If you’d worked tirelessly all your life to become one of the richest people on the planet, you could be forgiven for wanting to slow down, eat good food and pile on a few pounds.
But that has not been the case for Jeff Bezos, who has transformed from a scrawny bookstore boss in the 90s to a buff billionaire at age 59 through grueling workouts and dieting.
Before his stratospheric success, the lanky Bezos would not have looked out of place at one of the brick-and-mortar bookstores his burgeoning business threatened to topple.
But the public was gripped by fascination over his seemingly overnight physical transformation in 2017 when he debuted muscular arms in a form-fitting vest.
Bezos was not known to be a health-nut before then and, in fact, admitted to never reading a nutrition label until he was approaching middle-age. His transformation was believed to have been sparked by Amazon’s 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods – the health-conscious grocer – for nearly $14 billion.
Bezos is pictured here in January 1997 well before his burgeoning online bookstore took off
In 2017 Bezos appeared more muscular than usual at a business conference in Idaho, sparking an internet firestorm
Bezos appeared even more buff on a Caribbean vacation in 2021, sparking rumors online that the mogul was taking human growth hormones or testosterone injections, which sources close to him denied
Mr Bezos can also credit his transformation to A-list personal trainer Wes Okerson, who has helped Tom Cruise, Gerard Butler, and Isla Fisher get in peak physical shape for their movie roles.
Bezos has embraced low-impact weight and resistance training as well as a nutritious diet replete with protein and healthy fats.
That would explain the motive for one of his preferred breakfasts – Mediterranean octopus that includes potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt – a sharp departure from his purported diet coming up that included a package of Pillsbury biscuits in one sitting.
Many top executives pride themselves on operating at top capacity on very little shut-eye: Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, and former President Donald Trump.
This is despite a mountain of clinical evidence pointing to the necessity of sleep. Healthy sleep is critical for cognitive functioning, mood, mental health, and cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and metabolic health.
Jeff Bezos understands that good sleep hygiene is tantamount to physical exercise when it comes to health.
He told a conference at the Economic Club in 2018 that he routinely gets eight hours of quality sleep, with the exception of travel across time zones, as global billionaires are wont to do.
At the Washington DC conference he said: ‘For me, I need eight hours of sleep. I think better, I have more energy, my mood is better, all these things.’
He also alluded to the fact that as he and his business have become wildly successful, he increasingly understands the importance of good sleep, especially for a high-power executive who regularly makes decisions with millions of dollars at stake.
‘Let’s go really crazy and say I slept four hours a day. So now I just got four so-called productive hours back. If I was going to have, say, 12 hours of productive time during any waking day, now all of a sudden I have 12 plus four — I have 16 productive hours.’
This, he said, comes to about 33 percent more time to make decisions.
‘If I was going to make 100 decisions, now I could make 133 decisions… Is that really worth it if the quality of those decisions might be lower because you’re tired or grouchy, or any number of things?’
If Amazon were still a start-up with 100 employees, Bezos acknowledged he would be less stringent about his sleep schedule for the sake of growth, but with bigger profits come bigger decisions and higher stakes.
In fact, Bezos has said he falls more in line with a standard held by fellow billionaire Warren Buffett who says he is satisfied if he makes three good decisions a year.
The prevailing scientific belief is that poor sleep can get in the way of performing daily tasks be it driving or inking a 13-billion-dollar agreement to buy health food grocer Whole Foods.
A 2017 study published in the Annals of Neurology examined the impact that insufficient sleep has on impulsive, risky behavior.
Researchers prescribed five hours of sleep to one group and eight to another in a week. Twice a day, the participants were given a task that had two possible outcomes: either receiving a set amount of money for certain, or gambling for a higher amount and getting nothing if they lost.
At the start of the week, less sleep had little influence on their decision-making, but as the sleepless nights added up, more and more of them chose the riskier outcome without really understanding the role that sleep played.
West Okerson is an avid believer in low-impact, high-resistance exercises such as rowing that incorporate weight training to build up strength and stamina over time
Bezos works with celebrity trainer Wes Okerson, who has been credited with preparing actor Tom Cruise for his 2008 thriller Valkyrie.
While it is not clear when Bezos enlisted Okerson’s help, they vacationed together in St Barts in 2021, when Bezos set the internet ablaze with his new physique. Okerson reportedly had been working with the executive for months leading up to the trip.
Okerson is an avid believer in low-impact, high-resistance exercises such as rowing that incorporate weight training to build up strength and stamina over time.
He also encourages his clients to bring their workouts outside. Running up and down hills, kayaking, rowing, and paddleboarding are among his and Mr Bezos’ favorites.
A healthy percentage of body fat for men 40 to 59 resides somewhere between 11 and 21 percent. Dipping below that threshold can lead to a haggard appearance. Netizens closely eyeing Bezos’ transformation have posited he is probably between 12 and 14 percent.
It is believed that Amazon’s 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods, a high-end organic grocer, influenced him to eat better
Bezos is believed to eat a protein-heavy diet combined with foods that contain healthy fats such as avocados.
Wes Okerson is a proponent of the keto diet, which consists primarily of fats, moderate protein, and low carbs. It would make sense that Bezos would adopt a more keto-friendly diet.
He has also said he likes to ‘putter’ in the mornings before starting work in earnest at 10. This, he said, includes eating breakfast with his family.
His appearance in July 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho as a buff Vin Diesel look-alike was just a month before he would ink a deal finalizing Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, a pricey health-conscious organic grocer.
But it used to be an entirely different story. He said in 2017 that his diet used to be extremely unhealthy – He’d eat an entire container of Pillsbury biscuits: ‘I had never read a nutrition label in my life; I ate what tasted good to me’
It is likely that his foray into a healthier lifestyle was a reflection of the deal with Whole Foods. A fellow Amazon executive Jeff Wilke said after the deal was finalized that he had that experience after living mos of his life as a ‘meat-and-potatoes person from the East coast’.
Wilke told Whole Foods employees: ‘I met a bunch of people on the West Coast who were eating in a different way and they changed my health. They changed the way I thought about food. They changed the way I thought about raising kids — and what we would feed them.’
And while Bezos is now said to maintain an exceedingly healthy and sometimes unusual diet – he once disclosed a favorite breakfast of his is the preparation of Mediterranean octopus that includes potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt – he also indulges in what could be dubbed ‘junk food’ sometimes.
In 2018 he posted a snap of Cheeto dust-laden fingers with the caption: ‘I know… but god I love Cheetos.’ And in 2022, he showed himself chowing down on a McDonald’s burger, saying: ‘My first job. Still the same great burger! Happy Sunday!’
Those ‘supplement’ rumors
When in 2017 he unveiled his brawny arms at the Sun Valley, Idaho ‘Camp for Billionaires’ as it is unofficially called, the internet erupted in a collective and incredulous ‘Huh?’
There is widespread speculation that Bezos has gotten his body to its current state using human growth hormone (HGH) or testosterone injections.
Given his age (he’s a young 59), and body composition, many doubt Bezos’ ability to achieve his current physique without the help of some pharmaceuticals.
Speculation that Mr Bezos has received helped from human growth hormones or testosterone replacement therapy is rife, with many pointing out the improbability that a man in his 50s could put on as much muscle mass as he apparently has.
As men and women age, they undergo a phenomenon called anabolic resistance, which lowers their bodies’ ability to break down and synthesize protein, according to experts at Harvard Medical School.
Protein synthesis enables the body to build up strength through exercise. And as that ability lessens, it gets that much harder for for a person to build and maintain that muscle.
This is where testosterone injections come in for the save.
Testosterone carries signals to the brain to tell the body to produce more lean muscle by binding itself to receptors found on muscle cells, triggering an increase in protein synthesis to grow more muscle tissue faster.
Roberta Del Campo, a dermatologist based in Miami, told Town & Country: ‘Not a chance it’s just diet and exercise.’
And Dr. Cameron Sepah, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School said: ‘Trust me, Jeff Bezos is pharmacologically enhancing his testosterone: Look at those arms at age 55!’
Bezos, for his part, has denied these rumors or, people around him have. An ‘anonymous source’ told TMZ in 2021 that they were 100 percent false.
The transformation of 20th-century Bezos to the buff 21st-century version was so stark that many have speculated as to whether he undergoes testosterone replacement therapy or human growth hormone to bulk up.
Mr Bezos has not directly addressed rumors of taking testosterone replacement or human growth hormone injections, though sources close to the mogul deny them.