The Real-Life Diet of Rapper Tobi Lou, Who Eats Every Meal Like It’s Thanksgiving – British GQ


Posted: January 9, 2021 at 9:56 am

Tobi Lou went viral in 2019 with a TikTok dance challenge. The dance is choreographed to the opening lines of Buff Baby, a track off Lous 2018 EP (and a moniker that has him joining the rapidly proliferating score of rap babies.) But the modifier is actually the key thereas much as Im a buff baby but I dance like a man feels like the kind of semi-sarcastic, vaguely nonsensical line that lands you a TikTok hit, the buff part hits the nail on the head. Because Tobi Lou is as shredded as they come.

Ive always looked really fit, even when I was in grade school, he says. He was a serious athlete throughout his school years and went semipro after college, playing baseball for the Joliet Slammers. After a hamstring injury benched him for good, he pivoted to music, adjusting his workout routine to one that would keep him in athlete shape while allowing him to focus on his art. Now hes writing his album during 20-mile bike rides down the L.A. River path. So you could say hes found balance.

Lou joined GQ to talk about his 5 p.m. breakfast habits, the ab workout he still cant defeat, and how his (mostly) healthy lifestyle helps him create.

For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and everyone in between about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.

GQ: What does your morning routine typically look like?

Tobi Lou: On a day I'm working outI work out every other dayI wake up, drink water, and I usually work out on an empty stomach, cause eating makes me lazy. If I'm doing outdoor biking, I'm riding 20 miles. I ride down the Los Angeles River path. I go from my house all the way till it stops, to the highway, and then I just turn around. That's about a two-hour journey altogether. I'm pretty exhausted after that.

How long have you been biking?

I've been biking inside for four years, but I haven't had a mountain bike in a long time. I would bike on a Schwinn Airdyne Pro bike, one of those cross-fitness ones where you have the levers so its a full-body workout, in my studio while watching music videos. This year's been a crazy year, right? I said, "You know what? I'm gonna go get a bike, bike outside, and see how different that is." It changed my life. To be able to escape everything that comes with being locked down in your house, biking outside just opened up that world to me. When you feel the wind rushing in your face...its very freeing. You feel like youre flying.

I don't know why I necessarily did 20 miles. I think the trail just ended. There was no other turnaround point that made sense. It took a couple days for me to do it without resting. I get a nice five-minute rest when I reach the halfway point. And I didn't know the heat would be a factor. There were days in the summer when I would get back and lay out on the floor for an hour.

I feel like I finally understand Frank Ocean's song Biking! It's always been one of my favourite songs, but it came out when I was heavy into indoor cycling. So I was in my studio, like, "I'm biking, I'm biking, I'm biking" [singing]. But when I got outside, I was like...wow, I wasn't biking before. Now I'm really biking. So I felt the shift.

Do you listen to anything while youre riding?

I would be listening to my music along with other music. Biking outside helped me create this album. Certain moments when you're outside and you're flying down the streets and hearing a song, it changes the way you perceive the song. I was experiencing the world and my music in real time. There'd be an acoustic part from a song with a guitar, and I'd hear birds from the real world mixing in. It really changed the way I made music.

Do you always work out in the mornings?

I love working out in the mornings because I wake up with energy. You have all that natural, let's-go-get-it type energy that can get you through a workout. I like to put that energy either into music or working out. If I'm recording, I usually don't get to work out in the morning, and I have to wait 'til maybe 5 p.m. Sometimes, if I'm having a bad day, I don't get to work out 'til 9 and I hate it. My mind gets lazier. Mornings are my favorite time, and if I can't work out in the morning, it kinda gets harder to succeed at actually working out that day. All sorts of things come up. When you finish a workout early, you just feel good. The whole day is yours.

I just finished a workout right now. That's why I feel kinda hyper.

You played semipro baseball after college. How does that influence your current workout routine?

Ever since I could walk, Ive been playing sports. So working out was always a way of life, just because you're an athlete. When I stopped playing baseball, it was a shift from having to work out for a competition to just work out for myself. I had just moved out to L.A., and I was really into Insanity workout videos by Shaun T. I was running a lot outside too. I've stopped because it was tough on my knees, and that's what led me to biking. Biking gave me what running did, without the harshness on my knees.

That semipro career ended with a hamstring injury, and I also had broken my femur bone in football freshman year of high school, which affected my knee. I was in a wheelchair for about three months. So I feel like I'm still rehabbing from that. Half of my workout is just rehabbing. I do select leg workouts just to make sure my muscles around my knee are strong.

What else do you do for exercise when youre not biking or rehabbing?

The other part is just tightening up. I've always looked really fit, even when I was in grade school. Just the way my genes were. After I stopped playing sports, I stopped doing the heavy bench-press squats and stuff, because I blow up so quick. My body kind of inflates. So I kinda just tailor it to what puts me in a decent position.

If I'm not biking outdoors, I do the stationary bike for 20 minutes, then I do pull-ups and dumbbell exercises like lunges, calf raises, hamstring dips. I do the Chloe Ting ab workout. I thought I was gonna be switching from different YouTube and app workouts all over the place, but I can't seem to defeat hers. It's a 12-minute workout, and you level up every week, and I can only get up to, like, week three. I've been doing that for almost a year now. It keeps me going.

Besides the rehab thats baked into your workout, do you have any other practices for injury prevention?

Stretching is the biggest thing. In baseball, the day I got injured was because I was coming off the bench and I wasn't fully stretched. And it cost me the rest of my career. So I know how important stretching is based on that simple fact alone.

When you're stretching and your body's feeling really loose, you feel like you can do anything. I'll just be bouncing in my house as if I'm in the starting lineup in a basketball game, waiting for my name to be called. Before performances, I'll be over in the corner stretching as we're going over the song lists or about to do the prayer, cause I gotta make sure I don't pull something. Im a very active performer; I love to jump all over the stage and off of it. I'm not trying to get injured. It's like a sport to me.

Where in your schedule do your meals typically fall?

I'm usually a two-meal-per-day person, because I don't really get to breakfast early enough to get three meals in. Sometimes I dont eat till 5 p.m., but Im always starting with breakfast. My breakfast is oatmeal and scrambled eggs. I like to chop up peppers and mushrooms and spice up the eggs a little bit. Every six months I give up eggs for a little bit, but then I'm like, Okay, I need 'em back. The oatmeal, I used to do the microwave stuff, but I've grown up and now I use a pot and cook it with almond milk. I have it with fresh strawberries and blueberries. It feels like a very healthy breakfast-slash-dessert. The rest of the day, I don't really eat much. I drink a lot of water. After my workouts, I have a protein shake with bananas and strawberries and a whole bunch of stuff. For dinner, I try to keep it healthy. Fish is where I live at. I don't really like to do chicken and beef, but I will have a good burger every once in a while. I tried to go vegan once, and I felt like it was gonna change my life, but I felt kinda weak. Maybe I wasn't doing it right.

I love rice. I'm African, so rice is like home to me. I dont know what youve heard, but Nigerians make the best jollof rice. Theres some rumours going around...but just know Nigerians make the best jollof rice.

Do you have a go-to snack?

I dont really snack a lot, because I eat like its Thanksgiving every time. I can really pack a whole meal for five down. If I am, its usually a healthy thing. Theres carrots, bananas, and apples in the fridge. The only thing that gets me in trouble are saltine crackers. Sometimes, after dinner, Ill go to the crackers and say Im only having five. Before I know it a whole roll is gone.

How does your sleep schedule factor into all this?

I have the most chaotic sleep schedule. Its actually based off naps. I don't suggest this for anybody. It's partly because of the way I record. I like recording right when I wake up cause my voice is just really deep and weird and I like the tones it does, so sometimes I'm just sleeping three hours, waking up, and being, like, "Oh, I'm about to record." Sometimes I'll fall asleep at, like, 11 p.m. and wake up at 3 or 4.

I take a couple naps a day, maybe two or three. I won't choose to do the nap, I'll just kind of fall asleep for 45 minutes. It recharges me just enough to be like, Oh, I'm good. Food gets me into a nap zone, and then I nap for maybe an hour and a half, and then all of a sudden I wake up and it's like a new day.

Last year, when I was making an album, I didn't sleep, I didn't work out. I didn't have the energy. But this year I decided I would not let my lifestyle take a backseat to the music, so I was like, Okay, you're gonna make this album, but you're still gonna get up, you're still gonna work out, and that's kept me sane. A lot of ideas come when I'm working out. I feel like I can do anything when I hit a certain zone. Stuff that felt like it was a problem or I couldn't figure out, I reach this high and I'm like, Yeah, I can do this.

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The Real-Life Diet of Rapper Tobi Lou, Who Eats Every Meal Like It's Thanksgiving - British GQ