Lifestyle

Andrew Huberman Is Actually Human

And other things I learned from attending his live U.S. event.
By Lara Rosenbaum
October 19, 2023

As of this writing, Andrew Huberman Ph.D., has hosted 172 episodes of his Huberman Lab podcast—during which he doles out the latest in scientific information that’s incredibly useful. Thanks to him, I get my morning sunlight (or try to), to help set my energy for the day. I’m not a ‘Huberman husband,’—a term used to describe his personal protocol diehards—but I’ve tried AG1 to get my daily supp fix, and bought an Oura ring to track my sleep. NSDR? I’m on it.

So when I read Huberman would offer insights not available in his podcasts at one of his rare live events (there was just one in the U.S. as part of his current tour), I hightailed it to Chicago to find out what that info might be. Funny thing: I wasn’t the only one. His talk sold out at the 3,600-seat Chicago Theatre.

Picture outside Chicago theater

When he took the stage, Huberman paced around naturally, sporting his signature black shirt, pants, and sneakers, sharing personal anecdotes while sometimes poking fun at himself. At one point in the evening he told a story about a back problem he had, and how the single most effective exercise he did to help heal it was to, “hump the wall.” (The move involves facing a wall while flexing and extending the lower back.) He garnered a lot of laughs. He also almost demonstrated the exercise. Almost.

Here’s what else I learned from Huberman’s Chicago presentation. Note: This is the info that made it through my ears and into my brain. The biggest detail? Huberman, with his steady conversational style and straightforward, scientific approach is remarkably human. Just like you and me.

LIVE LIKE HUBERMAN

Huberman Practices What He Preaches—Almost

Many follow Huberman’s protocols—whether it’s the aforementioned morning sunlight peeping or drinking coffee 90 minutes after waking. Huberman himself does this stuff, but he also sometimes cuts himself slack.

While he’s all about optimizing a schedule to get good sleep, for example, during his Chicago talk, he copped to sometimes staying up past 11, binge watching Chimp Empire. Yup. That also means he was getting blue light in his eyes from the TV, potentially messing with his sleep cycle.

The takeaway: If you sometimes miss your workout or stay up too late, it’s OK. You’re human.

He Really Loves What He Does

When Huberman first came on stage, I wondered for a second if I’d make it through with my eyes open. I’m a big fan, but I’d flown in early that morning, and hadn’t slept a whole lot. But somehow, his love for science kept me wide awake.

As in his podcasts, Huberman spoke of his love for science. About his life and childhood, and his fascination with cuttlefish after connecting with the inspired Oliver Sachs, M.D. See, cuttlefish have eyes on the sides of their head, but when they attack their prey, their eyes somehow shift to the front. Huberman didn’t believe it at first, when Sachs told him of the shapeshifting, and got some cuttlefish for his lab so he could see the phenomenon himself.

One night Huberman and a friend entered his lab and thought the cuttlefish had been stolen. They were nowhere to be found. Yet on closer examination, Huberman noticed how the fish had sort of molded themselves to mirror the items in their tank. It was then he realized just how smart they were—and the experience hammered home just how incredible other species are and can be.

Huberman shared the anecdote to illustrate his deep, personal love for biology, no matter how quirky.

andrew huberman talking onstage

Huberman Is Exploring Stillness

Huberman described some time he spent with record producer, Rick Rubin, hunkering together in an ice bath. (Apparently the space was tight.)

Rubin shared he was embracing stillness, as that’s when he felt most creative. To Huberman, this made sense, noting that Albert Einstein was prone to abruptly stopping mid-walk, to think.

“When your body is completely still, the mind is very active, and it’s an intriguing state for ideas,” he said. According to Huberman, REM sleep mirrors this phenomenon, with all the active, vivid dreams it can bring.

Exercise offers the opposite effect. “When you’re moving, your mind empties and melts away,” he said, noting that he’s intrigued by “…exploring stillness to explore the mind.”

Rubin had been practicing stillness in the ice bath, and sometimes, he’d relayed, just laying out staring up at the sky. Huberman noted that he planned to take more time to be still, to explore creativity. “Stillness allows for mind expansion,” he said, adding, “it’s allowing ideas to find you.”

HUBERMAN 101

He Believes in Delight

Delight seemed to be the key takeaway for the evening—in the sense that it can be what life is all about, and also that it offers a key to who we are.

Huberman opened his talk by sharing that our “early moments of delight” as human beings during our pre-sexual stage “reveal something about our individual neurology.”

Here, Huberman reminds of Socrates: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” But it’s more than that. According to Huberman, “…when you experience pre-pubescent delight, it gives you energy.”

And while he did note that neuroplasticity starts to decline after age 25, making it harder to “rewire” the brain, it’s important to “think back to what delighted you when you were a kid,” and to do that.

At the end of the evening a 19-year-old audience member asked Huberman for advice. “Find your heart,” he was told. “Keep that.”

Huberman Is Open to Not Knowing Everything

Huberman closes his live events with a Q & A session. Audience members can take a moment to submit questions into an app, and then his team picks a handful for him to answer, posting the questions behind Huberman on an on-stage screen.

One question related to Huberman’s spiritual take, and if prayer, etc. was actually something manufactured in the brain. Part of Huberman’s answer? “I’m intrigued by the possibility that there are things not meant to be explored,” he said. “Our species can allow room for things we can’t explain with science. There’s great value in allowing space for things greater than us.”

Huberman went on to express how spirituality doesn’t have to be about hedging bets, and instead, it’s about “knowing yourself.”

And then, of course, as with the final moments of his podcasts, he thanked us for our interest in science.