Ancestral Living: Hype or Hoax?

Photo of a woman picking up some vegetables.

Microplastics in our water, microplastics in our food, chemicals everywhere, it all seems so discouraging for living a healthy, active lifestyle.

If we can’t get natural ingredients even in what we eat, where can we get them? The answer - is supplements.

As I’ve said before, supplements shouldn’t replace your food sources, but they can do a great job of bolstering your healthy diet, and reconnecting with a natural diet is something we should all strive for.

Ancestral Living certainly thinks it’s the answer to this problem of how to get back to a healthy and natural diet that makes us feel whole again. They promise to return us back to strength, health, and happiness through their small-batch approach to supplements - but is it hype or hoax?

What Is Ancestral Living?

Ancestral Living may be the name of the company, but the brand is all Brian Johnson (aka Liver King). 

A self-proclaimed Liver King is co-owner and founder of this Texas-based supplement/lifestyle company, along with his biological dentist wife, and is focused on using organically-raised and fed animals to produce supplements that are derived from clean sources.

Their flagship brand that’s part of the entire Ancestral Living ecosystem is the Ancestral Supplements company that focuses on providing customers with the ability to reclaim their health and life.

The purpose of Ancestral Living, according to Johnson, is to get back in touch with our roots and ancestors to move away from the unhealthy modern world of nutrition, supplements, and lifestyles. 

Through this practice of ancestral living and philosophy, the aim is to produce healthier bodies, like Brian Johnson claims he achieved for himself, his wife, and his two boys that he says were sick before adjusting their lifestyle.

Who is Liver King

Brian Johnson aka Liver King holding a pig's raw skin

Providing context is important when it comes to outlandish characters, people, stories, products, and information - especially when it comes to eating raw liver and living like our ancestors.

With that in mind, I'll give you some background info on "Liver King."

As mentioned, his name is actually Brian Johnson and he is the "CEO of the ancestral lifestyle," which is self-titled of course.

Ancestral living is the overarching brand that also contains his company, Ancestral Supplements.

Johnson is 44-years old and has been dedicating his life to "living like our ancestors" for the past 20 odd years, amassing quite a devout following on social media. He currently has 1.5 million followers on Instagram and 2.5 million on TikTok, so his message is getting out there.

You might be wondering what his credentials are, and surprisingly, he actually has a degree in Biochemistry, which is reassuring to some...degree. Although, famous figures like Joe Rogan are highly critical of his claims, among others.

Much of his philosophy, lifestyle, and brand comes down to being alpha, bucking the trend of the "soft" modern man, and returning to our roots (give or take what all of this really means).

He lives with his wife and two sons on a ranch in Texas.

What Ancestral Living is About

Briefly mentioned in the previous section Ancestral Supplements (and Liver King, by extension) are all about the approach to lifestyle and nutrition that focuses on eating like our ancestors.

Paleolithic Era of Native Americans

Who are these ancestors? Well, he alludes a lot to Native American peoples, but it’s kind of vague in that ancestors could mean anything from Native American tribes to the Paleolithic Era, but I won’t prattle on about this.

The main ideology is to get other people onto this natural way of life, which is growing in popularity thanks to influencers like Brian Johnson and of course, Joe Rogan, who famously talks about elk meat as the be-all-end-all choice of meat.

Part of the philosophy behind Ancestral Supplements and this lifestyle is to consume animal parts (whole animal, “nose-to-tail”) that help the corresponding part of your body. So, if you wanted a healthier liver, you’d eat a healthy liver of another animal, so on and so forth.

Much of this philosophy and ideology is derived from a Cleveland dentist in the early 1900s by the name of Weston A. Price, DDS., and his book Nutrition and Degeneration. This book focused on a lot of similar core tenets that Liver King discusses as well, revolving around Indigenous cultures and their diets.

Tenets of Ancestral Living 

On that note, Ancestral Living and Liver King have concocted 9 core tenets of this lifestyle. They include a pretty standard range of what people should be focusing on when it comes to staying healthy.

Here are the 9 tenets of Ancestral Living:

#1. SLEEP LIKE A ROCK

A person sleeping

Pretty self-explanatory, and I’d agree wholeheartedly, that sleep is a major component of healthy living, improved fitness, and general well-being. 

The idea that sleep is a sacred time in our day that our ancestors were blessed with interruption-free sleep, devoid of EMF (electromagnetic fields) from things like cellphones/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, noise and light pollution, blue light, and other modern side effects of society and technology are true.

Regulating sleep/wake cycles, absorbing vitamin D in the morning at a regular time, finishing eating before sleep (he suggests 3-4 hours, although it depends more on what you eat, not when), wearing UVEX glasses 2 hours before bed (unsure if this is legitimately useful or not), breathing through your nose (helpful for preventing dry mouth/infections, more oxygen flow), and sleeping on the floor (helpful for the back, supposedly).

Sleep is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, and while some of it is dubious, I can’t disagree with this tenet.

#2. EAT LIKE OUR EARLY ANCESTORS DID

Eating like our early ancestors is where it gets tricky. We live an entirely different lifestyle than them, for better or for worse.

Liver King claims it’s for worse, and it’s hard to argue against the increase in starches, chemicals (dyes, etc.), sugars, and other additives, preservatives, and chemical imbalances to food caused by fertilizers, Round-Up, etc., but much of his philosophy on food can be downright harmful.

Early humans dressed in animal skin sharing food

First, eating raw meat can get you very sick. It is possible to eat raw meat, raw honey, raw dairy, and raw eggs, among other things, but it takes time to develop the body's ability to do so over time through limited exposure.

Eating grass-fed meat is certainly something we should be doing, but it’s also not stated what kind of crop-spraying may be going on with the source of meat he uses. 

He’s a major proponent of the ketogenic diet (aka. Keto diet), and says this is where his insane physique comes from. How does keto create thick veins, shredded abs, and a massive pump? The process of ketosis, of course!

Ketones, in replacement of glucose, help the body burn energy in the form of fat instead of carbohydrates (sugars or glucose), and can help reduce blood/heart diseases, help reduce health issues like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and reduce fat build-up.

Here’s an example of what his family (or tribe’s), the first meal looks like:

Sample of what a first meal looks like doing Ancestral Living

As you can see, it’s pretty adherently organic and healthy. I’d agree that this is a great example of a healthy meal, but it might not be sustainable for all.

Here’s an example of a second meal:

Sample of what a second and main meal looks like doing Ancestral Living

And some suggested supplements:

Supplements for Ancestral Living way of life

All in all, I don’t disagree that eating a healthy diet is important, but a lot of it comes down to what your body needs (ex. Underlying health conditions, medications, male vs. female needs) compared to what shouldn’t be considered a catch-all diet.

It’s hard to argue against eating unprocessed foods and avoiding things high in carbohydrates, saturated fats, and foods with unnatural additives, though.

#3. MOVE LIKE OUR EARLY ANCESTORS DID

Movement is one of the keys to an active lifestyle. The modern lifestyle has become much more sedentary for people that aren’t working manual labor jobs.

If you work in an office, you’re likely sitting for extended periods of time, and then you’re coming home to sit on a couch, which isn’t good for overall health.

Sedentary lifestyles have increased the build-up of fat deposits, decreased blood flow and circulation, and increased heart-related diseases and health problems.

As you could likely guess, our ancestors weren’t sitting around, so getting up and moving is something we should all be doing. A general rule of thumb is to get up and move every 30 minutes.

Johnson states that “getting 10,000 steps a day (or) walk for 60 to 90 minutes…” is a good way to incorporate general movement into your daily life - which is absolutely true. It’s also easily attainable, even if you work from home or in an office, you can work standing and make sure you move your body.

#4. AVOID DANGERS LIKE OUR EARLY ANCESTORS DID

We aren’t being chased by wild animals, we aren’t running through undiscovered land with plenty of ways to fall, get hurt, or perish, nor are we exposed to diseases and viruses that are completely foreign to us.

A man grilling pieces of meat through wood and smoke for preservation

What Liver King is actually claiming is to avoid general dangers in our lives where and when we can. 

Plenty of these come from things like EMF, Wi-Fi, Cellphone waves, chemicals in food and water sources, plastics, non-native clothing fabrics (nylon, polyester, acrylic, etc.), and plenty more that would be hard to list.

Avoiding these things can be very hard, and while I tend to agree that reducing your exposure to a lot of these, especially by reducing your electronic device use, it’s not always feasible for the average person. 

We don’t have the benefit of all being able to move into the woods, but such is life.

For that, he suggests detoxing, and not just what’s in your body, but detoxing your entire body to help cells “come back online.”

Here are some examples he gives of detoxing:

Example of how detoxing works

#5. AVOID DANGERS LIKE OUR EARLY ANCESTORS DID

A man walking barefoot on a water with rocks

What surprises many people is that the idea of “grounding” or being “grounded,” which was coined by authors Ober, Zucker, and Sinatra in their book, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever!, in a physical sense, is actually beneficial for our health. 

There is a general concern that due to modern society, we’ve lost a lot of our connection to nature, getting back to nature in a myriad of ways, is good for us.

One of the simplest ways to do so is walking barefoot. In fact, walking barefoot is good for us for a few reasons, one of which is that it helps with posture, and another, which is harder to determine the validity, is that we connect to the magnetic field of the Earth.

Aside from that, spending more time away from noise, light, electronics, and those dangers like Wi-Fi, cell signals, etc. is something that we should all be striving to do, not just because our ancestors did it or a fitness influencer told us to.

Some benefits of “grounding” and connecting to nature and the Earth include:

  • Improved Sleep
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Stress Reduction
  • Muscle Recovery
  • Pain Management
  • Improved Circulation
  • Antioxidants
  • Protecting The Body From EMFs

So, always get some fresh air during your day!

#6. GET COLD

In a very literal sense, Johnson discusses that we need to get cold because our ancestors were more exposed to conditions without amenities like heat on a regular basis from clothing and homes, and this adaptation to cold helped BAT (brown adipose tissue) which is important for thermoregulation.

Dilation and constriction of our blood vessels due to cold is like an exercise for them, and along with the development of cold shock proteins (helpful for repairing brain synapses), provide an advantage for our bodies.

Doing this through cold shower cycles is an easy way to achieve desired results, claims the Liver King.

Still, getting cold might not directly mean submerging yourself in ice or running barefoot through a snowfield for most of us, it might be better as a metaphor for embracing the suck or becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.

However, that’s more of a mindset, and it’s a lot more subjective of a quality of life measurement than much of the research done on adipose tissue, LCL/HCL levels, and things we can monitor in diet and biochemical ways, which is more abundantly clear through exposure to cold, as Johnson literally means - get cold.

#7. FAT SOLUBLE ACTIVATORS, SENSIBLE SUN EXPOSURE AND MAGNESIUM

What’s incredible about this tenet is that Johnsons start off by claiming our ancestors didn’t brush their teeth or floss - and their teeth were healthy for it. 

Even more incredible is he’s actually partially correct. Many of our ancestors had healthier teeth than ours, but not because they weren’t brushing (there’s actually evidence of rudimentary toothbrushes), but because our diets have gotten worse.

Adding minerals like magnesium and phosphorus, and vitamins A, D, and K, can help re-mineralize our teeth, along with bone marrow, as it was stated that, “like becomes like” in regards to bodily health.

Adding minerals on your ancestral living plan

Naturally, sun exposure (in moderation) is also important for absorbing vitamin D as well. Livers are high in vitamin A, and maintaining a healthy diet is important for getting the most out of your minerals and vitamins. 

#8. fOR MEN ONLY

Sorry ladies, this sociocultural tenet is just for the men.

In its most basic sense, Johnson is claiming that men have lost a lot of what makes us men, which is a novelty, change, fight, or struggle. It’s easy to see how he’s right, we do get sucked into routines and mundane lifestyle things like going to work, coming home, binging Netflix, then repeating it all again.

However, it’s pretty easy to see how we can challenge ourselves with work-related things, stresses of family life, and picking up hobbies that push us, even scare us, to do new things. All This is something he even says himself.

However, don’t fall into the quasi-alpha male ideology that permeates across the internet. We may have stopped running from lions, but picking fights to feel alive or feel like a man is pretty dumb.

Nonetheless, pushing yourself outside of your natural boundaries and testing yourself is good for personal growth, as long as you pick healthy outlets like sports, outdoor activities, self-improvement projects, and things of that nature.

#9. TRIBAL BONDING

Tribal group of men hunting in the forest

Now the ladies can join in on another sociocultural phenomenon - tribal bonding.

Not much I can say against this either, in fact, I also wholeheartedly agree that we’ve very much lost a step in how we bond with those around us.

Fostering tribal bonds, ie. connections, with family, friends, coworkers, and others is essential to being the healthiest we can be. 

It’s hard to objectively determine the impact, but there are countless studies on how making social connections are essential for our betterment.

Humans are social animals after all, so some good advice is to surround yourself with like-minded people, challenge yourself with people of differing opinions, but find solid social groups through things like clubs, sports teams, or something of the like.

Even Liver King knows this is crucial for the true Ancestral Living philosophy, and the modern world can feel distant and disconnected because of phones and technology, but do your best to get out of your comfort zone and find social connections to improve mental health and help with goal-oriented motivation.

Incorporating Into Your Daily Life

Even the Liver King knows that this is hard to do without being practical, so funny enough, he even has a short excerpt on how to add alcohol to your Ancestral Living plan.

How to add alcohol to your Ancestral Living plan

As you can see, it’s a pretty normal way to still enjoy some socializing if you want to hang out with friends or feel like you need some kind of release from the stress of the weekly grind.

Aside from this, Johnson also advocates for the “Barbarian” as his workout of choice (and indoctrination ritual) for Ancestral Living.

The Barbarian is essentially a modified sled pull wherein you’re strapping your body with a pack (70lb, weighted vest is a good alternative for better weight distribution), carrying two 70lb kettlebells, carrying a 70lb sled (via shoulder straps), and wearing two 20lb ankle weights for a total distance of 1 mile.

It sounds barbaric, and I wouldn’t recommend doing this daily for fear of wear and tear on the joints, but for 1 mile at a time, it’s definitely going to push you to the limit in a good way.

How Ancestral Living and Supplements Can Help

All of what was said comes down to how much you believe in the core philosophy or ideology of what Brian Johnson, his team, his tribe, and Ancestral Living are about. 

So, what’s the practical application of these tenants and philosophy? The Ancestral Supplements we mentioned before. 

It’s not the only brand under his wing of bringing us back to a healthy life of balance, but it’s easily the flagship given it shares the name with the brand itself.

So, how can Ancestral Supplements help? Well, you already know how the tenets of Ancestral Living are designed to improve your life, but let us look at some ways the most popular Ancestral Supplements can help you.

Grass-Fed Beef Organs

One of their most popular supplements is the Beef Organs, which contains a very all-around nutrient and mineral profile, which provides the body with:

  • Preformed Vitamin A (aka retinol)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10)
  • Bio-Available Heme Iron
  • Selenium
  • Enzymes

That helps support:

  • Liver, Heart, Kidney, Pancreas & Spleen Health
  • Detoxification Pathways
  • Cardiovascular & Mitochondrial Health
  • Immune Health
  • Collagen Health
  • Regulates Energy Metabolism
  • Enzymes For Digestive Health
  • Overall Health & Wellbeing

Grass-Fed Beef Liver

Beef Organs contain Liver, but the Grass-Fed Beef Liver is another one of their most popular supplements that provide the body with:

  • Preformed Vitamin A (aka retinol)
  • Choline
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B12
  • CoQ10
  • Bio-Available Iron
  • Hyaluronic Acid

That helps support:

  • Healthy Teeth, Gums, Skin & Hair
  • Healthy Joints, Ligaments & Tendons
  • Collagen Production
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Immune Function
  • Methylation
  • Heart, Brain & Liver Health

Grass Fed Placenta (with Liver)

Placenta does not sound appetizing, but there's an incredible amount of nutrients in them, which includes:

  • Heme Iron, Zinc & Copper
  • B-Vitamins: B6 (pyridoxal) & B12 (cobalamin)
  • Vitamin D3
  • Essential Trace Minerals Selenium & Calcium
  • Hormone-Releasing Neuropeptides, Cofactors & Precursors
  • Placenta Specific Proteins, Stem Cells & Hormones (Prolactin and Oxytocin)
  • Molecular Biodirectors — DNA Blueprints To Build and Repair Healthy Tissue


That helps support:

  • Nursing and Postpartum Health
  • Positive Mental Outlook & Mood
  • Immune System, Asthma, Eczema & Allergies
  • Hormone Health & Menopause
  • Pain Management
  • Nervous System & Cognitive Functions

Grass-Fed Kidney

Much like the liver, the kidney is a vital organ that is packed with essential nutrients that often goes uneaten, it includes:

  • Healthy Kidney Building Blocks... Kidney Specific Proteins, Peptides, Enzymes & Cofactors
  • Molecular Biodirectors — DNA Blueprints To Healthy Tissue
  • DAO (diamine oxidase)
  • B12 & Selenium

That helps support:

  • Optimal Kidney Health Based On "Like Supports Like"
  • Urinary Health, Gout & Detoxification
  • Histamine Metabolism
  • Vitality, Energy & Thyroid Health (high in B12 and selenium)

Criticisms and Questions

Unfortunately, we come to the part where we have to cast some questions and doubts on the Ancestral Living brand and its products.

I’m not one to hate on someone for being passionate about a cause and the Liver King is just that, but there are a lot of concerns.

Is Liver King Natty?

It’s come up plenty on social media, on Reddit, and even had Joe Rogan himself claiming that Brian Johnson was not natty. It’s difficult to see a way to justify that his physique is purely natural.

Liver King all natural or not?

Of course, I don’t know if this is true, but plenty of people have made this claim arguing his vascularity, mass, and low body fat %, and possible Palumboism (HGH gut) are dead giveaways. I’m not in the business of gossip, so I’ll leave that one be.

He claims his body is the result of years of hard work, dedication, and the aforementioned diet and lifestyle, which could very well be true!

Is It Safe to Eat Raw Meat/Animal?

2 pieces raw beef meat

I briefly mentioned that it’s possible, but not always safe. This is a difficult question because it isn’t black or white, it’s very grey.

Eating liver, marrow, raw milk, and other raw animal parts/byproducts is very nutritional and can be very tasty, but it needs to be done safely.

Even at that, if you’re going to eat raw liver, you better be damn sure it’s sourced from a true grass-fed farm and is quality or you could get very sick.

So, if you want to eat like Liver King and live an Ancestral Living lifestyle, don’t jump in right away.

Is It a Marketing Gimmick?

Yes. There’s no way around it, a lot of this is marketing tactics.

I say that not as a form of ardent criticism but as a way of cutting through the BS. Marketing means the difference between selling products and not, that doesn’t mean the product doesn’t work, but it just means having to stretch reality a bit.

Seeing an absolutely yolked man tear into raw meat and liver, throw spears, showcase his amazing ranch home (far from ancestral living, amirite?), and be an animated, passionate character is part of the process.

All that being said, the benefits of these supplements and the lifestyle are still noticeable and shouldn’t be dismissed entirely as a gimmick.

Final Thoughts

Returning to our roots and living a more connected life to Earth and our past seems to be growing in popularity as the modern world seems to be spinning out of control.

Some people decide to go off-grind, others decide to practice a simpler way of life, and others have decided to take matters into their own hands with lifestyle and dietary changes. 

Liver King, aka Brian Johnson, is one of those people, and as you can see, his core tenets of the Ancestral Living and Ancestral Supplements brands aim to get back to our roots and reclaim our strength, health, and happiness.

Whatever you think about him or his brand, there’s no denying that the passion is there and there’s definitely some insight and advice that we could all use in our modern lives.

Denver Matheson
 

I spend a lot of time at the gym and even more time in the kitchen giving my body what it needs to repair itself and grow stronger. The third most important place for any athlete is their research zone. That's exactly why this site exists, to help me share all of the information I've learned throughout the years just like people did for me in the first place!

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