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The Health Stack: with Lorenzo Thione

October 19, 2020 -
Posted by Matteo Franceschetti
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Health is based on three pillars: sleep, nutrition and fitness. I chat with some of the most interesting people I know to discover more about their Health Stacks: the behaviors and products they use to stay healthy and fit.

Lorenzo Thione and I recently had an hour-long chat on Zoom. Lorenzo is a managing director at Gaingels, an investing syndicate supporting and representing the LGBTQ+ community in the venture capital ecosystem, which invests in companies embracing of LGBT leadership. He’s also the managing producer at Sing, Louise! Productions, and has produced several Tony-award-winning plays and musicals including Hadestown. In this interview, he shares his wisdom about the power of plant-based diets, longevity, and how he rigorously monitors and optimizes his health.

What matters most to me in health and wellbeing

Throughout my life, health and fitness have always been really important to me. It goes hand in hand with the analytical part of my brain. I like to feel in control of my health, so I’m careful to monitor all of the different aspects of my well being closely to try to catch if anything gets off track.

The things I prioritize to stay healthy

The most important thing that I prioritize is trying to reduce the risk of getting sick, so that I can work, travel, and do the things that I love. I want to avoid getting a cold or the flu, but I also want to minimize all risk of chronic diseases.

The second aspect of health that I focus on is living longer and feeling better. If you enjoy life as I do, you’ll want to live long and be healthy. I think that there's a qualitative aspect of feeling good, and just having that positive energy makes me feel more motivated throughout the day. Feeling better also means performing better at work, in sports, and in life. 

Right after that, I prioritize looking better. I want to look younger and fit as I get older. While that’s always been a consideration for me, with aging, you realize that your physical appearance and youthfulness tends to come more into focus. 

The products I use

I am absolutely obsessed with my Whoop band. One of the things that I love the most about it is that you can create your own log of behaviors. If you log your behaviors for a long enough period of time and you have some variability in them, you can start to get great insight into the impact of these actions. For example, when I started drinking more water and focusing more on my hydration, that led to a 20% increase in my recovery, which is massive. As an additional fitness tracker, I do use the Apple Watch but rely mostly on my Whoop.

I also monitor my HRV on the Eight Sleep Pod Pro and have been monitoring my HRV even before that, with my whoop. My HRV really impacts how I make decisions about whether or not I should take a day off from exercising. 

In terms of sleep, the Pod Pro has completely changed my life. I love the ability to regulate my sleep temperature, and my preferences change with the seasons.  In the middle of the summer, I sleep as cold as -6. Right now, during the fall, I go to bed with a warm bed at +3 and then I immediately go down to -3 and I wake up at -2. 

Eight Sleep really got me to think about and value sleep more. Between the Pod Pro and reading Why We Sleep, my mindset around sleep has changed significantly. I used to think that it would be amazing to have a superpower that allowed you to not need sleep, but I now understand the value of sleep for health and longevity. During quarantine, I’ve been sleeping more, and I’m going to continue with that approach even when lockdown ends.

In terms of fitness, I have a Hydrow rower. I don't like a lot of cardio but rowing is the best compromise between cardio and a full-body strength workout. I also have a Tonal, and I love it. While it’s very much geared towards people who are at an intermediate level and want more of a guided strength workout, like a Peloton for strength training, it’s pretty great even if you’re an advanced athlete and prefer a more flexible self-guided strength workout at home. While there aren’t a ton of preset movements, you can still set up a really wide variety of exercises yourself. As for me, I still workout with my personal trainer at home: I just Zoom him in and follow his directions based on all the equipment I have. I’d really love it if Tonal added something like Strong to configure movements, track progression, amount of sets per side, differences in grip, handles, positioning and so on so that the tracking spot on even with more advanced custom workouts. 

I get my nutrition plan through a combination of my trainer, nutrition coach, and myself and I also use Lumen to measure my metabolism. I also use a body-scanner + scale called Naked. It connects to a mirror with a bunch of infrared sensors built in. You step on it and it basically gives you a full body scan and measurement for all your major body parts, as well as body fat composition, and weight. I’ve used it consistently for about three years. 

To track my overall health and fitness, I put all of my data from Lumen, Eight Sleep, Naked, and Whoop into a massive spreadsheet. I also log the daily difference between my macro-nutrient targets and what I logged in MyFitnessPal, which is what I used to track all my food. With that spreadsheet, I can track progressions, regressions, and I can actually see how inputs and outputs correlate to one another. 

For recovery, I use a Hypervolt and a PowerDot. My dad passed away from a very rare genetic disease, so to keep an eye on any genetic predispositions and monitor my long-term health, I did both 23andMe as well as Nebula Genomics to see what I’m most at risk for. 

Lastly, the supplements that I take religiously are from Elysium. I take both Basis and Matter. I've taken Basis for close to six or seven years, so from the very beginning of the company.

The apps I use

While I try to work out with my personal trainer most of the time, when I work out on my own, I use apps like Fitbod to build a custom workout, as well as Strong. What I like about MyFit is that you can tell the app what equipment you have and it’ll build a workout for you using only what’s around. I can then use a gym with only a small set of exercise machines, like a hotel gym, and still get a great workout. 

In terms of nutrition, I use RECaf to track my caffeine intake and Water Reminder to track my hydration, and, as mentioned, MyFitnessPal to track macros. For sleep, I use the Eight Sleep app

Lastly, I’m into mindfulness, but meditation has been really challenging for me. The best mindfulness practice I found is breathwork. The app I use is Breathonics, which helps you do breathing exercises to get you in a focused or relaxed state of flow. I use it with a SilentMode Powermask (which is really a total darkness eye mask with good headphones built in). 

The newest addition to my Health Stack

The new additions that I'm looking forward to right now are Levels and Bloom. Bloom includes test strips that you pee on that change color with a bunch of different metabolic indicators. Then you can take a photo with your phone and their app scans the test strips to help you analyze the results. Ultimately, urine and saliva are almost perfect mirrors for blood composition. They’re in different dilution forms, but they're basically the same.

Something that I discovered in quarantine is an app on the Oculus Quest called Supernatural. It’s a game where you have these targets coming at you and you have to hit them with bats that you hold in your hands. It’s designed as a workout, which means that you basically have dodges, squats, lateral squats, and these big sweeping movements that are really good for your joints and shoulder mobility. It’s fun, and I get the great cardio workouts doing that.

The health product I would build

I’d love to create a dynamic model of the body. If you could measure outputs like weight, body measurements, composition, as well as recovery metrics, plus all of the inputs like exact exercise and nutrition, you could theoretically customize an exact fitness regimen over time that is perfectly customized to one’s body and reliably achieve your goals. With Levels, one of the things that’s most interesting to me is that it shows the immediate effect of how my fitness routine affects my body’s metabolism, which is an intermediate step in modeling how your body reacts to inputs like food and exercise. I’d love to create a model that builds off that and provides even greater insight.

Also, the one thing that is missing from my Health Stack right now is a way to keep track of my gut health and measure the gut biome. I’d like to add that, as well.

My number one hack for peak performance

My top hack is diet. I changed my diet completely three and a half years ago, and I've been fully plant-based since then. I am fortunate enough that while I like food, I don't feel like food is a critical component of my enjoying life. Being plant-based, I do miss eggs, but there’s enough information about the detrimental effects of eating them in large quantities, so I mostly skip them, and I don’t really miss cheese. 

I eat five times a day. I eat in the morning as soon as I wake up, mid morning, midday, mid afternoon, and a last meal around 6:30 - 7:00 pm. My health, energy and sleep hygiene are all interconnected and a lot of that is powered by my approach to nutrition. 

It’s interesting how people often are quick to accept that their health is affected by drugs and medications, but they don’t often think or see as much how the food we ingest can do so as well, or more. I have a friend that’s a little older than I am and we've known each other for 20 years. All his life, he's struggled with hypertension, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol. For a long time, his strategy was always medications and his situation just kept getting worse. His doctors said, "This is not working, I can shift you to another medication, but you’re already at a very high risk of a heart attack.” His father had had a heart attack, so his risk was really high already. Instead of taking more medication, he decided to switch to an entirely plant-based diet after having eaten a standard American diet all his life. In six months, he reversed every single negative indicator completely. He’s doing great now. It made me consider switching to his diet, so I read The China Study, How Not to Die, and The Longevity Diet. That’s when I really went on a kick and committed to a fully plant-based diet. 

My morning routine

I wake up and go through a whole bunch of my health measurements. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to do Lumen and the Naked scanner and record yesterday’s meals, whoop and Eight Sleep data.

Next, I take my dogs out on a walk and listen to a podcast. They like to walk for a bit so it takes me a good 30 minutes or so; it's a nice walk if it's not too cold or rainy. I eat breakfast, and I work out. I like working out in the morning; it's great to get it out of the way and not let other things distract me, and it also energizes me. After my training session, and before I settle in for work, I religiously do the New York Timescrosswords. I am on my 846th day in a row of completing the NYT crosswords.

I'll drink an espresso in the morning and then try to not drink any additional caffeine throughout the day. I could probably figure out a way to drink decaf coffee later in the day and feel fine, because it’s really more of a taste and ritual for me, but for now, I only drink coffee in the morning. 

Then, unfortunately, I’m on Zoom calls all day long. 

My night time routine

I don’t typically watch TV before bed, but I do like to play video games to wind down when I can. I have all video game platforms, but I’m currently playing The Ghost of Tsushima on my PS4 and it’s really cool. 

Before the pandemic, whenever I used to go see Broadway shows (and I saw a lot of them) I mostly saw evening shows. Once Broadway comes back, I’m almost certainly going to switch to  matinees, because one thing I discovered during quarantine is that being able to go to sleep by 10:00 pm makes a huge difference for me in meeting my sleep needs. That gives me that eight hour sleep opportunity at least, even though my Pod and Whoop typically say that I get 45 minutes to an hour less of sleep than my actual time in bed. 

How much sleep I get

Unfortunately, I still sleep less than I need for optimal recovery. My Whoop is telling me that I really need, on average, 8 hours and 55 minutes. Usually, I sleep for 7 hours and 45 minutes. During quarantine, I think I added a good hour to an hour and a half to my sleep schedule. Before, I was getting between 6 and 7 hours of sleep, and now I sleep closer to 8 hours.

What keeps me up at night

Nothing keeps me up at night because I sleep really well, and I fall asleep fast. My friends always make fun of me because I fall asleep in cabs in seconds. I even fall asleep on ski lifts.

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