Sam Altman's healthy routine to unlock peak productivity

Intrigued to know about OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s daily life? Join us as we dissect the habits, the obsessions, and the contradictions that make Sam Altman one of the most fascinating figures in Silicon Valley.

Sam Altman's healthy routine to unlock peak productivity

Friday February 02, 2024,

7 min Read

Silicon Valley's Sam Altman isn't content just conquering the tech world. He's set his sights on a loftier prize: outwitting ageing itself. 

Forget boring board meetings and endless product pitches, Altman's mind is obsessed with living the best of life. From his reported $180 million investment in Retro Biosciences, an anti-ageing startup aiming to add “10 years to healthy human lifespan”, to his well-documented daily habits, Altman's life reads like a blueprint for anyone trying to embark on their productivity journey.

Intrigued to know about OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s daily life? Join us as we dissect the habits, the obsessions, and the contradictions that make Sam Altman one of the most fascinating figures in Silicon Valley–and perhaps, beyond. Read along!

Sam Altman

He practises intermittent fasting for 15 hours a day

Sam Altman practises a daily fasting routine of approximately 15 hours, typically skipping breakfast and only having an espresso when he wakes up, as revealed by Altman on his blog. This fasting period has proven to offer various benefits, including promoting fat loss, reducing inflammation, and protecting against age-related diseases. Altman, along with other notable figures in the spotlight, has embraced intermittent fasting for these compelling advantages.

Additionally, Altman has emphasised the significance of quarterly blood testing in optimising his nutritional intake. This proactive approach has enabled him to supplement his diet with a tailored range of vitamins. Notably, Altman has also been reported to incorporate the diabetes drug metformin into his regimen as a potential strategy to slow down the ageing process.

He swears by coffee every morning

He's an avid coffee enthusiast, particularly favouring a substantial shot of espresso immediately upon waking, a routine he shared in a 2018 blog post. Altman, who tends to skip breakfast and embraces a daily fasting window of around 15 hours, finds this espresso boost instrumental in staving off morning hunger. The caffeine content not only contributes to appetite suppression but also aligns with his productivity-focused mornings.

Altman's caffeine intake extends beyond his initial espresso; he indulges in another sizable shot post-lunch, estimating a daily caffeine intake of around 200mg. While acknowledging the human touch in his routine, he credits this habit for enhancing alertness when needed. 

Notably, Sam’s coffee affinity aligns with health benefits, as coffee's polyphenols contribute to reduced inflammation. Numerous studies link regular coffee consumption to lower inflammatory markers and a decreased risk of various chronic conditions, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, type 2 diabetes, gout, heart disease, and certain cancers, as outlined in a comprehensive review published in the British Medical Journal.

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He believes in a burger-free life

He's been living a burger-free lifestyle, at least when it comes to beef. Altman, a committed vegetarian since childhood, shared this aspect of his dietary choice on his blog.

Opting for a plant-based diet, Altman aligns with nutritional wisdom that emphasises the reduction of saturated fats and an increase in dietary fibre. Acknowledging potential nutrient gaps in a meat-free regimen, Altman ensures his nutritional needs are met through supplementation like methyl B12, omega-3, iron, and vitamin D3 supplements, addressing the common deficiency concerns associated with plant-based diets such as protein, iron, and mood-boosting vitamin B12.

To enhance his protein intake, Altman incorporates protein shakes into his routine, although he dislikes them. This commitment reflects his proactive approach to maintaining a well-rounded and nutritionally sound diet.

He doesn’t follow a linear approach to workdays

Unlike us, Altman approaches his workdays with a distinctive methodology, challenging conventional norms to optimise productivity and creativity. Meetings, according to him, “are best scheduled for 15-20 minutes or 2 hours.  The default of 1 hour is usually wrong, and leads to a lot of wasted time.”

Not all our workdays are similar. Recognising the ebb and flow of his daily energy levels, Altman strategically allocates specific times for different types of work. His mornings, acknowledged as his peak productivity hours, are dedicated to focused tasks, with no external scheduling allowed. Afternoons are designated for meetings, offering a strategic break or task switch whenever attention wanes.

He also prioritises his work based on three core principles: ensuring important tasks are accomplished, avoiding time wastage on trivial matters, and employing the power of lists. 

Although being the creator of an AI platform, Sam swears by hand-written lists, as a crucial organisational tool, crafted for yearly, monthly, and daily objectives. Their utility lies in their ability to enhance focus and streamline multitasking by alleviating the need to retain information mentally. 

The periodic re-transcription of lists not only reinforces his commitment to tasks but also provides an opportunity for thoughtful reassessment and refinement.

Sleep remains his prime productivity tip

While he hustles to succeed, he never undermines the paramount role of sleep in optimising his productivity and well-being. To achieve quality sleep, Altman employs a sleep tracker, with a particular affinity for the Emfit QS+Active for its set-it-and-forget-it convenience.

Creating an ideal sleep environment is essential for Altman, and he emphasises the importance of a cold, dark, and quiet room, paired with a high-quality mattress that significantly enhances sleep quality. In his pre-sleep habits, he limits food intake in the hours leading up to bedtime and abstains from alcohol, a practice that has proven effective but isn't a constant in his routine.

Altman further fine-tunes his sleep conditions with a Chili Pad, ensuring a cool sleeping surface, especially when the room temperature isn't easily adjustable. While travelling, he resorts to an eye mask and earplugs to ward off disturbances.

Addressing potential controversy, Altman transparently shares his use of low-dose sleeping pills or a minimal amount of cannabis when faced with difficulty falling asleep. This personalised approach reflects his commitment to prioritising rest and underscores the acknowledgement that individual strategies for achieving quality sleep may vary.

He resists sugary temptations

Sam Altman openly acknowledges the adverse effects of excessive sugar consumption on his well-being, stating on his blog, “Eating lots of sugar is the thing that makes me feel the worst.” Acknowledging his limited willpower regarding sweet treats, Altman adopts a proactive approach by simply keeping junk food out of his home.

With that, Altman is mindful of his dietary choices to maintain optimal digestion and minimise inflammation. He consciously avoids foods that may exacerbate digestive issues or contribute to increased inflammation, particularly steering clear of overly spicy foods. While Altman's instinct aligns with his personal experience, it's worth noting that some studies suggest capsaicin, an active component in chilli peppers, may have anti-inflammatory properties, as indicated by the Cleveland Clinic. 

He religiously follows a fitness regimen

Sam Altman's annual goal-setting extends beyond professional achievements, incorporating physically demanding objectives, such as a weekly one-hundred-mile bike ride or fifty consecutive pull-ups, as outlined in a 2016 profile by The New Yorker. While his current endeavours with ChatGPT suggest a continued pursuit of professional excellence, Altman's fitness routine has evolved to strike a more sustainable balance.

Unlike some tech CEOs who sideline fitness, Altman dedicates time to lifting heavy weights three times a week. He embraces occasional high-intensity interval training sessions, attributing this mix to feeling 'the best overall,' as shared on his blog. This deliberate commitment to physical activity not only aligns with productivity gains but also underscores Altman's dedication to overall well-being.

Sam Altman smashes the CEO stereotype by optimising his health alongside his hustle. He's not just another suit scarfing down cold coffee and pulling all-nighters. While his routine might seem hardcore, the message is clear: health isn't a luxury for high achievers, it's the rocket fuel. 

Remember, it's not about copying someone else's blueprint, it's about building your own bridge between professional accomplishment and personal well-being. So, take a page from Altman's productivity book and start exploring the healthy habits that will unleash your version of peak performance!