Today I’m honored to be interviewing Andy Hnilo. He is a model for Oakley, Speedo, and Coppertone in addition to being an actor on Days of our lives and HBO’s Hello Ladies. He’s also a Former D1 athlete (turned down a pro-baseball contract when he landed a role on Days of our Lives), ambassador for the Bulletproof Exec and owner of Alitura Naturals. His dedication to nutrition, health and body is unparalleled. Most people just talk about how healthy they are. Andy lives that dream (Unapologetically).
I was first introduced to Andy while listening to an episode of the BulletProof Exec podcast (see below). Immediately, I was blown away by Andy’s commitment to his health, willpower and passion for life.
I got a chance to speak with him about his story and journey into the holistic alternative health scene. His story is remarkable and he literally gave me the chills, when we were talking.
It was around 12:00 AM March 20, 2011 and Andy was walking the streets of Melrose ave in California.
Melrose Ave is a busy place at night with lots of people, bars, clubs, and restaurants. Like most nightlife places it can be a little chaotic after bar close. Andy grabbed his new phone out of his pocket and started walking across the street, not knowing how the next few seconds would alter his life forever.
He stepped out onto the street and saw a black Toyota Tundra in the corner of his eye. It was coming towards him. When you cross a street, you expect drivers to stop. This is the way most people in the city think. He thought the car was going to stop.
It kept coming.
The impact was immediate. The Tundra hit his left hip causing a gaping wound, exposing both bone and flesh. The force of the hit sent him flying into traffic going the opposite direction. In the next lane over, he was met by a land Rover (also not a small car), which ran him over.
Let me reiterate… he was hit by not one… but TWO cars.
The next morning he woke up at Cedar Sinai hospital in Los Angeles drugged up on morphine and surrounded by his family.
This accident left him disfigured and bed-ridden. His injuries were numerous, including:
- 7 broken ribs
- A collapsed lung
- A jaw broken in 5 places
- A 3 inch gash his chin
- Road Rash
- A 6 inch gash in his hip
His wounds were so bad that his ER doctor told him “You have the worst facial injury I have ever seen”.
Not the type thing you want to hear from the doc. It was so bad that they had to call a specialist just to put his face back together.
The following weeks were really bad. He was unable to walk or move, so he moved back home and had to rely on his family to take care of him. Just to get out of bed required the help of his sisters. A humbling experience.
Not something most former athletes have to deal with.
To make matters worse the doctors wired his jaw shut for 9 weeks AND inserted metal plates into his face. This meant that his entire nutritional intake had to come in liquid form and without using a straw (If you have had oral or maxillofacial surgery you know what I’m talking about).
Not great for someone who makes their living as a model and actor.
He wasn’t happy about the way he looked. No one would be. But he was alive, and that was all that mattered.
Most people would have given up and taken pity on their situation. He did not. He kept challenging himself, getting out of his comfort zone and fighting.
“Never once, did I complain. I was just happy to be alive”
One of the most fascinating parts of his story was his incredible recovery process. He did things most people would consider to be “beyond extreme”. Being an athlete and no stranger to pushing the boundaries and he started experimenting with Chinese herbs, clay masks (which he formulated), super foods and herbal tonics to speed his recovery. Prior to the accident, he was eating a clean paleo diet. Post-accident, he needed to take his nutrition to the next level.
Many people said his career was over. Andy knew better.
“You’ve just got to have that undying inner belief”
Mental Toughness and Internal Belief
Let’s go back 20 years. As a scrawny 13 year old, his baseball coaches told him, he would never be a D1 athlete and should just focus on getting good grades. This negative motivation fueled his massive self-belief and iron will to succeed. While others played and partied, he was running stairs, lifting weights, sprinting and running until his feet bled. Determined to beat the odds he worked his ass off and eventually became a D1 baseball player at the University of California. This type of goal setting and work ethic would become central to his recovery process.
Back to our story…
“I’ve just always been that dude, that If you tell me I can’t do something I’m going show you I can”
Andy was more determined than ever to get his career, face and body back. Using positive self-talk he never stopped believing in himself.
After working with a Chinese herbalist at Dragon Herbs in Beverly Hills, he began experimenting. Nothing was too extreme or too far out there.
Let me spell out his determination in 3 words “Deer Placenta Smoothies”. Yes, I mean he literally chugged down deer placenta in smoothie form (along with a bison liver, egg yolks and colostrum).
He makes Wolverine look like a little bitch.
Side Note: Placenta, liver, egg yolks and colostrum are an absolute nutritional powerhouse. For anyone looking to pack more nutritional density into their diet (especially if you are in recovery mode), look no further. Some of his other favorite foods for recovery and healthy skin: raw cream, sardines, butter, avocado, and almond butter.
The X-Rays, CT Scans, operations and metal plates in his face left him with heavy metal toxicity which also needed to be dealt with.
His methods may seem beyond extreme, but so were his results….
A month after getting hit by two cars he was back sprinting up mountains with his jaw wired shut. A few months after that he was back on the runway.
Most people would have backed down and allowed self pity to take hold. He made no excuses and took action.
OK Finally…. Here is my Interview with Andy Hnilo
On Life Post Accident
BA: Andy, you suffered an accident that would have left most people full of self-pity and feeling bad for themselves (especially someone who’s income is directly tied to their appearance). You persevered. Most of my readers what to know, what you were thinking during the recovery process?
AH: First off, thanks for taking any interest in my ‘story’ in the first place. I’m honored and humbled every time that anyone thinks that anything I do is interesting or inspiring, so thank you.
Immediately after the accident I was surrounded by so much love from family and friends and so heavily drugged up with morphine that it wasn’t so traumatic haha. Right from the beginning the focus was on me being alive. People usually don’t live after accidents like that, and the fact that I could walk… well I had/have a lot to be thankful for. As soon as I got home my focus was to get off of the medicine and antibiotics as soon as possible (don’t tell my doctors haha) so I did my best to skip dosages but my sisters were pretty on top of it so that was hard to do! I remember getting up, and stumbling to the bathroom for the first time and looking in the mirror, man… not a very pretty sight. That is a feeling that will stick with me for the rest of my life and I’m okay with that.
I was a humble dude before the accident, but lets just say I am pretty grounded now and very happy to be able to do things like chew and run. I never really took things like that for granted but I sure as heck don’t anymore! There were steps in the recovery.. total timetable thing. Which sucks if you’re an ‘instant gratification’ type person. I could not feel my chin or bottom lip.. oh and 7 broken ribs and a collapsed lung were hands down the most painful part of the process. Sneezing… excruciating doesn’t even begin to describe it. I kind of like it hard though, definitely not a softy so part of me in a twisted way enjoyed the process. I’m weird I know.
I just have always embraced challenges throughout my life and people saying I can’t do certain things so I just took this as another chance to come out on top. Hope that doesn’t sound cocky, I’m just doing my best to describe my state of mind. My main focus was getting the swelling down. I wish I took more pictures.. but let’s just say I didn’t exactly enjoy being photographed at that time. I would use a ton of arnica, bromelain and of course my mask to help get the swelling down, calm the irritation/abrasions and remove as many toxins from my head/face as possible. Oh and a LOT of icing. It was brutal man, but NEVER ONCE did I ever question why I was at where I was. My sole purpose was to come back better than before. And I did.
BA: What sort of strategies did you use to stay positive and keep your focus on your goal of making it back to the runway?
AH: So I never told my San Francisco agent about my situation.. I booked the runway show for Macy’s about a week before the accident. Part of me just didn’t feel like making the phone call and talking about the accident, and then part of me realized I could make that a goal to reach because one thing I couldn’t do was walk the runway with my jaw wired shut. Just not a good look ;) It just so happened that it was right around the same amount of time that I was due to get the wires out. Literally two days before the show, I got the wires out, visited the dentist, hopped on the crest white strips and was good to go! The funniest thing is I was the only guy in the shirtless look. Not bragging at all I just still think that’s so ironic. 6 inch GNARLY road rash gash on my right side at the time. Got some hi 5’s and cheers for that one ;) Really just getting back to work, making money modeling again and knocking down that first goal was that first little snowflake that got the avalanche of momentum going mentally. I’m one of those people that builds off of stuff like that.
BA: Would you have the accident happen to you again if you had the choice?
AH: Yes. 100% I found my purpose, man. I have direction now. I don’t like to say I’m humbled now, because I have always been. I have always realized the importance of being positive and how lucky we are to be alive so that never changed. Now I have a voice of experience to help others. I cannot stress how good that makes me feel. I get emails daily from people all over the world who were/are in similar situations in their own lives, asking me for my opinion on certain things or telling me how I inspired them to change their life in a healthier way. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. I was a bartender.. poisoning people nightly with alcohol. That’s not what I was put on this earth to do. And I am so glad that Oakley put me in a position financially to get out of that.
All of that said. A little over 3 years later, I am just now beginning to get over the guilt that I put my family through. I use to visualize what it was like for my parents to drive 6 hours down from the SF bay area not knowing what condition their child is in, just knowing he is in the ICU of the hospital. Tearing up now as I write this.
Whew, yea so the reason I am able to get over that is because for the first time since high school when I signed a national letter of intent to attend UC Berkeley on a baseball scholarship, I feel like I am making my parents proud. That’s all I want to do man.
BA: At what point did you stop caring about what other people think of your daily health habits?
AH: Oh dude I’ve never cared… I love it. And I think that’s all that matters. Really, at least to my face, all I have received is love and interest. Not a whole lot of negativity or ‘hate.’ If there is, I sure don’t notice it haha. I will say this, there have been several situations where people have kind of mocked my routines, and mask wearing etc. I’ll keep this short and just say, those same dudes are now asking me for samples of my mask and requesting nutritional help. And I’m happy to do so.
BA: How do you deal with family or friends that try to convince you, that you are too extreme and need to be more normal?
AH: Well I wouldn’t really say it’s trying to convince me to another type of lifestyle or ‘taking it easy.’ It is more of people who have their opinions on how to live a healthy life. Which is fine. I just live by this theory ‘TO EACH THEIR OWN” You will never catch me demanding someone to follow my advice or that my way of living is better. Not my style. I don’t respond well to those types of people so I damn sure don’t expect someone to respond to me if I am that way. For the most part people love it, sardines and avocado on set? Making a quick trip to the bathroom to eat them?! Dude that’s funny right!? It’s quirky but hilarious. I’m quiet about it, definitely not the ‘hey look at me and my nutritional choices’ guy. Those guys… ehh, I’ll just say that’s not me. I’m open to everyone’s opinion and their suggestions and if it makes sense I’ll give it a chance. Constantly learning, I don’t think I have it all figured out and that’s the way it should be.
On Staying Healthy While Traveling
BA: With your work, you have a hectic travel schedule. Travel is a killer for most people. What are a few things you do in order to stay healthy and on top of your game?
AH: Great question. Ok I’ll give you a recent trip to Pittsburgh for Oakley Golf. So they usually fly me in around late evening, the awesome bellman at the Hyatt takes me over to the shopping area (definitely not whole foods btw) and I get my oysters, smoked salmon, grass-fed butter, hard-boiled eggs and I bring a backpack of all my other stuff. Bulletproof Brain Octane, collagen protein. I go to a quiet spot, plenty of elbow room and just eat my face off. Long day of traveling will do that for you. Then the hotel gym has a 24 hour gym (they all usually do) I crush a little interval workout. Maybe some push-ups and military press, hammer curls. Standard beach workout ;) Then I hit the sauna relax a little, do my nighttime tonic, hit the white noise on the cell phone and get as good of sleep as I can to be in the best shape to do my job in the best way possible the following day. It’s an awesome routine. That’s what I am all about.. routine. Oh I can’t forget the Bulletproof coffee in the morning. Absolute game-changer.
BA: Do you pack anything strange with you while flying?
AH: The aloe leaf always trips TSA out! ‘Sir, please step to the side..’ Honestly by luggage is 98% supplements 2% clothes.
On Daily Habits and Routine
BA: You and I are both strong believers in having a consistent morning routine. You have one of the most ridiculous morning routines I have ever heard, could you tell us about what you do in the AM to get ready for your day?
AH: Great question. Just did it btw. I wake up.. before I even check what time it is (usually around 6am) I throw on ‘I remember’ by Kaskade (my favorite song. I just zone out to it) and bang out as many push-ups as I can. Usually right around 80. Then I make my way to the kitchen, make my morning tonic (recipe below) down it, and upside down on my inversion table for around 15 minutes, while listening to Sade. (bulletproof soul is my go to, so sexy.. why not get a little aroused in the AM.. spice of life, baby!) It used to be 25 minutes, but I realized that was a little too much so I cut it down. I like the inversion table because I had some back issues after the accident and it helped me loosen that area up and stretch out the spine area. I think I got taller too haha.
BA: Do you ever feel like your routine gets in the way of experiencing life? Or does it enhance it?
AH: Enhances it. 100% It just gets me into an absolute locked, limitless state of mind. You combine that with a genuine appreciation to be able to smile without your teeth knocking into each other, to be able to run, hit and throw a baseball like you did 10 years before.. it’s a consistent rush of endorphins, daily that I really can’t explain.. so I’m just going to continue to do it for the rest of my life. Works for me haha.
BA: What are your top 3 favorite super foods?
AH: He shou wu, branch chain amino’s.. not a super food just a flat out game changer (specifically arginine, blood flow baby!) and cacao powder.
BA: Could you tell us about your AM and PM tonics?
AH: The Morning gets me locked in and driven to dominate my day.. nighttime calms me down and helps me recover…
- 6 oz. water
- 1 full dropper full of Chloroxygen Chlorophyll
- 1 teaspoon raw Bee Pollen
- ½ teaspoon chlorella Ojio
- teaspoon NOW nutrition glutamine
- teaspoon NOW nutrition arginine
- 10 drops jarrosil silica
- ¾ teaspoon ashwaganda herb by Ojio
- 1 teaspoon he shou wu (jing herbs)
- ½ clear inner part fresh aloe
- 3 teaspoons organic turmeric powder
- ¾ teaspoon Himalayan salt
- I scoop oral energy greens by paradise herbs
- 10 drops (10,000 IU) vitamin d3 metagenix
Supplements in AM:
- 1 Life Extension K plus (vitamin k supplement)
- 1 12mg nutrex astaxanthin
- 2 magtein (magnesium) by source naturals
- 5 wobenzyme
- 1 zyamessence by dr wong
- 1 NOW Neptune krill oil
- 6 oz water
- 1 teaspoon NOW arginine
- 1 teaspoon NOW glutamine
- 3 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chlorella
- ¾ teaspoon he shou wu jing herbs
- 10 drops jarrosil silica
- 2 tinctures full trace minerals zinc
- 1 tbsp diatemacious earth (2-3x a week)
- 2 teaspoons GABA powder
- ½ teaspoon theanine NOW nutrition
- Nighttime Supplements:
- Alpha lipoic acid
BA: What 3 things should people cut out of their everyday life/diet immediately?
AH: Negativity, cynical people (non-believers) you gotta believe man… set goals for yourself, knock them down.. self-confidence usually ensues, building an unstoppable force usually is created. Negative words… eliminate them.. can’t, try, hate, realistic.. forget those words..
As for diet.. sugar, grains, pasteurized inorganic dairy, starches, processed foods, high mercury fish, and inorganic foods.
BA: What are a few things should people add to their skin care routine immediately?
AH: A clay mask, relieves congestion, removes impurities, and polishes your skin. No brainer. Mine is kind of hard to compare to others, considering the ingredient profile, but it doesn’t even have to be mine. A simple bentonite will still get results.
A good scrub. Exfoliate those dead cells, see a new you, immediately.
Get a good all natural scrub with ingredients that you can recognize and know exactly what they are! Unheard of nowadays. Everyone is getting bought out and putting terrible fillers and chemicals in to cut costs. I refuse to.
Random (these are from the female portion of my audience FYI)
BA: What type of hair gel do you use (I can’t believe I’m asking this)?
AH: I use to use American Crew Grooming Cream. Now I make my own out of pure aloe and a few different clays.
BA: When dating, do you find it hard to relate to someone who doesn’t have the same principles? Or do you usually find yourself with someone who is already living that lifestyle, or interested in learning (I also can’t believe I’m asking this)?
AH: Good question.. met a girl recently who just crushed mac n cheese, lunchables etc.. don’t get me wrong, she was super hot.. but I couldn’t do it! See ya! Healthy is definitely a plus, and pretty much a requirement.. but who knows.. eyes are usually most important haha.
BA: Could I put deer placenta in brownies and have the same effect?
AH: Not sure my man! You may bake out some of the properties considering the heat in the oven..
BA: What are your top 3 recommendations for someone who wants optimal mental and physical health?
AH: Surround yourself with positive, driven people. You are the average of your top 5. Once I heard Will Smith say that.. I gave it some serious thought and had to cut some people out.
Clean diet is HUGE!! If for some reason I stray a little bit from my nutrition.. the toxic effect on my mind is apparent for the entire following day. Toxic mind= difficult to perform optimally. I want optimal, 100% of the time.
Find a way to believe in yourself. Take a mental account of all of the kick-ass things you’ve done in your life. Keep it to yourself obviously haha. I used to do these before big auditions, big games when I needed to get locked in. And it worked. So I do it daily now. Locked in. Daily. Not a bad way to live!
Thanks for the opportunity to share my story Ben, this is honestly the first time I’ve really dug in and thought about it! I appreciate it.
More on Andy Hnilo
Alitura Website: alituranaturals.com
Bonus Vid (You should absolutely watch)