The Health Stack: with Ali Spagnola

Ali Spagnola headshot

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 Ali Spagnola. Ali is a musician, fitness enthusiast, and comedian. Ali’s content can be found on her several Youtube channels including a channel focused on fitness as well as on her main page, where she publishes music mashups, health tips, and much more. In this interview, Ali shares her wisdom on the keto diet, her exercise routine, and the importance of getting enough sleep.

How important health is to me and when I started taking care of it

Health is super important to me. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on it. I’ve been a dancer since I was two and figure skated since that age, too. After college, I started long distance running and then got into kickboxing and CrossFit. I have been active all my life.

What matters most to me in health and wellbeing

I love the focus and energy that I’ve been able to get from fitness and physical activity. For a long time, I struggled keeping my energy up throughout the day being active helps me with that. I also want to live forever, plus staying in shape is pretty important for my job.

“I love the focus and energy that I’ve been able to get from fitness and physical activity.”

What I do to stay healthy

The most important thing for me is fasting. I eat one meal a day and do an occasional extended fast every quarter. Fasting usually just fits with my work schedule. I had to finish a music video last week; I was working into the night and realized, “Oh, it’s 11:00 PM.” I hadn’t had my one meal yet, so I just waited till the next day and fasted for about 48 hours, then broke it the next night.

“The most important thing to me is fasting.”

When I first tried fasting, I did it for two days and realized it was what I needed to jumpstart my energy levels. And there was nothing that needed to motivate me to do it, either. I just felt great and naturally wanted to keep doing it. 

Keto is a big part of what I do, as well. I try to get into ketosis before my one meal. I found out that it takes me about 21 hours to do so. I recently did a video on YouTube where I ate 300 grams of carbs for dinner and then fasted until I could get to a ketosis, till I hit 0.5 on Keto Mojo. It took me 21 hours. So that confirms that I am getting into ketosis before I have my daily meal even when I have carbs.

The products I use

I’ve got these two trackers on me all the time: Oura and Whoop. Oura Ring helps me figure out my sleep quality, among a bunch of other health data. Whoop actually introduced me to the fact that I should care about my heart-rate variability.

I’m also now using Eight Sleep and I love my Pod. Honestly, it changed my life and I’m so stoked about it. I feel like I’ve unlocked some secret, superhuman weapon after using it. It’s only been about a week for me, and I love it. Before I started using my Pod, my Oura Ring never showed me a good score for my sleep quality. Then, the first day I used my Pod, it was like, “Whoa, nice job. You’re good at sleeping now.” It was really cool.

I’ve been using Levels for a while now. I started carb cycling because of it. Now, I’ll have a keto diet if I’m not lifting and I’ll just be walking that day. I also use Keto Mojo. I do finger prick tests to compare my Keto Mojo and then look at my ketosis. I would prefer to use breathing to monitor ketosis, instead than finger prick, but I did not validate yet that the breathing method is accurate.

Recently, I recently started taking ashwagandha and I’ve been thinking more about taking care of my parasympathetic nervous system. Drinking Kin has also been interesting. It just kind of helps me get in the brain space to wind down because I never do that.

I’m also doing a roundup of massage guns. I have about nine at my place, because I’m doing a video comparing different ones. Out of all of them, the Theragun is the best for me, no question. I don’t use it for recovery, but it helps warm my muscles up and loosen up my hips.

My nutrition

I’ve recently started carb cycling because of what I discovered about my metabolism through my Levels data. So now I’ll fast if I’m not lifting that day. But on lifting days which is four or five days a week, I will power lift fasted and then break my fast with 290 grams of pasta. I’ll eat significantly less carbs on a non-lifting day. 

I also try to make sure that I get 125 grams of protein a day, which is one gram per pound of my body, which is the general standard for bodybuilders.

The newest addition to my Health Stack

Maybe a year ago, I started focusing more on recovery. I’ve never had that as a part of my fitness regimen. It was all about pushing myself harder and harder. I eventually realized that the oscillation between stress and recovery is important. Now, I’m finally getting to the point of optimizing it. I’ve started to take cold showers after my workouts, too, and that seems to be working well for me.

One healthy habit I am not doing (yet)

I don’t do much for my mind. I know I should, but I’m being completely honest. So many people I respect are all about meditation and very much focused on mindfulness. I tried Calm for 10 days and while I’m usually good at committing to things and creating a habit, I didn’t see any benefits from it, so I stopped.

The health product that I would build

I would like an alarm that goes off when I’ve done enough work. It would be a clock that yells, “Okay, you’re allowed to wind down now.” As a self-employed person, knowing when to stop is a problem for me. I just don’t always have that down time at night to shut off. It’s hard for me to just think, “This was sufficient for the day.” You can always be doing more, and you can always be getting closer to that goal. If you stop, you start to wonder, are you harming yourself and your business?

My morning routine

My routine is honestly different every day. I’ve been checking my sleep stats first thing in the morning. I know it’s best not to stare at my phone for 20 minutes in the morning, but I do it anyway. I check my Oura, Whoop, Levels, and now the Eight Sleep app.

Then, if I have to shoot a batch of videos or reviews for my YouTube channel, I might not be able to fit in a big powerlifting session. I get up and attack whatever is the most pressing task at the moment.
I’m very into weightlifting and powerlifting. I want to hang on to as much muscle as possible into old age. I’ve read some things that indicate that weightlifting will really increase your healthspan.

“I’ve read some things that indicate that weightlifting will really increase your healthspan.”

My nightly routine

I work out late at 7:00 PM, but I’m trying to change that. Levels has been showing me that I have garbage sleep when I eat that late and the best sleep I’ve had is when I’ve fasted.

I go to sleep when I am done working, so it changes every night.

How much sleep I get

It’s all over the place, but I always try to get enough sleep. Whenever I fall asleep, whether it’s 2:00AM or 11:00PM, I just set my alarm to eight or nine hours from then. I can’t say that I’m sleeping for that exact amount of time, but I definitely dedicate that time to being in bed. I’m working on making that more consistent because people say that’s a part of sleep hygiene but really, my sleep schedule is all over the place. I just focus on getting enough.

What keeps me up at night

Artificial intelligence is slowly taking charge of our culture, what we see, and what we appreciate. I’m constantly working on providing art for this algorithm on YouTube. If I can please the algorithm in a way that gets my videos out to people, that’s important for my career. That also means that this algorithm – that I’m participating in – is affecting what the human race is making and seeing. So, that messes with me a lot.

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