There is nothing meek about Marcus Antebi. The Juice Press founder looks like Jason Statham, sounds like Billy Walsh from “Entourage,” and has the conviction of an evangelist, which he readily admits to being — at least when it comes to his juices. “I want to be the Martin Luther King of juice,” he proclaims. “But I also might be the guy taken out by the rooftop sniper. So be it.” He opened his first location in Manhattan in 2010, and now there are 52 in the Northeast. Fans range from Gigi Hadid and Christy Turlington to Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs to the cast of “Hamilton.” We met up where it all began, at his original shop in the East Village to discuss the importance of probiotics, fruit sugar’s bad rap and how his adolescent penchant for cologne turned him off to the category entirely.
What are you excited about?
We have a really, really powerful probiotic supplement called Proviotic, which has been tested and proven by Harvard Medical, and used in consumer products for over 45 years.
What’s in it?
It’s a type of bacteria that’s actually extracted from a flower, and it grows in pea and carrot juice. It’s been used as a starter culture for making yogurt in Europe for about 50 years. We came to it because it is truly vegan. We asked the company that makes it if we could make it into a supplement and they said yes, so we made a deal with them. We brought it to Harvard, where they have a research lab that specializes only in bacteria sciences. We just asked them a lot of innocent layman questions and said we’d pay for the research. And we just found out some unbelievable things about this particular strain of bacteria, one of which is if you put it in a bottle of juice and introduce e. coli, listeria or salmonella, it kills those guys in juice.
Is the taste detectable?
No. Well, if you drank it in a juice, you would never taste it. If you drank it in water, you might taste a tiny faint taste of pea juice, but it would have the tiniest amount of water. Initially, our big concern was the mystery around it, since most people don’t know what probiotics are. Would there be a paranoia, like, “Why are they adding this?” So it was a slow and steady launch. It’s been about a year now and we’ve never heard anyone complaining or asking about it. It’s actually expensive to add it to the juice but we didn’t raise our prices. So, the main advantage to the consumer is the added probiotic benefit and the added safety to our raw juices. The probiotic effectively addresses one of our Achilles heels which is the risks of raw produce.
How did you find out about it?
My partner and I stepped on it, like two guys looking for oil but who found gold instead. We didn’t find the science; we just asked the questions, like, “If this is such a strong and good bacteria, what would it do if it met a bad bacteria?” So it was really just a series of really fortunate accidents that led us to it.
And what would it do if it met that bad bacteria?
Well, they’d all look at each other and say, “Hey, I don’t like you,” then my bacteria would release the protein that just basically kills everything about the bad bacteria 99.9 to 100%, without harming any of the good bacteria that naturally live in your gut. So that’s the layman’s science behind it. So now you’re drinking a juice that’s essentially been boosted without using an antibiotic, but using a probiotic with no heat to alter the juice’s life.
And why is this so important? What’s the end game?
This probiotic lives well in our juices because there are nutrients for it to thrive. When you drink it and it goes into your digestive system, it’s repopulating your digestive flora, which is the front line of your defense. If you were going to write anything about immune system and longevity, it’s not taking in more vitamins or protein. It’s all about understanding probiotic science. If you balance your probiotic flora, you’ve done a huge part of the work.
Against disease, inflammation. Once you understand how the immune system works, it’s very simple. You have good soldiers and bad soldiers. It’s beyond, obviously, the juice bar concept. But I go into it very deep when I talk about chemistry and food. I don’t have an MD, but I’m knowledgeable in a unique way because I mix science and art to figure out how food works, and what I’m actually doing at Juice Press is changing people’s chemistry.
That’s a tall order!
We might seem like a big company, but we’re still small, with a limited budget. My dream of dreams would be to spend $20 million a year talking to people about probiotics. And Proviotic is the Tom Brady or Russell Wilson of probiotics. I’m an early adapter of very high doses of probiotics to keep my athletic conditioning up. Most athletes wouldn’t make the association that if you want to perform for a long time, you should take more probiotics. It’s not an obvious path. When most people think of athletic performance, they think of hydration, and maybe protein. But protein is not the solution. It’s the problem.
I’ll get to protein in a second. But, re: athletic performance, are you also saying that probiotics give more energy?
That’s actually a very good question, and a very fair comment. Look at it this way: Efficiency in your machine cannot be looked at from the perspective from just putting really good gas in. It’s also from how you’ve maintained the engine. So if you feel really weak and sluggish, there’s a cause and effect. There’s a change in the chemistry and physiology of the whole system, so by the time you get to a doctor and the doctor is just handing you a bottle of pills to deal with the symptoms, there’s really been no lifestyle change. And if there’s no lifestyle change, the pills aren’t going to work forever and you’re just creating the next layer of symptoms because you didn’t address the issue. More doctors need to take a truly holistic approach and say, “Let’s look at the symptoms, let’s look at your lifestyle, let’s look at your stress, let’s look at your overall probiotic flora. Let’s look at your diet, at your processed foods.” They don’t really do that because they don’t have the training for it and they don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to do that.
How does one get one’s microbiome measured? Through poop?
Fecal material, yeah. But one should make the assessment that one is deficient because we’re no longer living in the garden of Eden and one is stressed and one makes mistakes.
So we’re already at a disadvantage.
This is a challenging subject for us because we’re a juice bar. We’re not a medical company. We’re leaving a legacy behind, one juice bar at a time.
That leads me to my next question, which is: Do you think juice bars have gotten a bad name? We’ve got nutritionists and doctors who say sugar is the devil. And a lot of people—myself admittedly among them—who, when they get a juice, they’ll pick an apple, orange, whatever juice that’s loaded with sugar. So I feel like the term ‘juice’ is kind of tainted. And the fact that you’re also in food, is “Juice Press” almost a dated name?
Well, I would love to sit down with these doctors. They say a lot of smart things, but let’s get back to sugar. Why is sugar the devil?
Because it causes inflammation.
How does it cause inflammation? I agree with that it being the devil if we talk about processed sugar, but not sugar in fruit. Fruit has vital nutrients and must not be avoided. It contains necessary components like antioxidants, vitamins, phytochemicals. If you personally avoid fruit sugar, where do you get your vitamins from? Nowhere. You’re out in the dark, nothing. Fruit sugar that is raw, unrefined and not in chemically concentrated form is totally different than processed sugar.
Well, it’s about moderation. But don’t you think there’s an argument to not always have the sugary apple-based juice?
No, not for you because you have no disease that would prevent you from doing it. I can change your chemistry in a positive way and put you on a high raw fruit and vegetable diet and I guarantee that I can actually improve your overall chemistry. Let’s pretend there was no such thing as processed sugar but just fruit sugar. We could eat it and live to be 120 years old because we would never overeat. It would just be us doing what we’re intended to do. You’d have your apple, vegetables, some banana, papaya, coconut. Some grains, if that was available. Maybe some animal protein. No processed food and we’d be doing fantastic and we wouldn’t overeat because the foods we’d be eating don’t stimulate the impulse to just keep eating.
I believe I know the answer, but which “stimulating” foods are you talking about?
Pasta, bread, cookies, cake, “the sandwich,” cereals. If I gave you a salad seven times the normal size that you’d eat, you would never finish it. But if I gave you a bowl of pasta with the greatest sauce in the world, you might actually just sit there and keep eating and eating because your brain can’t shut down. And it tastes so good, you’re in some psychotic euphoria. We’ve all been there. But with fruits, you can only consume as much sugar as you’re possibly able to burn off. If you don’t burn off the sugar, the sugar sits in the bloodstream and ferments, and the fermentation causes alcohol and the alcohol puts the white blood cells to sleep and that has an effect on the immune system. People don’t hear that, but they get all freaked out and say sugar is bad. “I can’t have any sugar!” You can’t overdose on my product because you would simply stop eating. And the problem is never sugar. It’s your overall diet. You’re making mistakes that have nothing to do with fruit and this juice is your salvation because the more you consume, the more it’s going to shut down your impulse to eat bad food and make poor dietary mistakes. Your brain is saying, “I’ve got my nutrients. I’m done.” And I can’t explain how else it works, but think of it this way: Lions don’t kill two gazelles at a time. The mind is tuned to a natural voice. If you’re eating the pasta, you’re not getting anything from the brain. You’re just taking on more and more calories from an inefficient source of fuel that resists digestion.
Give me a 100 type two diabetics for a month. I’ll wean them off insulin, they’ll lose weight, their blood sugar levels will come down to almost normal. They’ll feel better fast. Other inflammatory problems will disappear and people will be in awe. Give a doctor the same 100 diabetics, and he won’t get the same results with just insulin. Think about it, with diabetics, it’s not just the intake of processed sugar that causes the problem. It’s the rest of the diet that causes the problem, mainly processed foods and too much animal protein. And more importantly, it’s actually a high protein diet. You take a type one diabetic and put them on a vegan lifestyle, everything normalizes quickly.
Ok, let’s break it down to the steps to take.
Number one: Remove processed foods from your diet. There's no agenda: I make no money from that.
Number two: Cut down protein intake. The biggest problem in the modern diet besides processed foods is the intake of protein. Doesn’t matter if it’s plant based or animal based. Protein is a problem in your chemistry. It’s like sunlight. You get too much of it, it burns you, makes you sick. You need it but you don’t need too much of it, especially as you get older. You’re not trying to grow 20 pounds of muscle, you’re not getting taller. Nothing causes more fermentation than too much animal protein because it moves through the digestion system so slowly, it has to ferment. The amount of protein we take in now is obscene. It’s crazy.
Number three: Stop eating every day at 7 or 8 pm. If you’re starving still, drink something that requires no digestion, like fresh raw juice. You’ll lose weight, you’ll look better, you’ll have more energy. You’ll take control over your chemistry for longer by doing this.
Number four: Low inflammation diet. I didn’t start Thai boxing because I wanted to be healthy; I had to be extremely light. The older boxers were all liquitarians — juice, salad, no protein except from plants. The buzzwords in five years are not going to be about calories or protein or sugar. It’ll be about low inflammation. Fruit doesn’t cause inflammation, it reduces inflammation. How did the doctors go so wrong? What are they observing? What are they doing in their own diets?
Number five: Drop the calorie mentality in the context of a Juice Press diet. The calorie mentality doesn’t work anymore unless your diet is mostly protein and processed foods.
Six: Avoid bad food combinations. Don’t combine proteins with starches. Spaghetti and meatballs is the worst combination you could ever do. Meat and potatoes, or eating a big sandwich with turkey. That’s just a bad food combination because the protein and the starchy carbohydrates are two totally different digestive mediums. You’re taking in a single chamber two foods that are incompatible for digestive enzymes and digestive material. So one of them is going to either over-digest or under-digest, which then leads to fermentation of some type. Sushi is also a bad food combination. When you have protein sitting on a bed of white rice, people see it as healthy because it contains so few ingredients, but it’s actually a very bad combination. Even sushi with brown rice, it’s still a starchy carbohydrate that shouldn't be combined with protein.
Seven: Avoid cow’s milk. If you have to do dairy, go with goat or sheep’s milk. Both are readily available, especially with cheeses.
Eight: Do juice fasts frequently. Drink plenty of raw juices, especially the greens.
How often is regularly?
It varies individually, but let me put it this way. Not as often as the Sabbath dinner, but more frequently than Passover.
Nine: Take massage, rest, use the sauna. Do things that promote deep sleep. Watch the presidential debates.
Ha ha. More?
Do not eat several meals per day, go for colonics several times a year, take probiotics and avoid recreational drugs. And exercise a whole bunch, meaning excessively. Four to six times a week.
Okay, baby steps…
I wrote these and I feel I live up to them. And now I’ve got to figure it all out. What am I doing here? What’s my legacy? A company where we don’t do processed foods and we don’t dupe the public. It’s really big. My goal is to be the Martin Luther King of food, which means I’ll also be the guy taken out by the rooftop sniper. So be it.
Okay, so what is your typical daily diet?
I’m the most boring guy in America. I eat a lot of fresh raw fruit in the morning. Usually acai, blueberry, banana. I mix it up, but I do it specifically for the sugar, and for the vitamins and antioxidants. I eat it with granola. I’m vegan so I don’t do any dairy. If I’m invited to a dinner, I will bring two bottles of juice with me. I do that all the time. Just the other night, I showed up at this dinner party and asked if they had a juicer. No. So I asked if they had juice, and it was juice mixed with alcohol. So I ran around the corner to one of my locations, opened it up and grabbed two bottles of my Mother Earth juice. I went back and asked for one of those fancy brandy snifters and swished my green juice around in that.
How often do you juice cleanse?
Once a year, usually for 10 days. The most I’ve done is 27 days, but I had good supervision doing it and I understood it. When you take away everything, even the good stuff, and strip down to the bare minimum, new senses come up. My hearing improves, my smelling improves, my vision. Even my mind opens up where I can actually talk to people in a more empathetic way. And my phones hurt me because there’s stress attached to it.
But society doesn’t get it. If the whole world understood it, they’d be like, “Oh, he’s an elder, he’s on a fast. Cool.” Now they’d be like “He’s so thin? What’s his problem??” Remember, I drink three to four juices every day.
How do you get your thrills now? Or are you more of a family man?
I guess I just outgrew it. I definitely live a higher-risk life than most people, but I don’t do the dangerous sport I used to. But yeah, I'm skateboarding in the street, riding a motorcycle. I still train in Thai boxing, I box with big guys. That could be considered dangerous, but those are all relatively safe things compared to my years in the sport of sky diving.
Tell us about your grooming. What was the first fragrance you ever wore?
I was 13 and I had a friend who came from a very rich family. He had a trampoline in his backyard. He would wear Ralph Lauren polo sweaters and he’d drown in Polo by Ralph Lauren. That’s what we did. We would drown in Polo between the ages of 13 and 15. The most disgusting one was by Karl Lagerfeld. I think it was just called Lagerfeld. Polo, Kouros, Lagerfeld, Halston, Jazz. And then one day I woke up and looked at this dusty collection of men’s cologne and I I threw them all away. And I’ve never put on cologne again.
Cold turkey! What’s in your medicine cabinet?
Sensodyne toothpaste. I like the way it tastes and I like the tube and the way it dispenses. I can’t use earthy toothpaste. I wouldn’t clean my shoes with those.
Have you ever tried Arm & Hammer toothpaste?
Me too. I like the salty flavor.
Baking soda’s great for your teeth.
Cool. Which toothbrush?
This is so stupid. I stayed at the Ludlow Hotel one night and I forgot my toothbrush. So they gave me this disposable white toothbrush in a plastic wrapper. It was the greatest toothbrush in the world. I ordered about a million of them and now that’s all I use. I feel like you have to throw away your toothbrush every week.
I don’t know about every week…
Well, if your toothbrush costs 50 cents and you’re in the gym six days a week, it’s a good thing. My deodorant is from Men’s Science and I use an electric shaver. No moisturizer. I use this Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator cleanser and I hate it. Know why I hate it? Because you only have to use a tiny amount and it’s a huge bottle, so I will never run out and therefore never be able to move on to try the next thing.
You’re a slave to it.
What women’s fragrance melts you?
I don’t like women’s fragrances. My girlfriend throws it on, but I like her natural body odor. That’s attractive to me.
What’s your favorite beauty look on a woman?
I love a girl in a ponytail. I’m not pretentious. I look at women and think, They should never have to do more than I do. When I see women in heels, I’m like, “Oh god, those must hurt.” When women say, “I have to dress up”, great. But when a woman is really relaxed in jeans and a t-shirt and a ponytail, I love it. Just be comfortable.