SoCal resident Rob Lowe has a tradition whenever he’s at a Los Angeles Dodgers game (a lifelong fan, he’s been to many, including, he says, all four elimination-game walk-off homers in franchise history). In the sixth inning, he makes himself a Coca-Cola float. This might be surprising, considering that the actor has sworn by the Atkins low-carb diet since his early thirties. “You gotta treat yourself,” he says. These days he’s an Atkins spokesman, but it’s by treating himself—occasionally—that the Brat Pack member has been able to remain in good shape, and maintain his heartthrob status, throughout his long acting career, which started when he was 15 and and continued on through roles on The West Wing, Parks and Recreation, and, now at 57, on 9-1-1: Lone Star. Here, Lowe talks about how he got on the sleep wave early, why he’s dialed back his workouts, and why he thinks he might still be at his athletic peak.
GQ: What’s the most recent addition to your wellness plan—one thing you’ve picked up recently that you’re finding to have great benefits?
Rob Lowe: I’m now getting the studies that are backing up what I have been doing intuitively for years, which is eating the Atkins way—low carb, low sugar—and getting more than enough sleep. People used to make fun of me. But now the science is catching up—that it’s more than beauty sleep. It’s brain sleep, it’s body sleep, it’s focus.
The other thing is, as a guy in my fifties, I’m training in a very different way than I used to. The hardest thing for me has been to train less. I would train every day if I could—and, frankly, kind of punishing myself. If I don’t feel like I’ve just killed myself in the gym, I feel like it’s been wasted time. Turns out, that’s not true—it’s particularly not true when you’re not in your twenties and thirties anymore. So I’m really focusing on diet, rest, and being smarter and more strategic about the training.
What made you want to sleep more, originally, if you were on that wave earlier than most?
It was that I was a child actor. When you’re a teenager, what do you want to do more than anything else? You want to sleep in late. My job had me waking up at 5:00 in the morning, pretty consistently. So when I wasn’t working, I couldn’t wait to go back to sleeping a ton. It was like a Pavlovian reward: Oh, sleep is good. Sleep means I’m free to do what I want. I’m not waking up at 5 in the morning and working on a movie or a TV show. It just became a part of my life that I would do whenever I could.
I know you’re on the Atkins diet, what does a typical day of eating look like?
Sometimes I don’t do breakfast. When I do, it’s usually greek yogurt with berries, low carb granola. And a triple espresso. I do and can eat that every day for breakfast and am perfectly happy. Then lunch is a giant salad, but it has to have some kind of really yummy protein in it.
Fish, chicken, today it’s going to be grilled shrimp. With healthy fat, like avocado. It’s not a bird salad. It’s a hearty, yummy, tasty salad. And then dinner is always some sort of big meat with sides. I have a radical sweet tooth. When my willpower is strong, I’ll have an Atkins shake. It’s the thing that got me turned on to their products, because when I first tasted it, I was like oh, this has to be bullshit. I will have that in lieu of Ben and Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs. That’s my go to when I want to cheat.