- Mark Suster is a venture capitalist and managing partner of Upfront Ventures, one of LA’s largest VC firms that’s backed major tech unicorns like Bird and Ring.
- He shared with Business Insider daily hacks that are helping him stay on top of his professional and personal goals during the pandemic.
- He lost over 65 pounds in 15 months, thanks to massive changes in his lifestyle, diet, and fitness routines.
- He credits his success to getting a full night of sleep, tracking his health stats, avoiding his phone at bedtime, exercising every morning, and devoting his full attention to breaks and family time.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
At the end of January, Mark Suster’s life was big, fast, and bursting with fireworks as he hosted the glitzy Upfront Summit, an annual gathering of Hollywood celebrities and tech power players that included JJ Abrams, Reese Witherspoon, John Legend, Tyra Banks, Paris Hilton, Wolfgang Puck, Meg Whitman, and Steve Ballmer.
But weeks later, when the stock market crashed and coronavirus started to shut down the world, Suster knew the party was over. As managing partner of Upfront Ventures, one of LA’s largest venture capital firms and backer of tech unicorns like Bird and Ring, he got busy warning startups that COVID-19 was the “black swan” event that would change everything, he told Business Insider. Over the months that followed, as he advised CEOs on their pivot strategies, he began to undergo a stunning transformation himself.
After a 20-year battle with his weight in what he referred to as “a yo-yo of entrepreneurship,” he suddenly found himself in the best shape of his life, having dropped 65 pounds over a 15-month period, nearly half of which he’s dropped since March.
He credits the cancellation of just about everything and grounding of travel for giving him the gift of time to reform his daily routine. Being able to wake up later, eat in moderation, enjoy an active lifestyle, and spend special moments with his family has been life-changing, he said.
As he rides out the pandemic in his Pacific Palisades home in Los Angeles with his wife Tania and two teenage sons, Jake, 17, and Andy, 14, he shared with Business Insider the top hacks he’s using to master life under lockdown.
6:45 a.m. to 7 a.m.: He wakes up (without an alarm)
Suster sleeps for around six-and-a-half hours a night, striving for seven hours.
“Oura Ring changed my life,” he said, referring to the sleep tracker he wears on his finger. “It provides me with valuable data that helps me manage my sleep. For example, I learned I get most of my deep sleep at the beginning of the night, which is important for muscle repair, and I get most of my REM sleep in the morning (5 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.), which is important for creativity and long-term memory.”
Before the pandemic, he said, he was going to sleep at 12 a.m. or later and using an alarm to wake up at around 5:30 a.m to drive his kids to school.
Now armed with the data needed to optimize his sleep, he’s adjusted his schedule. “With everyone at home, I no longer need to set an alarm and can wake when my body wants to,” he said. “I no longer set meetings before 8:30 a.m. to avoid the risk and anxiety of oversleeping. This has made an enormous difference for me.”
7:15 a.m.: He tracks his health stats
Sustaer said he doesn’t sleep with his phone by his side, but instead leaves it in his bathroom overnight. This helps him get out of bed in the morning.
When he wakes up, he walks into the bathroom to check his sleep stats on the Oura app on his phone. Then he checks his blood pressure with a Withings blood pressure monitor and his weight with a Withings scale.
7:30 a.m.: He drinks coffee
He then goes downstairs to make coffee, which he said is essential to start his day. “I drink coffee every morning,” he said. “The caffeine helps me concentrate.” But he limits himself to two cups a day and never drinks coffee past 12 p.m., he said.
He added that as part of his morning ritual he enjoys doing the dishes. “I’m 100% the dish guy,” he said. “I do them after we eat every night and put them away every morning.”
7:45 a.m.: He exercises
He finds his work schedule dictates when he can exercise, but makes a point to work out seven days a week for 30 to 90 minutes a day.
“If I don’t have meetings until 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m., I’ll work out first thing,” he said. “If I do have morning meetings, I’ll work out in the afternoon before dinner.”
He said he does 100 push-ups daily followed by core, then cardio indoors on either his treadmill or Peloton bike, or goes on a bike ride or run through the neighborhood.
8:30 a.m.: He starts work
His work day is filled with back-to-back Zoom meetings and varies by day.
“I’m in board meetings throughout the week, partner meetings every Monday from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., a company wide meeting on Wednesdays at 2 p.m., and so on,” he said.
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.: He eats breakfast
He tracks all of his eating and exercising in the MyFitnessPal app, a daily diary of calories consumed and burned. Doing the math, the app calculated he could eat up to 1,800 net calories a day to lose 65 pounds in 15 months. Now at his goal weight, he targets 1,800 to 1,900 net calories a day and on average he is eating 2,300 to 2,500 calories a day and burning 500 to 1,200 calories a day, he recently reported on Twitter.
Meal times vary depending on his work schedule, but he prefers to eat breakfast later in the morning. He said that he finds the later he eats, the less he eats.
“Once you start consuming food, you start craving food,” he said. On mornings he works out early, he aims to eat breakfast from 10 to 11 a.m., but if he has meetings first, he’ll eat from 8 to 9 a.m. and exercise later in the day.
Before the pandemic, he didn’t cook at all — now he said he cooks a lot. “I typically make eggs for myself like egg and avocado, egg and cheese, or egg and vegetables,” he said. He may also go for a half of a bagel or a slice of cinnamon raisin toast.
“Nothing is off limits,” he said. “I eat ice cream and will have a beer or glass of wine once or twice a month. Everything in moderation, as long as I write it down.”
12 p.m. to 9 p.m.: He snacks, takes an afternoon walk, and eats dinner and has family time
He’ll typically eat lunch and snacks while he works. To ensure he makes good choices when hungry, he keeps prepared meals stocked in his freezer. “I’m a really big fan of Daily Harvest, I just love the company,” he said. “It gets me through the day with healthy food and helps reduce the number of decisions I need to make.”
When he can break from Zoom, he enjoys outdoor meetings with close contacts where he can go for socially distanced walks. If he missed his morning workout, he’ll use this time to exercise before dinner but not later, as he finds it disruptive to sleep.
“Before COVID we rarely dined together, but now we enjoy family time five nights a week, four nights with Blue Apron, the meal-kit service,” Suster said about dinner. “For fun, we’ll occasionally do take-out at places like Vespertine, which is a Michelin-starred restaurant that offers a 10-course meal.”
Although date nights on the town haven’t been possible during COVID-19, he and his wife make time for after-hours adventures through the neighborhood to walk off dinner. When they return, they enjoy a show with the kids and then settle down to watch one of their favorites together. On the top of their list are “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Morning Show,” and “The Vow.”
9 p.m.: He signs off of work
He makes a point of signing off work by 9 p.m., admitting “in the old days, it was never.”
11 p.m.: He goes to bed
A minimum of 30 minutes before drifting off, Suster leaves his phone in the bathroom and ends screen time.
“Email and news carry into your sleep, so I’m careful not to check,” he said, adding that he reads himself to sleep with a physical book, not a tablet. High on his list are “Americana: A 400-Year History Of American Capitalism,” “The Warmth Of Other Suns,” and “All The Light We Cannot See.”
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