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The Health Stack: with Nat Eliason

November 20, 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.

Recently, I had an hour-long Zoom conversation with Nat Eliason. Nat is the founder of Growth Machine, an SEO and content marketing agency. On the side, Nat also runs a popular blog and his own Youtube channel. I spoke with Nat about his biohacking lifestyle, which he started over 10 years ago.

Highlights

  • 10 years ago, Nat began his fitness journey when he first read 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss

  • Nat trains at Central Athlete with his personal trainer to meet his individual fitness goals

  • Good sleep is important to Nat. His sleep stack includes BLU Blox blue light blocking lenses, Dohm noise machine, Dyson air purifier, Eight Sleep Pod, and an Oura Ring

  • Cutting out alcohol has been Nat's biggest health hack

  • Nat uses recovery tools such as an Almost Heaven six person barrel sauna and his own DIY ice bath

When I started my fitness and health journey

In high school, around senior year, I became very interested in health. I was never a very fit kid growing up. I was always a little overweight, not super strong and I didn’t participate in sports. However, during my senior year, I read the 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss and began to get more into health and fitness. I also became more interested in everything related to biohacking. I started buying different products and experimenting to see what would help me reach my health goals. Over the past 10 years, I have learned even more.

My hacks to make sure I stick to my health routine

I’ve been in the process of trying to find ways to basically force myself to be healthier without having to use any willpower or mental bandwidth. For example, having a personal trainer has helped hold me accountable to working out so that I don't have to muster up as much willpower on my own. 

In October, I put up a bet on Twitter where I said that I don't want to drink for the rest of the month. If I did drink any alcohol between the beginning of October and October 28th, which was my wife's birthday, I would have to donate $100 to the Trump campaign for every drink, and post a screenshot of the donation on Twitter. Since I didn't really want to do that, and I knew it would not be particularly popular socially, it became a good motivator for the whole month and I was able to stick to my goal.

The things I prioritize to stay health

For exercise, I go to a gym in Austin called Central Athlete, but they also do all of their coaching remotely. Their trainers set you up with custom workouts, nutrition, and any other lifestyle changes. They help you with your whole Health Stack, and not only workout routines. Once they give you a workout routine, you can do the workout on your own or workout with a trainer who helps you with form and answers any questions.

For exercise tracking, I use a Garmin Fenix watch. I found it’s more accurate than the Apple watch. 

For nutrition, I use Levels CGM to track my metabolic health. To track my fat, protein, mineral and body water composition, I use InBody, a full body composition scanner. It's not as advanced as getting a DEXA scan, but it's the next best thing since most scales are very expensive. I also use the Traeger Grill for cooking practically all of my meals. It’s such a useful tool for cooking, especially meats, and I found that I eat healthier while using it since it makes cooking so easy.

At nights, I use BLU Blox blue light blocking lenses. To unwind before sleep, I also use a Dohm noise machine and Dyson air purifier. For sleep, I've got my Eight Sleep Pod. I love it and refer to people on Twitter all the time. I also use an Oura Ring.

I have been using SunUp CBD, and I recently discovered Delta-8-THC. Delta-8-THC is a very slightly chemically altered version of normal THC and I use it for relaxation. There is one tiny molecular manipulation to it, which legally changes it into a different substance, meaning it is legal in all 50 states. In Austin, there’s a cannabis store that’s allowed to sell Delta-8-THC, even though weed is still illegal here. It's pretty much indistinguishable from normal marijuana and it's completely legal, which blew my mind. 

I also have the Almost Heaven six person barrel sauna. You can buy it directly on the Almost Heaven site, and they ship it to you in this giant box. It's way hotter than most other saunas that I've been in and it's super effective. I use it a few days a week after waking up on days when I'm not working out. It's a nice way to sweat and I sit in there and read. 

“Over the last few months, I've realized how important sun exposure is for my mood, wellbeing, and sleep quality.”

Lastly, I try to find more ways to get sunlight exposure throughout the day. I’ll sit out on my deck to work, walk to get coffee, work at an outdoor coffee shop, or anything else that ensures that I get more sunlight during the day. 

The apps I use

I use the True Coach to communicate with my trainer and view my workouts for the week. Within the app, I can also watch tutorial videos to see the correct form. The app also tells me how fast to do each exercise and how much weight to use. I can also monitor my progression over time in terms of weight used and reps performed. I’m constantly talking to my trainer through the True Coach app and through text messages. Based on my fitness goals, I get all of my customized programming at 7:30am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I also have a Peloton that I use for cycling workouts. 

Another app I use is Strava; I use it not only for exercise tracking, but also for the social community on the app.

The newest addition to my Health Stack

I recently bought a chest freezer for ice baths. I'm going to do the Ben Greenfield method where you buy a giant ice box and take cold ice baths in order to increase nitric oxide production, decrease inflammation and joint pain, and enhance longevity. I bought this 20 cubic foot ice box that I'm going to fill with chlorinated water. You plug it for a few hours, and it chills the water down to almost freezing. Once it's off, it goes back down to room-temperature. You can set the cooling with a timer, as well, so you can set the freezer to turn on during the night so it's ready in the morning. It's a lot cheaper than buying one of those $6,000-$10,000 tubs with a cooling unit attached to it. 

My approach to diet and nutrition

I'm pretty meticulous about my diet and nutrition. I usually only eat food that's locally sourced. My wife and I get all of our meat from a local butcher shop that sources their meat from ranches close to Austin, Texas. All of the meats are grass-fed, pastured, and super healthy. I don't eat very much pork or chicken because of concerns about polyunsaturated fatty acid content. I do eat a lot of beef, game meat when I can get it, and elk meat, whichI love. We get most of our products from a local farm that grows everything in really healthy soil. I try to mostly eat produce from that local farm based on whatever's in season. Overall, my diet consists of lots of meat, vegetables, and organic rice.

I usually eat twice a day. I don't do a strict intermittent fasting, though I used to and became accustomed to not eating in the morning. I’ll have a cup of coffee and something light for breakfast, like bone broth. I make my own bone broth in bulk from the bones that I get from the butcher. Then I typically eat two big meals a day without snacking in between.

“If you couldn't harvest it, you probably shouldn't eat it.”

Cutting out most irritants is a big part of my approach to nutrition. Moreover, cutting junk out of your diet in general is a great hack for your overall wellbeing. Cut out any processed foods, sugar, and anything else that you couldn't go out and harvest yourself today. It's the simplest rule for having a pretty clean diet. Since I take that approach, I can really feel it when my diet falls off the rails.

The health product I would build if I had a magic wand

It would be cool to have a whole recovery and relaxation spa in the backyard. Having the sauna and ice tank are good first steps, but having a hot tub, steam room, and a whole gym set up would be amazing. 

I’d also love a sauna that would allow me to do work while I'm in there. It's nice to have it as a relaxation tool, too, but if I could also read articles in there without my devices overheating and setting on fire, that'd be nice. Also, I’d love to have some sort of shower/changing set up out there, too, so that friends could come over and it could be more of a social activity. When I was living in Manhattan, my friend and I would meet up some Fridays at the Equinox on 59th Street where they have a sauna, cold tubs, steam room, and a hot tub in the basement. We would do a sauna cold tub circuit on Friday evenings and it was such a fun social activity. Finding a way to recreate that here would be awesome.

My number one hack for peak performance

Cutting out alcohol is my best hack. If I don't have alcohol, I go to sleep earlier and sleep better. Better sleep means that I'll wake up earlier, have more time to get work done and then I'm more likely to go to the gym. As a result, I’m also more likely to eat better. Everything ends up lining up that way all due to cutting out alcohol and getting more, higher quality sleep.

I feel much better not drinking and only sleeping six hours, as opposed to how I feel when I drink and sleep for eight hours. I'm even hesitant to say that sleeping eight hours is the ultimate hack because you could have eight hours of really poor sleep and still feel exhausted the next day. It all comes down to sleep quality. 

My morning routine

I'll usually wake up at 6:30am, take the dogs out and let them run around in the backyard for a few minutes. Then I go downstairs, make some coffee, and sit on the couch and read while drinking coffee for an hour or so. After that, I start working until my afternoon workout session. Some days though, I'll go to my friend's and work in his backyard. 

On Thursdays, some of my friends and I meet up around 7:30am at this natural pool here in Austin called Barton Springs. We'll swim around in the 60°F water for a few minutes and then we’ll  go get coffee and breakfast at this place called Picnik, which serves bone broth. It’s a super nice way to start the day.

My night time routine

I make sure that I am home by 9-9:30pm everyday. If we are going to a friend’s house, I will not schedule dinner too late into the night to make sure I can get to bed on time. I usually get in bed around 9:45-10pm, or even earlier if I'm tired. Before going to bed, I'll put on the BLU Blox around sundown whenever I’m at home. I think the glasses do a lot of the work for you. Even if I'm lying in bed watching TikToks with my wife, I still get really tired and I don't feel like the screen is keeping me awake. The BLU Blox let me get away with having a bad evening routine to some extent, because I never have any trouble falling asleep. I always fall asleep within a couple of minutes and I sleep really well for the most part.

How much sleep I get

I get around 8.5 hours of sleep a night. I used to struggle with sleep, though. I tried all of the temperature regulating products. Before Eight Sleep, the ChiliPad was the best solution, but it still wasn't that good, mostly because it wasn't getting that cold. I would still have sweating problems when I slept. Unless the room is 65°F, I have really, really bad night sweats. 

“I was never able to figure out what was causing me to overheat during the night before I started sleeping cooler on the Pod.”

Now that I’ve been able to realy cool down the bed, I think it was clearly some sort of overheating issue - I've always been a fairly sweaty person. I have a lot of old bed sheets that got ruined because I would sweat through them, leaving these huge, gross stains on them. When I saw the Eight Sleep Pod, I figured I should try that. When my wife and I moved into our house, we wanted to upgrade from a queen to a king size bed,so we needed a new mattress anyway.

When I tried the Pod, I was so happy. It was funny because I didn't believe that it could get it that cold, so when we first got it, I pumped it up to -10 and thought "All right, let's see how cold this actually gets." Then, I woke up in the middle of the night shivering. I had to dial it back to -7 in the middle of the night for a while, but now I'm down to -9. I haven’t had any sweating issues since, and I sleep through the whole night. I’m definitely getting my best sleep now that I have the Pod, since it’s so good at fixing the thermoregulation issue.

What keeps me up at night

Honestly, not much keeps me up at night. I'm really good at falling asleep. I don't have any issues tossing and turning at night. I almost never drink caffeine after 2:00 p.m, and I try to avoid eating heavy meals late at night. Plus, I don't eat much sugar. The only times I ever end up tossing and turning are usually if I accidentally have too much dark chocolate, which has caffeine in it, or if I have caffeine too close to bed. Other than that, I pass out. It's great. I think that there's a couple of reasons why I’m able to fall asleep so quickly. For starters, the Pod’s cooling ability definitely helps a lot. It's like a signal for my body to go to sleep. Plus, with my Dohm white noise machine, I’ve also conditioned my body effectively over the last eight years to fall asleep once I hear the machine start up. Combining those two products makes my sleep onset time about 2-3 minutes. 

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