Presented By

This billionaire CEO skis 5 hours a day and ‘runs like a deer’. Now he has the same body fat percentage as peak Michael Phelps

February 3, 2023, 11:13 AM UTC
Plantir Technologies CEO Alex Karp on the phone wearing sports sunglasses
Karp is no stranger to making company-wide announcements while wearing his beloved ski gear
Drew Angerer - Getty Images

Palantir’s CEO has long been known for his eccentricities—but they’ve more than paid off. Alex Karp is worth $1.4 billion after having co-founded the data mining firm in 2004, and this week revealed he has the same amount of body fat as a 28-medal winning Olympian.

The serial batchelor—whose company received early support from the CIA’s investment arm, In-Q-Tel—is well known for his commitment to fitness. In an interview with Axios this week, the Stanford Law School graduate revealed he skis for five hours or more a day.

This will come as no surprise to Palantir’s near-3,000 members of staff, as the company’s holiday greeting from Karp in 2021 featured him skiing through an alpine landscape before stopping for a chat, while still wearing brightly colored athletic gear and reflective sunglasses.

He added that he ploughs cross country for his ski regime—presumably from his home near the White Mountains in Grafton County, New Hampshire—and the trick to “running like a deer” is distance training: “You have to spend 90% of your time running like a snail.”

He advised those looking to emulate his routine to go the “slowest pace a human can run for as many hours as you can afford. And then once, preferably twice, a week, you’re doing [speed] intervals. You’re almost always moving like a snail—except for when you’re doing intervals and you’re going fast.

“It builds a cardio base so that when you race, you’re by far the fastest in the world. And that’s how they win.”

The result is that Karp now has just 7% body fat—that’s the same amount Michael Phelps had when he was competing in the Olympics to become the most decorated athlete of all time. However the pair differ in their diets.

What would Michael Phelps eat in a day?

Phelps reportedly ate anywhere up to 12,000 calories: for breakfast it would be three fried egg sandwiches, three chocolate chip pancakes, three pieces of French toast and a five-egg omelette. Lunch was half a kilo of pasta with two ham and cheese sandwiches, and dinner was a pound of carbonara pasta, a large pizza and gallons of energy drinks.

Karp on the other hand tends to treat himself more sparingly, saying he enjoys a “nice Danish” pastry every now and again, but has focussed on trying to give up the added sugar products he previously had in his office—such as chocolate bars—and stop adding sweeteners to his hot drinks. He said: “I don’t give things up forever. I have a special event, I eat sugar. If I’m traveling and someone has a really nice Danish, I enjoy every minute of eating it.”

The former philosophy student—who can apparently solve a Rubik’s cube in less than three minutes—does also enjoy a swim. According to Forbes, a cabinet in his office is stocked with 20 identical pairs of goggles, while he also practices the meditative art of Qigong every day. In the periods when he’s practiced martial arts like jujitsu and aikido, he was been known to put co-founders in “holds” while they walked through the office.

During his interview for Finish Line, Karp chatted while using resistance bands, adding that before the pandemic he “was already in reasonably good shape because [he] does tai chi, cross-country skiing, stretching”. But training in longer stints with short bursts has since become a “discipline” worth sticking to: “I saw results after 18 months—and especially huge results after 36 months.”

Learn how to navigate and strengthen trust in your business with The Trust Factor, a weekly newsletter examining what leaders need to succeed. Sign up here.