IIFYM: First off, thanks for giving IIFYM.com this interview, Layne. As a former client of yours, I know how busy you are, so I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me, and our members. I am sure that most of our bodybuilding members know who you are, but for those of our readers that are not bodybuilders or athletes, can list your credentials and tell us who you are?
Layne: Thanks for having me. Well basically I’m a geek who really likes lifting heavy stuff and pushing myself. I have always been a science geek but when I fell in love with bodybuilding over a decade ago, it seemed like such a natural fit. Bodybuilding was after all nothing more than metabolism, biochemistry, and physiology applied. I was hooked. I did my undergraduate in Biochemistry and my PhD in Nutritional Sciences with my thesis research in the area of skeletal muscle protein and amino acid metabolism.
IIFYM: In addition to all that, you are a new father as well, right?! Congrats to you and Isabel on the birth of your son! I imagine that a lot has changed in your life!
Layne: Thanks. It has been quite an adventure. The best way I heard parenthood described by a friend was ‘man it is such an enormous time commitment, a huge pain in the ass, but it is ALL COMPLETELY WORTH IT’ and I have found that to be very true.
Some days taking care of a little one is a grind, but he is awesome and for the most part a very easy baby and we couldn’t be happier. I would not trade him for anything, not anything in the universe. I never knew you could love someone so much. I look forward to all his milestones.
IIFYM: A few months ago I saw your post on facebook where you announced that your clientele had grown so big that you needed to bring on a couple of nutrition coaches to help ease your load. I can imagine that taking BioLayne LLC from a one-man show to what it is now, must have been a big decision. Can you tell us about what went into that decision-making process, and maybe a little bit about your new staff?
Layne: That was tough. I swore I would never have employees… ever. But things just got to the point where I was referring away over 98% of inquiries and it was still taking me a few hours per day just to turn them away to other coaches & deal with the emails.
I always took great pride in answering every single email I receive and admitting to myself that I could no longer do that was very difficult. I hired Sohee Lee to help me run the business and she has become my right hand. She takes care of screening potential clients as well as any misc emails from people who want me to do speaking engagements or check out their products, etc.
One thing that I have to make clear though is that once a person makes the commitment to hire me, they only deal with me. All client/coach interactions occur directly from me. Sohee only takes care of screening clients and referring people we can’t help to other great coaches. I also hired Ben Esgro to be an overseer of my programs.
Ben is one of the smartest people I know and has a Masters in nutrition as well as an RD and CSCS. Ben acts as a double checker to ensure that I don’t miss anything when putting plans together. I am a perfectionist and sometimes even when you try to do things perfect, you still make mistakes. It’s like proofreading your own work: even though you proofread, you don’t catch everything.
You need an outside eye to catch the little mistakes you might have missed. So I hired Ben for that. Ben and Sohee have been phenomenal and are both great coaches in their own right.
IIFYM – I remember working with you in 2010, and even though you stressed the importance of eating healthy and nutritious food, you were less concerned with what I ate, and more concerned with the macronutrient breakdown of the food itself.
This was in the early before IIFYM became the exciting and often misunderstood phenomenon that it is today, but even back then you seemed to know what you were doing, while many other coaches seemed to be starving their clients with meal plans and copious amounts of cardio. Have you always promoted a macro based diet to your clients? Was there ever a time when you were more, Bro?
Layne: Well I always tracked macros and there is a story behind that. When I began bodybuilding I read all the muscle mags like anyone else. So, of course, I tried to copy the diets in the magazines, but being in college I did not have access or could not afford many of the foods they suggested. But the macros were always included in the diets so I figured even though I could not follow the diet exactly, I could still hit the macros.
I definitely was more ‘bro’ with my food choices when I started and after my first few shows I binged like crazy and rebounded like everyone else lol. I started looking for ways to stop the diet/binge cycle and figured that it was better to be able to have something I wanted and just fit it into my numbers than try to eat ‘clean’ constantly and when I finally had a slip up have it turn into a meltdown… and it worked.
I always tell people, I don’t have cheat days. I don’t need them. If I want something ‘bad’ I figure out what it will take in terms of macros and I fit it in. No guilt, no remorse, and progress continues.
Part of this thinking originated from Dr. Joe who told me that eating nutrient dense foods was important, but once you had fulfilled those requirements, if I wanted something ‘bad’ it was better to have it in moderation rather than try to restrict myself and binge like crazy when I would have something ‘bad.’
IIFYM: What are the flaws of IIFYM and how can it be improved upon?
Layne:Well I think the flaws are more cultural. I think we get very passionate about something that works for us and we try to force it on everyone else. I’m guilty of this as well. But remember, ‘those who are convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.’ Don’t try to force the IIFYM lifestyle down someone’s throat who isn’t interested, but if they are, try to give them good info to help them.
I think another problem is that many people get the wrong impression that IIFYMers only eat pop tarts & ice cream. This simply isn’t true.
If you are trying to hit a macronutrient composition that is favorable to optimal body composition and get enough protein and fiber in, it will be impossible to do that just eating ‘cheat’ foods. The point is that once you have covered your nutritional requirements with ‘good’ foods, you can afford some ‘bad’ foods in moderation.
For example, if I have a fast metabolism and I’m eating over 500g carbs and 100g fat in the offseason trying to gain muscle, will it hurt me to have a pop tart if I’ve hit my macros & fiber? Of course not.
But if I have a slow metabolism and I’m dieting down for a show and I’m only eating 100g carbs per day is it smart to have 74g of those carbs from 2 pop tarts? Absolutely not. That would be like earning an income of $50,000 per year and buying a $35,000 boat (assuming no savings).
IIFYM: I know that one of the most overlooked elements of IIFYM is fiber. In fact, It was only after talking to you that I decided to include a daily fiber target in the IIFYM Macro Calculator.
Any time we set up one of our clients with a Macro Blueprint, fiber is always dialed it. To us, it may as well be another macro.
Can you tell our readers your take on fiber and the important role it plays in dieting?
Layne: Fiber is important because it’s thermogenic, almost as thermogenic as protein. So someone eating 300g carbs with 15g fiber per day vs. someone eating 300g carbs with 40g fiber per day is not the same thing metabolically due to the difference in thermogenesis.
Fiber is also helpful for digestive health and gut motility. In fact, sugar has been demonized in the media but much of the research suggests that it really isn’t sugar that’s the problem, rather the problem is that sugary foods are typically low in fiber. This is why refined sugary foods that have low fiber tend to lead to problems when over-consumed, but consumption of fruit does not seem to have the same effect because fruit has fiber!
Additionally, consuming fiber with higher glycemic carbs tends to significantly blunt the glycemic response.
However, many people also become extreme with fiber and say ‘well if some is good then a crapload must be great!’ Not so fast, taking fiber too high will not give you further linear increases in metabolic rate and it can cause malabsorption, gas, bloating, and constipation!
I recommend no more than 60g fiber per day, and maybe up to 80g per day if your carb intake is super high (over 500g per day). I recommend a minimum of 20g per day.
IIFYM: There seems to be a lot of people and coaches in particular that either doesn’t understand macro based dieting or just outright refuse to acknowledge its validity. They dismiss it as a fad for lazy people.
Being the founder of IIFYM.com I am of the mindset that if a coach doesn’t understand the basic foundation of IIFYM or macro dieting, in particular, they are really doing themselves and their clients a disservice, and leaving a lot on the table. Do you see room for both camps or do you think as I do, that eventually, everyone is going to have to catch up to the new dieting standard that guys like you helped to popularize? Might flexible dieting really be a fad that will one day cease to exist?
Layne: I don’t think so because it is the most maintainable lifestyle. It isn’t a ‘diet.’ It is a system of living that allows you freedom. As for people who do IIFYM being ‘lazy’ I think it’s far more lazy to just eat the same thing every day until you crack and binge. I think it’s more work to keep track and make sure you are hitting your nutrient requirements.
IIFYM: I know you have done a lot to help rid the bodybuilding industry of careless and dangerous coaches but in doing so have managed to ruffle a few feathers. Especially when it comes to your more recent work on metabolic capacity and reverses dieting. As a pioneer, you are both loved and hated for what you bring and take away from this industry. Is there anything you would say to those that oppose you?
Layne: Either change your ways or deal with the consequences. People are no longer going to accept bullies as coaches. I’ve actually had many coaches who used to starve people and put them through these problems I talk about contact me and thank me for the information because they are using it to change and better help their clients. That is awesome.
What I despise are dogmatic coaches who refuse to admit they may have made mistakes and instead put the blame on the clients. I have heard horror stories you would not believe, but I always think it’s funny when a coach puts someone on a starvation diet of 800 kcal per day with 2 hours of cardio plus lifting sessions and then blames them when they rebound post show because ‘they just weren’t disciplined enough to stick to their diet after the show.’ Yea, like you, would be right? Hypocrites.
Overall the response has been positive from coaches though, in fact all the people I know that I would consider good coaches have been thrilled because they have wanted to say the same things for a long time.
I always find it hilarious that most of these bad coaches say that I just made up a lot of this stuff to get more clients. Try asking the thousands (yes thousands) of people I have referred to other coaches.
Ask other coaches who have received multitudes of referrals from me like Paul Revelia, Dr. Joe Klemczewski, Ben Esgro, Sohee Lee, Jennifer Jewell, Cliff Wilson, John Hollywood, William Grazione, Brooke Erickson, Chris & Eric Martinez, Team 3DMJ, Ava Cowan, Brian Melancon and MANY others if I’m just hogging business for myself.
Last year we referred out well over $100,000 worth of business to OTHER coaches, and that figure is just from coaches who reported back. I’ll bet the real figure is higher. So these coaches who say I made all this up can think whatever they want. I really don’t care.
Change of gears now.
IIFYM: The last time the world saw Layne Norton on the bodybuilding stage was 2010. Since then you have done 24 free video blogs and bunch or camps and workshops. With your amazing jump in popularity, I am confident that whatever bodybuilding show you compete in next will be sold out based on your fans alone! Are there any plans in the future to get on stage again?
Layne:Yes, it’s just really tough at this point because I have so many speaking opportunities and engagements around the world. I already basically operate at maximum capacity working well over 10-12 hours per day so anything extra takes away from business or family. It’s tough. But I will get onstage again, I just don’t know when.
IIFYM: Care to share your offseason macros with our IIFYM readers?
Layne: Currently around 250g protein, 500g carbs, and 100g fat per day.
IIFYM – What about your powerlifting career? I’ve seen your videos and you are throwing up immense amounts of weight, especially for a guy with a history of natural bodybuilding. Can you tell the IIFYM.com members what it draws you into powerlifting and what changes you have seen in your body since you started?
Layne:I started powerlifting as something to do in between bodybuilding shows to keep me focused in the offseason. Now it’s possible I’m a better powerlifter than I am a bodybuilder LOL. My best competition raw lifts in the 220 class are 617 squat, 391 benches, and 700 deadlift
IIFYM: Now that you have taken three years off and have worked on your metabolic capacity, what do you think your dieting macros will start out at? Any prediction on where they might end up?
Layne: I would probably start out around 270 protein, 250 carbs, and 65 fat with higher carb days at 250 protein, 400 carbs, and 60 fat if I had to guess
IIFYM: You mentioned that you are going to be starting a new podcast on BioLayne.com. What can your listeners expect to hear you discuss? What are some of the subjects that you want to tackle?
Layne: Yes. Sohee Lee and I are starting Physique Science podcast and we will tackle any subject dealing with nutrition, training, and fitness & general. IIFYM will definitely be covered.
IIFYM: Are there any sponsors or companies that you work with that you think our members should check out?
- www.activewearonline.com for my Australian friends
IIFYM: Great list, and for the sake of full disclosure to our IIFYM readers, I am the founder of the healthy oatmeal company you listed, MyOatmeal.com.
This is the part of the interview I like to call RAPID FIRE IIFYM.
I informed the IIFYM.com facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/iifym) that I was going to interview you, and they came up with a few questions.
One word or short answers are fine:
How much can you and do you curl? srs
Layne: Best ever was 65 lb dumbbells for like 6 with good form I think. Nothing spectacular.
Do you have a new version of phat that might be coming out soon?
Layne: There are no ‘new’ or ‘old’ versions. This is all a misunderstanding. PHAT is totally modular.
Touch and go deadlifts vs reset deadlifts?
Layne: Reset for safety, form, and for actually being a man and doing it the hard way =)
Why the switch to sumo?
Layne: I can lift the same or more as conventional but more safely and efficiently.
What is the most effective tricep building exercise?
Layne: Loaded question, but I always like doing skull crushers with an EZ bar lowering to behind the head (not to the skull)
Can having fiber and multivitamin pills be a replacement for eating “clean food?
Layne: I am not sure, I’m tempted to say not necessarily since many micronutrients tend to work synergistically in fruits & vegetables but there is no research on it.
Is there any reason to directly train the anterior delts when the goal is hypertrophy?
Layne: Well sure… if you want bigger anterior delts
And this last one from Chris Lavado from LOA:
Layne: How important is your physique or strength/performance in the grand scheme of life.
I can only answer as it relates to me. I love bodybuilding. I love lifting heavy weights. After 15 years I still love it. I still get butterflies before a heavy leg day. But it doesn’t define me as a person.
Having a shredded 6 pack doesn’t make me a better person, and carrying some extra fat doesn’t make me a worse person so long as I’m healthy. When I was younger (20ish) I put so much emphasis on my physical appearance and used to beat myself up.
Looking back, it was foolish, but I am human. Now if you told me that I will never look better than I do today, then I would be disappointed but it wouldn’t ruin my life and I wouldn’t obsess over it. I train and compete for me, I do it to push myself, to see what I can do. I don’t do it because “OMG I am so fat and I need competition to motivate me to get shredded!”
Thanks so much for your time Layne.