About-Muscle.com talk with IFPA Pro Bodybuilder and Nutrition Expert Layne Norton, he earned his PhD in nutritional science making him mentally tougher. Today he one of todays most knowledgeable bodybuilders
Could You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And How You Got Involved In Fitness?
I was picked on a lot as a kid, when I went to school I would fear every day because there were about a dozen people whose mission in life seemed to be making me feel terrible about myself and embarrassing me. The summer after my freshman year of high school I decided that I was going to do something about it. I went to the library and checked out about a half dozen books on weight lifting and started doing a routine I put together using some sand weights in my basement.
What Made You Decide To Take Things To The Next Level and Start Competing?
I didn’t get really serious with it until I graduated high school. I had played baseball all the way through high school and once that was over I no longer had a competitive outlet. I loved weight lifting and building muscle, so bodybuilding was the next logical step for me. I did my first show at age 19 and won the teen & novice tall classes, and was totally hooked from that point on!
Have You Always Been in Really Good Shape or is it Something That You Had to Work Really Hard to Achieve?
Well I was never fat or anything, I was always skinny but had very little muscle. So I guess I was in good aerobic shape because I ran a lot but I didn’t have muscle. When I first got into training, I would run more than anything because it was an outlet for my anger and frustration, as I got older I transitioned that into weightlifting.
What Made You Decide to Get Your PhD in Nutritional Sciences?
I’ve always been pretty cerebral with the way I approach things. When I got serious about baseball early in high school I knew I’d have to work really hard to get better, but while my parents supported me, neither of them played sports and couldn’t really throw a ball or practice with me. We couldn’t really afford a private coach so I went to the library and checked out every book I could on proper baseball mechanics and learned as much as I could about the game so I could train myself. Everyday after practice I would come home and throw a tennis ball against a brick wall near my house for hours a time training myself and teaching myself how to hit, throw and field. I was never a huge star in high school but I did letter in baseball 3 years in a row.
I translated this sort of cerebral mentality into weightlifting and bodybuilding. When I got interested in training I read as much as I could, but there was so much conflicting information, I really had no idea whose ideas were right and which ones were BS. So I decided to learn more about the human body, thus I majored in biochemistry in college. Near the end of my college degree however, I felt like I still did not know enough to really be comfortable. So I started thinking about graduate school for nutrition, specifically for protein metabolism. I was fortunate enough to study under a GREAT advisor and one of the foremost experts of protein metabolism in the world, Dr. Donald Layman at the University of Illinois. While I was there I had access to the minds of other PhD students and professors who have are or have gone on to become forefront experts in metabolism like Dr. Gabriel Wilson and his brother Dr. Jacob Wilson. Dr. Chris Moulton, Dr. Suzanne Devkota, Dr. Denise Lasker, Dr. Peter Garlick, Dr. Tracy Anthony and her husband Dr. Josh Anthony as well. Being surrounded by people that driven and good natured ensured that I would be successful, I would have literally needed to try to fail LOL.
How Has Your PhD in Nutritional Sciences Helped You Achieve Greater Results?
Well it definitely made me mentally tougher. My PhD was FAR more difficult than any bodybuilding prep I’ve ever done. I FAILED HUNDREDS OF TIMES when trying to complete my PhD. My first 3 years of graduate school produced virtually no usable data because I was having such a difficult time getting the analysis for protein synthesis working. The way protein synthesis is measured using stable isotopes is very involved and very unique and probably only about a dozen labs in the world are set up to properly do it. So the first 3 years of my graduate school were spent failing over and over again trying to get the analysis working. Fortunately, I was surrounded by smart, driven people, and Gabriel Wilson helped me discover what we had been doing wrong. After we got the analysis working we collected data very rapidly. But those first 3 years were hell mentally. I wanted to quit so many time, but thanks to a great support structure (my wife especially), I stuck it out and am so happy I did. So that taught me much more about just never quitting no matter how tough things got. But I also actually took some of the information I acquired during my research of my PhD and actually changed the way I ate, including switching to eating bigger meals less frequently and how I dosed BCAAs and distributed my protein & carbohydrate intake and I do feel it made a difference in my physique. So that’s pretty cool to be able to say that my data actually changed the way I ate.
What The Best Science Based Nutrition Tips You Would Give to Someone Trying to Build Muscle?
Be patient. People think building muscle takes a magic routine or head knowledge, but in reality it’s 80% attitude and not quitting. You can do a ton of things wrong, but if you train hard for a long period of time, you will get results. Most people who don’t get results end up that way because they get frustrated and quit. Show me someone who has trained hard and been consistent with nutrition for 20 years and doesn’t have a good physique. I’ll bet you’ll be hard pressed to find them.
What Does Your Workout Look Like?
I use a system of training incorporating Non-Linear Undulating Periodization Training, most people know it as PHAT (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training) and you can find templates on it with a quick google search. Though I’d impress upon people that the ‘routines’ you find are just EXAMPLES. PHAT is a system of training, it is NOT a set routine. So you need to read the information out there about it in order to properly implement it.
An example split of PHAT is
Day 1: Upper body Power/max effort
Day 2: Lower body Power/max effort
Day 3: Rest/HIIT Cardio
Day 4: Chest/back hypertrophy & speed work
Day 5: Lower body hypertrophy & speed work
Day 6: Shoulders and Arms Hypetrophy
Day 7: Rest/ HIIT Cardio
Typically I’ll take at least one full day off per week.
What Sort Of Rep Range Do You Use?
I use all different rep ranges. From 1-30. Almost all rep ranges have usefulness and a place in a routine.
Would You Say That Powerlifting Has Had Big Impact on Your Physique?
No question about it. Probably the single best thing I’ve ever done for my physique was powerlifting.
What Does Your Diet Look Like?
I have macronutrient and fiber targets above that I hit depending upon my goals at the time. I don’t have a set intake of meal 1: 5 oz fish and 3 oz rice’ or any stupid cookie cutter crap like that. I have macronutrient and fiber targets to hit and I hit them. I don’t believe in unrestricted cheat meals. If I want something that is not a traditional bodybuilding plan, I’ll have it on occasion and hit my numbers and not beat myself up over it. The normal restrictive meal plans that people follow that promote them to binge when they go off plan are stupid and promote eating disorders. Right now in the offseason I’m eating around 255g protein per day, 300-400g carbohydrates per day, and 80-90g fat per day and making sure I get at least 50g fiber. Dieting for a show I’ll be around 275g protein, 200g carbs, 60g fat for most of the time but near the end I’ll have to go as low as 100g of carbs and 45g of fat to get the final ounces of fat off me.
You’re Known For Your Short Bulking Cycles, Why Don’t You Stick to The Traditional 8-12 Week Cycle?
Well I do sometimes, it just depends on my goals at the time. The idea of cyclical bulking is to help keep you leaner overall and take advantage of favourable metabolic swings.
Would Say it is Possible to Burn Fat and Build Muscle at The Same Time?
It’s possible, but typically it only really occurs in people who are 1) obese 2) beginners 3) on drugs or 4) any combination of 1-4. Now I’m not saying that no one has ever lost fat & gained muscle at the same time if they weren’t any of those categories, but typically it is quite rare. Muscle building and protein synthesis are energetically driven as well as training & protein driven, if you don’t have sufficient energy, it doesn’t make sense for the body to build tissue.
People Convince Themselves to Stay Away From Carbs When Dieting, Do You Think They Should or is This A Mistake?
It depends on the person. I think it’s foolish to recommend EVERYONE to ALWAYS avoid carbs. Now some people who have very low insulin sensitivity with slow metabolisms will definitely have to go lower carb in order to get sufficiently lean but I know plenty of people who have been able to diet with carbs very high. I had a client win his pro card last weekend and was completely shredded and never had to drop his carbs below 200g per day and during most of the prep he didn’t go below 300g per day. But it’s very individual. What works for one person will be disaster for another. That is why I chuckle at these self proclaimed ‘experts’ who hand out these cookie cutter diets to their clients.
What Are Your Plans For The Future?
At this point I still have some goals in powerlifting before I go back to bodybuilding. I want to break 1700 lb total raw at 220 lbs. I’d like to make a run at the all time drug tested raw 220 lb total without knee wraps as well. And I really want to squat 600+, bench 400+, and pull 700+ in the same meet.
More From Layne Norton?
I also have 2 DVDs out already, Layne Norton Unleashed and Layne Norton Reloaded and are both available through bodybuilding.com.
If Someone Wants To Connect With You How Can You Be Contacted?
You can contact Layne Norton on the following networks: