Aging & Longevity

Liver King’s 9 Ancestral Tenets for Health and Longevity: Science or Fad?

Liver King's 9 Ancestral Tenants strive to enhance longevity by combining ancient wisdom and modern health practices.

By Dylan G. Arrazati

In the digital age, where the internet is teeming with so-called health and fitness gurus, one polarizing figure that continues to spark excitement and controversy is the Liver King, formally known as Brian Johnson. Liver King gained notoriety not just for his impressive physique but also for his promotion of the “ancestral lifestyle”, which is rooted in what he calls the “9 Ancestral Tenets.” These tenets aim to emulate the practices of our hunter-gatherer ancestors to enhance modern health and well-being. 

Despite recent controversies, particularly his admission of steroid use after claiming to have achieved his marvelous physique naturally, Liver King’s comprehensive philosophy towards achieving optimal mental and physical performance continues to draw attention. However, whether his claims are backed by science, or merely a fad, requires a nuanced exploration of each tenet and the scientific evidence surrounding his ancestral lifestyle. 

The 9 Ancestral Tenets


At the top of Liver King’s 9 ancestral tenets is sleep, a well-established behavioral protocol known to be a pillar of longevity and healthy aging. Liver King emphasizes the importance of aligning our sleep patterns with the natural rise and set of the sun, advocating for early morning and sunset exposure to regulate our circadian rhythms – our internal biological clocks that respond to environmental cues, like sunlight, to regulate a myriad of age-related metabolic, physiological, and behavioral processes. Notably, studies have shown that disrupting circadian rhythm increases susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, cancer, and diabetes, highlighting the validity behind the first ancestral tenet. 

Moreover, Liver King suggests that individuals also ingest their last meal three to four hours before bed, a health recommendation that is also touted by Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman. What’s more, Liver King recommends wearing blue light glasses before bed to prevent circadian rhythm disruption, another claim with some literature support. However, the one recommendation with less scientific backing that Liver King promotes to improve sleep quality is sleeping on a hardwood surface instead of a soft cushioned bed. 


The second tenet in Liver King’s ancestral lifestyle is “Eat.”

Liver King says, “The food we evolved with over millions of years are the same foods that our biology expects today to be healthy, strong, and lean. So drop the processed garbage, the seed oils, and liquid calories, and start incorporating whole foods, liver, bone marrow, heart, blood, and bone broth into your diet to express your most highest and dominant form.”

Much of what Liver King promotes resonates with nutritional science, especially his stance on consuming whole foods and avoiding processed foods, which are known to be extremely inflammatory and induce oxidative stress, two hallmarks of aging. There is also some truth behind his claim on seed oils, as they are highly processed and found to increase the concentration of omega-6 fatty acids, which in excess can trigger body-wide inflammation. 

While it may come as a surprise to many, organ meats like the liver and heart are some of the most nutrient-dense foods, holding essential vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin D. They are also extremely high in protein, which is vital for muscle building and repair. Liver King’s social media is plastered with him consuming heart and liver, typically in raw form! 

But let it be clear that you don’t have to eat organ meats raw to reap their benefits. In fact, cooking these meats to their appropriate temperature helps kill potentially harmful bacteria and parasites. Another important factor to consider regarding organ meats is that they are high in cholesterol, which can potentially increase the risk of heart disease. So before hopping on an organ-rich diet, make sure to consult with a licensed physician. 

One of Liver King’s more bizarre claims regarding the second tenet is that you should eat raw bull testicles to increase your testosterone. This belief is rooted in the idea that since testosterone is produced in the testes, consuming animal testicles might somehow contribute to increased testosterone production. However, this claim lacks scientific evidence and thus should be taken with a grain of salt. 


According to Liver King, movement is a non-negotiable tenet. He strongly advises individuals to shoot for at least 10,000 steps a day and to incorporate intense strength and resistance training, one of the most effective methods for preventing cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of mortality worldwide. Furthermore, high-intensity resistance training significantly contributes to muscle and bone preservation, which can mitigate the risk of developing debilitating diseases like sarcopenia and osteoporosis

Liver King’s physical resilience, while impressive, is heavily aided by his use of steroids, which allows him to recover more quickly and thus train more often, usually twice a day. Uniquely, Liver King developed an outlandish workout called “the barbarian”, which involves walking one mile while wearing a 70 lb backpack, carrying 70 lb kettlebells in each hand, pulling a 190 lb sled, and wearing 20 lb ankle weights on each ankle. The average person might find this unfeasible and, quite frankly, unnecessary. And they would be right. Normal resistance training two to three times per week is sufficient to improve overall health and well-being. 


Liver King’s fourth tenet, Shield, focuses on avoiding modern-day hazards like processed foods, excessive exposure to wifi and electromagnetic fields (EMFs), and synthetically made fragrances. When it comes to fragrances in beauty products, they often lack transparency with regard to disclosing their ingredients, potentially concealing harmful substances like phthalates and cancer-causing molecules (carcinogens). When it comes to EMFs, some research suggests that EMFs can potentially harm biological tissues like the testes and may even impair sperm quality, another finding echoed by Dr. Andrew Huberman, who also recommends against leaving your phone in your front pocket. Nonetheless, the overall literature is not robust enough to make definitive conclusions.  


To achieve the fifth tenet, Connect, Liver King harnesses the power of “grounding,” a practice that involves direct skin contact with the Earth’s surface. It follows that by embracing grounding, this direct connection with the Earth facilitates the spread of free electrons across and into the body, which can potentially improve sleep, decrease inflammation, enhance mood, speed up wound healing, increase antioxidant support, and reduce blood thickness, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Inflammation Research. Supporting literature on grounding is still in its infancy, but it appears that there may be some truth behind the fourth ancestral tenet. 


Cold exposure, particularly ice baths and cryotherapy, has surged in popularity over the last few years, especially among athletes and longevity enthusiasts, who frequently utilize it to speed up recovery and reduce inflammation and swelling following a workout. This practice so happens to be Liver King’s sixth ancestral tenet. Notably, some research shows that cold exposure increases blood flow and metabolism, improves mental health, and significantly increases dopamine release, which may provide enhanced alertness and focus. 


The seventh ancestral tenet that Liver King follows is daily sun exposure, especially midday sun exposure for optimal vitamin D synthesis, which is actually supported by scientific evidence. However, his advice to sunbathe naked, particularly the testicles, for increased testosterone, strays from proven science. Vitamin D’s benefits are well-documented, with research showing it helps regulate circadian rhythm and is essential for bone health and immune function, making this tenet largely beneficial. 


The eighth tenet, Fight, encourages stepping out of one’s comfort zone and embracing challenges, both physical and mental. Interestingly, when talking about the benefits of cold exposure, Liver King also says, “Comfort is not good for the organism.” Here, Liver King is essentially building off the idea that engaging in challenging or undesirable activities fosters resilience to stress and adversity, something he claims our ancestors experienced. 

Accordingly, in an episode of the Huberman Lab Podcast with David Goggins, Huberman goes into the science behind this and reveals that exposure to tasks that one does not want to do is associated with a larger anterior midcingulate cortex – a brain region that was found to be larger in older individuals with enhanced cognition. So, it appears that engaging in daunting activities, like ice baths, may not only improve overall health and resilience but also delay brain aging. 

Liver King goes on to say, “Struggle promotes evolution. When a species struggles, they evolve, they become stronger and better. Simulating struggle and overcoming develops strength which is why Fight and Cold are two of my favorite Tenets.” 


The final ancestral tenet Liver King preaches is “Bond,” emphasizing the importance of social connections and community. Notably, research on Blue Zones, geographic regions where humans have higher life expectancy rates and lower incidences of chronic diseases, demonstrates that belonging to a community, especially a faith-based one, and being surrounded by loved ones, promotes longevity and thwarts disease. Although diet and genetics also play a major role in the life expectancy of individuals in blue zones, it’s clear that nurturing relationships in a community supports healthy aging and well-being. 

“We’ve always needed each other, and we still do…If you want strength, health and happiness, you have to create your own purpose, you have to be part of something bigger and you have to identify a shared belief and you have to foster a culture of belonging with others. When you foster purpose and belonging, you develop a sense of community where everyone is needed and that everyone is important. Fulfilling the primal need for bonding awakens the old spirit within,” says Liver King. 

Science or Fad? 

The debate around Liver King’s 9 Ancestral Tenets for health and longevity is ongoing, but it sheds light on the integration of traditional health practices and modern health insights. While some of his tenets are supported by science, others lack rigorous evidence and thus need more research to fully elucidate their effectiveness and safety. 

Of note, it is crucial to reiterate that Liver King’s remarkable strength and physique were not solely the result of adhering to his 9 Ancestral tenets, a claim he maintained until an email containing his steroid stack was leaked. While achieving an impressive physique undoubtedly requires extreme dedication, discipline, healthy living, and favorable genetics, reaching the extraordinary levels Liver King showcased is not possible through natural means alone. 

Collectively, this discussion emphasizes the need for a nuanced approach to health and wellness, recognizing the value of proven practices while remaining cautious of those lacking scientific validation. It’s essential to remember that individual results may vary, and what works for one person may not for another, highlighting the importance of personalized health strategies.

The allure of Liver King’s lifestyle serves as a reminder of our ongoing quest for optimal health, yet underscores the importance of grounding health practices in both ancestral wisdom and contemporary scientific evidence. Ultimately, the journey toward health and longevity is personal, requiring informed choices, critical thinking, and sometimes, a dose of skepticism.

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