Life Extension Magazine®
Portrait of Matthew McConaughey author of the book GREENLIGHTS

Matthew McConaughey: The Art of Catching Greenlights

Actor Matthew McConaughey, author of GREENLIGHTS, prioritizes hard work, lifestyle choices, and physical, mental, and emotional health. From caloric restriction and exercise to supplements, his health protocols are still evolving.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on February 2021. Written By Laurie Mathena.

Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award-winning actor, best known for roles in box-office hits Magic Mike, Failure to Launch, Wolf of Wall Street, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

But underneath his winning smile, chiseled muscles, and party-boy persona, McConaughey is a deep thinker who is on a lifelong quest to better himself.

He’s a guy whose number one goal in life was to become a father, who values a relationship with God, and who has kept a journal since he was 15 years old.

McConaughey has lived his life in the spotlight—and he always looked good doing it. Even though he recently turned 50, he’s still turning heads.

It’s not from good fortune or good genes; it’s from being dedicated to working hard and making good lifestyle choices. From caloric restriction and exercise, to supplements like CoQ10 and 7-Keto DHEA, McConaughey’s personal health protocols continue to evolve.

McConaughey has always prioritized his physical, mental, and emotional health—and now he’s helping others do the same with his nonprofit foundation devoted to teaching high school students to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Staying Fit

Matthew McConaughey with just keep livin foundation students

Staying physically fit has been important to McConaughey, both professionally—for roles like the dragon slayer in Reign of Fire and the stripper in Magic Mike—and personally.

Besides eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water, McConaughey said he doesn’t eat his main meal after 6:30 p.m., and he prefers to eat smaller amounts of food, four to five times per day. He drinks a bottle of kombucha (a fermented tea) every day, and he tries to get nine-and-a-half hours of sleep every night.

McConaughey said that breaking a sweat once a day—preferably outside—helps him mentally handle the stress of day-to-day life.

“Stress is part of life. It means you give a damn,” said McConaughey on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “But I know I handle things better… and the outcome is always better… and I enjoy doing it better if I break a sweat and get those endorphins going. That presses reset for me.”

McConaughey is known for making dramatic physical transformations for the roles he plays, and he tries to do them in as healthy a way as possible.

For example, he turned to Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and supplement expert, Chris Lockwood, PhD, to help him prepare for his role as a male stripper in Magic Mike.

Since McConaughey was already in impressive shape and following a healthy diet, Lockwood told Bodybuilding.com that he merely tweaked McConaughey’s diet by having him increase the amount of lean protein he was eating, decrease the amount of carbs, and add whey protein shakes.

McConaughey had already been taking key supplements like a multivitamin, a green tea product, and CoQ10, but Lockwood said that he also added supplements like 7-Keto DHEA, which is beneficial for burning fat and for metabolic support.

After filming Magic Mike, McConaughey once again enlisted the help of nutritionists to help him safely lose over 50 pounds to play the role of an AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club.

By consuming a diet of three egg whites for breakfast, five ounces of fish and a cup of vegetables for lunch and dinner, and red wine at night, McConaughey dropped from 188 pounds down to 135.

Most people were stunned by the physical transformation, but McConaughey was struck by the dramatic benefits to his brain from the calorie-restricted diet.

“My mental gain was so acute and so on point,” said McConaughey. “I had an incredible amount of mental energy.”

Indeed, studies have shown that calorie restriction significantly improves verbal memory scores.1 And animal studies have shown that it could possibly help you live longer.2

Other roles have called on McConaughey to bulk up his muscles, such as his role as a dragon slayer in Reign of Fire. He joked that the McConaugheys are known for their large triceps. “Biceps are for show, but triceps are for dough,” his dad would say. McConaughey said he utilizes creatine to help them pop.

“If I take a little bit of creatine, my triceps go bananas,” McConaughey said.

The just keep livin Foundation

McConaughey running with students from foundation

McConaughey and his wife Camila started the just keep livin Foundation in 2009, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy lifestyle choices.

McConaughey explained, “just keep livin [is] lowercase because life is nobody’s proper noun, and there’s no “g” on the end of livin because life’s a verb.”

The just keep livin Foundation teaches students how to be involved in their health, with specific focus on fitness, nutrition, wellness, and community service. It currently serves over 2,500 students in 52 inner-city high schools across the U.S.

The program sets these kids up for success by teaching them to value both themselves and others.

“We just want them to change a few small habits in ways that they can, and in ways that they find enjoyable to do,” said McConaughey.

Just keep livin also teaches important principles to live by, such as finishing what you start. For example, one particular lesson plan is based on this inspirational quote by McConaughey:

“FINISH. Ninety-five percent of people don’t finish what they started. However small the task, only when you finish it can you be proud. No matter what the outcome… FINISH.”

Greenlights

Just Stay Livin Foundation group picture

McConaughey recently turned 50. He’s not slowing down, but he is looking back.

McConaughey has journaled since he was 15 years old. He recently revisited those journals, spending months alone poring over 35 years of musings, quotes, and memories, looking back to look forward.

The result was his autobiography, Greenlights, a book that quickly topped the New York Times Best Selling Books list.

This book is more than the story of McConaughey’s life. Instead, he said, it’s a “playbook, based on adventures in my life.”

In the book he writes about the greenlights in his life, which he defines as “approvals, support, praise. They’re also cash money, birth, health, success, joy, and fresh starts.”

But perhaps more importantly, he shares how the red and yellow lights—those times he didn’t get the job, or when his father died—were just as important for his learning and personal growth.

He recalls his early life in a tumultuous, working class family, where his parents were divorced twice and married three times to each other.

He recalls the miserable year he spent in Australia as an exchange student:

“The time at the [exchange family’s house] was torturous. A livin mental hell,” said McConaughey in Greenlights. “Only later did I come to realize that the suffering and loneliness I experienced would be one of the most important sacrifices of my life. Before my trip to Australia I was never an introspective man. On that trip I was forced to look inside myself for the first time to make sense of what was going on around me. It was a year that shaped who I am today. A year when I found myself because I had to.”

He was also candid about his struggles to stay grounded in the midst of his success, and how he sought peace—and himself—by hiking through the jungles of the Amazon and by spending time with the primitive Dogon tribe in Mali, Africa.

“I believe everything we do in life is part of a plan. Sometimes the plan goes as intended, and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s part of the plan. Realizing that is a greenlight in itself,” said McConaughey. “The problems we face today eventually turn into blessings in the rearview mirror of life. In time, yesterday’s red light leads us to a greenlight. It’s a matter of how we see the challenge in front of us and how we engage with it.”

Today, as a married father of three, he has finally found peace with his family, life, and career.

Greenlights bookcover by Matthew McConaughey

“I’ve always believed that the science of satisfaction is about learning when, and how, to get a handle on the challenges we face in life,” said McConaughey. “We all have scars, we’ll get more. So rather than struggle against time and waste it, let’s dance with time and redeem it, because we don’t live longer when we try not to die, we live longer when we’re too busy living.”

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

Matthew McConaughey is an Academy Award-winning actor who has starred in over 60 movies. He is the founder of the just keep livin Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk high school students make healthier mind and body choices. He is a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches a Script to Screen class that he created, and the brand ambassador to the Lincoln Motor Company. In 2020, McConaughey wrote an autobiography called Greenlights, which topped the New York Times Best Selling Books list.

References

  1. Witte AV, Fobker M, Gellner R, et al. Caloric restriction improves memory in elderly humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 27;106(4):1255-60.
  2. Redman LM, Smith SR, Burton JH, et al. Metabolic Slowing and Reduced Oxidative Damage with Sustained Caloric Restriction Support the Rate of Living and Oxidative Damage Theories of Aging. Cell Metab. 2018 Apr 3;27(4):805-15 e4.