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Can Lifting Weights Strengthen Your Brain? Making Smarter Choices and Life Hacks w/ Layne Norton PhD

by Faster Than Normal

We’re talking about workouts & and how the pursuit of physical fitness strengthens your brain, mind-body inter-communication, re-defining your identity and the snooze bar challenge today! Layne Norton holds a PhD in nutritional sciences and a BS in biochemistry and has contributed numerous original scientific research publications to journals such as The Journal of Nutrition, American Journal of Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, and the International Journal for Sports Nutrition. He has been involved in the fitness industry for over 20 years as a competitor, coach, author, and entrepreneur. He has competed as a pro natural bodybuilder as well as pro natural powerlifter, winning nationals twice (2014 and 2015) and achieving a gold medal in the squat at 2015 IPF World Championships (668 lbs) and a silver medal overall. He has published various books including Fat Loss Forever and the Complete Contest Prep Guide. More recently he co-founded Carbon Diet Coach a nutritional coaching app available for iOS and Android. He also recently launched a new supplement line, Outwork Nutrition.  Enjoy!



In this episode Peter & Layne Norton discuss:

1:05  –  Intro and welcome Layne Norton!

2:30    So, 668 lbs… dude.. let’s talk about that small elephant you lifted!

4:00    On “let’s work out right now, no, Now”

5:00 –  On the process of exercise and healthy habits/losing weight and keeping it off 

5:40    On the term “low-recency” and what that means for losing weight

7:00    On keeping your resolutions and what that means/all it entails

9:34  –  On mind-body inter-communication

10:34  –  On how ADD/ADHD tendencies can border addiction – how one skip day can spiral into getting off the repetition train. 

12:00 –  On cultivating confidence; setting smaller goals to achieve long-term & larger results and correcting setbacks

12:55    The one week, “no snooze bar” challenge

14:39  –   On rituals vs resolutions; breaking old habits & behaviors; re-defining your identity

17:00    On examininging your habits and behaviors 

18:35  –  On healthier outcomes via smarter choices and life hacks!

20:00    On the psychology of eating

21:09    On CBT & DBT and how it can be an extremely helpful tool

22:50    Tell people how they can find you and get more info on you?  @biolayne on Twitter  INSTA  YouTube  and LayneNorton on Facebook  You can find his books, products and services via his website: and his new App Carbon Diet Coach <—here!

23:50    Layne Norton, thanks so much for taking the time being on Faster Than Normal, I appreciate it.  Guys, as always, Faster Than Normal, if you liked what you heard drop us a review.  We appreciate you guys being on the podcast, we appreciate people listening. We are, as far as I can tell, one of the top, if not the top ADHD podcasts out there, so I love that, and that was all because of you guys, and I am eternally grateful. If you have a guest that you think might work, or maybe it’s you, someone you know, You can always reach me via [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials. We would love to hear from you guys, uh, it thrills us to no end when we get notes. Also, one final thing, if you have the book, if you’ve read Faster Than Normal the book, go on to wherever you bought it or – whatever, drop us a review, you’d be amazed at how those reviews really, really help. As always, thank you for listening. ADHD is a gift, not a curse. We are looking forward to seeing you next week, you guys take care.

24:09    Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits!


Hi everyone,  you are listening to another episode of Faster Than Normal,  the neurodiversity podcast where we understand that ADD and ADHD, anything along those lines, is a gift, not a curse, and the more people we get to understand that, the better everyone’s lives will be! 🙂 We are thrilled that you are here today, my name is Peter Shankman, I am your host as I have been for the past 200 something episodes, and that will probably continue to be long in the future because I don’t like change.  Anyway, great to have all of you listening today and I want to introduce a man who I’ve been following on Twitter for at least God, three, four, five years maybe now.   Layne Norton is a PhD in nutrition… nutritional science, and a BS in biochemistry. He has written numerous scientific research publications to journals such as the Journal of Nutrition, American Journalist Psychology, I’m sorry. Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, the International Journal for Sports Nutrition. He’s been involved in the fitness industry for over 20 years as a competitor, a coach, an author, and entrepreneur,  yes, if you haven’t already figured it out, this is a fitness episode. He’s competed as a pro natural bodybuilder, as well as a pro natural powerlifter winning nationals twice in 2014 and 2015 and achieving a gold medal in the squat, at the 2015 IPF World Championships, 668 pounds. So repeat that, he squatted 668 pounds as I look over in the corner at my two 25 pound kettlebells, and I’m so inspired that I’m just going to end this interview and go and eat a pizza… Layne, welcome, it is, it is great to have you today, man. 

Thanks Peter. I appreciate that introduction and I love how you said that, uh, ADD and ADHD are, aren’t a curse and uh, my Mother has actually always referred to it as the gift. 

Yes. Your Mother is a very smart woman. That is exactly what it is. It is, it is a gift   We look at it aligns or just because it’s different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, and that I’ve been, I’ve been living that life for four years. Um, okay. I just want to get that away, 668 pounds? Dude, that’s like, that’s, that’s damn that’s impressive, that is pretty impressive. 

Yeah. I think, um, you know, it’s funny when you, when you’re doing it and you’re, you’re in there and you’re training for it and the load kind of, you know, it’s not like I woke up one morning.  It was just like, wow, that last workout was really good, I added  300 pounds on my squat. You know, this was, you know, a decade and a half in the works. 

Of course 

Um, and so you kind of lose perspective on it. And then now, looking back, I mean, I, I’m still lifting, I would still like to do another meet. I’ve kind of been battling a few different injuries and whatnot, but I’m looking back, I’m like, damn, I was bad.  I was bad. You know? Like, um, so yeah, it was definitely a very, very, very proud moment in my life.  was, was that one.

I’m sure. I think one of the reasons I hate Facebook so much is because it shows you the bad times and it also shows you the really great times. It’s like, hey, look at, you, look at how hot you were four years ago, you f’ing fat ass now, you sit there and eat that pizza you know, four years ago, man, you looked awesome. 

So I definitely, definitely can be the unfortunate reminders, but, um, you know, it’s, it’s all everything we go through, uh, whether it’s good or bad kind of shapes us and makes us how we are, so, um, I’m grateful for the good stuff, but I’m also grateful for the bad stuff because in the end, the bad stuff may be better.

Oh, Amen, I’m a huge believer in failure. I, you know, I won’t hire anyone, I won’t work with anyone that hasn’t failed before, you gotta learn from it. So we were talking offline, you know, just this morning… so I have a great trainer. He, he, he’s an equal ops and I’ve been working remotely with him the better part of a year.  I turn on FaceTime and I have a mat and I have my kettlebells and I have my, my, you know, my foam roller and, and we’ve, we’ve had great workouts, and I’ve actually gained a ton of muscle this year because when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, right. So, you know, kettlebells, that’s what I got, that’s what I’ve been using and, um, I was exhausted this morning and I, I woke up and I texted him like, you know, My daughter was up last night. She wasn’t feeling that hot, so I didn’t get a lot of sleep. Can we move this to this afternoon? Or maybe we could do this like tomorrow or something like that, and he just texts me and he’s like, no, let’s do it now. I’m like, “Oh, you dick, right? but he was actually 100% right, because it wouldn’t have happened later right?   So, I mean, I think one of the first things I want to talk to you about is, you know, you to train for competitions, you don’t just decide, Oh, I’ll train, I don’t even want to train today. That’s, that’s dedication, right, and I’m sure there are days when you wake up and you’re like, man, I don’t want to do this. I want to stay in bed or I want to eat that pint  of Rocky Road or whatever, talk us through that process. 

Yeah, so I think, um, I talk about this a lot actually in terms of fat loss.  Um, uh, one of my big passions is kind of looking at people who are able to lose weight and keep it off, cause they’re kind of unicorns, to be honest, if we’re talking about weight loss more than three years, um, for the most part, you know, 80 to 90% of people will not lose weight and keep it off over a three-year period.  So, um, one of the things that they found,  that the people who were really good at that, who were able to do that, uh, one of the biggest character traits they had was what they call it Low-Recency. Now, recency is basically a measure of how much you value, uh, short-term information versus long-term information.  Um, so for this, for the purpose of this, you can kind of look at like, um, delayed gratification, it’s not the same thing, but for the, for this discussion, it kind of is. So it’s like you just said, OK, that, that extra, you know, sleep in, you know, that extra bowl of ice cream or, or whatever it may be, that’s going to make me feel better in the short-term, but what is my long-term goal?  And does that fit my long term goal? And I’m not saying that you should never sleep in, I’m not one of those people. I’m also not saying you should never have ice cream, that’s not what I’m saying, but I’m saying, you know, if it’s not going to fit within your calorie goals or that sort of thing, like, what do I value more?  Well, I value one thing I’ve always been really good at now. I wasn’t always good at it, but I’ve gotten, I’ve become really kind of a bad-ass at it is,  I will watch a blade of grass grow in terms of my goals. I, I, I don’t care if it takes me five years. I, if I am confident that I know if I have this process of how to get there, I’m confident that if I put the work in, I will get there.  Now that the problem becomes… is, you know, when we first started going, we talked about some resolutions, right? We’re really motivated, like we’re fired up, you know, this and that. Well, let a few weeks go by and some work stress creep in,  you know, um, you know, some emotions like breakups, all that kind of stuff, all of that stuff can derail you is actually you just talked about in a systematic review of people who lose weight and keep it off.  Um, and so… what, what, what does that mean? Well, you experienced it today, you didn’t feel good, um, you didn’t really want to do it, and I’ll say this a lot to people I work with, or, or people my team works with, because I have a team of coaches now, or people who use our nutritional coaching app. Um, I’ll say, you know, it doesn’t have to feel good.  It doesn’t always have to feel good, you just have to do it. Okay. Now, again, I’m not saying you can never have a day off, that… that’s not it, but you have to be careful because the one day off can start to spiral. You know, if you’re, if you’ve been hitting it hard and you know, you’re a little bit more sore than normal and you feel like a rest day could be productive so that you can have better workouts later in the week, that’s a productive rest day. But if you’re taking a rest day, because you’re just not feeling it, or you’re just not motivated, that sort of thing, you have to be really careful because that can kind of start to spiral over time, and usually what happens is that once you get back into it, once you actually get through that, that barrier of, oh, I don’t want to do this and you start, you actually feel fine.  So I, Peter, I actually had the same thing yesterday. I got like, I had some like, business stress and some other stuff, and I got like two or three hours of sleep that night. I just did not feel good, and. I thought about missing my workout. And then I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna, I’m just going to go in and just, just kinda go through the motions, right?  Like, I’m not going to expect you to big PR’s or anything, but I’m just going to warm up and we’ll see what’s there, right, and you know what happened? I actually had a pretty good workout and that doesn’t always happen like that. But I think David Goggins says it like, you know, I let mediocrity think it’s going to win.  So. I’ll just do a little bit, you know, and then when you get into it and the blood gets moving and you get kind of in your flow, a lot of times it ends up being better so I always tell people like, don’t rely on motivation to keep you going. Motivation is like nitrous oxide on a car, on a race car, right, it will help you go really fast over a really short period of time, but, uh, dedication and determination and perseverance, that’s your gasoline. That’s, what’s actually going to take you places. 

That’s a great, that’s a great thought. I mean, there’s also the, the, the premise that what was the quote? Um, you can’t wait for your body to say, it’s ready. The mind has to be ready and tell the body it’s ready. 

Yeah. I mean, I tell people if you’re waiting for the perfect time for, to go after your goals, there’s never going to be a perfect time. And one of the things I always, I always fall back to is I’ll say, listen, you know, a lot of people have different challenges.  You got three kids, you’re a single mom. You’ve got, you know, whatever. Maybe you have, you know, some kind of learning disability or you have a physical disability  totally get that, you know, not everybody in an ideal world, we’d all start in the 50 yard line right? That’s not how it works. Some of us start on the other team’s one yard line and some of us start in our own one yard line, right. Um, but you have the ability to, to win, to score and no matter how bad you’ve got it, I’m almost certain that somebody came from worse and did better with it. So it is possible, 

Well I mean, I think that’s an interesting point because you know, the, especially what you said earlier about the premise that, um, you know, it tends to spiral.  I, a lot of times ADHD. ADD and  things like that are, are, are very, very close to addiction, addictive personality  and things like that.  And you know, for me, I know I have to do what’s… “I call it playing the tape forward” you know. You know, okay. I don’t really want to get out of bed. How am I gonna feel in 12 hours, right? Let’s say I do sleep in, and then I go to work and whatever. Well, I’ve slept in now. I don’t have that dopamine hit that I was hoping for, and I’m a little slower I’m going slower. Probably haven’t had the best meetings or gotten them the best work done. Well, I haven’t got done. That’s worked. I’m probably a little pissed off, and how do I usually rectify that? Well, now I’ve ordered a pizza. So that, that one decision. right, decided to sleep in when I didn’t really need to,  has ruined a day, right. And now, well, it’s ruined a day. Well, now I’m really pissed off, I might drink.  Well, if I drink what’s gonna happen tomorrow morning, right?  And the next thing, you know, three weeks later I’ve gained 20 pounds.  

That definitely happens, and I think, you know, one of the things people ask, like, how did you, like, did you, were you born with this mindset or did you have to cultivate it?  And you know, I’ll give credit to my parents. I really had great parents in terms of, you know, like believing in me and pushing me, and we didn’t, we didn’t have a lot of money or anything like that, but my parents were hard workers and I saw that, and I think that that was very important for me. Um, but I didn’t have a lot of confidence growing up, and so how do you cultivate that? Well, cultivating, that was honestly just setting like little goals. and, and hitting those goals and then setting ones that are a little bit bigger and achieving those,  and the ones that are a little bit bigger, and then you start to hit some setbacks, cause when you, when you have small goals, you have small setbacks, but when you have big goals, you have big setbacks.  It’s usually pretty proportionate, and so, you know, I was able to grow my confidence in proportion to those goals I was hitting. And then what really helped me gain confidence was overcoming setbacks. When I started overcoming setbacks. And especially when it was set, when there were setbacks where other people were telling me, Oh, you’re not going to be able to get past that.  When I got past them, that started developing an enormous amount of confidence in myself, and if you asked my wife, she would say, I almost have too much confidence in myself because, you know, she’s like, you think you could just get through anything. So, um, you know, but that takes time to cultivate. 

And one of the things I, I.  somebody asked me the other day, like, how do you know, how do you fit so much in like, what do you, what do you do? Like what’s, you know, and there’s no, there’s no like true hack or anything like that. Like that, that doesn’t exist. But one thing I’ll say that I, I don’t do, is I don’t use the snooze button. I don’t hit, I don’t hit the snooze button once my, I… if I need to, if I need 10 extra minutes, I’m going to set my alarm for that 10 extra minutes, like I’m not going to hit a snooze button because honestly, the sleep you get during that extra 10, 20, 30 minutes is not even any good, and now you set yourself back in terms of time, and you also know deep down in your heart, I had the chance to get up and get after it, and I didn’t do it. So I think one of the things that you can start out with for just like a little small, tiny win, like a micro win, is dedicate yourself to, you know, for a week, you’re not going to hit the snooze button. You’re just going to get up and get after it. And you know, when you do that, even if you get up and you feel terrible, you might feel terrible, but at least mentally you say, you know what? You got out of bed and you started getting it done.

90% of the time,  the, the mental breakthrough of, hey, I did that. I mean, look, I mean, I, I, you know, my, I, my trainer FaceTimed me this morning and I’m like, hi, he’s like, all right, let’s do it. I’m like, shut up. Just, just talk slow. I don’t want to talk, you know, but by the end of the workout, I’m like, all right, you’re right, thanks, whatever, shut up. You know, and it was, I mean, it’s like, it’s like, I turn into Archer when I’m with them. I’m like, “Hey, shut up” You know, but he’s on it, he’s right? I did it. I felt much better, and my day has been that much more productive right?  It’s a lot of what you’re saying goes into the premise that I’ve set up, um, uh, rituals, not resolutions, right? You’re not gonna lose 20 pounds the first two weeks of… you know, of a new year, but if the ritual is “get up and go to the gym four times a week,” that’s accomplishable, right. 

For sure, like I said, I just got done reading a, a big systematic review, uh, ironically, uh, kind of, if I can pull up my own ego here, the, the researcher who published it actually said that my book inspired them to, to do their PhD, which I thought was really, really cool.  Um, They talked about rituals, uh, in terms of a, what are some commonalities amongst people who lose weight and keep it off. And part of that is reinventing their identity because part of their identity is tied up in their old habits and behaviors. And a lot of people want to still hang on to those, but transition into a new body, new health, and that’s just not the way it works, you know, if you want to, if you want to shed your skin and go through a transformation, like it’s truly going to be a transformation, because if you don’t transform internally, any external transformation you make, is  just going to be short-lived. And so you’re talking about habits and behaviors, uh, one of the things that shocks people, when I tell them the data, there are no studies out there in terms of like meta-analyses, which are basically studies of studies, that show that there’s one diet that emerges as superior for weight loss, all diets, in terms of long-term weight loss tend to be pretty similar in how much weight loss they produce, and they tend to be pretty similar in adherence level. But what does bubble up in terms of people who lose weight and keep it off,  is a series of habits and behaviors like cognitive restraint. Self-monitoring. exercise, uh, those sorts of things that low-recency, like we just talked about it’s habits and behaviors, because if you don’t change your habits and behaviors, knowledge is nothing without habits and behaviors.  And I’ll give a great example. Um, you know, so what ends up determining weight loss is calories in calories out, right? I mean, that’s it. Now people will argue this, this and that,  alot of that’s because, people don’t want to take responsibility because that’s calories in calories out. There’s an inherit responsibility in that.  And people say, well, that’s too simplistic to explain all this just because the answer is simple, doesn’t mean the execution is easy. OK, like a great example. Is saving money. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that in order to save money, you need to earn more money than you spend. Now you can say things like, well, but you know, interest rates can fluctuate and you know, your income can fluctuate if you’re an entrepreneur and your investments can fluctuate and your expenses can pop up that you didn’t plan for all of that’s true.  That’s all true, but it doesn’t change the fact that in order to save money, you need to earn more than you spend. But why don’t people like keeping a budget? Because if you keep a budget, if you have to actually look at what you’re spending money on, then you have to admit the fact that dang, I spent $1200 bucks on eating out at restaurants last month, I could have saved that.  And people don’t want that, a lot of people don’t want that… kind of accountability, so it’s, it’s all about revamping your habits and behavior. So, you know, it is calories in calories out, but just telling people to eat less and move more, that doesn’t really… that’s not really helpful information anymore than it is to say, well, just earn more money or save more money or both, Or earn more, spend less, you have to change their habits and behaviors, right, because all that stuff, we are, we are governed by our habits and behaviors, and a lot of the stuff we do during the day is just completely autopilot, we don’t even think about it. 

Yeah. It’s very true, and I think that, that, what’s… what I find fascinating about that is, that is that we not always tend to fall off the wagon for reasons that at the end of the day are kind of pointless, right. I look at it along the lines of, OK,  I was pissed off that X happened to me.  Is eating that pizza, going to somehow go back in time and prevent X from happening, right? And what else can I do instead of that? I remember the day that I got…I had gotten into a huge fight with my ex-wife and we were great friends, but whatever. This particular day, we had a huge fight. And I was walking home, and I was so angry, this is ridiculous, and in my head I’m imagining the meal I’m gonna order from… wherever, and i get home and just, I’m like you know what, let’s just go on the tread…. on the Peloton, let’s just get on the bike for 45min, and if you still want to order that meal, order the meal. Had one of the best… strongest rides of my life, right? Anger, anger, fuels rides with the best rides. And, um, you know, and, and, and sure enough, I get off, I have all the dopamine, all the serotonin, all the adrenaline, I’m not hungry and I don’t do it.   I’m like, it was the same exact thing. Both of those would have led to my feeling better, but only one of them was healthy. 

Right, and that’s, you know, that’s almost like a cognitive rewiring right there. Just a different way of looking at things. I mean, if you want to look for it hacks, I mean, that’s a hack right there.  Right? You, you recognized. Okay. And I,  this is huge. So I’ve talked to, um, a lot of people who deal in the psychology of eating, uh, because you know, people make a big deal about hunger, a hunger., you didn’t mention it… hunger once in there. 

Right, right, right. 

This diet makes you feel less hungry, then I’ll tell people.  Yeah, but you’re assuming people only eat because they’re hungry. That is a small part of why human beings eat. There are social cues, there are environmental cues, emotional cues. And especially if you’ve tied  you know, certain emotions. And it sounds like where you came from that stress emotion would be accompanied with, you know, some sort of food reward to try to make yourself feel better, right, so what you’ve done is actually re-wire that response to where, okay, well I can go exercise, right, and that totally changed it. And so it’s kind of like, uh, you know, some people say people who talk about like spending and whatnot, uh, they say, you know, before you make any purchase or, you know, a big purchase, let’s say give it 24 hours to sleep on it, and if you know, 24 hours later, you still feel the same way, then OK, go ahead and buy it. So you just did that. You said I’m going to give myself 45 minutes, and if I still feel this way, then I’ll go do it. 

CBT is an amazing thing.  a good friend of mine, an ex-girlfriend of mine is a CBT and DBT, a therapist, she’s a psychologist, and, um, you know, she swears by it and she works with it, it’s  an amazing thing. Being able to rewire their brain and think differently. It’s just, it’s just a gift. No question about it. 

Absolutely. I mean, that’s how they treat, uh, that’s how they treat a lot of people with binge eating disorder is they’ll they’ll, they’ll a lot of it is because, like we said, we’re on autopilot a lot of the day, right? Because it takes some of us with our jobs, it takes a lot to do those jobs and then you have to like, for survival, you almost have to go on autopilot for certain parts of the day, right? Because being on and making decisions, I mean, there is such a thing as decision fatigue, so you have to rewire those autopilots because a lot of people, when they overeat, it’s not being even glutinous or anything like that, it’s simply, “I didn’t even realize I was doing it.” You know, I’ve, I’ve been around people who had binge eating disorder so bad that, um, they, it literally was like a blackout episode, but, you know, they wouldn’t really come out of it until they had finished, and boom, there’s 3000 calories gone, you know? And so I, one of the first things is, and I’m not a psychiatrist…psychologist, so I don’t want to, you know, this isn’t my area of expertise, but this is my understanding for what I’ve heard them say, is identifying those emotions, so.. you… that’s exactly what you did. You identified the emotion first, and then you said, okay, “What can I, what can I do about it? All right. Let me, let me feel my feelings, let me, you know, do something to occupy my time and then let me see how I feel.” But that is… that’s like you said, that CBT right there.  That is exactly how it works. No question about it. 

Awesome. Layne. I want to be respectful of your time. How can people find more and how can they find you? 

Sure, so on most social media platforms on Layne Norton, PhD (@biolayne) • Instagram photos and videos. If you follow me on Twitter, I use colorful language and I don’t sugar coat., so, um, if your feelings get hurt easily, you might want to follow me somewhere else.  But, uh, and then my website is Biolayne  I have a, uh, you find most of my stuff there, but. I have a nutritional coaching app called Carbon Diet Coach, which is phenomenal. Um, again, you know, if somebody, you know, can’t afford a trainer or a personal nutrition coach, it’s an extremely helpful app that will literally coach you for nutrition based on your goals, your individual metabolism, eh, you know, lifestyle, all that kind of stuff and dietary preference, and then a few books out there,  one I mentioned, um, you know, those sorts of things, but you can find most of the stuff that, uh, that I do and the stuff I sell on my website Biolayne. 

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to come on Faster Than Normal today, I really appreciate it. 

No worries, thanks for having me.

Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week. 


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