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 Justin Mares. Justin is the co-founder of Kettle & Fire, a bone broth company, and Perfect Keto, a goods and supplement company for ketogenic diets. We discuss Justin’s journey into health and wellness and his daily practices for sleep, diet, and stress management.
Justin began his health and wellness journey when he adopted a paleo diet almost a decade ago
Physical activity, sleep, diet, and stress management are the foundational pillars of Justin’s health
Bone broth and organ meats are staples in Justin’s diet
Breath work is key for Justin’s overall health and wellbeing
How I started my journey into health and wellness
In college, I followed the standard fraternity diet of beers, subs, pierogies, and more. During this time, I was also beginning my entrepreneurial career. I thought that I could get less sleep in order to get everything done in the day, so I looked into polyphasic sleeping. In my attempt at polyphasic sleeping, I ruined my energy levels. It was one of the worst months of my life because I had no energy.
On the positive side, polyphasic sleep was my first exposure to biohacking and the community of people trying to influence their body, health, and wellness in a thoughtful and material way. I eventually came across Mark Sisson’s content, including his paleo diet, and started to try it for myself in 2011. Within about two weeks of starting a paleo diet, I felt a complete change in my body. My acne started to clear up, I became much leaner, I had more energy, I was sleeping better, and my digestion improved dramatically. I was shocked by the results. Since then, I’ve followed a mostly paleo diet. A few years ago, I began incorporating keto and intermittent fasting, as well.
In addition to cleaning up my diet, I began going to CrossFit to work on my physical strength. The more I explored health and wellness, and the more people I talked to in space, healthy living became a personal passion. After selling my first few companies to Rackspace, I knew that the health and fitness space was a natural progression for my next work opportunity, so I decided to start Kettle & Fire in 2015.
The things I prioritize to stay health
I focus on a few key areas in order to stay healthy. The first major area of health for me is physical activity. I lift weights 3-4 times a week and stretch almost everyday. I live in the Austin area, so I’ll also go on bike rides or swim at Barton Springs during my non-lifting days to make sure I’m still active.
Another important area of health for me is sleep, which I’m very strict about. I keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed around 11PM every night. I sleep on my Pod Pro, which is crucial for my sleep quality. In the mornings, I never use an alarm because I like to wake up naturally. I do this to make sure my body is getting as much sleep as it needs.
Diet is another key area for my health. I’ve been following a low-carb paleo diet for almost a decade. I eat a healthy amount of locally-raised red meat and fish. I also try to eat fermented foods one to two times a week. I am rigorous about what I eat, especially when it comes to the ingredients in my food. I buy everything organic, local, pasteurized, and grass-fed, and cook almost everything at home. There are a few things, such as vegetable oils, that I stay away from. Vegetable oils take up around 20% of the average American’s daily caloric intake and are terrible for your body. I’ve cut out vegetable oils completely from my diet over the last few years.
If you look at the average American diet today compared to our ancestral diet, one of the biggest things you will notice is that today, we eat almost no organ meat or other foods that have incredibly dense nutritional value and full spectrum amino acids. Consuming bone broth and organ meat are by far one of the biggest things you can do to improve your overall function and health. Bone broth has a high concentration of amino acids and collagen, which is the protein that makes up more than 30-40% of your body’s protein. Your gut lining, connective tissues and connective tendons in your joints are all made of collagen. The amino acids and collagen in bone broth are the building blocks of your body. Knowing this, I make sure to incorporate bone broth and organ meats into my diet regularly.
“Wherever you see the biggest gaps in our diet compared to our ancestors is where you can make the biggest strides and improvements in your health.”
Additionally, I do a 3-4 day fast at least once a quarter. Then, every other week, I’ll do a 24-36 hour fast. I found that intermittent fasting makes me feel better overall. With all my fasts, I try to get down into a sub-one GKI (Glucose Ketone Index) ratio. There is research that shows how a sub-one GKI ratio range is ideal for autophagy and anti-cancer prevention.
Finally, I focus on stress management. Meditation is a key component to reducing my stress. I follow the Wim Hof Method of breath work that’s similar to meditation. Breath work is something that I try to incorporate into my everyday life. I read James Nestor’s book, Breath, and I highly recommend it. Nestor discusses how breathing is one of the most essential parts of our health and wellbeing.
“Breathing correctly has a material impact on your health, wellness, immune system and energy levels.”
I started to incorporate more deep, slow nostril breathing throughout the day and also make sure I am conscious of my breath. I’ll do 10-20 minutes of breath work a day, which helps with my stress and energy levels.
My experience with psychedelic therapy
Some of my strongest internal growth experiences have been from the usage of psychedelic therapy. Every six-ish months, my girlfriend and I do MDMA therapy. After trying psychedelic therapy for the first time, we were blown away by how beneficial it was for our relationship. We had a profound, intense ability to connect and discuss intimate topics without any judgement. This is a specific benefit of MDMA therapy, and I would recommend it to almost anyone who wants to work on heart-opening and empathy. I think in a fairly rational, data-driven, business-centric way, so connecting on a deeper emotional level was always difficult for me. However, MDMA therapy helped to open up and be more empathetic.
There are also many ketamine therapy clinics that are completely legal and FDA compliant if you want to try psychedelics to improve your mental wellness. For several psychological disorders, such as PTSD or addiction, psychedelic therapy can be a great option. I’ve heard amazing stories of people who were struggling with depression and ketamine therapy completely changed their lives. I recommend starting out with a legal ketamine therapy like Mindbloom.
The products I use
For my diet and nutrition, I use Levels. I’m very particular about the ingredients that are in my food, so Levels helps me track how my body’s blood glucose levels respond to specific ingredients. Even though I follow a Paleo diet, I find that some Paleo snacks, such as Siete Cassava Flour chips, still increase my blood glucose levels dramatically. In addition, even if I eat locally sourced, well-milled, high-quality pasta, my blood glucose levels spike. Every body reacts differently to specific foods, but Levels has been helpful in identifying the foods that I would have thought were ok for me to eat, but actually spike my glucose levels.
For sleep, I use my Eight Sleep Pod Pro. I also use an Oura Ring to track my sleep metrics.
I use Joovv for red and infrared LED light therapy, and I also recently bought a light that mimics the full spectrum of the sun. I’m going to start incorporating this light into my everyday routine, especially when I’m at the computer. If you measure the lumes in an indoor environment, even with windows, compared to outdoors, it is 600-700 times darker.
I also use a Sleekform kneeling chair for my desk work. I love it because it has improved my posture dramatically.
I will occasionally use an Apple watch, but haven’t been consistent with my wearing mine so far.
The apps I use
I use the Sam Harris Waking Up meditation app for guided meditations. I also began to use Inward Breathwork, a website and app that has guided breathwork classes, to ensure I was properly practicing controlled breathing.
I also use the ROMWOD daily movement app. I find that it helps me practice daily mobility movements. The app includes 10-20 minute daily range of motion workouts. When I’m on phone calls, I’ll use the app to stretch during the duration of the call.
On days when I’m fasting, I’ll use the Zero fasting app to track my fasting periods.
The health product I would build
I would love to build a product that gives you a full-scope health plan based on your own body. Someone could shadow you for a week, get all your lab tests done, and monitor how you perform each day. At the end of the week, the product would generate a personalized report of your current health, what your goals are, and a recommendation for the 5 highest leverage interventions that you could do to improve your wellbeing. In addition, the product would guide you through the recommendations and help you achieve your health goals. If I was able to do that on a quarterly basis, it would be amazing.
I work a lot, and I become obsessed with what I work on because I really love it. However, working so much often means being tied to a desk all day and constantly thinking about work. My biggest struggle right now is figuring out how to balance my professional goals and my personal enjoyment. I believe that personal health is all about which areas you’re willing to make tradeoffs for. For right now, my tradeoff is working more, even if that means not optimizing my health to my peak performance.
My morning routine
I wake up at around 7:30AM and go on a 5-10 minute walk outside with my girlfriend. After the walk, I shower and then meditate for 10-20 minutes in front of my Joovv light. Once I finish my meditation, I normally make coffee, and add in Perfect Keto collagen and Navitas cocoa butter. After my morning cup of coffee, I start my day. Usually, I try to knock out the first one to two big checklist items for the day first thing in the morning. I intentionally don’t schedule any meetings until 11AM in my time zone, everyday. During this time, I don’t go on Slack or email and I try to stay away from my phone. I use this time to focus on the biggest, highest leverage work tasks. Then, at some point in the afternoon, I will stretch and do a workout.
My night time routine
I usually go to bed around 10:30-11:30PM everyday. I get 7-8.5 hours of sleep a night. I’m actively trying to improve my wind down routine as it’s something that I’ve historically struggled with. Lately, I’ve been using CarbonShade blue-light blocking glasses and I also try not to be on my computer after 7PM. Most days, I try to finish eating by 7PM and use the rest of my night to spend time with my friends and my girlfriend. Before bed, I make a cup of tea, read, and take a magnesium supplement. I try to have a great sleep setup because I believe that’s crucial for good sleep. This includes my Eight Sleep Pod Pro, blackout curtains, a sleeping mask, noise machine, and my magnesium supplements. Generally, my sleep is pretty good.
What keeps me up at night
Work-related thoughts keep me up at night. I’ll think about how I can do a better job in a specific area, personnel issues, how we’re going to grow next year, and more. Sometimes, family or relationship thoughts will also keep me up at night. That said, I’m very grateful for my life, so almost always, work is what keeps me up at night.