Is There an Optimal Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle Routine for Photographers and Visual Artists?

Dear friend,

Something I want to talk with you about (that nobody has ever really covered): is there an ideal diet, workout routine, or lifestyle which will help you be more inspired/motivated/creative as a photographer, visual artist, philosopher, or cinematographer? I think there is.

Okay so let’s try to outline some ideas.

First of all, I think we need to try to hack our human metabolism, to best effectively leverage our energy levels, to maximize what we desire to create/produce. So far, I think the optimal human metabolism is a combination of intermittent fasting (not eating breakfast or lunch, only a big dinner), and following a “ketogenic” diet (a diet with zero sugar, zero starchy foods, and high in fat, protein, meats, and lots of green leafy veggies).

Secondly, I think we also need to be physically strong, ideally with a low body fat percentage. To make photos, to make art, we need strong muscles. We need strong legs to walk a lot, crouch for different angles, and to run around when making photos. If you’ve ever made a cinema film, you also know how physically demanding it is (you need strong shoulders, forearms, back, core, etc).

Even if you’re a writer or poet, you need to be good at walking. The best writers have got a lot of great inspiration during walking or running (Murakami is an avid runner).

Why is diet and health important?

So for myself, I desire the following:

  1. To be maximally artistically productive
  2. To be as full of energy and vigor/power during the day, in order to produce more art, writing, photos, videos, content, etc.
  3. To minimize feeling tired during the day (what often happens when you have a carbohydrate-heavy meal breakfast or lunch during the day).
  4. To increase confidence in myself and my ideas: After I workout, lift heavy stuff, do deadlifts, squats, powerlifting, etc, I feel like a beast. I get a huge wave of increased self-confidence. Thus I’ve discovered starting off the day with working out is beneficial to myself as an artist. Because I believe that 99% of art is just having confidence in “putting yourself out there”.
  5. If you’re a photographer, to be able to walk further distances with less fatigue is obviously beneficial to making more photos. The longer you walk, the more photo opportunities you will see, and the more photos you will make. And the more photos you make, the more likely you are to make a photograph you really like.

Some practical ideas and suggestions, things that work for myself:

  1. Drink lots of black coffee and black/green tea during the day, with no milk or no sugar. This will help you stay more productive, energetic, and focused, whether you’re making photos, coming up with ideas, writing, producing digital stuff, etc.
  2. Train yourself to not need to eat breakfast or lunch: This means less time wasted during the day to prepare, cook, and clean these meals. Also saved money. Instead, keep fasting until dinner, and reward yourself with a massive meal at the end of the day.
  3. When you’re tired just take a nap, or walk around the block (preferably with your camera) to clear your mind and de-stress.
  4. Take icy cold showers in the morning to wake up. In the evening, experiment with really hot baths (or icy cold showers) to sleep better.
  5. By having a lower body fat percentage, you will have increased self-confidence in yourself and your body image.

If you’re fasting during the day and get hungry, and you want to prolong your fast to stay productive, just have a shot of espresso, some more tea, or eat some 100% raw cacao nibs (doesn’t have sugar), or have a spoonful of coconut oil (get a big tub from Costco or the local market; it doesn’t have to be expensive).

Or if you’re hungry, ironically enough a workout will help quell your hunger pangs for a while.

I’ve followed my ketogenic/intermittent fasting diet for around 1 year in Vietnam, fell off the boat when I went to Europe for 3 months, and now I’m back on it. And I can say, this diet and workout routine/lifestyle routine has helped me:

  1. Build muscle mass
  2. Lower body fat (adipose tissue)
  3. Increased energy
  4. Increased self-confidence
  5. Increased creative production (I’m making more photos, poems, videos, and content than ever)
  6. Increased curiosity in studying other great artists, and integrating their wisdom into my work

Of course I do extreme things in life, because I prefer it for myself, and it has made me happier/more fulfilled and purposeful in life.

My suggestion: figure out what works for you through self-experimentation, and also through self-questioning yourself:

What is my self-directed purpose in life, and how can I best optimize my food, diet, exercise routine, and lifestyle to maximize my goal-achievement?


Learn more:

Metabolism >

How to Get Cut >