Tesla’s not-so-common-sense principles for a long life:
- Eat two meals a day.
- Avoid uric acid and embrace protein and fats.
- Quit smoking and stop drinking coffee.
- Walk ten miles a day.
- Bathe in electricity.
- Follow esoteric practices.
“What is your secret of youth?”
“It is no secret, but common sense,” replied Tesla in a 1935 interview with George F. Corners. The now legendary inventor, at 78, subsequently elaborated on his “common sense” tactics for living beyond 60 years, the average life expectancy of the time.
“The most important element in my scheme of life is my diet.” — Tesla
Nikola Tesla is attributed with predicting everything from Wi-Fi to female empowerment, but did he accurately predict the longevity benefits of intermittent fasting? Having tried multiple eating regimens throughout his life, Tesla landed on two meals a day, saying, “I did not know what life was until I eliminated lunch.”
Tesla reasoned that one should eat a meal two hours before beginning work to fuel the work day, and a second meal at night “to supply the body with the material with which it will replenish itself during sleep.”
Interestingly, individuals who observe Ramadan follow a similar routine. By studying Ramadan fasters, scientists have found that 4 weeks of fasting from dawn until dusk (a form of intermittent fasting) increased anti-cancer markers and reversed metabolic syndrome, entailing reduced fat around the waist and lowered blood pressure.
“If my scheme is adopted universally, it will lengthen man’s span of life and improve the health of the human race,” Tesla said. And he may have been on to something, considering that after skipping lunch for only a month, those who fast for Ramadan increased their likelihood of living longer by reversing metabolic syndrome.
Be Mostly Vegetarian, Avoid Uric Acid
Tesla was mostly vegetarian, eating meat only once or twice a year. When speaking of meat and fish, he said, “they shorten life by introducing more uric acid into the system…”
High uric acid levels are associated with conditions like metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, which increase the probability of having a shortened lifespan, so maybe Tesla was on to something here, too. In addition to meat, he also forwent egg yolks to avoid uric acid.
Still, egg whites remained part of his diet, along with milk, butter, oil, and legumes, including beans, peas, and lentils, saying “every meal should have some protein and fat.” He also thought fruits and vegetables were an important part of his diet. Apparently, he enjoyed eating chopped onions and celery drenched in butter.
Give Up All Stimulants
Tesla gave up all the stimulants he once enjoyed, including cigars, coffee, and alcohol. However, he believed alcohol was beneficial to him, saying “I had previously expected to live 150 years. Now that I have given up alcohol, I have reduced my expectancy of life to 135 years.” He seems to attribute alcohol’s advantageousness to reducing stress:
“Alcohol has helped me a great deal in my life. It has made possible for me to escape from a strain which otherwise might have proved fatal. The man who is not an inventor cannot realize how powerfully the entire system may be affected by the discovery of a new truth. When I first saw my own invention, the induction motor, at work, my heart nearly gave out. Fortunately, a bottle of brandy was near at hand of which I partook. This balanced my nervous excitement, and I was able to survey the rotation of the motor with philosophic poise.”
Walk Ten Miles a Day
“The most stimulating activity, to my mind, is walking. I walk never less than ten miles a day. This has kept me in good health, but it may in the end lead to my destruction because I am a confirmed jay-walker.” — Tesla
Modern science has demonstrated that the more steps one takes per day, the lower their risk of dying from all-causes and cardiovascular diseases. The risk of death continuously decreases up to, at least 20,000 steps, about as many steps Tesla took on his ten-mile walks.
Aside from walking, Tesla also exercised while taking a bath, which improved his agility and flexibility. “I can clamp a piece of paper between my shoulder blades and hold it so firmly that no one can remove it without tearing it off,” he said.
Bathe in Electricity
Tesla believed that one day everyone would have a dry bath in their homes. One need only stand in a stream of high-frequency, high-voltage electricity to clean themselves.
“I believe in what may be called a waterless bath, by which I mean charging of the body to a very high electric potential. It is a bath of fire that rebuilds, rejuvenates, cleans, and exhilarates. It carries off instantly all dust, impurities and microbes, and stimulates the tips of the nerves,” he explains.
Of course, one wrong move meant certain death, but Tesla believed he could make his electric baths safe and affordable for everyone. In his laboratory, he claims to have taken a few electric baths of his own.
Follow Esoteric Eastern Practices
Some sects of ancient peoples, such as the Taoists, believed they could achieve immortality by practicing various levels of sexual restraint. Tesla seems to have adhered to similar esoteric practices, saying,
“I have found that the thinker is confronted with the problem of perpetuating either the species or the mind. It is almost impossible, at least in certain realms of high endeavor, to do both. This has been recognized by the Hindus, whose adepts practise complete sexual abstinence, and by many of the great religions.”
Tesla also only slept two hours per day but in an arcane manner. He said,
“When I sleep, I sleep profoundly. To sleep deeply, profoundly, is an art like deep breathing that must be learned. It is one of the secrets of the East. I think that I have discovered the secret. After a profound sleep, no matter how short, I feel so much refreshed that even now when I am near eighty, I must perform gymnastic feats to subdue my new-gained vitality.”
Don’t Try This at Home
Sleeping two hours per day and taking electric baths may not be the best idea for most people. Tesla ends by saying,
“It is possible that my scheme of life may not help others unless it is modified in accordance with one’s specific requirements, but it has kept in gear for seventy-eight years the machine which is Nikola Tesla.”