Issue No. 212: Going Primal

Illustration: Courtney Powell

Rejecting creature comforts, proponents of “rewilding” want to live like our prehistoric ancestors.

Born to be Wild

Not to be confused with environmentalagricultural, or urban rewilding, the human-focused effort advocates for returning to a hunter-gatherer way of life.

As the thinking goes, modern life is killing us. Depression, obesity, insomnia… you name it, the growing list of health issues we currently face stems from the proliferation of technology and absence of nature.

  • Americans spend ~93% of their lives indoors.
  • US adults are sedentary for 9.5 hrs/day, the majority of which is spent sitting.
  • 13 hrs/day—or about three-fourths of their waking time—are spent consuming digital media, per eMarketer.

The solution, then, is to adopt habits more in line with our primitive predecessors. As biomechanist and author Katy Bowman puts it:

“Perhaps the only way out of our poor physical state, created by our culture of convenience, is a return to the behaviors of our ancestors.”

Back to nature. In the simplest terms, that could mean replacing screentime with gardening, hiking, cold-water swimming, or forest bathing.

Rooted in the biophilia hypothesis, experts say humans have a primal need to be in nature. Further, they add, insufficient time outdoors causes nature-deficit disorder, harming our overall well-being.

But, for more zealous disciples, rewilding is a quest to regain the knowledge, skills, and physical prowess of our paleolithic forebears.

Gut feeling. In addition to walking barefoot, hunting, foraging, and otherwise subsisting off the land, a more extreme approach includes rewilding the microbiome.

A controversial theory, some researchers are attempting to restore the ancestral state of the microbiome by transplanting feces from the Hadza people of Tanzania.

While this particular approach sounds bizarre and has garnered criticism, the broader effort to rewild the microbiome has become a big business, with Rutgers professor Dr. Martin Blaser noting:

“Restoration of the human microbiome must become a priority for biomedicine.”

Interestingly, decoding the gut follows a similar logic as the broader lifestyle endeavors, mainly — will undoing the harmful effects of industrialization help alleviate our chronic health ailments?

King Con

From the paleo diet to barefoot running to natural movement fitness, we’ve heard versions of the rewilding pitch before.

And, more recently, influencers hopped on the bandwagon. The most prominent example, Brian “Liver King” Johnson built a $100M-a-year ancestral living empire.

Incredibly jacked, Johnson credited his primal philosophy, including eating raw animal liver, sun exposure, and cold plunges, for his superhero physique. Following these tenets and consuming his company’s supplements, Johnson marketed himself as all-natural.

Unsurprisingly, as we now know, Johnson uses all the steroids. Turns out, he’s the antithesis of the principles he preaches — he’s a fraud, plain and simple.

Comfort Crisis

The Liver King saga reveals a few hard truths.

First, whether its individual personalities or entire organizations, using anabolically enchanced models to promote health habits or push product isn’t just unethical; it’s downright dangerous.

And second, all the trappings of modern life are making us less resilient, compromising our immune system, and stressing us out.

But, instead of retreating from society or searching for shortcuts, we’d be better off heeding the advice of Comfort Crisis author Michael Easter, who advocates for doing hard things.

Or, as Stanford neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman puts it: “Beware any reward that comes without sacrifice.”

🔥 Getting back to business, Y7 wants to flow even harder

Music can make or break any workout experience.

On the Fitt Insider Podcast: Y7 Studio founder & CEO Sarah Larson Levey discusses the brand’s music-driven approach to hot yoga.

We also cover: 2023 expansion plans, as well as its new digital platform and partnership with Universal Music Group.

Listen to today’s episode here

📬 Field Trip Health offers free ketamine to laid-off tech workers

Last week, the psychedelic-assisted therapy provider said anyone impacted by cuts at tech companies like Twitter, Meta, and Stripe can receive a month’s worth of services, free of charge.

The offer includes one ketamine treatment (in person or at home) followed by a clinician-led integration session.

But… Raising eyebrows, the promotion highlights growing concern over easy access to ketamine.

Special K. A party drug turned mental health salve, ketamine delivers a short-acting hallucinogenic experience shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

During the pandemic, startups selling at-home ketamine-assisted therapy got a boost when restrictions on prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine were suspended.

  • In April, Nue Life Health raised $23M for therapeutic ketamine.
  • In June, Innerwell landed $3M for its psychedelic teletherapy platform.
  • Later that month, Wondermed debuted its at-home treatment following $4.6M in funding.

Elsewhere, while Field Trip maintained its physical clinics, Mindbloom pivoted to fully virtual treatments, offering at-home ketamine in 35 states and DC.

Cause for concern. According to retired DEA official and controlled substance consultant Anthony Coulson, if lawmakers don’t extend pandemic-era telehealth rules, the mail-order ketamine business could crumble:

“There’s going to be a reckoning coming, and when that reckoning comes, you probably will lose everything.”

Looking ahead: For now, telehealth waivers are being renewed by three months at a time as lobbying efforts are ramping up. But growing uncertainty could slow the psychedelic renaissance.

💸 Huel adds new funding for plant-based meal replacements

What’s happening: Huel, a sustainability-focused nutrition startup, raised $24M in a round led by Highland Europe, with participation from actor Idris Elba and others.

With fresh capital and an expanding portfolio of low-sugar, plant-based meal replacement products, the company will press expansion in the US, its second-largest market.

Why it matters: Huel’s powders, protein bars, and quick mixes are formulated for fueling, with precise ratios of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Emphasizing convenience and a climate-conscious ethos, the brand is targeting a growing number of consumers seeking functional foods that are transparent about their benefits.

Drink up. Like SlimFast before it, Silicon Valley favorite Soylent offers a meal replacement shake akin to Huel. The company raised more than $130M before it came under scrutiny for lab-made ingredients and links to gastrointestinal distress.

Pivoting from meal replacement to supplemental drink, its CEO said the company is on track for $100M in sales this year, selling in 30K US retailers as well as DTC.

Looking ahead: Convenience, transparency, functional nutrition, and planet-friendly are all highly valued by today’s consumer. But, so are whole, organic foods. Huel will need to convince consumers powdered meals aren’t just a novelty.

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📰 News & Notes

  • Oura enters corporate wellness.
  • SoulCycle seeks new riders, joins ClassPass network.
  • Calm taps US Surgeon General for mindfulness content.
  • We’re giving away Athletic Greens, MUD\WTR, and more.
  • Zwift appoints former Amazon subscription vet to co-CEO.
  • Planet Fitness relaunches app with workouts, hybrid features.
  • YouFit partners with Break the Love on in-gym pickleball booking.
  • Exec Q&A: Plantiga CEO Quin Sandler on injury-preventing insoles.
  • Wild.AI syncs Supersapiens CGMs to decode women’s energy levels.
  • Fitt Jobs: Start a new career with the health & fitness industry’s top orgs.

💰 Money Moves

  • Lumen, a metabolic health startup, raised $62M in a Series B round led by Pitango Venture Capital.
  • Plant-based meal replacement startup Huel raised £20M ($24M) in a funding round led by Highland Europe, with participation from actor Idris Elba and others.
  • UK-based connected stationary bike maker Wattbike added £3.25M ($4M) to expand in the US and Asia-Pacific.
  • ZOE, a personalized nutrition company, raised £25M ($30.5M) in a Series B extension round led by Accomplice.
    More from Fitt Insider: Food as Medicine
  • Dawn Health, developers of digital therapeutics for insomnia, raised an undisclosed funding round led by Kindred Ventures.
    More from Fitt Insider: The Sleep Economy
  • Nox Health, a sleep health company, picked up an undisclosed strategic investment from Vestar Capital Partners.
  • Personalized nutrition company bioniq acquired German fitness mirror maker VAHA.
  • Cloud Health Systems, creators of a forthcoming metabolic health and obesity platform called Sunrise, pulled in $30M in a funding round led by Thrive Capital.
  • TV personality Bear Grylls and investment firm Savage Ventures acquired and will relaunch as an adventure destination platform.
  • Indian supplements company HealthKart secured $135M in Series H funding led by Temasek.
  • Nautilus, a fitness equipment manufacturer, amended an existing $100M credit facility, financing an additional $30M.
  • PeaTos, a better-for-you competitor to Cheetos, secured an undisclosed sum in a Series A3 round led by POST Holdings.
  • Smoodi, creators of an automated healthy smoothie maker, raised $5M in a Series A round.

Today’s newsletter was brought to you by Anthony Vennare, Joe Vennare, and Ryan Deer.

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