To still be able to post shirtless photos at 55 and garner positive press and the envy of men half his age is a testament to the discipline and habits that Terry Crews has set in his life. From his vitamin routine to still hitting the gym hard to abiding by a strict sleeping schedule, the America's Got Talent host prioritizes his routine to ensure he gets the best out of himself to give his all when needed. Given his success in his entertainment career, there was a time when his drive had pushed him to the point where it was hurting his health.
Crews recently became Natrol's sleep and fitness partner at the inaugural "Wake Up Hour" class at Barry's in Venice, CA. It's an organic partnership, as he told GQ. Crews also spoke about how he's learned to be easier on himself, why his sleep is non-negotiable, and why intermittent fasting is more than a dietary choice.
GQ: In my research, you're consistent with intermittent fasting. Why do you feel that's worked best for you?
Terry Crews: It's really beyond the physical benefits. It's spiritual. I realized that everything within your grasp is not meant to be in your hands. It's a thing where you teach yourself how to say no. There was a time in my life when it was like, you grab it and go. My father used to say if you can get credit, get all the credit you can get, and we all know that's a bad idea.
There is strength in telling your body to pause, like there's strength in telling your body to rest. There's a strength in saying you're going to eat when I tell you to eat, and that's powerful. Discipline is training, and that's all it is. Most people feel like discipline is punishment, and it's not.
That's mainly because discipline is typically conflated with being disciplined.
And with this food thing, most success is not an accident. Failure will just come. You don't have to work for failure. When you see someone successful in whatever they do, there's a moment where they decide they will win. I spent a lot of time being a victim. The moment I realized that it was up to me, the responsibility set in, and I realized I had to do something about this. Whatever situation you're in may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility, and that concept changed my life forever.
What's a typical day of eating look like for you?
I have a vitamin regimen that I've been doing faithfully for almost 20 years—morning, afternoon, and then at night. Twelve years ago, I introduced melatonin into my vitamin regimen because I realized I needed that. I don't start eating until 2 p.m. Before that, I have amino acids and water. I may have a pre-workout before I get my gym on, but I don't eat actual food until two or later.
That first meal is usually eggs or egg whites. I love an egg white frittata, salad, vegetables, and maybe some bacon—a very low-carb, high-fat, high-protein breakfast. I found that the more carbs involved, the more bloated I felt as the years went on. Once I started examining everything I was doing, I could notice how I felt after everything I ate.
I noticed I would have a crash after I had a giant glass of orange juice. My blood sugar would go, whoa! Instead, I'll have a glass of water and an orange, which are two different things. The fiber and the orange fade off all those high glucose things, and I'll have that for the snack. I have a lot of trail mix, pecans, peanuts, raisins, almonds, etc. I'll do my protein shake, two scoops, and a glass of water, and then I'm settled till dinner.
Now, my dinner usually happens around 7 p.m. I will have bread, rice, potatoes, and some healthy meat—chicken or fish. And I like my dessert, so I'll have some ice cream. But by the time I'm done, it's eight, and it's almost time to shut it down. My eight-hour window is from two to 10, but I'm usually done eating by eight.
Bed before ten sounds like a dream. When would you say you have control over your sleeping habits?
I'm glad you asked that because this is why the partnership with Natrol is so organic. As an old football player and getting a second chance at an entertainment career, I never wanted to miss an opportunity. It was literally like, go and grab whatever. There was a time when I was doing three movies simultaneously. I remember doing Norbit while I was doing Everybody Hates Chris, and then it moved into doing things for Old Spice.
It was a lot, but I didn't want to miss anything. I got to take advantage of these opportunities that were coming my way. I had worked my way up to a point where I was going almost 18 hours and only getting three to four hours of sleep. I would stay up till two, study my lines, get up at five or six, work out, and then go straight to the set to start that cycle again with two or three different jobs.
You were doing something you love, which compensates for the stress you were putting your body through.
You can get addicted to work. The whole phrase is workaholic—twelve years ago, it all came to a head for me. I was going in, and all of a sudden, I had this massive migraine, and my whole body felt like it had been run over by a truck. I felt like I couldn't breathe, and I got really scared. I thought I had worked this hard to get to this place, and the doctor was going to tell me I had some disease or something was wrong with me. You start to panic.
So I went to my doctor, and he gave me a thorough examination. He was like, "Terry, there is nothing wrong with you. You are exhausted." And I was like: what? The rap term is don't sleep. You've got to go 24-7 and not sleep at all. Even if you did want to rest, you're viewed as lazy. That was the mindset where if you can't go get this money now, you ain't going to ever get it. It was constant pressure, and here I was, being forced to stop because my body said, we ain't going no more.
How did things change for you after that visit to the doctor?
My doctor told me to go home and go to sleep, and my wife agreed with the doctor because she saw that I was burning the candle at both ends, and I was burned out. She said I won't let you get on the phone, go to work, or let you do any meetings.
This is also the time when I started incorporating melatonin into my vitamin routine. I'd always been working out and had my vitamins, but I realized I didn't know how to sleep. When I laid down, it was like, I should be doing this and that, or I'm missing something. I realized that there was a shame that came with trying to lie down. Even napping was like, oh, man, you're weak.
What I used to do was do 20 things below average. So, you get a lot done, and it was passable, but I knew I could be doing better. I realized that instead of doing 20 things below average, I would get my rest, and focus on doing three to four things above average. My life went exponentially better because what happened is my life became above average. I realized it's not the number of things you do but the efficiency of each action. It blew my mind.
I'm a big proponent of not competing with other people because that is a whole other thing where you're doing all these things to keep up with the Joneses. You pack your life full of extraneous stuff you could be doing better because you heard somebody else is doing double what you're doing. You should never compare yourself to other people. It's all about what you can do well and what you can do now. I started to get better, and I began to improve, and I also started saying no. I started saying no to a lot of things.
What's your current bedtime now?
I'm 55. I go to bed at 8:30 p.m.. People are like, you're in Hollywood and in bed at 8:30? Yes, and I love it. Going to bed at 8:30 and getting my rest, I get up between 4:30 and five, and I'm out like a rocket. When I say rocket, I've already done four hours' worth of stuff before 9 a.m. I realized this is what I was missing for so long. That's when I said I wanted to be the ambassador for this.
I want to be the guy who's in fitness and wellness. I remember back in the day when everyone was telling you to hydrate and drink your water, and now water bottles go viral; it's just as important, if not more, that you get your sleep. You need to sleep enough to see the resolution you made for this year. You're going to need more energy for it. If you try to start working out and run out of energy, you're creating a cycle of failure, which is why people quit.
They start strong in January and need more energy because they're trying to do too much. Suddenly, by March and April, they're out of the gym. You've got to have the energy to do it. It's not popular to tell people to rest, especially in America. It's more important to say to people to hustle, get up, go, and grind. For me, what happened is I ground to a halt.
How have you found the balance between being your best at your passion and still not sacrificing your time with your family?
I write down everything I want, which means how do you see yourself at your best? And it may not even be there yet, but where do you see yourself? How do you see your relationship with your wife? How do you see your relationship with your kids? How do you see yourself as a worker, actor, and host? I write it down because it's like a beacon. The moment you write it down, everything in you points toward it. I realized by writing these things down that I know what to say no to because that's just as important as what to say yes to.
I also realized I would never represent alcohol or gambling. It never fit into my goal list because I don't do either. I've been offered millions to represent both, and I just decided that's not me. That's not the money I want to make nor the person I want to be. You'll never see me on some liquor billboard in the hood. If I hadn't written it down, I'd have been confused and tried it. When you know what you want, it starts to get crystal clear. Every day, every year, every decade, it gets clearer. I've been in Hollywood for 25 years, and it was way less clear in the beginning than it is right now.
Originally Appeared on GQ