Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well basically I’m a science geek who loves to lift heavy things. I started bodybuilding at age 17 in order to build more muscle to improve my confidence and increase my self-esteem. Also, I wanted more attention from girls LOL. Over time I developed a pure love for training. I went on to win my pro card in natural bodybuilding and actually win my class at a pro show. In the last 5 years, I’ve become very involved with powerlifting and have managed to win USA Nationals twice as well as a silver medal at the world championships. I also set a world squat record of 303kg at 91.5 kg bodyweight that has since been broken. In my academic career, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and completed a PhD in Nutritional Sciences in 2010 from the University of Illinois.
2) What are your top nutrition tips for people looking to gain muscle?
Consistency is by FAR the most important aspect for building muscle. Muscle building Is an unbelievably slow process and so making sure that you put in the work every single day, every single week, every single month, every single year is the most important thing you can do in order to see the results you want. Many people are able to make short term improvements, but long term, major improvements, require major commitment. This is also why it’s very important to follow a program/routine that you actually enjoy and can be adherent to. The best program means nothing if you can’t stick with it.
3) What are your top nutrition tips for those looking to lose fat while maintaining as much muscle as possible?
Number one would be to see my comments regarding consistency as detailed previously. However, in addition to that I really recommend that people take things slow. The faster you try to drop bodyfat, the more likely you are to also lose muscle. Further, the faster you lose it, the more likely you are to regain it rapidly when you are done.
4) Is timing your protein intake important? Do you believe there are benefits to distributing it in a certain way?
Nutrient timing has mostly been overblown. However, there is evidence that protein distribution matters. My final study from my PhD thesis demonstrated that you can’t make up for low protein earlier in the day by overconsuming it later in the day. Based on our current understanding, it appears consuming sufficient protein is the most important factor. But it’s not completely unimportant to distribute it relatively evenly across all your meals either.
5) If there is a difference related to the distribution of protein, does that mean intermittent fasting may not be as effective for somebody looking to improve their body composition?
I think that IF is completely fine for body composition in so far as lean body mass vs. body fat. In our study the unevenly distributed group still had the same bodyfat level. However, their lean body mass was distributed more towards visceral tissues like the liver vs. skeletal muscle. Thus, if you are looking to optimize muscle mass, I recommend protein at breakfast, etc. Keep in mind ‘lean body mass’ is not the same thing as ‘muscle mass’ because lean body mass includes ALL non-fat tissues like heart, liver, intestine, muscle, hair, skin, bone, etc.
6) Can you explain what reverse dieting is and how it might be valuable for some people?
Reverse dieting is a systematic way of adding calories over time in order to increase metabolic rate and limit fat gain. The goal is that one’s metabolic rate climbs as calories go up with a limited amount of fat gain, making it easier to maintain a lean physique and lose fat in the future as your long term metabolic rate increases.
7) What does your current diet look like?
I am actually reverse dieting myself. Currently I’m eating 240g protein, 300-330g carbs, and 100g fat per day. I eat higher calories on more difficult training days, and lower calories on my less difficult training days.
8) Research indicates that within three years of finishing a diet, 95 percent of people regain all or more of the weight they’ve lost. Do you have advice for people looking to be in the 5% that maintain their weight-loss?
-Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s something you can sustain in the long term.
-Stay away from fad diets, your results simply will not last
-Once you reach your goal, slowly add calories back in so you can maintain most of your weight loss but get back to a more reasonable and maintainable calorie level.
9) Do you have an opinion on whether mini-cuts (referring to 2-6-week cuts) are effective? Or do you believe longer bulk and cut cycles would be more beneficial for most?
I think that they can be beneficial for people who are in a good metabolic place and prefer to use them to minimize bodyfat gain during a lean bulk, but don’t want to do a super slow lean gaining phase.
10) Is there anything else you would like to add?
Remember that most people don’t get results not because they don’t know what to do, but because they don’t create habits that allow them to be successful. There really aren’t any secrets out there, but the people who are successful, find a way to create habits that are conducive to success, and that goes for any aspect of life. Thanks for the time and the interview.
Layne Norton has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and is a professional bodybuilder, powerlifter and former world record holder.