The first Macro Experiment Interview is with Dr. Layne Norton -- world renowned physique coach, pro natural bodybuilder/power lifter with a PhD in Nutritional Sciences. As I have mentioned before, The Macro Experiment would not exist if it were not for Dr. Norton. His willingness to share his knowledge has saved me from a six-year-long battle with an eating disorder and is changing the lives of countless others for the good.
Dr. Norton and Sohee Lee are coming out with a book on Reverse Dieting in a few weeks that I am sure will completely revolutionize the fitness/nutrition world. You will not want to miss out on it and I will definitely keep this blog updated on its release! :)
So without further ado…
Dr. Norton: Thank you. The reverse dieting ebook is a book that Sohee and I approached from the perspective of "if I was totally lost about what reverse dieting was and how to do it, what would be the best way to explain it." We literally tried to think of every possible question, and answer those questions. As it stands, the book is over 20,000 words. Sohee and I spent a lot of time trying to make this great. As you know, we put a lot of free information out there, but this is a guide for people who want an all inclusive do it yourself guide to reverse dieting. I think it will be useful for people who are totally new to the concept, but also those who are eager to try it, who understand it, but who may not be confident enough to implement it.
Cait: As far as training goes, what would be your #1 piece of wisdom for female beginners in the gym? Any split recommendations?
Dr. Norton: Do NOT be afraid to train heavy and hard. You aren't going to get bulky. Muscle looks good. Women who are 'too muscular' are typically on steroids. In order for a woman to get 'too muscular' so that she looks manly, typically steroids are involved. Muscle looks great on most people. Now that said, a select few women are genetically blessed enough to get very muscular without drugs, but for most women out there, if they train hard and heavy it will do nothing but make them look better and help improve their long term metabolic rate. Don't focus on a magic routine or split. Focus on getting on a properly periodized training program and be consistent.
Cait: What advice do you have on finding balance in life and not becoming unhealthily obsessed with fitness/nutrition?
Dr. Norton: Excellent question and it's hard to answer. I think my friend Dr. Brian Whitacre (5x natural pro world lightweight champion) put it best. There is a hierarchy, and it goes something like this
4. Bodybuilding and Fitness
Brian always says he is as dedicated as he can possibly be to bodybuilding with the understanding that it does not leapfrog any of the top 3. So he works as hard as he can within that framework, but it does not come before family, friends, and work. He has a family (3 kids), is a great guy, and been very successful in bodybuilding... so I'd say he's figured it out as much as any of us have.
Cait: In your many years of coaching experience, I am sure you have worked with lots of individuals who have eating disorders or at least somewhere on the outer edges of the “normal eating” bell curve. What advice would you give to someone like this whose reverse dieting progress is impeded by binging/restricting behaviors?
Dr. Norton: I would recommend talking with a counselor or specialist if things get really bad. If in person treatment is not convenient or affordable, I recommend www.mindwiretherapy.com as they specialize in working with people within the fitness industry with eating disorders. If it has progressed to a full blown ED, just following any diet, even IIFYM or reverse dieting is going to be very difficult and possibly counter productive. So I recommend getting professional help. If it's just a small issue and not full blown, I would recommend self reflection and identification. For example, why am I binging? Am I truly hungry? Or is it a stress response? Talk yourself through the episodes. Typically just identifying the problem can be sufficient to cease it. I know of a few people who have talked themselves through and out of a binge episode, literally just by talking it through logically.
Cait: Can reverse dieting affect or change one’s “body type” (endo/mezo/ecto)?
Dr. Norton: I don't really think body types are a rule. I think they can 'tend' to be accurate, but I don't like them as 'rules.' Practically I have seen people go from maintaining their body weight on low calories, to much higher calories over time by properly dieting & reverse dieting. You yourself have experienced this.
Cait: I enjoy the IIFYM lifestyle because it allows me to maintain sanity and not feel guilty about eating “unclean” foods. There are just so many theories floating around out there about the long term effects of eating highly “processed” foods that it’s hard to know what is truth and what is bogus. Is there any valid scientific evidence regarding the long-term effects of eating organic/unprocessed/”clean” vs a diet that allows for some artificial sweeteners and ”processed” food?
Dr. Norton: When consumed in moderation, there is zero scientific evidence that I'm aware of demonstrating that 'processed' foods or artificial sweeteners cause any negative health outcomes. Any research I've seen is either correlation and can be explained by many other factors OR is using massive doses of the compounds that are in question. Way more than someone would ever get through a normal diet.
Cait: I am a huge fan of your new podcast, Physique Science Radio. What are some topics you guys will be covering in future episodes?
Dr. Norton: Lots of things: reverse dieting, periodization, proper fat loss, muscle gain, protein metabolism, carb metabolism, fat metabolism, fitness myths, blood flow restriction training, eating disorders, just all kinds of stuff!
Cait: Do you have any parting words of wisdom you could share with us?
Dr. Norton: Success in any endevor is a battle of attrition. Most people who achieve success aren't there simply because they have more talent or better genetics... some are. But most simply kept going through tough times while others crumbled around them. Resolve to never quit on your goals. If you never quit, there is no failure, there are only setbacks. Almost anything can be overcome by time and work.