While Elon Musk’s technology pursuits may seem progressive, his personal health habits are pretty awful.
As CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, the 51-year-old doesn’t have much time for working out, eating healthy, or sleeping. In fact, his unhealthy habits were bad enough to recently garner worry and criticism from his father, Errol Musk.
In an August 2022 interview, the 79-year-old took a swipe at his son’s physical appearance in recent photos that showed the SpaceX founder in an unflattering shirtless pose on a yacht in Mykonos. The Elder Musk coolly suggested his son take diet pills to cut weight.
Lately, Musk has been making space in his routine for some new healthy habits (like intermittent fasting) and we’re here for it.
Here, everything we know about how the wealthiest man in the world eats, works out, sleeps, approaches mental health, and his stance on prescription drugs.
He Uses Intermittent Fasting
Just weeks after those unfortunate photos surfaced, the billionaire (net worth $250.5 billion) has the ultimate clap back: losing 20 pounds.
How? Intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Far from a fad, intermittent fasting is popular for its potential to reduce weight (1).
“Over 20 lbs down from my (unhealthy) peak weight,” Musk told his Twitter followers.
Musk uses the “quite good” Zero fasting app to track his fasting progress. The app helps you pick a fasting plan based on your goal (like weight loss, energy, or gut health) and offers expert support along the way.
He’s Not the Healthiest Eater
When it comes to his eating schedule, Musk might be onto something.
But his unconventional approach to food raised eyebrows in the past. “If there was a way I could not eat so I could work more, I would not eat,” says Musk in the 2015 book Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.
There was a period in his college years where Musk survived on just $1 per day. “My threshold for existing was pretty low,” he said on the StarTalk podcast. “You get really tired of hot dogs and oranges after a while.” No kidding.
Recently, Musk’s been eating more. “Food’s great,” he told Joe Rogan in 2020 on an episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. However, his diet still has little to do with his health. “I’d rather eat tasty food and live a shorter life,” the 51-year-old admits.
One study suggests men of Musk’s age still have a few years to turn things around. The study found that swapping a bad Western diet for a healthier one by age 60 can add up to eight years to your life (5).
Cleaning up your diet isn’t rocket science. Focus on balanced plates loaded with all your micro and macronutrient needs. Add on some of the best foods for men like lean protein, whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, and seeds and you have a recipe for success.
He’s Not Vegetarian
Musk used to be an herbivore, but he switched up his eating habits circa 2013. “I tried being a vegetarian but I don’t really think we’re designed to be vegetarians,” he told The Guardian. “Some of my best friends are vegetarians, even vegans, which is tricky when you’re trying to go out for dinner.”
Aside from struggles at the dinner table, Musk shared with fans in 2019 that he still believes in the ethical treatment of animals, but he’s focused his climate change efforts elsewhere. A “vegan/vegetarian diet helps a little, but isn’t critical,” Musk says.
I support people choosing whatever diet makes them happy, but it’s true that everyone going vegan still wouldn’t stop climate change. Moving billions of tons of hydrocarbons from deep underground into the atmosphere & oceans is fundamentally the issue.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 30, 2019
Should you consider going meatless? Eating a plant-based diet has been shown to reduce saturated fats and boost fiber (6).
But it’s not all good news. A 2019 study compared 137 plant-based products with their meat counterparts and found that only four percent of those plant-based alternatives were lower in sodium with sodium content ranging from 500mg per 100 grams up to a staggering 1,200mg (7).
Plus, meat is one of the best sources of protein, iron, and vitamin B12, which can boost your energy and mood. By cutting meat out, getting those nutrients isn’t impossible but more challenging.
He’s Trying to Workout More But Hates It
“To be totally frank, I wouldn’t exercise at all if I could,” he told Joe Rogan in 2020.
When he does work out, Musk likes to lift weights. He also shared with Rogan that he doesn’t love running, but when he musters up the energy to run on the treadmill, he likes to watch TV.
By exercising more regularly, he could boost his lifespan, and reduce his risk of chronic disease (8). But Musk admits it’s been increasingly difficult to stay in shape with age. “The older I get, the harder it is to stay lean, that’s for sure,” he told Rogan.
More recently he’s expressed more interest in getting in shape. “I gotta workout out and be in better shape,” Musk told the Full Send podcast just one day after his father’s condemning interview surfaced.
He even shared how he plans to do it. “I’m going to switch from immediately looking at my phone first thing in the morning to working out for at least 20 minutes,” he says.
If Musk does work out in the morning, many studies suggest it may help him cut the weight more than afternoon workouts (9), especially if he works out before breakfast (10). However, the efforts of said plan remain to be seen.
He Doesn’t Sleep
Musk usually gets about six hours of sleep, going to bed at 3 a.m. and getting up around 9 or 9:30 a.m., well below the recommended eight hours.
In 2018, he admitted his 120-hour work weeks often drove him to sleep on the Tesla factory floor. Musk revealed his schedule left him exhausted (shocking), “nutty”, and like he’d “burnt out a bunch of neurons”.
Musk noted he also has a bad habit of checking his phone frequently to see if any emergencies happen overnight.
When he is in the mood for sleep, Musk sometimes turns to Ambien (a common sleep medication) for help. It’s “often a choice of no sleep or Ambien,” he confessed to the New York Times in 2018.
In recent years, Musk has pared down his work schedule to a “more sustainable” 80 to 90 hours. Despite the cutback at the office, Musk referred to himself as “fairly nocturnal” in an August 2022 Full Send podcast.
Sleep requirements can vary among people, experts recommend seven to nine hours of sleep for optimal health. Research suggests that after a good night’s sleep you may feel less anxious and more confident (11).
One study found that men who slept less than five hours a night for one week had significantly lower levels of testosterone than when they had a full night’s rest— a 10-15% decrease in testosterone production on average (12). Too little sleep has also been linked to depression (13).
He Has Asperger’s
Whether Musk’s genius strikes you with intrigue or fear, there’s undeniable curiosity behind the inner workings of his brain.
In recent years, Musk has opened up. He first publicly disclosed in May 2021 that he has Asperger’s syndrome when he appeared on Saturday Night Live.
To the delight of fans, in his May 2022 TED Talk, Musk gave more insight into how he learned to work with his Asperger’s instead of against it.
Growing up “social cues were not intuitive, so I was very bookish,” Musk recalls. “Others could intuitively understand what was meant by something. I would take something very literally as if the words that were spoken were exactly what they meant.”
Despite communication struggles, Musk’s intense, specialized interest in science and technology was amplified by his hyper-focused mind, a common trait among people with autism.
“My obsession with truth is why I studied physics,” he says, “because physics attempts to understand the truth of the universe.”
He Not Afraid of Death
In an interview with Axel Springer in March 2022, Musk said he would like to maintain his health for a longer period of time, but “I am not afraid of dying,” he said. “I think it would come as a relief.”
Health isn’t the only concern Musk has about old age. “I don’t think we should try to have people live for a really long time,” he says. “That would cause asphyxiation of society because the truth is, most people don’t change their minds. They just die. So, if they don’t die, we will be stuck with old ideas and society wouldn’t advance.”
He Hates Some Drugs (and Loves Others)
Musk isn’t a doctor, and has zero medical credentials. Yet, he’s not shy about railing against Adderall (amongst other medications) in yet another infamous Twitter rant.
In other tweets, he complained Wellbutrin is worse than Adderall, shared a friend had bad experiences with Ritalin, and suggested psychedelic drugs and ketamine as better treatments for mental health struggles.
All the drugs Musk warns against are prescription medications well-established in medical practice. But psychedelics and ketamine are still in early stages of testing.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, Adderall treats ADHD and helps individuals who lack of attention to detail, make careless mistakes, or lack sustained attention. Ritalin is another common ADHD drug the FDA says can reduce impulsivity. Wellbutrin can help treat symptoms of depression.
As far as Musk’s drugs of choice, there is some emerging science to back up his claims. One recent study examined the effects of microdosing the psychedelic psilocybin on 953 people. It found improvements in mood, mental health, and psychomotor ability (physical movements related to cognitive processing) (14), but more research is needed.
According to Harvard, two types of ketamine are used to treat depression. Ketamine infusion was approved as an anesthetic by the FDA years ago and is now used off-label to treat depression. A spray is also available.
Some Media Believe His Testosterone is High
“I would bet he has very high testosterone levels,” celebrity sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman wildly speculated in the New York Post. Her bold conjecture also included a claim that these (unconfirmed) high T levels make him a “magnificent sexual partner.”
While Musk’s zeal to rectify the world’s under-population problem would seem to indicate a healthy sex drive, on the other hand, he claims his bedroom is boring: