One of the World's Busiest DJs Never Has a Hangover
Steve Aoki traveled 16,427 miles, visited three continents, and played four shows—all on just six hours of sleep.
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On a recent 36-hour stint, Steve Aoki traveled 16,427 miles, visited three continents, played four shows, and tossed 60 sheet cakes into the crowd—all on just six hours of sleep. That's a pretty typical weekend for the 39-year-old DJ, whom the Guinness Book of World Records says is the world's most-traveled musician.
Despite that schedule, Aoki is a model of health in a genre known for non-stop touring, late nights, and overindulgence. He can thank a handful of healthy habits he's developed over those millions of miles—most of which start at the airport.
Healthy airport eating is tough: You're faced with an unfamiliar menu and you need to decide quick, because your plane boards in three minutes. Instead of wasting time trying to decipher which items are healthy, Aoki says he establishes rules that tell him which aren't. "I don't eat fried or processed foods, or beef and pork," he says. That strips his meals to their most nutritious elements—leaner meats like chicken and fish, unrefined carbs, and vegetables.
It's not a perfect approach, but it works in a pinch. At the airport Chinese fast food joint, for example, Aoki orders something like plain rice with sautéed vegetables and teriyaki chicken. At the grab-n-go kiosk, it's a green salad with grilled chicken.
Then it's time to board. "A good flight starts with positive headspace," Aoki says. "I view flights as my time to relax and revive my energy." Upon boarding, he opens his AC vent, then throws on a hoodie, a sleep mask, and noise cancelling headphones. In this makeshift sensory deprivation tank, he spends ten minutes meditating—which studies in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality—and afterwards zonks out against a full-size pillow he carries on. "I couldn't survive without doing this," he says.
It's a smart approach, says Chris Winter, author of The Sleep Solution. The three main things that prevent people from falling and staying asleep, Winter says, are light, sound, and feeling too hot.
Upon touchdown, Aoki wakes, powers up his phone, and orchestrates his first stop: a gym. "I work out first thing or it becomes hard to fit it in," he says. The city often determines the workout. In Miami, for example, he boxes with a local friend, and in Milwaukee he trains at a CrossFit gym. "CrossFit is a go-to because it's everywhere and you work out with a group," he says. "I need people to enable me to exercise harder." After the sweat session, he might stop at the hotel, but only to shower. He then walks the city, eats, and preps for the show. "I use hotels for sleeping and showering," he says.
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Whether or not Aoki and his crew get in a workout, they're always pushing themselves with what's known as "Aoki boot camp." It challenges the DJ and his team to rack up mini-workouts through the day. One day Aoki might have to do 10,000 steps, 100 pushups and squats, and three minutes of planks, while a less in-shape team member may be required to do half that. That sort of quick, intermittent, moderate-intensity activity may be enough to keep your weight in check, according to the journal Obesity. You just have to do it consistently, which is why Aoki Boot Camp comes with a catch: "If you don't hit your daily mark you're penalized," he says. "And that penalty is going to burn out of your pocket and go to charity."
The result has been a tangible adherence boost. "The daily challenge cutoff time is midnight," he says. "We'll all be having dinner at 11 pm and realize we have reps left—so everyone drops and does pushups and squats in the restaurant. We don't give a fuck!"
Late at night, he's on stage in the club, where everyone is indulging in drinks—except for Aoki. A few years ago, he discovered that his drinking was taking away from his ability to connect with his audience. He swapped pre-show cocktails and champagne for ready-to-drink protein shakes, coconut water, and unsweetened green tea. As a result, his energy skyrocketed—allowing him to feel less burnt out while performing even more shows and expanding his business. That may not be surprising, since alcohol can also impair the quality and quantity of your sleep, according tothe National Institutes of Health. But if you ask Aoki, there's an even more critical benefit when it comes to performing.
"Not drinking has helped me care less about me," he says. "I'm more in tune with the energy of my audience now."
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