out all these other methods away, they are full of shit.
Layne: That’s exactly right. Whether I think people in the fitness industry, its coaches or people selling a product, they give in to that temptation to act like they’re magicians because they feel like the people won’t…Why would they hire me if I don’t have something amazing to add?
Mike: Yeah. If your sales pitch is, “You’re going to have to work really hard and it’s going to require self‑discipline and will power and…” [laughs]
Layne: That’s exactly what I tell people. But you know what I always tell people, “I’m not willing to compromise who I am or my integrity to just get more clients.” But I think if you’re good at what you do and you have knowledge and you have a track record, eventually you’ll get more business anyway. I’ve done very well for myself. I think that’s a good testament to you can do it the right way and still make a good living.
Mike: You also then, you don’t just make money but you also make a lot of friends and you actually legitimately help a lot of people. It’s a slower build but as you say, it’s a much stronger…You end up with something much better in the end from a business standpoint and from a personal being a good person standpoint.
Layne: Absolutely. It’s way more maintainable.
Mike: OK cool. One other thing I wanted to talk about because I know this is something you’ve written about and I like what you had to say on it, and I know the listeners want to hear about it. This is regarding preserving muscle when you’re losing fat.
Obviously, this is more relevant to, let’s say, with guys when you start to get into the probably 10 percent body fat range you want to get under. For girls, at what? Probably around the 19 to 20 percent.
It becomes more of an issue, as opposed to, if a guy’s starting at 25 percent. Just has calorie deficits and lift some weights and you’ll probably build some build some muscle if you’ve never done it before. You know what I mean?
Mike: What are your…This is again, something that you obviously do a lot because you work with guys and girls that need to get really lean without burning up all their muscle.
Layne: Right. The biggest thing for maintaining muscle…The first biggest thing is maintaining training intensity and volume. I always tell people, “Look, I’m a nutritionist. I did my PhD in Nutrition.” People will say, “Well it’s 20 percent training, 80 percent nutrition.” “No, no, no. Stop it. Stop.”
Layne: Body composition changes do not happen without training. I’m sorry, muscle building does not happening without training. You can eat as good as you want and if you’re not training with intensity, it’s not going to make a difference. That’s the first thing. Training intensity and volume has to be maintained when you’re dieting down.
Actually, a lot of times, what’s funny is people will do the exact opposite. They’ll diet down and will say, “Well, I don’t want to over train. I got to cut my training volume.”
Mike: Yeah, I hear that a lot.
Layne: You have to think about this from a teleological perspective, from an evolutionary perspective. What sense does it make for your body to maintain your muscle if you’re going to do less with it? It doesn’t make any sense.
Mike: Especially if you’re in a calorie deficit and your proteins synthesis rates are already a little bit impaired because of that.
Layne: That’s absolutely 100 percent correct. I tell people, “Maintain that training volume and intensity. Then next day, make sure you’re getting enough protein intake.” That said, I’ll see people who will go and they’ll, “Oh. I got to go up to 2 grams per pound.”
I did my PhD in protein. I had a bias going into my PhD. I wanted to find more reasons to eat more protein more frequently.
Layne: When I got done on my PhD, I ate less protein and I ate it less frequently. I still eat a high protein diet. But it’s about one gram per pound. One gram per pound of bodyweight, you’re getting enough protein. All the research is very, very clear on this. But making sure you’re getting enough there is important. That’s one thing. Then the next thing is, go slow. Don’t be trying to drop four pounds in a week.
You may have fluctuation where you drop four pounds or something like that.
Mike: Don’t be surprised if in your first week because water and collection come out.
Layne: Right. But don’t make your goal to drop four pounds per week as an average. You don’t want that because the evidence suggests that you are less likely to keep it off and you’re more likely to lose muscle. There’s that.
I tell people, “One percent of your bodyweight is a good cap to shoot for in terms of how fast you want to lose body fat.” We’re talking about on average basis. If your goal is two pounds a week, maybe one week you’ll lose four and the next week you lose none and one week you lose three and then you lose one, but you’re looking for an overall average.
Then if the average is 2.3, don’t freak out. You know what I mean?
Layne: If you’re consistently losing three, four pounds a week, that’s probably too fast for maintaining muscle.
Mike: Unless maybe the person is starting out very obese.
Layne: Yeah, that’s true too. We’ll need to qualify this by saying that everybody has this different body fat set point level that their body likes to be at. As you get closer to your body fat set point, it’s going to make a little bit more difficult to maintain muscle.
Your body fat set point is essentially where your body likes to be. It’s your natural state. If you’re about that, if somebody, like you said, very obese, they can probably be a little bit more aggressive.
Although I don’t know if I’d necessarily instruct them to just because I’m thinking about sustainability. You can probably be a little bit more aggressive and still maintain muscle, and maybe even build some. Just because they…
Mike: I’ve seen that with people where they can run a little bit larger of a deficit than somebody that’ll be leaner and feel totally fine. They get to eat plenty of food, they’re never starving, they eat the foods that they like and because they’re new to weightlifting, build muscles well. They’re pretty excited when that happens.
Layne: Absolutely. That’s possible. Because you have to look at it from an energy perspective. They have such large reserves of body fat that it’s still signaling, I don’t want to say self‑signaling an energy surplus, but their physiology is going to behave the same way as somebody who’s already pretty lean.
Mike: Just the sheer amount of leptin in their blood, finally their bodies are going, “OK now we have something to do.”
Layne: Yes. Exactly. But as you approach your body fat set point, as you get learner, it’s going to be hard to maintain that muscle. I would say slowing down as they get near that point might be a good idea. Although to be honest, that’s self‑regulating. Their bodies will probably go slow them down as they get towards that point anyway.
One of the easiest way I tell people is diet on as many calories as you can. If you can lose your goal amount of body fat on 2500 calories a day, by God, do that. Don’t do 1500. [laughs]
Layne: Plus, you want that cushion because you are going stall at various points in your fat loss journey. If you have to start out at 1500 calories per day, when you stall, what are you going to go down to?
Mike: You only can exercise so much. If you start pushing that too far, then you start running into over training symptoms, you just don’t feel good.
Layne: Actually there was a study in…It’s always done to rats. It doesn’t matter. But you know what? Rats are actually really good models of human physiology in terms of exercise and protein metabolism and fat loss.
There was a study where they built this anorexic model of mice and they had them either calorie restrict or calorie restrict plus exercise. Plus treadmill walking and essentially walking. It’s was wheel walking.
Actually, the mice doing the wheel walking lost less body fat over a long term. This is the exact same calorie intake. This is counterintuitive to everything we know.
So I might argue about cardio, studies state cardio not being optimal or this sort of thing. In my mind I would still say, “Well, you’re still burning more calories.”
What I think science needs to come grips with is that the body is not a clone system, and that, yes, it is calories in versus calories out. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not. But, the equation that makes up the output side of calories out is extremely complex. It’s ever changing, it’s adaptive, and it’s a moving target. It is not something static.
Mike: That’s a good way of putting it.
Layne: I think that point to this study was that too much cardio can be a bad thing. Too much exercise can be a bad thing. If you’re going to increase your volume on anything, increase your weightlifting volume. That is much more powerful to calorie burn in terms of long term.
I can tell you, I can go in and do four sets of squats, of heavy squats. Right now, I’m not doing any cardio. I’m eating more than I ever have in my off season and I’m leaner. I’m not doing any cardio. That would be just increasing my training volume over time on the big lifts.
Mike: It makes sense.
Layne: They cause so much more muscle adaptation and muscle damage and muscle turnover. It just makes a huge difference on your long term calorie output.
Mike: Those are all metabolically expensive processes. Whereas walking on a treadmill, yeah, you burn a little bit but no adaptation needs to occur when you walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever.
Layne: The only adaptation that occurs is your body gets way more efficient at it. There’s actually research that shows that as you add cardio in, especially steady state cardio, you only get really a calorie burn effect for the first couple of weeks and then your body completely adapts to it and now that’s your new baseline.
Mike: Oh wow. I didn’t get to see that.
Layne: I’m not going to say you don’t get any calorie burn out of it but it…
Mike: It makes sense that yours is not as effective as it was in the beginning.
Layne: People just keep on saying, “If the treadmill says I burned 900 calories, I’m only eating 1200. I don’t understand how I’m not losing weight.”
Mike: Yes, I’ve heard a lot that.
Layne: It’s because you’re not…
Mike: Exactly. My answer is, “Just ignore that thing. Who knows what…?” [laughter]
Layne: Newsflash. You’re not burning 900 calories.
Mike: Yeah. I run into that as well. Of course, the common thing then is people will go, “I’m just going to do more.” So now they’re trying to do an hour or two hours of cardio a day. You know what I mean? Then now their lifting is terrible and they’re losing muscle and they’re feeling terrible, it just goes. It’s a dwindling spiral.
Layne: Exactly. This is one of the things I always tell people, especially bodybuilders. They, hem and haw, over training and training more than hour but they’ll get on a treadmill for two or three hours, and I’m like, “You realize the research extensive shows that that’s more likely to over train you than just doing more weightlifting.”
If you’re a bodybuilder, think about this for a second, just how nonsensical is this. If you’re a bodybuilder, you spend more time doing cardio then you actually do lifting weights, that doesn’t make any sense. [laughs]
Mike: [laughs] It’s just a simple point. If you’re a soccer player, then it make sense.
Layne: It’ll be like being a soccer player and playing basketball for two hours and then he’s playing soccer for one, and then saying, “Well, I don’t want to over train my soccer muscles.”
Layne: You know what I mean? It’s complete nonsense!
Mike: Yeah. Then in terms of cardio, what are your thoughts on doing shorter bouts of higher intensity cardio, in being moderate about it to help get rid of, especially when any of those last bits of stubborn fat that are just a pain in the ass.
Layne: I think definitely high intensity cardio is much, much more effective and efficient in terms of fat loss per unit time. I would recommend high intensity cardio over moderate intensity cardio five times out of five. [laughs]
I’m not saying that there’s no room whatsoever for low intensity cardio, but it needs to be sparingly. Even then, I think that you could probably increase your training volume and get the same or better results.
That being said, not everybody has three, four hours to devote to the gym in lifting weights, so maybe doing 15 minutes of high intensity interval is going to be more time effective way of losing fat.
Mike: I find when I’m dieting down, I like, it’s usually about three or four 20‑minute sessions. I like to go on the recumbent bike just because I bring my iPad and watch a show and just do my thing.
It’s just an experiment I’ve done with myself so it doesn’t really matter that much in the bigger scene of things but I’ve tried both ways, doing steady state and doing higher intensity. There’s no question I lost fat faster and my lifting was better doing the shorter bits of higher intensity…
Just keeping about an hour total cardio a week. That’s all it ever took. I haven’t gotten in the competition shape but I’ve been down somewhere around the six percent. It’s hard to know if any get [inaudible 46:03] . I don’t need to be any leaner. There’s nothing I can grab anywhere, really. That worked well for me.
Layne: Absolutely and that’s what the research shows. High intensity are actually more likely to maintain your lifting output, your performance and all that sort of thing on high intensity because it’s more similar to what you do in the gym in terms of specificity.
Especially what you’re actually doing, the recumbent bike, because you have hip flexion, that’s more similar to say a squat and walking on a treadmill where you don’t have hip flexion. Because it’s more similar, you’re more likely to maintain that muscle and that strength.
Mike: Yeah, I’m familiar with that research. That’s why I do that. A rowing machine was probably the number two choice, I think it was, because it also just mimics movements that you would do in the gym.
Layne: Absolutely. High intensity is what I use cardio wise. I have very, very few people…I would say that the number of people I have doing over an hour of total cardio per week, you can probably count on one hand.
Mike: That’s cool. That’s what I’ve come across with myself and then with working with a lot for people. It just doesn’t seem like they need to do more if you set your diet right and train hard.
A lot of the fat loss issues, and this is really just for the listeners realize that when people having trouble losing weight, a lot of it is just related to dietary compliance. They’re either accidentally eating more than they think they are, or they just get too loose.
That little piece of chocolate looked good so they ate it. Then later that little cookie, so they ate it. By the end of the day they’ve eaten 400 calories more than they wanted to eat and they tell themselves something else and they wonder why they’re not losing weight.
Layne: Right. Compliance is a big deal. Or you have people who have just been dieting for so long their bodies have become so efficient that they will have a really hard time losing body fat at a reasonable calorie deficit.
Mike: In that, actually I want to get to that just so we can get into your Reverse Dieting book, but one last little piece regarding high intensity cardio, people will often ask me, because this is out there, that you shouldn’t do high intensity cardio when you’re in a calorie deficit because it puts too much stress in the body.
Mike: I’ve seen any good research on that and I’ve never experienced it. Yeah, maybe if you sat there and did two hours in a go.
Layne: That’s the point. I’m going to take it right there. If you could put an hour of high intensity to an hour of low intensity, absolutely it puts more stress to the body. It’s more difficult. But you don’t have to an hour of high intensity. You could literally do 10 minutes of high intensity, you’ll get better benefits than an hour of low intensity.
Mike: That’s been proven also, just to our listeners out there. There’s a study that showed that. That in terms of fat loss, 10 minutes of high intensity was more effective than 60 minutes of incline walking, I think it was?
Layne: Yup. At three miles an hour which is pretty much the standard [inaudible 49:09] protocol. When you compare it that way, the high intensity still wins because it’s more efficient per unit time.
Mike: Yeah, great. Because I want to make that clear because our listeners might be worried. “But I don’t want to over train.” You’re not. As long as you just don’t do a ton of cardio.
Layne: You aren’t doing any stress for the body build and don’t weight lift. [laughs]
Mike: Don’t move.
Mike: [laughs] OK cool. Now, let’s just talk about here, because you have a reverse diet book. I’ve read it. It’s great. I’ve taught to reverse dieting myself, it works.
You’ve mentioned that sometimes people are, they’ve been in the calorie deficit for so long, they’ve been dieting for so long that their body is just not responding in the way that it was several months ago. Let’s tie that into reverse dieting and talk a little bit about the book and how it can help.
Because there are a lot of people out there that are in that situation I know because I get emails.
Layne: The first thing I want to say about reverse dieting is, reverse dieting, the primary function of which is not to lose body fat. That’s the short term goal of reverse dieting. But the long term goal of reverse dieting is to put you in a better metabolic situation so that you can lose more body fat on the long term.
But everybody just thinks about the diet. Nobody thinks about the diet after the diet. Because the research out there on fat loss is very grim. It shows that out of people who lose body fat, over 80 percent of them will regain all of it within one year and a half or two‑thirds of them will actually put on more body fat than they had before.
That’s a phenomenon we call body fat overshooting. A lot who have been at show, or even got real lean can attest to the fact that they got real lean and then they just went back to doing whatever. They just went back to their calorie intake before they started dieting. They shot up astronomically fast in terms of body fat gain. After a couple of week, it looked like they didn’t even diet.
That’s your body adapting to low calories, getting more efficient with their metabolism, getting more thrifty. I could do three hours of talking about all the different physiological changes and psychological changes that happen from dieting to make you more efficient at holding on to body fat and reducing your calorie burn, but obviously we don’t have that time.
Mike: It boils down to just the physiology of it from an evolutionary standpoint makes sense. All the mechanisms are complicated but I’m sure, listener, you can understand why that would be the…
Layne: Absolutely. You’re sitting there right now listening to this podcast because your ancestors were energy efficient.
Layne: They were economically thrifty. Because if you were wasteful with energy, you would have died out. Your ancestors would have died during times of famine. You’re sitting there because you’re efficient, and dieting makes that more efficient.
The goal of reverse dieting is, first and foremost, to restore your metabolic rate. There’s two functions of metabolic…or two roles I can see for reverse dieting. The first is, somebody who’s dieted, gotten real lean and now, you want people to be able to keep more of that fat loss. You want to be able to stay leaner.
But you don’t want to be eating 1200 calories or 1500 calories, or if you’re a guy, 1800 calories to 2000 calories that rest of your life. I would argue that’s not living.
What reverse dieting is a method of slowly adding calories in to restore metabolic rate and minimize body fats regain, OK. Reverse dieting for people who has done it, it all depends on the person, so I heard some people saying, “Hey Layne. My goal is I want to regain the absolute minimum of body fats.” Well then the first few weeks of your reverse diet are going to suck quite a bit because you are still going to feel like you are dieting.
Mike: Yeah, I’ve done that I know what you mean. You get to eat one extra apple a day or something like, “OK. Well here we go.”
Layne: We are pretty conservative if you know about trying actually going to a whole two hours, I have a video on YouTube talking a little bit more in depth about it. Then obviously if you go to the website for the reverse dieting book, we have a free chapter there where you can kind of learn a little bit more if you are interested about it.
You are basically slowly adding calories, now if somebody comes to me and they say, “You know what, Layne? I’m OK with a little bit of body fat gain it’s as long as I feel more normal a little bit faster.” I’m OK with that too, you know what I mean? I’ll be a little bit more aggressive. Reverse dieting is not just one mechanism of doing things, its basically just controlling how much body fat you’re going to put on, to a level that your happy with and that you’re comfortable with, while restoring your metabolic rate. So that in the future when you go to diet down again you can effectively do it more effectively.
I always ask people this. If we have two people, let’s assume they’re genetically identical they are twins whatever. But one is maintaining their body weight on 3100 calories a day and the other one is maintaining it on 2200 calories a day, who’s going to have an easier time losing body fat?
It’s going to be the person on 3100 calories. Right?
So that’s our goal. It’s to get that calorie intake up higher for you to maintain your body weight on a higher calorie intake, so when you go to diet down its more effective.
Mike: Yeah and just to comment for listeners, I’ve not only done this myself many times, I’ve done it with many people and that is how it works. It almost sounds too good to be true because it’s like you get to eat more and more.
In my experience, and I’m sure you’ve had the same experience Layne? is that many people when they come out they’re done with their deficit and now they start adding calories in, they end up either losing a little bit more weight, not that that’s even the goal, but two or three weeks into it they look even better.
Maybe it’s just them filling up more there’s the visual effect they’re very happy with it. Now they’re eating quite a bit more food but they’re looking even better.
Layne: Yeah and that’s basically just controlling it. Not having that post contest binge blow out or post diet blow out, but yeah I’ve definitely observed that. I think it’s important to note everybody responds to reverse dieting a little bit differently and some people, they actually get leaner and leaner up to a certain point.
Layne: Yeah. Obviously, you’ve gotten up and you’ve added a thousand calories to your diet. You’re not going to continue to get leaner on that.
Mike: No, no.
Layne: I had a guy who his name is Rasmus, and he’s over in Denmark. He ended his diet not too bad, like 175 grams of carbs, 55 grams of fat per day on his low days. He went all the way up… he got leaner for about the first eight weeks. Each week he got leaner, and then he kind of maintained from there. He was up…he was two or three kilos under his stage weight, and he was up to 400 grams of carbs a day, and 90 grams of fat.
So it was pretty cool. Actually this happened to me this past year. Each time I reverse dieted it’s gotten a little bit better. This past year I was dieting down to the 205 weight class for the USAPL for raw nationals. They changed the weight classes…I’ll be real brief here…but it was either 231 or 205. Well I sit about 218 comfortably, but on my all by other powerlifting meets. I’m right in between that crack.
I dieted down, got down to like 212. I started at 221, got down to 212. I was about six months out and I was like, “Well, I’ll reverse diet and if I start to put on weight, well I’ll be stronger for the 231. And if I don’t put on weight I’ll be in a better metabolic position to diet back down.”
What happened was pretty cool. I went from about 200 grams of carbs a day intake to 400, and my body weight went down to 207. I did this over like six months and then all I had to do was basically a week and half before raw nationals, just kind of…you know, actually I did everything I talked about not doing. I cut my sodium, I [inaudible 57:32] .
Layne: …you know? Because I’m just looking to make a weight I’m not looking to look a certain way. But I can also tell you it doesn’t work because I looked like crap when I weighed in.
Layne: It definitely made it very easy for me to get in shape. I had to diet for a week essentially because the reverse diet went so well. It can go very, very well and then for some people, especially if they’ve been restricted for a long period of time, they may be a little bit sluggish in responding to it. That’s an important thing to know.
I always tell people, I got a little bit of criticism over reverse dieting and maybe people don’t want to…I think it’s still that old school, “Calories in, calories out” thinking and people are like, “Layne’s claiming that you can defy the laws of thermodynamics.” No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying is again, “Calories in versus calories out is a far more complex equation than we could have ever have hoped to understand, and our knowledge of that is still evolving.”
Mike: Also with the looking better effect it could be related to water retention too, right? As cortisol levels come down, as you come out of a deficit, that could play a role in it, couldn’t it?
Layne: Absolutely. Yeah. There could be a number of things. I always say I’m not arrogant enough to think I understand everything about the body.
Mike: This is one of those things though. It works. I run into that sometimes where you have people that they do a lot more reading on PubMed than they do lifting or trying things. I really don’t get into arguments with people like that.
There are certain cases where, as you say, things are much more complex. You can’t just read them. In the bad cases, they just read abstracts. I try to argue with abstracts. Certain things, they work. Maybe in 10 years we might understand why, but…
Layne: I’m actually trying to do research right now in collaboration with different labs to get research on this because this is something I’ve observed with clients. I don’t look at it as unscientific because science is just observation and I’ve observed this enough, with enough clients, to be relatively convinced that it has some benefit.
I always say, from a practical standpoint, what’s your other alternative? If you finish your diet or whatever, and you just go back to eating how you did before, you’re going to regain the weight. The data says you’re going to regain the weight. It’s all there. All the data’s there on metabolic adaptation.
Or you can continue to eat the calorie level you’re at right there till the end of time and not enjoy your life.
Layne: I don’t really think either one of those are options, so from a practical standpoint, I see reverse dieting to be very practical.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely. I had done both of those things. I’m sure you’ve tried it too. Keeping your calorie intake lower, shooting it up. Neither one of them are enjoyable.
Mike: Great. Where can people find the book? The Reverse Diet book?
Mike: OK cool. Reversedietingbook.com. Great. That’s where everybody…If you’re listening you can go. There’s a nice sales letter so you can go check it all out. With before and afters and explore the free chapter and all that stuff.
Layne: Exactly. You get a free chapter. Probably too much of a sales plug, but when you buy it, you get access to a private Facebook Page where Sohee and I, Sohee is the other author on the book, where Sohee and I answer questions or anything you may have. We’ve put up videos. It’s continuing education, continuing support.
You’ll also get her book on How to Count Macros, which is a really good book. Then you get…She has some sample workouts as well as conditioning workouts. It’s a bundle you’re getting. It’s pretty good.
Mike: Yeah, totally. I checked it all out. I like it a lot. I’ve plugged it before. One other thing that you mentioned that you’re working on is a clothing line.
Mike: Tell me about that.
Layne: This is in conjunction with Outwork Apparel. People have been asking for a long time. They’ll see me wearing Team Norton shirts or that sort of thing. If people would want to know where they can get those at, some of the shirts, those are just from my clients. I finally figured out, I needed to come out with something. People that wanted to show support could go ahead and buy.
Right now, we’ve got just about two t‑shirts. But we’re going to be coming out with hats, we’re going to come out with women shirts, we’re going to be coming out with hoodies, all kinds of stuff.
If you go to outworkapparel.com, and you to the Team Shop, you click on the Layne Norton Series, we have two shirts. We have the Fear Mediocrity shirt, which is the most popular one so far, and then we have the Dominate shirt.
They’re really high quality. They’ve got the Biolayne logo on the front and a slogan in the back. They’re really nice. Really soft cotton. They’re not the American Apparel but they’re similar with that, so really soft cotton. Very nice to wear when you’re working out.
People really seem to love it. The first day we sold out the first batch in two hours. We can’t seem to keep the Fear Mediocrity t‑shirt in stock. Let me see if we’ve actually…
Layne: Oh! It is fully stocked right now. I’ll have to make a post about that.
Mike: Then it will be gone?
Layne: Yeah. Exactly. Both of them right now are fully‑stocked except for the Dominate which sold out in 3XL. Go get them. If you’re interested in it, go get it now because I don’t they’ll be there very long.
Mike: Cool. Awesome. I want to check it out myself. OK great. Thanks a lot again for taking the time, Layne. I think this is great. I know these are all the type of things that I’d ask about so I know all the listeners are going to appreciate your insights on it.
Layne: I appreciate it, man. I think it was very conversational. You asked great questions.
Mike: Thanks. We’ll get it up and I’ll let you know when it’s live.
Layne: Sounds great, my friend.
Mike: Cool. Hey thanks for listening to the interview. I hoped you like it. Got a lot more cool stuff coming over the next couple of months. Definitely go check out Layne’s stuff. As you can tell, he knows what he’s doing. He really walks the walk. He doesn’t just talk the talk.
Also, just as a quick little update, Legion, my supplement line, is fully back in stock over at legionsupplements.com. L‑E‑G‑I‑O‑N supplements dot com. Sorry that I ran out of stock. What happened is, basically, my manufacturer is five weeks behind on a pretty big order, a reorder of products which is not usual for them.
It’s a very big company that are based out of Tennessee. They have every certification you could want. 700,000 square feet of production space. You wouldn’t think a company like this would have that happen. What did happen is they merged with even bigger company actually and the merger just exploded them. The first three weeks in January they were completely shut down. It wasn’t just me, our all customers no raws, no orders for raws got placed. Nothing happened for three weeks in January which ridiculous for a company that size and that’s just outrageous.
Anyway, so we are back in stock its we are like having a run on our stuff so we are getting everything smooth out, we actually may run out of stock of one or two products again before our big, big order kind of finally comes through. So if you’ve been waiting to stock up, now it’s time. I know that’s sounds marketing it sounds sales‑y but it’s true at the moment.
And hopefully going forward, we’ve put somethings in place. Obviously I’m reaching out to other manufacturers to make sure I have backups. So if my current doesn’t get there shit together I can just move on but hoping my current manufacturer can and we’ve put some things in place that should prevent this from happening again. So we’ll see, anyways I hope you are having a great week and I will see you next week.
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