Andrew Huberman’s Daily Routine: A Morning Dose of Sunlight, the Meditation He Uses to Recharge, and Why He Prefers to Eat His Carbs in the Evening
A cold night in November at the Beacon Theatre. The crowd is kind of a bizarre one, even by New York City standards. Columbia grad students in heather gray school hoodies, eagerly taking notes. Model-ish women in expensive-looking fur coats and towering heels. A slouchy guy in a beanie who may have multiple strains of indica and sativa available for purchase in his backpack.
They’re all here to see a two-hour lecture from Andrew Huberman, the Stanford neuroscientist and host of the Huberman Lab podcast, which, since it launched in 2021, has become one of the most listened to shows in the world. He’s an anomaly in the pod space: a thoughtful, charming, and verbose brainiac whose whole deal is offering science-based tools to help people sleep better, work out more effectively, calm their minds, unlock their creativity, balance their hormones, and breathe correctly, among many other things. He is also, to put it bluntly, extremely jacked.
After the show ended and we made our way for the exits, my friend and I started making small talk with a young woman. She had flown all the way from Florida, evidently, just to see Huberman in person, and was seriously considering going back to school to get her doctorate in something brain related. Andrew Huberman, rockstar neuroscientist.
I Zoomed with him recently to talk to him about his daily routine, what he eats, and how he recharges in the middle of the day without a nap.
For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and other high performers about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
GQ: I had a really great time at your Beacon Theater show a few months ago.
Andrew Huberman: You and me both. Yeah, that was fun. The Beacon is beautiful.
The only other time I was there was to see Björk. So it’s between you and Björk for the most beautiful shows put on there.
Well, I didn’t come out dressed like a swan. I don’t know her, but I grew up in the skateboard thing. And our photographer at the podcast is Mike Blabac, who’s very well known in skateboarding and action sports photography. He was Ken Block’s photographer and all that. I know a lot of the guys that started Girl Skateboards: Mike Carroll, Rick Howard. I knew Mike really well, I knew his older brother really well. And I was skateboarding with all those guys in the Bay Area. And for some reason, Björk got really into Girl.
Oh really? I had no idea.
Yeah, because Spike Jonze is partial owner of Girl. So she’s sort of been in the skateboard fold.
Do you still skate regularly?
I wouldn’t say regularly. So I skateboarded from the time I was about 13 until I was about 18. I rode for Thunder and Spitfire for a short while. They put me on that out of sympathy, not because I was any good. And then I actually got into muay Thai for a couple of years.
And then when I got really into graduate school and whatnot, I would just do resistance training and running. But in my 30s, I started skateboarding again, and it was interesting. I found in my 30s, I was much better at it than when I was a kid. So I’ve been hopping on now and again. I can push. I can do a slappy. Yes, I can alley-oop a curb. My heelflip is better than my kickflip and my nollie is better than my ollie.
How long did you do muay Thai for?
Let’s see. I did muay Thai for about two and a half years, and then when I got really into my studies, I stopped doing it. Then I boxed in my 30s—I did western boxing. Did some smokers, as they call them, and survived. But I got my boxing license. I don’t recommend it.
What time do you usually wake up in the morning?
Typically I’ll wake up around 6:30 a.m. It really depends on when I go to sleep. And now we’ve learned that having a consistent to-sleep time, plus-or-minus an hour, maximizes growth hormone release. And so having a fairly consistent to-bed time, it’s going to be almost as important as having a fairly consistent to-sleep time. We also now know that if you want to know your ideal to-sleep time or bedtime, it’s going to be about seven hours after your afternoon dip in energy. Everyone has either a subtle or a dramatic trench in energy in the afternoon, depending on what they’re doing correctly or incorrectly. But everyone has one, and that reflects a temperature change. And so seven hours after that is ideal bedtime.
So for me, the ideal time to go to sleep would be right about 10 o’clock, get into bed at 9:30 and fall asleep by about 10:30. Although sometimes it might be 11:00, sometimes it might be 10:00. You got to give yourself some wiggle room.
So when I wake up in the morning, if I want to be awake, I flip on bright artificial lights, understanding that the eyes, the retina, plays a critical role in waking up the brain because these neurons that respond to light. They have a name: intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin ganglion cells. But that’s just fancy nerd speak for the cells that wake up the brain and then the brain essentially wakes up the body. And then it also sets a timer on some of the hormones related to sleep.
So I’ll flip on bright artificial lights, but if the sun is out or if it’s rising, I will go outside and I will intentionally not wear sunglasses. (Eyeglasses and contacts are absolutely fine because those actually focus the light to the eyes.) I will face east, I try and get direct sunlight in my eyes when the sun is low in the skies for so-called low solar angle sunlight.
Now, low solar angle sunlight is special for a couple of reasons. First of all—and people can just run this experiment the next time the sun is low in the sky in the morning or in the evening—take a picture of it and you’ll notice there’s a lot of yellow/blue contrast. When the sun is overhead, take a picture of it, you won’t see that yellow/blue contrast as much or in the evening, it’s orange/blue. Yellow/blue or orange/blue contrast is the optimal stimulus for these neurons in the eye that wake up the brain and the rest of the body. To my knowledge, there is no technology, no indoor lighting scheme, no biohack or anything of that sort that’s been engineered, which mimics that yellow/blue contrast or yellow/orange contrast accurately.
So what I’ll do is I’ll face toward the sun. And I want to be clear: People should not do this through a window or a windshield, thinking it will work. It simply won’t because it filters out too many of the relevant wavelengths. And then I’ll look at the sun. I don’t stare at the sun, but I’ll allow myself to blink. You can even look down at your phone or a book, that’s fine. But you don’t want to be with a hat or a hoodie and cloaking your eyes from the sunlight. You want to get that sunlight in your eyes. You want to do this for about five to 10 minutes.
I delay caffeine 90 to 120 minutes after I wake up. But bring some water outside, hydrate and do this.
During your outside time, what is your personal practice? Are you reading? Are you thinking about what’s ahead in your day? Are you just trying to clear your mind?
It really depends on how I wake up—meaning my mental state when I wake up. I am not somebody who lives in the land of constant positivity, nor am I somebody that’s cursing everybody and life. I’m not depressive, I’m not moody. But I have my highs and lows.
Here’s something that’s been equally beneficial for me as a practice: I’ve talked about before called non-sleep deep rest, NSDR. It is similar to yoga nidra. There are scripts for this that, and I suppose the one that I’ll point people to is a 10 minute NSDR script, which is on YouTube.
Non-sleep deep rest has now a growing amount of research data to support the fact that it can replace sleep that you’ve lost, can restore energy and improve mood. It is not a nap, it is not meditation, it is not yoga nidra exactly. It involves a deep relaxation and it’s a conscious sleep-like state.
Here’s one thing that I do: If I wake up and I feel like I did not get enough rest, or I feel kind of wired but tired, a little bit agitated but exhausted, I will do a 10 minute NSDR before I get out of bed. I will put on that YouTube. I’ll put on headphones or just put [my phone] next to my head, and I’ll do that for 10 to 30 minutes. And I emerge from that feeling much more refreshed, with much more positivity. I will sometimes also do it in the afternoon.
What’s going on in your head when you’re getting your morning sunlight?
I will focus on some external object about a foot or two away, and I’ll try and anchor my attention to that location. And then I’ll look at some more distant location, ideally way off in the distance. And then I will also do it to the horizon if I can see the horizon, the most distant location I can see. And then I imagine myself doing this practice and I think about how I’m existing in the entire globe, which is existing in the universe, right?
There is nothing mystical about this. All I’m doing is deliberately stepping my vision, and therefore my cognition, to different places in physical space. And in doing that, we know that we are allowing the brain to shift to different time domains.
What do I mean by that? When you look at something very close or you concentrate on your body and your internal organs, you’re tracking time very finely. It’s like a high frame rate. When you look out into the distance at the horizon, you’re actually taking big time bins. So I will do this, I’ll step out into these broader time bins, bigger spatial swaths of visual information.
This is one of the most powerful practices for allowing—there’s some data to support this now—people to anchor their focus on a given task at some point during the day and also task switch. Because nowadays, indeed, many people suffer from ADHD-like symptoms or extensional drift and being yanked all over the place. But what’s really useful is to be able to focus your attention as long as you need, on one given task.
When do you drink your caffeine?
I’m a big proponent of delaying caffeine intake 90 to 120 minutes after waking because when you wake up, you have an increase in body temperature that’s healthy, an increase in a corticosteroid called cortisol, which is a healthy increase. You want that peak in cortisol to happen early in the day. Late-shifted peaks in cortisol are correlated with depression, anxiety, and a bunch of other things. Everyone hears cortisol and thinks it’s bad, but you want a big peak in cortisol early in the day. The longer you’ve been awake, the more a molecule called adenosine builds up in your system. It makes you sleepy. Typically, after a night’s sleep, that adenosine is low because you’ve been asleep, but it’s often not zero. And caffeine blocks the adenosine receptor and therefore, makes you feel more alert because that adenosine can’t exert its sleepy effects.
So if you drink caffeine and you block the adenosine receptor, you disrupt these processes in a way such that by about noon or 1:00 p.m., you are going to start feeling really sleepy. You’re going to get an afternoon crash, sometimes 2:00, sometimes 3:00. It depends on the person and when they wake up, how much caffeine they drink. Delaying morning caffeine for 90 to 120 minutes after waking allows me and will allow people to avoid that afternoon crash. Or if they do have an afternoon dip in energy, which is totally normal, it won’t be as robust as it normally would.
There is one exception, which is if I’m going to do a hard resistance training workout, then I will hydrate, which I always do. Typically, what I do in the morning is I hydrate, I do take an electrolyte drink, which is a salt-heavy electrolyte drink called LMNT. That’s the one I use, but some people use a little bit of sea salt and lemon. And then if I’m going to do a resistance training workout, which is what I do three times a week, I will drink yerba mate—Anna Park, Loose Leaf. I usually brew my own.
I’m a big fan of yerba mate because of the caffeine source. It also has a different caffeine-like substance in it. It also is not as dehydrating as coffee, but I also just really like it. But people should avoid the smoked varieties. The smoked varieties can be carcinogenic.
Do you do cold recovery?
I know there’s been a lot of interest in deliberate cold exposure and ice baths and cold showers. It’s also very clear that doing those ice baths and cold showers after a resistance training workout can prevent the positive adaptations of that workout, strength and hypertrophy, maybe even endurance.
So I’ve taken to getting into the cold plunge for about one to three minutes some time before workout, usually after getting sunlight, but some time early in the morning. Or taking a cold shower early in the morning. And by the way, I definitely take a hot shower at the end.
What is all of this doing? What is all of this? Is this just biohacking? That’s a word that I frankly loathe, because no, what this is doing is what you’re trying to get is a big surge in cortisol, big surge in adrenaline, epinephrine, a big surge in dopamine. Dopamine obviously is a molecule that if you have big surges in dopamine that crash, that’s bad. That’s what happens with things like cocaine and methamphetamine. But big surges in dopamine that are long-lasting that you can induce with deliberate cold exposure are huge elevators for mood and alertness and wellbeing throughout the day. And again, you want all this alertness stuff and focus packed toward the early point in the day.
What does your morning workout look like these days?
If I’m going to work out, drink my caffeine and do a hard weight workout for an hour. I do 10 minutes of warmup and 50 to 60 minutes of hard weight training three times in a week, but no more.
I want to leave with energy. I don’t want to over-train. I don’t recover well if I’m training too long. Maybe 75 minutes if other people are on the equipment, that kind of thing, but get that done. Obviously shower after that and head into the day. On a day where I’m not working out, it’s going to be some cardiovascular training or movement.
When do you eat breakfast or lunch?
My first meal typically arrives somewhere around 11:00 a.m. or noon, and I’ve been doing that for a long time. This was long before my friend and colleague Satchin Panda, whose lab used to be across the street from me, started popularizing the effects of intermittent fasting. It’s simply that in the morning, I want to move, I want to focus, occasionally I’ll eat breakfast.
What’s a typical lunch look like for you?
Almost always it’s going to be some quality protein. So it would be, I don’t know, three or four scrambled eggs or a piece of grass-fed meat or a piece of grass-fed chicken, or some fish, because I do want protein. If I couldn’t get any of those sources, I would do quality whey protein. I’m not against whey proteins and protein drinks, but I prefer to eat. And I’ll have some vegetable, usually salads. I like salads with olive oil and lemon juice and vinegar, very basic. Definitely on the days where I’m not resistance training in the morning, that’s a low-carbish meal, not because I’m ketogenic, but because carbohydrates tend to make people sleepy, especially starches. So I might have an orange with that meal or something, but I’m not eating a lot of starches because that tends to make me sleepy.
The one exception is if I’ve done a hard resistance training workout, I want to replenish the glycogen from that workout. So after that workout, typically I’ll have a couple scoops of whey protein and a bowl of oatmeal, and then I will eat that other meal at 11:00 or noon. So that’s just because I recover more quickly if I do that. I will say that for over 10 years now, I’ve been consuming AG1. They used to call it Athletic Greens, now it’s AG1. And I just always felt better and my digestion was better when I was taking it and so I still take it. So if I drink it, typically I’ll drink it after my workout, so somewhere around 10 or 11 a.m. Or sometimes first thing in the morning.
There are two or three hours after that workout typically where I’m focused on work. People say get the hardest task of the day done at that time, but I do something slightly different. I try to do something that’s very linear early in the day. I’ve got a lot of dopamine in my system, adrenaline and cortisol if I’m doing all the things. I tend to focus on things where there is a correct answer. This is not creative work.
What does that linear work look like?
I’m organizing the structure of a podcast, I’m researching data. I’m looking at things where there’s a right and wrong answer. So that morning work block ends up being about two hours ideally, but it’s about 90 minutes of really focused work. And during that time, my phone is off, my email, as much as possible, is off. And I’m really forcing myself to learn.
Typically, after lunch, rather than jump right back into work I will do a 10 to 30 minute NSDR if I have not done it that morning. So people are probably going to say, “Okay, so basically you work for an hour, then you then eat lunch, then you work out, then you work for an hour, then you nap.” And believe me, the work is focused and it’s intense. So after lunch, I might post something on social media and then typically I’ll lie down for 10 minutes or so, do an NSDR. I emerge feeling very refreshed and redirected towards doing another two very focused bouts of work in the afternoon.
Do you have a preferred form of cardio that you’re doing right now?
Yeah, so we put out a toolkit for fitness, but this is the basic contour of it. I want to get three weight resistance training workouts in per week. I happen to do my leg workout on Monday, take a day or two off. (By the way, the off days usually involve some sauna, with cold alternating. I do that one day a week. I do 20 minutes of sauna, five minutes cold, 20 minutes of sauna, five minutes cold, 20 minutes of sauna, five minutes cold. Back and forth. I’ll go to a banya when I’m in New York, by the way, the one down on Wall Street.)
The goal on Sunday is spend as much time outside as possible and move as much as possible. So that can be a really long walk or hike. I’ll sometimes throw on a weight vest or I’ll throw on a weighted backpack if I’m walking with family members who walk a little bit more slowly because I want to be social. I have a social life too, fortunately, but you can still get a good long walk in: 90 minutes to three hours.
We hiked up one of the canyons recently. I just threw on a backpack with a bunch of stuff and we walked, that’s just two hours up and two hours down. It was just great. And that’s the Sunday workout.
What about during the week?
Then typically on Wednesdays, sometimes I move this around by a day, I will do a sort of more interval type workout. So warm up a bit and then run a mile. Cool down a little bit, maybe do a couple of 800 meters, something like that. Or go out for a 20 or 30 minute faster clip run. Just try to nasal breathe most of the time. I’m a big believer in nasal breathing, unless you need to breathe hard through the mouth, but nasal breathing because of what it does for the airways and for your immunity. And also, it really can improve a number of things, the aesthetic structure of the face. It can prevent droopy eyes and things of that sort. There’s a wonderful book, Jaws: A Hidden Epidemic, written by my colleagues at Stanford where they talk about this. And then one day a week I do a maximum heart rate cardiovascular workout. That typically falls for me on a Friday. Because I do legs on Monday, I want to make sure that’s on Friday, because that actually functions as a kind of second leg workout each week. It’s indirect, it’s not as intense. But that could be warm up and then some 100 or 200 meter sprints or get on the Airdyne bike and do a minute on, 30 seconds off for 12 rounds. Sorry, I’m being generous, eight rounds.
I would also say that doing some jumping and landing, some explosive work is critical for longevity. If you look at people who are very fit and very active in their 80s and 90s, their balance is great and they’re still jumping. And people say, “Well cause and effect here, chicken, egg.” But we know that one of the first things we stop doing after childhood is jumping.
I also have friends in the action sports skateboarding world, and guys, Tony is injured right now, but Tony Hawk, he’s in his 50s, still doing these explosive type exercises. He’s incredibly fit.
What does your afternoon look like?
I’m doing work of more of a creative type. I’m brainstorming things, I am reading and I take some walks, I try and I take notes. I’m thinking about the structure of things, how things could mesh. I’m allowing a little bit more of a free association in order to build podcast ideas or ideas for experiments in the lab, things of that sort. Again, all of those, everything I mentioned is because I live in the real world. This is all punctuated by requests from people, calls, a series of things. I do impose structure and I don’t live a monk-like existence. But I think one of the biggest challenges people have nowadays is to feel comfortable being inaccessible. And I work hard to defeat the anxiety of being inaccessible for those moments, those hours, for basically two hours of the day.
And again, I know people with kids will say, “You can’t do that.” Actually, you can. Actually, there are things that you can place in your life that will allow that. And it makes the socializing and the communications by text or other form in person to be far more enriching when you have segmented portions of the day where that doesn’t exist.
Do you snack?
Sometimes in the afternoon I’ll have a snack. I might have some macadamia nuts or something like that. Or some whey protein. But typically, I start to get hungry for dinner around 6:00 p.m. and my dinner looks very different from my lunch.
What does dinner look like?
Dinner is typically more starch-heavy, but it’s not heavy per se. Meaning I’m not gorging myself with pasta and rice and things of that sort, but I’m going to eat some rice or pasta. I do love certain breads, like the sourdough breads at Aldi. Or I do emphasize eating most of my foods from non-processed or minimally processed sources. So I’m not eating many packaged foods. But I do eat foods that require cooking, like pasta, and then I will have some protein. It’s typically a smaller amount of fish. I don’t tend to eat much meat at night, I find I don’t sleep as well.
I definitely like vegetables, so I eat salads. I love salads and cooked vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and some fish or chicken. Occasionally some beef or lamb or something of that sort. But the idea there is that I’m transitioning towards sleep and those carbohydrates really help me sleep. Now I know there is some data showing that carbohydrates should be eaten early in the day, not late in the day. I think that’s true if people are not doing resistance training consistently. And for me, I just sleep better. I feel more alert during the day if I do a low carbohydrate lunch and I sleep far better if I do a more carbohydrate enriched dinner.
After you did the Huberman Lab episode highlighting the dangers of alcohol, what was that feedback like? I imagine there was a lot of it.
It’s amazing, a lot of people who did not enjoy alcohol said, “Thank you, I now have an excuse not to drink alcohol.” Humility aside, I think it was the second most popular podcast episode of all podcasts last year. So not just ours, but all. And I think that people didn’t realize that alcohol causes mutations that increase cancer risk, especially in breast cancer in particular. And also that alcohol is incredibly deleterious for your health. It makes people more anxious when they’re not drinking.
Now all of that said, I have nothing against people going out and having some drinks with friends. Two drinks a week is considered the upper threshold for healthy living.
We’ve done episodes on cannabis as well. There’s some health benefits, there’s also some dangers to health. It just really depends on who you are. Alcohol is a little different though, because there’s essentially no use of alcohol that’s health promoting, except maybe cleaning a wound if you are out in the woods. But that’s a rare circumstance.
What do you do after dinner?
Typically do a little bit of work or just hang out with folks at home. And then I have done something recently that has really helped. Super low-cost: I took a page out of the playbook from my good friend Rick Rubin, who for years in his home, after the sun goes down, he switches over to red lights. Now I’m not talking about a red light unit. He purchased just red party lights for the evening. There are data that show that it greatly reduces nighttime cortisol, even for shift workers. So new parents, shift workers, if you need to be awake at night, try and be under red light if you can. And not those bright artificial lights, because keep in mind those bright artificial lights, or even if you dim them down, if they’re very blue, very white, even if you wear blue blockers. Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m, they’re really going to disrupt your hormones, reduce melatonin, disrupt testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, that really can cause all sorts of negative effects.
So in the evening, I’m switching to red lights and it’s cool. It gives the house a nice tone and it makes it much easier to fall asleep, much easier to fall asleep.
Where do you get your uniform from, like your jeans and your black shirts?
Starting from bottom up, I wear Adidas. The Boost knits Adidas are the only shoes I wear unless it’s a dress shoe, in which case I wear a dress shoe. I get the jeans—I have the same pair of black jeans—I think they’re called Federal. I found them, and I liked them and I just own like 10 pairs of those jeans.
And then for the shirts, these black shirts I found a couple of years ago, Vince makes these black shirts, and I get them. Because I have a short torso and long arms, all my height is in my legs, and so I have to have them adjusted and tailored. And so any time I’m in any city and there’s a Vince store, I’m going there.
But actually, if you’re in New York, there’s a great spot that sells flannels and belts that I love, and I always make a beeline for their for jackets and flannels and belts, which is down the lower East side, called Self Edge.
Those guys are the best. And so I’m almost reluctant to tell people about it because it’s like I don’t want all the good stuff to get taken, but they have beautiful things there. And the cost is very well justified because the stuff lasts a really long time—
Yeah, their stuff is so good.
And then I’m a watch nut, but that’s not because I own many of them, I actually only own one watch, and I have my Bremont ALT1-C. So I’ve been wearing Bremonts for a very long time. Timekeeping and time perception is a big thing for me. And so this was a gift to myself when I got tenure, gosh, seven years ago. And I think they make beautiful time pieces. And so I’m kind of obsessed with their stuff too. So I have obsessions.
I have one truck, one watch, own a lot of these black shirts and jeans, and a lot of pairs of the Boost knit Adidas. But again, I’m not somebody who buys a lot of stuff, but the stuff I do love, I love, love, love.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Do you ever feel discouraged? Maybe like you’re not doing enough? I’ve been battling that feeling lately, and it…