Unless you were a hardcore convert, you probably know Tony Horton from the frenetic commercials that came out in the late aughts. The ones where he’s hawking his workout series in a dark room full of sweaty, shredded people. His 90-day “extreme” workouts presaged the era of high-intensity exercise programs (think: CrossFit and F45 Training) and helped thousands of people experience what a truly grueling workout can do for you, mentally and physically.
Now, a bit older and a little humbled by recent illnesses, he’s back with a new line of supplements called Power Life. These heavily researched formulations helped him bounce back into almost-P90X shape, and he hopes they can help you achieve your fitness goals too, no matter your age. The line-up includes protein powders, wellness supplements, digestive aids, endurance and performance boosters, and a lean-muscle builder.
We recently talked to Horton about his new line and what he has in store for the future of his fitness empire.
Men’s Journal: After over a decade of success with your P90X workout program, you recently went through some pretty bad health issues. What was that like for you?
Tony Horton: I got Ramsay Hunt [syndrome] about three years ago, in October 2017. I got really sick, lost about 25 pounds, then it took about six months for me to come out of that. I got shingles in my ear. One out of 100,000 people who get shingles, get it in their ear—and those people usually get Ramsay Hunt syndrome. [It] just describes the inability to walk and it affects smell, taste, vision, hearing, and balance. There are a lot of nerves that go into my brain that got fried—the fifth, sixth, and seventh facial nerves—so I had Bell’s palsy for about a month. I had terrible balance issues, nausea, vomiting, couldn’t eat, couldn’t drive, couldn’t work out, couldn’t get out of bed. It was just horrible.
That sounds like a nightmare—especially for someone so fit and active like yourself.
It’s not fun… It goes on for weeks and weeks and weeks. And a lot of people who aren’t physically fit become recluse because the after-effects of Ramsay Hunt syndrome include something called bilateral vestibular hypofunction, which is vertigo that lasts forever for a lot of people who get it.
Aside from overcoming this illness, what spurred you to create a supplement line?
When I left Beachbody [who helped develop P90X with Horton], I was looking for new ventures. I always wanted my own supplement line for some of the things I thought I was missing. And as somebody who was getting older, it was [starting to get] really difficult to maintain my muscle mass. So I met with a great team of scientists and I explained my situation—that I still struggle with bouts of vestibular hypofunction that will probably never go away. I said, ‘What can you guys formulate for me to get me feeling better?’ There are a lot of boomers, which is what I am at 62 years old, that all suffer from sarcopenia—age-related muscle loss. It’s very hard to find a 75-year-old body builder because muscle mass is hard to maintain.
Did they create a solution?
It was really a combination of looking at the research, seeing where the issues were, then looking at the formulations out there. [Most supplements] are subpar and don’t really do what they say. We started out with just whey and plant-based protein powders first. Studies were showing people weren’t getting enough decent protein. And this one formula they put in both the whey and plant-based proteins—with HMB [hydroxymethylbutyrate], vitamin D, and chromium—had made a huge difference in studies for people coming out of surgery and struggling with maintaining their muscle mass and strength. HMB and vitamin D help boost something called leucine. Leucine is one of the branched-chain amino acids, which is an important part of muscle building. These studies were done in older folks—older than me—who were coming out of surgery—and their recovery times were shortened by a ton. I remember when I first met with them, I was like, ‘Come on, is this for real?’ These were studies from very reputable places, so I thought, what happens if I actually started to really exercise hard too? I said, ‘Hey, I’ll be your guinea pig. Before we do anything, let me just try this stuff out.’ And it made a huge difference for me, especially after my illness. I was getting strong again.
Did you start to see and feel a difference?
After a ski day in Jackson Hole, I was looking in the mirror going, holy crap, man—this was after taking it for two months. And I posted a picture, and I just was amazed. I definitely looked more jacked. I had gone up and stayed up in weight, and it was obviously some muscle weight. I noticed a difference in the gym and on the slopes. I’m not going to lie to you, I was in the gym working out three days a week, and I was skiing four or five days a week. I was also at altitude and running around town, but when I usually do that, I have to take days off of skiing. I get tired and I can’t perform as well in the gym. But I had this protein powder with me, going back and forth between the whey and the plant-based.
Do you still take the protein powder regularly?
Every day, without fail. Sometimes before and after exercising because my workout schedule changes. If I have an early 7 or 7:30 a.m. workout, I’ll just do the pre-workout formula and maybe a little creatine. If I’m doing cardio—I don’t do the creatine of course—I’ll have it immediately after the workout. And then days where I have a workout scheduled later, I’ll start those days with a bigger protein smoothie with blueberry, strawberries, pecans, walnuts, ice cubes, unsweetened flax seed milk, and protein powder.
What other supplements did you develop to specifically address your problems?
Based on some blood work, I found out I had a leaky gut. I didn’t even know what that was until I found out I had it. So we made Foundation Four, which is a great formula to help me deal with that. It’s a combination of prebiotics, probiotics, magnesium, fiber, and two servings of vegetables. From there we just keep on growing and got a great pre-workout formula called Performance, which has low amounts of caffeine—it doesn’t make you feel jittery and jacked up, which a lot of pre-workout formulas do.
What else is in store for an aging-but-dedicated-to-fitness Tony Horton?
Power Nation, a streaming fitness platform based on 90-day programs. We went through the first beta group with about 1,500 people from around the world, which was cool. We got really great feedback from different people and we completed Beta One. Now we’re in the middle of Beta Two. This is the start. There are four components, called the Power of Four. So it’s food, fitness, mindfulness, and supplementation—these are the four things I try to emphasize. We have mastermind groups, coaching offers, cooking videos, and live workouts. Those focus around dumbbells, bands, and a pullup bar. If you don’t have a pullup bar, which I know a lot of people don’t, we come up with alternatives. I also shot my first five workouts with Tonal back in October of last year. And now I’m in rehearsals this week and shooting next week for six more, which is really a blast. That’s keeping me pretty busy right now. I got rid of a bunch of [home gym] stuff I don’t need any more because Tonal does everything. The arms go every possible direction imaginable. So you can do goblet squats, biceps curls, military press, and triceps kickbacks…it’s just an amazing piece of technology. It’s something you think would have come out in 2050, and it’s already here.