‘America’s Got Talent’ Host Terry Crews Opens Up About the Health Issue That Forced a Life Shift

Updated: Jan. 19, 2024

"I said, 'Man, I can't live this way,'" the beloved powerhouse reveals, along with the book that changed how he views success.

Before Terry Crews was the host of America’s Got Talent, he was a star of the NFL as well as several TV series and movies. It’s clear Crews has got range, but there’s one thing all of his roles have had in common: Big energy.

However, in an interview, Crews tells us that just over a decade ago he suffered from extreme exhaustion. Believing he had “a severe flu,” Crews made an appointment with his doctor, who wrote a clear prescription: Go home and sleep for three days.

After following that recommendation—and, he says, especially after witnessing some former NFL teammates pass away at young ages—Crews says it grew clear that he needed to reflect on his lifestyle. Also, in 2018, he and wife Rebecca-King Crews came forward on Dr. Phil about Terry’s recovery following addiction to mature content and their work together through extramarital struggles, both problems Crews attributed his hunger for success and what he called “the ego” and “being a card-carrying member of this toxic masculinity.” Part of re-prioritizing his values to put his family and wellness first included creating a nighttime ritual made up of an early bedtime and no phones in the bedroom. “I know when 8:30 comes around, it is time to shut everything down,” he says.

Today at 55, he says he’s never felt better. Crews stays on track by keeping up with his workouts (under that suit is some major strength!), intermittent fasting, a low-carb diet, and plenty of rest. He recently teamed up with Natrol, a manufacturer of wellness products, as he’s a fan of their popular melatonin supplement (read our piece on the pros and cons of taking it).

Terry Crews spoke with The Healthy by Readers Digest about how his gratitude practice fuels him and the rituals he follows for a beautiful life.

terry crewsSong Haiyuan/getty images

The Healthy by Readers Digest: Sleep is obviously so important. Tell me a little bit about what your sleep routine is like and how you typically sleep at night.

Terry Crews: I have my whole routine. It’s just like my workout routine or my eating regimen. I know when 8:30 comes around, it is time to shut everything down. I usually have turned my phone off about a half hour before, I turn my thermostat down so that the room is a lot cooler than it is when I walk around, and then I have blackout curtains, I take my melatonin, and then I do my teeth floss and I’m in the bed. I’ve been doing this for about 12 years.

The Healthy: What made you start?

Terry Crews: The story was that about 12 years ago, I was doing everything. I mean, people think I’m busy now. I was doing the ads and movies and TV. Everything was coming. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity, so I would take everything, and I was literally going so hard. I was getting about three to four hours of sleep.

The Healthy: That’ll affect your health for sure!

Terry Crews: I’d stay up and study my lines until one, two in the morning and then get up at six and work out and then go to the shoot. All of a sudden my head pounded, my body ached. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought I had caught some crazy bug or some weird disease. I mean, it was scary. I went to my doctor and he said, “Terry, I’ve done a thorough examination. There is nothing wrong with you. You are exhausted.”

I was like, What are you talking about? It felt like a severe flu. I couldn’t believe it. He said, “I’m going to prescribe that you go home for three days and do absolutely nothing but sleep.” My wife made sure I canceled all meetings, I took work off, and I slept for three days straight. That’s when I started incorporating melatonin into my whole routine. I realized, I don’t know how to go to sleep.

Can’t Sleep? A New Study Found This Solution Was More Powerful Than Melatonin

The Healthy: Is it something that you use every night, or do you just use it occasionally when you need to get back on track after working crazy hours, or when you’re jet lagged?

Terry Crews: I’m a big creature of habit, so when I find something that works for me, I use it every night. That’s just me. I intermittent fast every day, and a lot of people do it every three days a week or whatever, but I’ve been doing it every day for about 13 years.

The Healthy: When do you stop eating and start?

Terry Crews: My hours [I can eat] are at eight hour windows from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., but I never make it there because I’m in bed by 8:30pm. So there’s always a nice little deficit, which keeps me really, really on. I wake up between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. That’s almost eight, nine hours.

The Healthy: That’s fantastic. What are the effects you’ve noticed from intermittent fasting?

Terry Crews: Oh my God. The skin, the energy, and you know what? I have to say this. It’s more of a spiritual thing for me. It’s literally telling your body everything that is within your grasp shouldn’t be in your hand, so to speak. And it’s training your body to say no. And I tell my body when it’s time to eat and when it’s not, and it feels very in control. I don’t go by hunger pangs or you see donuts or snacks or something you shouldn’t be doing. The same thing with my sleep regimen. I’m a creature of habit, and I think that wellbeing involves well-doing and consistently doing great habits always pay off. I’m 55 and I’m thankful people have said, “Man, Terry, you look the same for the last 25 years.” I’m thankful that I was able to understand that at a younger age.

The Healthy: You’re known for having a ton of energy. What do you have to thank for that?

Terry Crews jumpingRodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Terry Crews: Number one, gratitude. I am probably the most thankful man in Hollywood. And one thing I discovered is gratitude keeps me connected to power. It gives me my energy. I’m thankful to be where I’m at. I’m thankful to have a show. I’m thankful to have my family. I’m thankful to be healthy because let me tell you, years ago, I was always ungrateful. Always complaining about what I didn’t have, concentrating on what I don’t, and you lose your energy very quickly. But once I discovered to just be grateful, man, look at what you have, it gave me energy. I’m pumped up.

A Neuroscientist Says Gratitude Could Actually Help You Live Longer

The Healthy: That’s beautiful. Tell us a little bit about your workout and nutrition routines.

Terry Crews: I’m a big high-protein guy. I literally have my protein shakes and I really try to go low-carb. There’s specific days where I’m like, Okay, time for some carbs. You can kind of feel it. You can feel what you need, a little more bread. For me, it’s the low-carb that really helps my digestion. A lot of probiotic-style stuff. One of my things that’s in my evening routine is apple cider vinegar with water to really incorporate the probiotic benefits to my gut.

Another thing for me is to really, really being in touch with how you feel. As a football player we were told, and were taught, to turn all our feelings off. I mean, you feel pain, you turn it off. You feel emotion, you turn it off. You feel hurt, you turn it off. That’s good for a minute until it backfires. I’m 55, but there’s so many football players that I played with that were my teammates that have gone and passed on. It’s crazy. I mean, that’s very, very young.

The Healthy: So young. I’m sorry.

Terry Crews: Way too young. And I said, Man, I can’t live this way. I decided to just leave that alone and just be creative. I just want to be a creative machine that’s nonjudgmental and no pressure on anything.

The Healthy: We’ve heard you’ve read hundreds of personal development books. Which have impacted you the most?

Terry Crews: There was a book that changed my life, and it was a really simple, very quick read, and it was called The Magic of Thinking Big. It’s so eye-opening to me because you tend to feel like you want to think small because hey, I’m just one person and life is hard for everyone around the world. So let me just get my little bit and hopefully there’s enough left for everyone.

This book just opened my eyes to how much there was out there. Thinking big is how you achieve your dreams. Because I was in a competitive life where there’s only one thing there, and you two got to fight for it. Let me tell you: It burns you out. I realized there was plenty over there with my name on it. I have resolved that I’m going to get everything that Terry Crews is supposed to have in this lifetime. That’s what happens when you think big, because you can have way more than you think you can, which is so amazing. It’s a wonderful life.

People Who Did This One Thing at Age 50 Were the Healthiest at Age 80

Terry Crews: I took my whole family, we did a whole bucket list trip to Japan over holiday, and I was like, Man, I would’ve never done this if I wasn’t thinking big. You have to go for it. Because if you don’t, you’ll just find excuses why you shouldn’t. My whole life is a pure example of what’s possible. I’m a little kid from Flint, Michigan who has beat the odds in so many ways, and I’m thankful and grateful.

The Healthy: That’s so wonderful. What’s one self-care ritual you refuse to skip?

Terry Crews: My vitamin routine. I have a little pill stack, and everybody sees me with it every day. And again, I’ll be honest with you, it may be placebos. Science has proven placebos work. You know what I mean? I feel like every day I’m doing something to improve myself. To me, the best thing you can do for the whole world is to make the most of yourself. And just work on you and be a better person inside and out. And all of a sudden people notice and it is a wonderful thing.