Ryan Carter is a personal trainer and certified health coach who is in the final year of training to become a certified nutritional therapist.
He is also the man behind the hugely successful @livevitae nutrition and lifestyle focused Instagram account, which has more than 380,000 followers.
In this broad-ranging interview, Ryan reveals some of the top biohacks he uses to hack his health, including blocking out blue light at night to protect melatonin secretion, and using cold water therapy on a regular basis.
As well as revealing how his journey into the health space began with his own issues with mercury and mold toxicity, he also explains the basic science behind grounding and why we should all be connecting to the earth with our bare feet more often.
It was great to chat to Ryan and I hope you find this interview as interesting as I did!
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Ryan, thanks so much for speaking to HumanWindow. For people who are watching who are not so familiar with your story and how you got involved in this space, could you give us just a bit of a quick background about how you got to the point of what you’re doing today?
So it started when I had a eating disorder and I had, I don’t know what you call it, an ‘exercise addiction’ perhaps. I was just over-training, under-fuelling, eating the wrong sort of fuel for my body at that specific time.
And then I went down a slippery track of looking at my weight on the scale, got in bad habits, got very isolated and then I just had a big blow up basically in terms of family, my relationship with a girl at that time.
Everything got brought to my attention, and then I found a personal trainer at my local gym. He educated me, put me under his wing and showed me a few things and he put me on my track basically.
And then from there, I obviously progressed, put on some body weight, started becoming passionate about health and how to empower myself with the choices I make daily.
And that led me on to wanting to become a personal trainer and nutritionist.
But in between that time I also was working for my dad in his antique business. It’s an old shop and it had some mold, so I was working in a moldy building and mold does wreak some havoc on your body.
On top of that, I was eating a lot of blue fin tuna as well. And that’s really heavy in mercury. That added to the mold problem, which I didn’t know about time. And then I was going around this big circle of, what is it? Food intolerances, sensitivities.
I felt drugged at the time and my head was all over the place. I think I read a Chris Kresser blog post and he linked it together with mercury.
And then I just went down the whole mercury route. My body couldn’t really handle the chelation of mercury. And then I met a friend from another friend and he put me onto a practitioner – and mold was identified as the problem.
We started working on the mold and then all of the big processes basically aiding my knowledge and wisdom and actually having personal experience and passion as well to actually understand things, what’s going on.
That’s now all been overcome to a certain extent. Obviously you’re never perfect. I’m constantly working on things on myself and that’s where I am now.
You mentioned mold and mercury. Do you think that there are a lot of people that are living with mild symptoms of mercury or toxic mold and are not aware of it?
I would say yes. I think about 30 per cent of new buildings in America will have some mold issues – and that’s new buildings as well. It’s fairly common. Even a pillow could have mold or dust in it.
Even on the Underground as well, especially in London, you can just smell it – it’s damp. Like London has perfect conditions for mold to grow in. We’re always indoors as well. So that’s another factor to consider – mold is an indoor sort of pollutant.
I’ve taken a look at your Instagram account. One thing I noticed is that it seems more about the foods and your hacks rather than anything to do with yourself personally. You’re sharing cool meals and meal prep rather than focusing on your own personal stuff. Could you explain why that is?
That’s a very good question. I’m a little bit different to your typical influencer. I don’t need to post pictures of me working out or me on like a beach somewhere or just living my life.
I prefer to put out meaningful content or something educational. Be it about food, lifestyle or something along those lines.
It’s the same thing with ads and partnerships. I tend not to do them. I have a few affiliations, but I don’t need the confidence boost to do it.
One of the things you do share on there every now and then is some of the latest biohacks that you’ve been testing out on daily habits that you practice. One of them you’re practicing right now by wearing the blue blocking glasses! Could you give us like a few of your favorite biohacks that you do or use every day?
I think a good one’s actually sweating. So any form of sweating is going to greatly increase your ability to detoxify [and it’s good for] cardiovascular health as well.
Sweating could be from exercising, from the Sauna, whatever you want. So just sweating daily, some form of sweating. That’s not even really like a biohack or anything like that. It’s just common sense.
So all of my hacks are basically really common sense. Nothing geared towards supplements to because that’s very personalized within the whole context of things.
Another one would be looking at blue blocking glasses, looking at your lights, your environments.
So we’re indoors right now. The light spectrum is completely changed and distorted. If you think about it, every time you’re indoors, the light frequencies is changed and the blue light is actually more apparent.
Blue light represents midday light. So yes, it is midday now, but there’s no red, there’s no orange. It’s very distorted. That’s a key thing, especially at night – just wearing some glasses.
I’m also careful with my skin at night. I’m a big fan of cold therapy as well. I like doing cold baths, cold showers or anything along those lines.
I’m really fascinated about light and how important it is for health. Sunlight is constantly changing throughout the day. And so I guess our bodies are finely tuned to pick up the subtle differences that are happening. Whereas if you’re indoors under artificial light and maybe even filtered light through glass, as you say, it’s not quite as good, then you’re kind of confusing your body clock because it’s harder for our body to know what time it is. So could you just explain some of the science behind that?
All the light goes into your skin and through your eyes -it goes into the retina, it goes back into your suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is in the hypothalamus. And then that will show the frequency of what time of day it is and that’ll go with the temperature of the day as well.
Your body picks up the sensory mechanisms and then that will get translated, sent out into your peripheral tissues and it has that same sort of clock sensor in yourself as well. And that will dictate the function or the cell, the Mitochondria, the redox. So it has a big influence.
Do you do anything else in your own home like at night to block out blue light apart from wearing the glasses?
So I wouldn’t really have any lights on [at night]. I’d be having like either salt lamps or just candles, or just even taping and putting over some red film over some lights like the oven hood and also in the fridge as well. Just putting a red cover over the top of the lights. And that’s it. Just being in darkness really.
Minimizing electronics at night for sure. Everything on night mode, and just trying to like wind down, read books and just chill at night.
One of the things I’ve been doing for the last month pretty much is as soon as I wake up, going outdoors for 15 minutes and just trying to get some natural light. It really has made a crazy difference to my energy levels. Sometimes I walk out there completely groggy from having been asleep and then I walk back and it’s like having a couple of coffees, you feel really energized. Do you do that? Do you go outside?
Yeah. So I live in a block of flats so I can’t really access the garden straight away.
Ideally I’d love to go outside barefoot or and just be there. I usually go on my balcony, get some light, then follow that up with some red light therapy as well, like a photobiomodulation device, which mimics basically the sunrise and sunset set of red frequency of light.
Very cool. Can you talk about grounding a bit because I know it’s something that you are quite big on?
I wear some Earth Runners, which are sandals which have a grounding device attached to them, a copper coil. And then that’s wrapped round the stainless steel lace.
It’s all about being connected to the floor, to the ground, because there’s a negative charge.
When you think about it, the shoes that you wear are completely non-conductive to the floor, so you’re disconnected, especially when we’re in a high rise building.
There are some grounding studies that say it may reduce blood pressure, cortisol, improve sleep, increase immune cells, white blood cells, all of these things – just from being outdoors.
Throwing in grounding on top of that, being barefooted outdoors as well as is just a huge bonus.
I think we just forget about these things. We’re not taught these things – wearing shoes is just normal nowadays. Things like being indoors – we need to question these things.
We are not indoor creatures to a certain extent. Maybe [we would have been] in a cave or in the woods or such, in our shelters, but not indoors like we are now.
One of the things that we were talking about before we started recording is that I feel like we do forget these things that we, for pretty much all of human history, we were outside either, in the shade or maybe in a cave like you say. But generally we were outside for most of the day. And so we were awake when the sun was up and probably asleep while it was down. But it seems like we’ve created this world which is disconnected from what we evolved to be. So, why do you think that is?
I just think there’s a huge communication gap. The rise of technology and our focus goes towards technology and our dopamine neurotransmitters involved in the reward center of the brain. And having things ‘now, now, now’ as a society. And that goes back to food as well.
Just appreciate things more. I think it comes back to questioning things. Like when you’re in school, you don’t question things, you’re not taught the basics.
Things about our bodies or even how to breathe properly and making sure it’s focused on the nose, instead of from the mouth. That is a game changer. But you could go through your whole life being a mouth breather without realizing and you can have all these health issues and no one will pinpoint on that cause you’re not taught about that.
There’s a gap in the knowledge. When you see tribes in Africa or hunter gatherers, everything’s very community-based and they get taught how to hunt. I think society has just changed now – the way we live, everything’s fast paced.
It’s not a relaxing world if you live in a major city, that’s for sure. You mentioned cold water exposure and using cold water as a biohack. Could you speak about some of the science behind that as well?
So it depends how deep you want to go. Of course, the psychological aspects are that it’s going to disturb your comfort zone. So it’s going to push you out of your comfort zone.
You don’t have to jump straight into ice water as well, you don’t need to do that. You can just do face dunks in a sink, start there and then just build up your tolerance to that. Do Longer, and then move onto cold showers and then move onto cold baths and then move onto the ice baths and really cold increase your time. It is pushing the body.
It’s like a mild form of exercise. That’s what it is. It’s a hormetic stress to the body. Just be mindful of stress levels, your heart rate as well, because it can increase your heart rate.
It increases dopamine, several neurotransmitters. It can increase your vitamin D production as well. So cold and Sun, used together, increases your immune cells. It’s very anti-inflammatory well, it increases your mitochondria efficiency basically.
So what I mean by that is it’ll shrink your respiratory proteins. So you have five complexes in your Mitochondria, and that’ll shrink it. So it’ll be more efficient at burning and creating ATP. It will structure your water.
There’s a theory that water is the major driving force of energy in the body. So it increases the negative charge of the water. So water is a battery. What else? So it’s actually a detoxifier as well.
There’s a, there’s a huge, huge increase in your cardiovascular health. So you get a big rush of blood coming to the surfaces and that’s why it’s linked up to the UVB and having sunshine as well because that will increase blood to connect with sun. So your blood is basically a chromophore.
Very cool. I’ve done it a few times myself, gone through cold lake exposures in January up in Hampstead and it definitely energizes you. You do feel that something has changed in you. You’re buzzing for the rest of the day.
Yeah. Well you get a huge hit of adrenaline. It goes back to dopamine. Dopamine increases around 250 per cent. So also you’ll increase your glutathione levels as well. And another antioxidant could uric acid.
So you’ll see them drop from the cold exposure and then they’ll come back up again. It’s a hormetic stress, it’s just like exercising, creating damage. And ideally your body’s capable of mopping up again and that goes back to your redox potential.
So obviously you’re big on nutrition and diet and that’s what your page is focused on, on Instagram. Have you got any simple tips and hacks for people looking to improve their diet?
It’s about going to go back to eating real, whole foods. What I mean by that is unadulterated food. Minimally processed, single-ingredient foods, the most nutrient-dense foods you can get. Like going back into the wild.
Think about the food chain. The tiger will be hunting and it’ll go straight to the organs because those are the most nutrient-dense foods, not a chicken breast for example.
Eating seasonal vegetables and fruits, eating animal meat, fish, not being scared of fats.
With the whole carb debate it’s all about just listening to the photosynthesis because that’s the number one source (the sun). That’s the top of the food chain. Eating high- carbohydrate meals in winter doesn’t really make sense from an evolutionary perspective.
In health and fitness it’s all focused on ‘cut for the summer, bulk during the winter’. Whereas if you think about it in nature, if you live in the northern hemisphere, it would have been the opposite because there’s not enough sunlight to grow food in the winter
That’s the belief system. It’s like you should be ‘beach ready’ in the summer. Actually like in nature with leanness in the winter, we’re coming out of hibernation. Yet in winter time we wouldn’t be exercising at all, yet. we’ll be our leanest. That’s sort of removing that concept of you have to like train to be lean and shredded.
It’s just questioning the modern way of living. In the summer we’ll be eating more because there’ll be more foods available. So that’s when we’ll overeat and we sort of get into a state of producing excess body fat.
And then what that would do is actually increase the synthesis of Vitamin D in our skin as well. And then that will tide us over in the winter time.
So it would be actually losing body fat in the winter and vitamin D stores will be used in the winter for that purpose. And that all ties into the whole Melatonin thing as well. Our melatonin levels would be lower in summertime because of the sun exposure. And in the winter that’s when our Melatonin will be rising because it’d be colder and darker.
These things also affect our oxygen levels of our body as well. The colder we are, the more oxygen there’ll be in our blood and plasma.
What’d you do with your water? I interviewed Tim Gray recently and he said basically stay away from tap water, ideally get a good filter and then remineralize it somehow. What do you do?
I use a Berkey filter at home. I’d say it’s very good. I also add some silver coins as well.
And to remineralize, I don’t focus too much on the drops. I just try to eat as nutrient-dense as possible. I salt my food, with Celtic Sea salt.
I try not to go too complicated and start thinking about remineralizing it, cortexing it so it has a charge to it as well.
Although yes, it’s important, I’m not going to down that rabbit hole of focusing on one thing and just get neurotic. So it’s having an understanding for it, doing the best I can and then just like letting it go and moving on.
That’s one of the things I’ve noticed, that sometimes in this biohacking / health space, it’s quite easy to realize how screwed up so many things are. And then just panic about everything and get caught up in it all. Like it all gets a bit much and it can get kind of neurotic…
You can get ill from trying to be healthy. It’s so common and like you just go down these rabbit holes of the whole biohacking community.
It goes more extreme, extreme, extreme, extreme, extreme. It’s like you really need to step back. And that goes back to the brain as well.
The brain governs everything. That means dealing with things like things like stress, trauma, relationships, family, friends – sorting that side out of things first, really get your brain switched on. That will switch your central nervous system back on and you can actually feel these things and take control of your health more, instead of coming from a place of fear.
And it’s the same thing with me. I just said something about blue blocking glasses – you don’t need to do that first. You can actually just reduce your light in the evening, then think about having some blue blocking glasses.
Just go back to basics. Even in bodybuilding, for example – pre-workout intra-workout post-workout. Let’s do some like crazy workout and train six days a week. Let’s try and do more and more, when we should actually say, let’s try and do less. Let’s reserve our energy.
It will be interesting because at the Health Optimisation Summit we’ll see all these companies trying to sell you something. So you’ve it’s really got to be the governor of your body.
You’re the CEO of your body – you’ve got to take control.
I don’t need that (product). Is that really going to add value into my life?
Let’s quickly talk about EMFs and 5g. Is there something you’re worried about, the introduction of 5G in London? Are you doing things in your home to try and mitigate the potential risks?
We don’t really know what’s going to happen, so I’m not fearing it.
My ultimate goal for myself is to move out of the the city anyway, to move out of London and to be more in a rural environment away from the population – but still being with a community.
I’m not scared of it. I am mindful of it. I do my best with my phone, making sure it’s on airplane mode all the time when I’m not using it. I turn my Wifi router off at night. Or if I’m at home, I use an ethernet cable.
But we’re in an office building right now and there are so many signals going through us… you really have got to let go of that whole side of things as well to a certain extent.
It goes back to the redox state, how healthy are you? Are you connected to the environment? Light, water, magnetism? If those three things are dialled in, you’re going to have a better ability of your body to repel these sorts of things.
And that goes back to the whole thing about mold, bacteria, mercury – all these pollutants and environment toxins.
It all goes back to your cell redox. Is your body optimal and healthy enough to repel all these things and bounce back? So that goes back to your charge, the negative charge of your body.
The question I’ve been asking everyone I’ve been interviewing is if you knew what you know now and you’re going back to speak to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give?
Looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything from my journey. Everything is all learning. I wouldn’t be here without those experiences.
I would love to have started learning about nutrition earlier though. Like a qualification. Something more science-based. Physics, biochemistry, and be qualified earlier. That’s the only thing really.
For someone watching who wants to keep up to date with what you’re doing, where’s the best place for them to follow you?