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The Health Stack: with Harry Stebbings

By Matteo Franceschetti
September 08, 2020
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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.

I sat down for an hour-long Zoom chat with Harry Stebbings recently. Harry started The Twenty Minute VC podcast at the age of 18, and he also currently manages a UK and European venture fund called Stride, as well as a US fund, 20VC. Harry shares how he stays healthy and active while managing an extremely busy schedule.

What matters most to me in health and wellbeing

I think that we are all works in progress. You’re never quite done. It’s all about embodying a growth mindset. I focus most on eating healthy and staying active.

The things I prioritize to stay healthy

Maintaining a healthy weight is very important to me. I was just about 125 kilos when I was 15, then I lost 50 kilos and have maintained a normal-ish weight since that time. Staying healthy feeds the engine of my personal life.

There are big components of my health that I don’t always optimize. There are also areas that I optimize every little bit, down to the most minuscule detail. I do this with my food routines and cycling on my Peloton; I sometimes forget that it may be better to just get another two hours of sleep instead of trying to consistently optimize my diet and exercise regimen. So, in a way, I highly prioritize my health when it comes down to weight, but in other areas I could be more intentional.

“In terms of fitness, every day, I take a daily morning walk with my Mum around London.”

Since I live in London and work US hours, about halfway through the day for me, at 6PM, I usually do a Peloton cycling workout. After I’m done with Peloton, I’ll have some form of a protein-only snack. I eat a lot of chicken out of these packets and it’s just cold, boring chicken, but it’s delicious and protein-only.

My favorite coaches from Peloton are Olivia Amato and Matt Wilpers - his power zone endurance rides are just great.

On the weekdays, I usually do 45 minute Peloton rides. On Saturdays, I’ll do a 60 minute set and then on Sunday, I do a 90 minute endurance ride. That’s the Peloton routine of dreams.

The products I use

I’m a big Peloton fan, as you can probably tell from above. It’s so funny, I got so into the Peloton that I went to Greece recently with a friend of mine and I wouldn’t go without the Peloton. So he bought a Peloton and sent it to the place we were staying so that I would come. We had a Peloton out there, the only one in Greece, which was the funniest thing ever.

I also love the Eight Sleep Pod. It’s been so hot in London recently and absolutely terrible over these past two weeks, which is why I was so keen on Twitter about how truly amazing the product is for sleeping cool.

I love Zero tablets, as well. Zero tablets are electrolyte tablets that you put in water and they are supposed to hydrate you more than water does, which sounds nuts, but I buy it. I use one every hour.

“I think about hydration a lot, especially since cutting off drinking alcohol.”

The apps I use

I meditate 10 minutes each night with Calm and absolutely love it.. I find it incredibly helpful to have a guide steering me along, as opposed to doing it entirely on my own.

I track my walks on Strava, which records distance. I don’t know why I track the same walk every day because I know exactly how far it is; I think it’s the gamification of it that makes me want to do it. The tracking keeps me in it.

Whenever I put on a bit too much weight, I always go back to my calorie counting app, My Fitness Pal. I only eat stuff that I can track and then I meticulously track it.

The newest addition to my Health Stack

I recently stopped drinking alcohol at the end of May. Previously, I would drink a bottle of wine on a Saturday evening with my family. While it wasn’t a problem, it just didn’t feel great. I always felt lethargic after drinking. It was bad for my weight and I wanted to get better at Peloton. I’d also get horribly paranoid the next day; so I thought what’s the point, why bother with it? I stopped drinking for a week and downloaded this great app on my phone that Ryan Bonnici, the CMO of the G2 crowd, told me about, called I Am Sober. It’s basically a timer that counts how long you’ve been sober for and forces you to click “failed” if you don’t make it until the end of the week. I said to myself, “Do I want to click that I failed? No, I don’t really want to do that. That doesn’t sound great.”

I decided that I was going to keep going with my sobriety. As I started, I found a lack of commitment to it to be actually really helpful, because I’d let myself think that I could drink. I’d go to a family dinner and they’d ask, “Do you want a drink?” I’d respond, “No, not right now, but maybe later with dinner.” Then dinner would come and I’d no longer even want a drink. If you let yourself think that you can, you don’t.

I’m also careful about my sugar consumption. I thought that what you said on my podcast about lack of sugar-free alternatives was spot-on. I try not to think about adding sugar or any sugar alternative at all.

The health product that I would build

I’ve always wanted to build “The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” tablet that is three meals in one, but zero calories. I think that’d be great.

I would also love to create something that sounds ridiculously easy to build, but I’ve just never found a good one that I like, and that’s a great interval training app. I do interval and time-based activities and I have to set timers constantly, which seems crazy. I want something that would allow me to program a time interval and that goes “45 seconds...15 second delay...1 minute...etc.” It’s simple, but I’d love that.

My number one hack for peak performance

The first thing that I do each day is a cold shower. I find that I’m terribly asleep when I first get up and not much of a morning person to begin with, so this really helps me wake up.

My morning routine

Due to my work schedule, I have a really weird routine; I normally get up at 8AM, and then go for a 10 mile walk with my mother for two hours around London every morning. She’s not in my work industry and fast-paced world, so it’s calming to talk to her about random things. Then I do a half an hour sit-up routine, and then jump into more hardcore work.

I usually work from noon London time to midnight London time. I do this so that I can capture the entirety of US work-day hours, from 4AM PST to about 4PM PST.

In the mornings, I have a long coffee and then a couple of espressos throughout the day. I know that espressos have a half-life of eight to ten hours in your body, which is actually much more than people think.

That’s why I don’t drink coffee past six in the evening because if I end up going to sleep between 2:00-2:30AM, like I usually do, it should be 90% weakened by then.

While my time spent on investments can be a bit more ad hoc, for the podcast, I take a much more structured approach. I do the recordings late at night during the week, then on Saturdays, I do the ads and touch-ups while on Sundays, I write new schedules. It takes about five hours per show to get the content prepared. A lot of work goes into each show, and I spend basically all day Sunday preparing for episodes for the following week.

My night time routine

I meditate at night, and that’s partially because I struggle with sleep. I also like to meditate right after doing a workout on the Peloton at my usual hour (6PM). After getting off the Peloton, you sweat so much that you keep sweating and I want to use that time effectively, which is why I meditate in that 10 minute “post-sweat” time.

“I meditate in that 10 minute 'post-sweat' time.”

How much sleep I get

Since I keep US hours, I go to sleep between 2:00-2:30AM and then get up slightly before 8AM. On a bad day, I get five hours and on a good day, I’ll get six.

What keeps me up at night

I have this habit where I can’t go to bed if I have more than 10 emails unread, so I’ll sometimes check emails until 5AM to get to nine unread emails. I know it’s ridiculous, but that’s just how I am.

The hardest thing for me is that I have three different jobs at the same time, so it’s a huge amount of work. I have the UK fund, the US fund, as well as a media company with employees to manage. It’s three full-on jobs and seven days a week. I’m also on six boards since we take board seats on every company that we invest in. It’s a high volume of work, but I love it.