Dave is a Silicon Valley investor, computer security expert, and entrepreneur who spent over 15 years and a quarter million dollars to hack his own biology. He increased his IQ by more than 20 points, decreased his biological age, and lost 100 pounds without using caloric restriction or exercise.
His blog at BulletProofExec.com is one of my faves. And it’s getting huge. Fast.
The Financial Times calls Dave a “bio-hacker who takes self-quantification to the extreme of self-experimentation.”
His work has been published by the New York Times and Fortune, and he’s presented at Wharton, Kellogg, the University of California, and Singularity University.
After hanging out with Dave at PaleoFX, I was stoked for this interview. I’ve always geeked-out on brain-related issues (especially after getting my degree in brain sciences back in the day). Exploring the relationship between the brain, the body, and nutrition is pure gold for geeks like us.
I “pick Dave’s brain” about the following:
- How one of Dave’s clients lost 75 pounds in 75 days
- Why exercise can damage you (especially if you don’t get plenty of sleep)
- How to not to burn yourself during Dr. Jack Kruse’s Cold Thermogenesis Protocol
- How mycotoxins are probably making you fat
- The benefits of coffee as a performance enhancing drug
- And tons more…
Let’s hear what Dave has to say.
Check out Gary Taubes’ article here: The Political Science of Salt.
Hop on over to Dave’s BulletProofExec Blog
Hey, are you having fun yet? Subscribe to my newsletter and get exclusive videos, recipes, fitness tips, and more!
Please join over 95,000 people who receive exclusive weekly fat-burning tips. Plus: get my Wild Kitchen Cook Book, Wild Diet Cheat Sheet & Fatty Coffee Video FREE. Click below to get rolling now.
And, as usual, here is an abridged YouTube slideshow if you’re short on time.
And here’s the transcript for you readers out there…
Abel: Hi there, and welcome to the Fat Burning Man Show. I’m your host, Abel James. Today I’m very excited to be here with Mr. Dave Asprey and Armi Legge of BulletProofExec.com, which reached the status of being one of the top 100,000 websites on Earth in less than 15 months of being in existence. So pretty cool stuff. Dave is a Silicon Valley investor, computer security expert, and entrepreneur who spent 15 years and over a quarter million dollars to hack his own biology. He upgraded his IQ by more than 20 points (maybe more, we don’t know). But he’s a pretty smart guy, let’s leave it at that. He lowered his biological age, and lost, most interestingly, 100 pounds without restricting calories or exercise.
The Financial Times calls Dave a “bio-hacker who takes self-quantification to the extreme of self-experimentation.”
His work has been published by the New York Times and Fortune, and he’s presented at Wharton, Kellogg, the University of California, and Singularity University. Sounds like my kind of guy. And actually, Alyson and I got to spend some quality time with Dave and talk coffee and bacon while we were at PaleoFX. He’s one heck of a cool guy and Armi is, too.
Today we’re going to be talking about
• How to not to burn yourself with ice
• The benefits of caffeine as a performance-enhancing drug
• Why mycotoxins might be making you fat
• And why exercising might not be a very good idea if you’re not getting a whole lot of sleep.
So without further ado, let’s hang out with Dave and Armi.
Abel: So, it was awesome hanging out with you guys at PaleoFX, and I was glad you could make it to Austin. Your site is getting pretty huge pretty quickly, so congrats for that. What were the numbers again?
Dave: We just hit the top 100,000 websites on Earth, which is…
Dave: …phenomenal for a blog that’s about a year old. People really care about this stuff.
Abel: Yeah, it is fascinating. So not only are you superhuman, but you’re also taking over the world.
Dave: You know, I’m not that interested in taking over the world as long as, you know, the world’s improving, I’m happy to just be part of that. But I’m very grateful for the success on the site. It’s a lot of fun, and it keeps you motivated. It’s not even my day job. I’m the vice president at a big security company most of the time.
Dave: So this is a labor of love.
Abel: [laughs] That’s so cool. Yeah, I know all about the double life. But once upon a time, Dave, you were pushing 300lbs. And now you have a 6-pack. So what happened along the way?
Dave: Well, I stopped off at 7-11 and picked up some Schlitz and…oh. The OTHER kind of 6-pack.
Abel: [laughs] Dave: You know, I was working out like six days a week. And I’m almost 39, so this happened when I was in my early 20’s. And I’m like, “Alright, I’ve had two knee surgeries, I’m fat, and I don’t like this. And so I’ll just work out six days a week, an hour and a half a day, half cardio, half weights, and I just won’t eat very much, and I’ll lose weight.” I did this for 18 months.
Dave: At the end of 18 months I hadn’t lost any weight, I was stronger, but I was flabby and no change whatsoever. The same pants I always wore were still there. So I decided to go to my doctor. And he was flat-out useless. So I told him he was fired. And I spent four years, and over time, I’d spent almost a quarter-million dollars of my dot-com, early, 26-year-old millionaire kind of time, I spent that money upgrading everything I could about myself starting with my brain, because my brain was failing as a result of being so fat and inflamed. So I started taking ‘smart drugs,’ learned about metabolism, and now I’ve got a guy who lost 75 lbs in 75 days on the protocols that I’ve got published for free on Bulletproof Exec. It’s like, the stuff, it actually works. And it’s not painful, it’s not hard, there’s no deprivation.
Dave: I like to show that to people because I’m angry that I spent 25 years obese and sick most of the time for no good reason.
Abel: Yeah, for no apparent reason. You know, I was a vegetarian for years, and ate a low-fat diet, and that’s what eventually kind of broke me. Not in a serious way, but I was headed downhill pretty quickly. And it wasn’t until I completely did the opposite—which it sounds like you did, too—that everything got better.
Dave: Oh, yeah!
Abel: So, your views on exercise are pretty unique. And as I understand, you don’t do a whole lot of it. Why is that?
Dave: Well, I mean, I’ve definitely done it, I mentioned the hour and a half a day of heavy weights and all that. And I’ve done high Alps mountaineering and training for that, and I’ve climbed the Andes and the Himalays, and you know, I put a picture of myself without a shirt on on my website. Which is frankly, being a computer hacker guy, that’s the geekiest thing I ever could do. But, I’m like, “This is real, this is two years without any exercise.” I didn’t exercise for that two-year period because I was sleeping less than 5 hours a night by design. I was a senior executive. I moved countries, started a blog, ventured back to the company, sold another company, and I have two young kids who I actually spend time with. So it was like, if I’m going to exercise, I need two extra hours of sleep a night for recovery.
Dave: And right now, that’s not what I want to do, given that I can still maintain everything that I need to maintain. In fact, actually improve a little bit from a fat perspective without exercise. I’m not saying you shouldn’t exercise at all, but I will flat-out say that if you’re exercising every day, like some of these CrossFit friends of mine, I know that when they hit 40 and 50, it’s better to exercise all the time and eat a Paleo diet than it is to be a vegetarian from a long-term perspective. But, better off, don’t over-exercise and eat a Paleo diet and you last longer and you’ll actually have more energy.
Abel: Yeah. And so, those two things, sleeping very little (at least relatively speaking) and exercising don’t really go hand-in-hand. But it seems like a lot of people are doing that these days. Why doesn’t that work?
Dave: If you’re going to exercise, at least if you’re exercising right, you’re putting a stress on your body, and your body needs to recover from stress. And sleep is one of the best ways you do it. You can optimize your sleep, and I wrote a lot about sleep hacking, about, like, how does this work? And what can you do to get more deep-wave sleep? And I’ve actually done some things with electronics. But sometimes I’ve worked out, and, oh, geez, I don’t have time to recover. So I’ll sleep two hours with an electrical current putting me into that deep, restorative state, and wake up feeling restored. But I don’t know that I want to do that every night forever. Although maybe I would if I was certain of what the long-term effects of it were!
Abel: Yeah! [laughs] So, you’re a biohacker, and I have this image of you Dave, just kind of sitting there suddenly electrocuting yourself, right?
Dave: I did that in Sweden on stage, I gave a talk about how to hack yourself to handle more information.
Abel: I saw that, yeah.
Dave: And how to handle information overload. There’s electrodes on my head and I’m running a current across my head on stage. I think that’s the first time anyone’s ever, like, hacked themselves actively on stage. But this stuff works. It’s real. It’s not even that new of technology, it’s just, no one knows about it. I’ll give it a try if I think it’s not going to cause permanent harm. And so far, I don’t think I’ve caused any permanent harm with biohacking. It’s hard to know for sure.
Abel: So tell us about some cool new hacks that you’re working on right now. And Armi, feel free to pipe in also.
Dave: Right now I’m working on the Jack Kruse cold thermogenesis thing. And that’s probably been the most harmful thing I’ve done in the last year.
Dave: Yeah. So, for people who aren’t familiar, Jack Kruse is a neurosurgeon and an awesome guy. We all hung out.
Abel: Yeah, he’s a blast.
Dave: Including Armi and all, at the show. And we actually had dinner with him. So I’m like, alright, I’m gonna do his cold exposure protocol, which helps you with fat loss and improves the quality of your sleep. And probably lengthens your telomeres. It’s a very powerful anti-aging thing, it looks like. And it’s probably good for ya. And plus I live in cold environment up here, outside Victoria in Canada. So if I could not wear a jacket in winter, then all the Canadians might respect me being an American. So start sticking my face in cold water every night. And I noticed benefits to sleep right away. But then I get to New York, and I’m staying in this stupid $500 a night—actually gorgeous—hotel. It doesn’t have a sink in the bathroom, just a little square/rectangular splash pad for the mirror stuff. And there’s no bathtub. And there’s no washing machine. So I told them, “Six buckets of ice, please,” and they bring it up. And then I put them in baggies and I packed them all over my body. Which you’re not supposed to do yet, especially without a compressions shirt. So as we’re talking today, I’ve got 1st degree ice burns on 15% of my body.
Abel: [laughs] Dave: It hurts like hell! That is truly the most painful biohack. And there’s no electricity involved, it was just ice.
Abel: Oh man! [laughs] For those of you who are listening and don’t really know Dr. Jack Kruse, he is a really cool guy and doing some just breathtaking work as far as cold thermogenesis goes. And he’s been known to kind of smother himself in bags of ice and sit outside naked writing blog posts in below-freezing weather. So the reason that this didn’t work in your case is because you didn’t really ease yourself into that. Is that right, Dave?
Dave: Yeah, he’s really clear. What you should do is that you should figure out..basically you should wait until you can keep your face cold. And I can. I can hold my breath for a minute under water and ice water no problem. But he said, then stack ice with a compression shirt, and I just don’t pack a compression shirt with me when I go to hotels in New York to speak at conferences. So I ignored that step, and that would have pushed the blood out and prevented the capillary problems that I experienced. It’s my own damn fault, but man it hurts!
[laughter] Abel: What about some hacks that are working?
Dave: Well, let’s see here…there’s a lot going on. Trying to think of stuff…are you looking for more like nutritional things, or more like electrical funky stuff that’s out there?
Abel: So, my background is in brain sciences also, so feel free to talk as much as you want to about that.
Dave: Alright. Killer. So, I have a new kind of brain training software that we just launched at SXSW. It’s called Bulletproof Mindware. And it’s designed for intelligence enhancement. It’s called Dual N-Back training—that’s like half of what it does. And Dual N-Back is for people who are interested in that sort of esoteric stuff, is one of the most studied ways of raising your intelligence. And it basically doubles the working memory that you have in your mind. Right now, most people can remember seven numbers, this gives you a second set of seven numbers that you can remember and I’m kind of grossly over-simplifying. But when you do this, your IQ usually goes up on a test by 10, and sometimes even 20 points. So we have that training. It takes about 20 days to do the training. It’s hard. It’s like lifting weights.
Dave: Like, it’s boring and it’s irritating to do it. You’re like, “Are you kidding? I missed that one again?” It’s frustrating. It’s not like Jazzercise, where you listen to some music and jump around.
Abel: I wouldn’t know about that.
[laughter] Dave: There are some fun brain games, like “I’m gonna play a crossword puzzle, and then I’ll be smarter.” No.
Abel: It’s no Angry Birds.
Dave: [laughs] Exactly. But the other thing that’s really cool is, I’m a big fan of enhancing creativity. And one of the things you can do, is you can teach your brain to have enough of your…it’s called the default mode and there’s basically an activity mode in your brain. And the default mode is what happens in your subconscious when you’re not actively doing something. And you can train yourself to have a little bit of memory and a little bit of consciousness running in the background when you’re in this kind of default creative mode. So there’s software that uses tones that I designed that put your brain into an Alpha or a Theta or even a Delta state, usually like semi-sleeping kind of lucid daydream sort of states. But then it trains you with a little chime to actually remember what’s happening then, and the targeted results for this kind of thing are that you end up having better focus, even times when you’re kind of feeling like you’re not focused. You have a little thread that’s always recording and keeping you aware of what your own brain is doing. It develops mindfulness, but it also develops creativity. And there’s nothing else like that out there. And I’ve been doing a lot of that lately just because I find it helps my creativity and my performance.
Abel: Yeah, that’s really interesting. It sounds like you could use it for evil. [laughs] Dave: You know, you could, to be perfectly honest. Any time you increase your intelligence dramatically, if you’re a prick, now you’re a smart prick, and you’ll do more bad things.
Abel: [laughs] Dave: And that’s the way it is. In my blog, I actually do worry about that a little bit. There’s some really powerful stuff in there. And if people focus on enhancing their own personal power but they haven’t done their emotional work to understand who they are and why they’re here…
Dave: …to learn how to be kind to themselves and others, then yeah, we could be reaping some real bad people. So let’s hope that people start with the heart rate variability training that I recommend, and they develop their emotional body as much as their mental body and their physical body. Because if you only do two of those three, you’re not going to be happy with the results.
Abel: Yeah, and that reminds me that there are a lot of people who coach other folks to lose weight, including myself, who really try to focus on the mental aspect in very much the same way, because some people find that they lose 50 or 100 pounds, and they’re still not happy. They assume that once they get to that point, every problem in their lives will be solved and they’ll just be 100% happy all the time. But if you don’t mentally prepare for something, then when you arrive, you’re not really any better off than you were before.
Dave: You totally hit it on the head. In fact, Armi has been doing some of the kind of stuff we’re talking about. Armi, you wanna talk about that?
Armi: Sure. I’ve been doing some of the m-wave training. Also I’ve found it’s not only improved my mental capacity on a day-to-day basis, but also improved my recovery and performance in sporting events, like 5K’s and running races.
Abel: I heard your podcast. That was really interesting.
Armi: Thanks! I’m not exactly sure of the mechanisms, but it seems to work, so I’m working on it. I’m doing a few other things. One thing that’s kind of boring unless you’re the one being tested, is I’m getting a lot of blood testing done. I’ve got a doctor who’s giving me a deal on it, so I’m just getting kind of a full gamut and kind of going crazy with that. And the other thing I do pretty much all the time, and it’s part of my job at the Bulletproof Executive is tons of research. So we’re planning on cranking out some really cool articles on various topics. One of my favorite personal topics, is actually tooth decay and tooth health.
Armi: And being 17 years old, I was actually told recently told I needed to have my wisdom teeth removed. And from an evolutionary perspective, that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I know, obviously most doctors recommend that, or dentists or orthodontists.
Armi: So I did a lot of research on it, and I ended up writing a 25-page report with about 80 references and bringing it to my orthodontist. And when he asked me why I hadn’t had my wisdom teeth removed, I just handed it to him. So, he was very cool about it, too. He wasn’t a prick. Which is great.
Abel: [laughs] Armi: And hopefully he’ll read it, or stuck it in the trash when I walked around the corner. Either way.
Abel: This is really interesting. Why doesn’t it make sense from an evolutionary standpoint?
Armi: Well, it seems like if it was providing enough of a selection pressure that it was actually causing large amounts of damage, the people who had that damage would be dying out. So basically, if you had lots of people with impacted wisdom teeth and it was causing lots of problems, to the point where those people were dying or it was preventing them from nourishing themselves enough because they had some kind of inflammation of the jaw periodontitis or something like that, that it would be able to wipe out the people who had that pain or those problems. So that’s the kind of from and evolutionary perspective, people could die after they get it. But I just decided I’d do some research on this. Just like doctors that told me saturated fat was bad and I didn’t believe them. I did some research on that and it turned out to be false, too. It’s not that you should not ever have your wisdom teeth removed. I’m going to go ahead and give away the ending here. It’s basically, if you don’t have any problems with your current wisdom teeth as medical terminology would be, if they’re asymptomatic, then it’s generally to get them removed. The benefits usually do not outweigh the risks.
Abel: Yeah. That makes sense. And it could be that we’re screwing up our teeth listening to Weston A. Price and the folks over there. There’s a huge link between nutrition and what happens to your teeth. And it could just be something like a grain overdose that’s causing our wisdom teeth to go all wonky on us.
Dave: Did I ever show you my back molars? I don’t know if we ever got into that…
Abel: [laughs] No, I don’t think so.
Dave: You brought it up, I gotta mention it. My mom ate, you know, coke and donuts when she was pregnant with me, for the most part, you know, that’s what they did in the 70’s. And that was probably the least of what they did in the 70’s.
Abel: [laughs] Yeah.
Dave: I actually have a flattened upper spine. Some of my lower vertebrae aren’t all the way fused the way they should be. These are things the Weston A. Price and essentially, and Pottenger described as things that happened from excess grain-fed mothers. So I had my top palate was sort of mushed together more than it should be, which meant my lower jaw had to really be forced back and up by my muscles in order to chew. At first I was unaware of this, because that’s how it’s always been since day one and since I formed my jaw. So I went through about a two-year process where we used a metal orthodontic to spread my upper palate enough to make room for my lower jaw to come forward. So when you saw me, I have a half-inch more chin than I used to have without any surgery.
Dave: And in order to get that to happen, they added about a three millimeters to my molars on the very back teeth on both sides. The net effect on that was less top stress. But most importantly less stress on the trigeminal nerve, which means less central nervous system stress. If you have this going on in your jaw, you have to really crank your teeth down, your front teeth are bumping, your lower teeth are crowded and pushed back, you’re basically firing your fight or flight nervous system every time you take a bite, every time you chew.
Dave: There’s no way you’re going to calm down and reach that calm, alert, ‘I feel good, I’m not stressed’ state, because you have a physiological stress that is tied to eating. I fixed that in myself with the help of some craniofacial orthodontia. It’s kind of unusual stuff. And, man, huge improvements in quality of life com about as a result.
Abel: That’s wild! Well shifting gears a little bit, to your diet and what you recommend, your personal nutrition is pretty similar to mine, but you really stress avoiding toxins and mycotoxins. So tell us a little bit about that and why it’s important.
Dave: Well, over the course of designing the Bulletproof Diet, I started out almost 15 years ago, really focusing on what works, what doesn’t work. I decided that first, let’s look at this Atkins-style thing, I’ve been a vegan, a vegetarian, I’ve been a raw vegan, a raw omnivore, I’ve eaten raw chicken, and raw turkey, and I’m willing to experiment. But over time I came back in and said, I basically said, “Look, there’s more to it than just eat more meat,” which is kind of the Atkins thing, because it turns out the quality of your protein, the quality of your fat matters. So I fixed that, right? More butter, more grass-fed butter, more coconut oil, more grass-fed animals. In fact, I only eat grass-fed animals. But from there, there was something else that was going on. And I could feel it, because I’ve been trained, both because I weighed 300 pounds and because I’ve done extensive amounts of neuro-feedback and all. I would eat some foods and I’d like coffee, and I’d say, “You know what, I feel good for a little while, and then I’d feel like crap.” And I’m like, “Something’s not right…” And I traced it down over time to two big classes of toxins that people don’t usually know about. And one is called mycotoxins. These are formed by molds that grow in our houses and in our food. And we feed those grains to our animals and the toxins—some of which are actually hormones that cause you to get fat rapidly—those get built up in animal fat, and even worse, non-organic cows in particular are intentionally treated with mycotoxins to cause them to get marbled fat very quickly. So there’s a reason we have an obesity epidemic and mycotoxins are part of it. So that’s one class of toxins, the other one is called biogenic amenes. These are things like histamine. So some foods, particularly meat, that are stored improperly, which is endemic in our food supply chain, they actually cause a histamine and allergy response. So could take two pieces of grass-fed meat, and depending on how they were processed and stored before they got to your store or before they got to your plate, one of them may cause an inflammatory response in your body that makes you gain a pound or two of water, and the other won’t. So the whole process of making something like coffee or meat becomes really, really important.
Abel: Right. And I’m a caffeine hound. [laughs] So I’m very interested in coffee-related issues. Actually, I made some home-roasted coffee with Kerrygold and coconut oil this morning, so tell us a little bit about Bulletproof coffee and why toxins…and how they play into that.
Dave: Okay. It turns out Bulletproof coffee has been like a breakout success. It’s why people come to the Bulletproof Executive. I’d like to say it’s because of the articles on cognitive enhancement and how to be a better person or something. It’s actually because of the coffee and the diet.
[laughter] Dave: And here’s what you do for Bulletproof coffee. What you do is you brew low-toxin coffee, and I have instructions on the site that tell you how to find the most likely low-toxin in your town. I finally, after years of trying to find coffee that was constantly, constantly low-toxin that made me feel best, I finally launched my own line of coffee that is obsessively processed every step, from where it’s grown, how it’s picked, in particular how it’s turned into green coffee, how and what it’s shipped in, who roasted it—it’s roasted by the top roaster in the US as voted by their peers in the specialty coffee association… Every step is optimized. That’s been a really popular thing on the blog, because people are universally skeptical. They say, “Dave, like, really, your coffee’s not …just admit it.” And it’s like, “No! Just mix your coffee with butter and MCT oil, blend it up, use unfiltered butter, it’s the same fat, the same cream, it tastes even better than cream and coffee, and the way it makes your brain feel is different. And it’s like, they say “No, no, no.” But then they try it, and if you look at the comments on the Twitter streams, it makes me happy every morning when people go like, “Okay, I finally tried it. I thought it would be gross. It tasted awesome and I feel like a great golden god all day long.
Abel: [laughs] Dave: I didn’t feel hungry, I didn’t feel an energy dip, and I lost a pound. It’s just, it sounds too good to be true but it’s real!
Abel: I love that. I love that! What about caffeine as a performance-enhancing drug?
Dave: You know, it absolutely is. I gave a talk at the BUILD conference, which is tied into the TED conference, in Southern California I guess about three weeks ago. Caffeine is a performance-enhancer. And certainly coffee is more of a performance-enhancer than just caffeine. But in fact, even for triathletes, and people who like this endurance exercise, people like Armi, it definitely works. Armi, in fact, you wanna talk about your bad coffee experience because you just told me about it the other day.
Armi: Yeah, it’s funny, actually, something horrible happened to me and I ran out of Bulletproof upgraded coffee, and I had to use some organic stuff that was in my freezer for a long time. And about 15 minutes into a 5K, which is almost at the end for me, I just had this horrible headache. And I don’t think it slowed me down or anything, but it was crazy. And I had no idea why, but the only thing I’d really changed was the coffee. Obviously, I’m not, like, in a controlled environment, I can’t perfectly isolate it. But it definitely made an effect. But it’s funny, because one of the first times I really tried Bulletproof Upgraded coffee before a race was before a testing session with my triathlon time. I’m actually on basically a feeder team for the Olympics for the triathlon. And I tried it and it was crazy. I did extremely well; I drank a pretty good bit, too. I drank about 6 cups.
Dave: And Armi does not weigh 300 pounds, just so we’re all clear.
[laughter] Armi: And I actually looked at it, and I had to look up the legal limit for caffeine, because there actually is one, and caffeine used to be illega.
Abel: Oh really?
Armi: Yeah, caffeine used to be an illegal substance banned by the United States Olympic Committee.
Abel: Wow! I didn’t realize that.
Armi: Yeah. Actually, and the International Olympic Committee. So I had to make sure I wasn’t violating any rules, and hopefully I wasn’t. But it’s definitely a performance enhancing drug. But luckily it’s legal.
Abel: Yeah, I can definitely vouch for that experience. When I was running marathons…and I’m embarrassed now, but I used some of those goo packs, and I tried the goos with and without the caffeine, and the caffeine definitely gave me a boost.
Dave: I’m to the point where you look at the history of the evolution of science, a lot of the stuff that happens in the 18th century was coffee houses in Europe. Coffee is an integral part of being a fully-conscious person. It makes it easier for your brain to do the things it can do. There are people who never have coffee who are fully conscious, I don’t want to say that, but it’s a performance-enhancer cognitively and physically and it tastes good, and it helps you build muscle if you use it right because of its influence on mTOR, and it helps you burn fat, and it makes you less depressed, and lowers your chances of diabetes and prostate cancer. But at the same time there’s a huge number of studies that say it’s bad for you.
Dave: And the difference is the quality of the coffee, and they never control for that in studies. So I’ve built the coffee that has as many of the good things in it as we can optimize and takes every step possible to minimize the bad things, so you kind of tilt the scales in your favor, and all of a sudden you feel different.
Abel: Yeah, that’s totally true. And for those of you out there, Dave definitely practices what he preaches. He was walking around at PaleoFX with a backpack, and coffee in that backpack, his own blend. There was some issue, wasn’t there? You couldn’t find hot water, and I saw you by the elevators…
Dave: Yeah, I was kind of sad, they closed the little Starbucks there. I’m the guy walking to Starbucks, “Can I please have a cup of hot water?” And they give it to me…
Abel: “For my coffee…”
Dave: And I’ll bring my hand-grinder, and I’ll grind up my own beans. They’ll say “What’s that smell? It smells really good in here…” And then I pour my ground coffee into the water and brew my own right there, and it’s like rolling your own cigarette only cooler.
Abel: Way cooler.
Dave: People look at me funny but, I was like “I have coffee, but I have no hot water.” It was a sad day.
[laughter] Abel: We’ve got a picture of you looking like you’re about to fall asleep. And I love that picture, by the way.
Dave: That was a great picture. In fact, someone…it’s funny, you look like you’re about to bite someone, I think. And I’m sort of looking, like, half-drugged, on purpose because we’re posing, and someone on Facebook was like “Oh, Dave, maybe those long nights with less sleep are finally catching up to you.” And I’m like, “Dude! We were awake! It was just a joke.”
[laughter] Abel: We did it on purpose! Shifting gears a little bit to nutrition again, how is the Bulletproof diet distinct from Paleo?
Abel: And don’t get cheeky and call it Paleo 2.0.
Dave: No, I do have upgraded Paleo on there to help people who are into Paleo find it. This diet did not evolve from Paleo. I had never heard of Paleo when, in fact, Paleo didn’t exist when I started doing this. This is, like, biochemically derived. So some of the things I recommend for folk are looking at it not from, “What do we believe our caveman ancestors ate,” but more like, “What works biochemically?” One example there would be xylitol. A lot of Paleo sites say don’t eat it, it’s a sugar, you should just not enjoy the taste of sweet. But I’m like, “Screw that noise. I like pudding.” So if I make pudding it’s basically with raw egg yolk blended with unsalted butter and very lightly cooked or even just eaten raw with a little bit of gelatin mixed in. Like, there’s a lot of ways to do it, but you toss vanilla in there, we’re actually working on low-toxin vanilla, because vanilla has a lot of mold in it. What am I gonna use to sweeten it? I could do a sugar-bomb thing and add a bunch of honey because cavemen might have eaten honey. Or I could add xylitol, which stops tooth decay, fights ear infections, increases bone density and erythritol does some similar things. So, I’m not opposed to sugar alcohols based on the scientific stuff. I also select for cooking methods that reduce the formation of toxins. I see Paleo recipe sites all the time, and it makes me mad. Like, “oh, add some olive oil to this and cook with it.” Thankfully, Paleo leaders in the last year, guys like Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson and all, have really come around, have really started talking about this, and saying, “Cook with animal fats.” But I’m sorry, if you look at the fatty acid breakdown of an animal fat, you don’t wanna actually cook with that. You want to cook with coconut oil or butter because it’s more saturated, and then add the tallow in at the end for flavor and for nutrition. But you don’t want to cook in tallow, because tallow is actually more monounsaturated than saturated. So it is one of those things where people don’t pay attention or they broil at 500 degrees because it tastes good. But denatured protein is inflammatory, even if you’re Paleo. So there’s a lot of things like that built-in, including avoidance of mycotoxins, avoidance of heterocyclic amines and all the other biogenetic amines that are created through the process of food. It sort of stands on its own. And people tend to lose weight really quickly, and maybe break through some barriers. Like you see people are doing LeanGains style intermittent fasting who’ve posted on the blog have plateaued, and have tried the Bulletproof program and I’ve broke through my plateau. I believe the reason they’re doing that is that we’re addressing core inflammation, not just the Paleo macronutrient and micronutrient things that are appropriate.
Abel: Right. And I’m really glad you mentioned xylitol, too, because that’s something that people pick on me for is using xylitol in some of my recipes. And I’m very specific about using organic birch xylitol because now a lot of the big guys are coming in and making crappy corn xylitol and all this other nonsense to put in processed foods. But I remember someone came to my blog and left a comment on one of my recipes. And this is a Paleo person, they’re just like, “Xylitol! Are you effing kidding me?” I’m like, “What’s the problem here?”
[laughter] Abel: But there are lots of things like that, and it’s funny because you talk about how you’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve said this before, but Paleo has really co-opted a lot of other approaches to nutrition and diet. Like, I kind of came more from reading old bodybuilding texts from, like the 70’s…
Abel: Which, from the macronutrient perspective and from the view of exercise, a lot of those are pretty much saying exactly the same thing that Paleo’s saying, or vice-versa. Paleo’s saying the same thing as those, both from a macronutrient perspective and from training. I mean, you look at LeanGains and that style of training has been around for a while, it’s just, it was before the Internet, so it was really underground. And I had no idea what Paleo was, either at the beginning. When I first heard about it I didn’t like it because of all of the things it restricted, you know, salt, alcohol, caffeine…
Abel: Those are all, you know, the most fun things in my life.
Dave: Let’s talk about salt. And I’m about to post a video about the history of salt studies. And, there’s outright scientific fraud. It was outed in the British Medical Journal in 1996 about the NHANES study, the one that our government to this day still relies on when they tell us to stupidly lower our salt intake.
Dave: And when you look at the actual data, versus what they say about the data, it’s really clear. In fact, Michael Alderman, head of the American Society of Hypertension for many years, and a well-established medical professional, direct quote: “If you want to live longer, eat more salt.” Period. That’s what the data says, and certainly I’ve been on 10 grams of salt a day for almost 8 years, and I consider quality sea salt the performance enhancing substance. And going without that is a bad idea. And it increases stress in the body.
Abel: So when you go and pick up salt, what’s the best kind to get? What are you looking for?
Dave: You know, ideally you want salt that’s been mined from a salt mine from a very old ocean because there are no modern pollutants in there.
Dave: So, what I like is the Himalayan stuff. I’ve tried Andean, from the Andes, I’ve tried Himalayan, I’ve tried the stuff from Utah. The most flavorful best stuff is from the Himalayas, but I tell you the maldon sea salt, those flaky finishing salt, those big flakes that are from modern seas, they’re so good I’ll use those, too. Even though I know they probably have some crap in them.
Abel: Yeah I like the Himalayan salt a lot. And that’s another thing. There’s a big difference between salt in processed food and natural mineral salts.
Dave: that’s a really good point. And if anyone else is interested in this, there’s a really good article actually published in 1998 by Gary Taubes, before he ever got interested in the more detailed parts of nutrition, called the Political Science of Salt. It goes into a lot of the science and pseudoscience surrounding the benefits and health detriments of salt. It’s very good.
Dave: I can send you a link to that, too, if you want to put that in the show.
Abel: Yeah, I’d love to see that.
Dave: Gary Taubes is truly an awesome, amazing researcher. He came in and spoke at the non-profit that I run called Silicon Valley Health Institute.
Abel: Oh, cool.
Dave: That’s at SVHI.com. There’s actually a video up on the site we just posted about 3 months ago, all the videos for the last 10 years of health professionals who’ve come and spoken, we have one a month come and speak for a couple of hours. Gary was represented by Good Calroies, Bad Calories, which is, I think, a phenomenal work.
Abel: It is, yeah.
Dave: There were questions about, is it just insulin or are there other things involved in making us obese. But anyone who reads that book and sits down and eats Wheaties, I don’t understand. Like, I do not understand their cognitive process. And Gary was kind enough to introduce me to his agents. My first book is coming out at the end of this year, published by Wiley and sons, really as a direct result of Gary introducing me to his agent at ICM, a talent agency in New York.
Abel: Oh wow!
Dave: So I’m very grateful to him personally, as well as just for writing that book. So I can slam 500 pages on the desk of someone who tells me butter’s gonna kill me and just say, “Dude I don’t have time to explain this to you, can you just read this?”
[laughter] Dave: It’s so good!
Abel: It is good. But compared to a lot of diet textbooks that are written at the second-grade level, his books certainly aren’t like that, especially not Good Calories, Bad Calories. He’s very thorough. Yeah, I definitely recommend that to anyone who’s interested in doing that research. Unfortunately, not too many people are. They just want to do the diet.
Dave: Yeah, the diet works.
Abel: They leave the research to us. I guess that’s fine with us because we like to nerd out on that stuff, right?
Dave: It’s cool to nerd out, it’s also cool to be a biohacker and experiment with this, because I did a lot of these diets because I’m like, “Okay, there’s good stuff.” I read the China study, which is about the dumbest book I’ve read in a long time. You read it, and it’s very convincing, because you trust that the author really did the research he said he did. But then you try it, and you’re like, “Wow. I feel like crap.” Well, the reason for that is that, actually, when you look at the data, what he said isn’t true, and he made some gross logical errors in the book. But today, I’ve got a big long vote on my comments section on my site, BulletproofExec.com, where someone’s saying, “Ah, I just read the China study! How can you eat meat?” You know, “I feel great, I’m a vegetarian!” Or, “I’m a vegan!” What I find is that people remember feeling great the first three months of being vegan, and then they start to decline. But it’s a slow decline. And they don’t realize…they know that they felt better than when they ate the standard American diet, so they must still be feeling good. But their hair’s falling out, and their eyes are really big and bulging and they’re starving. But they think they feel great. And it’s kind of a psychological trap. Because you really do feel good for the first six weeks to three months on a vegan diet because you’re hiding a cellular energy deficit by excess Omega-6 oils. We understand the mechanisms.
Abel: Right, right. And I think that definitely happened to me when I was a vegetarian, because I was on and off for a while. And the reasons that I would go off is because all of a sudden I felt like crap, and especially if I tried to combine it with exercise… I remember I was lifting weights once, as a vegetarian, and I’m just like, “That’s it, I’m finished, I’m going to get a steak.” Because I was listening to my body, and I just felt it. There was something wrong that needed to be fixed, and in my mind that was meat.
Dave: You were ready to listen to your body. And one of my first public talks on this, I talked to a room that was probably a third vegetarian and vegans, and I talked about curing vegans on stage. And I was logical and I would tease, but not rude or hostile.
Dave: And afterwards, someone e-mailed me, one of the guys said, “Dave, I’ve been a vegan for 18 years and after your talk, it just made so much sense that I went to a restaurant with a friend and I had a grass-fed rare steak for the first time in 18 years and I hadn’t felt this good in so long I can’t remember, thank you.”
Dave: That’s kind of touching to me, you know, because people who are choosing a vegan—we’ll call it a lifestyle—they really are genuinely trying to do it for their health or for the environment. But what they’re doing is they’re hastening the destruction of the environment, they’re killing more animals, they’re destroying topsoil. Like, a lot more animals die from tractors running over them and cutting them into little pieces than die from a grass-fed cow. And, from there, it’s kind of like, “Okay…” And then you want to minimize suffering and you didn’t do that, and now you want to be healthy and you didn’t do that either. So you’re not helping the planet, not helping yourself…why are we doing this?
Dave: We’re actually going to be publishing a vegetarian version of the Bulletproof diet sometime soon.
Abel: Oh wow!
Dave: Yeah, I think it’s important to remember, too, that we’re not trying to make vegetarians or vegans feel bad, we’re actually trying to help them, even if we do pick on them every now and then.
Abel: Well, they pick on us, too.
Dave: Yeah, it’s okay, I guess.
Abel: We’re all friends.
Dave: Yeah, it’s interesting, because you know, a lot of vegetarians will look at the Paleo diet and think it’s completely incompatible. There are many paleo people that eat far more vegetables and fruits than vegans and vegetarians do. It’s very interesting.
Abel: I say that to people, too, and as much as I joke about the whole vegetarian/vegan thing, I do say to people at the end of the day, “Look, what I recommend is kind of a Paleo template, something similar nutritionally to what cavemen would have eaten, but, when you look at it, it’s 50 to 75% vegetables and especially raw foods. So I joke with people saying, “I recommend a 2/3 raw vegan diet.”
[laughter] Dave: Yeah, you know, we also have a lot more in common than we don’t. It’s still relatively overall whole foods, it’s like even with grains and stuff, it’s still probably better than Ho-Ho’s and Twinkies. So I will give them that.
Dave: There’s also the whole fresh and local, and it really matters, and support of local agriculture. If you’re not a vegan, you’re just a vegetarian, you’re probably still interested in the raw milk thing, and having healthy agriculture that’s near where you live. So there’s a lot of commonality there, and I don’t hold it against someone who’s vegan or vegetarian at all, but I do know that there are ways to optimize what they’re doing, and I’ve struggled since the first month of having my blog out, where I’ve worked with Indian companies for more than half my career with lots of vegetarians. And they’re like, “Dave, can you give us a vegetarian Bulletproof diet?” I’m like, “Look, you’re not going to be bulletproof if you’re on a vegetarian diet, you will not be as optimal as you can get. I can make you stone-proof. If they throw stones at you they’ll bounce off. But if they shoot you it’s not going to bounce off. But your level of resilience will not be as good as it can be as a human being if you keep being a vegetarian. That said, let’s crank up your fat, let’s crank up your healthy proteins, let’s get rid of the soy and all the other crap.” And that’s why we’re introducing the vegetarian version of this, not because being vegetarian makes you bulletproof, but because if you’re already a vegetarian, at least do it as good as you can.
Dave: …knowing that you’re still making yourself weaker than you would be otherwise.
Abel: Right. Yeah, and that makes a lot of sense. So, along those lines and against the processed food, you talk a little bit on your blog about microwaves, and why microwaving food is not a good idea. Could you tell us about that?
Dave: You know, it’s one of those things where some of the hard-core engineers who follow the blog, we have some of the trans-human sort of singularity types. They get sort of offended because it’s high-tech cooking. But here’s the deal. Microwaves heat very small portions of proteins in food up to very high temperatures. They don’t target proteins, what they do is they target water molecules, so you excited a water molecule, it reaches a very high temperature, and it denatures the crap out of the proteins nearby, and maybe doesn’t touch the ones past that. That’s not what you want to do when you’re cooking your proteins. You want to gently heat your proteins so you have less inflammation. And there’s also this little problem where we don’t regulate the amount of microwaves that come through the doors of the microwave very well whatsoever. So you’re exposing yourself to biologically active microwaves when you cook your food. Especially in my book on fertility and pregnancy and how to have a child with better genes and a bigger brain, one that gets passed on to your grandkids, you know, especially if you’re pregnant, toss your microwave. And if you don’t toss it, for God’s sake, go to the other room if it’s turned on, because it has an effect on you.
[laughter] Dave: And people say, “That’s not true!” And it’s like, “Okay, let’s look what the Russians did in the 80’s to the American Embassy in Moscow. What they did is they basically focused microwaves on our embassy and people would get really sick, and they’d have weird cognitive dysfunction, and even strange cancers. And they’d put them on hazard duty, three months on and three months off. They couldn’t figure it out, and they finally tested and found out what it was, and they called the Russians and said, “What the hell! Can you stop doing this?” The Russians smiled and said, “Oh, no. We’re beaming them at you at the exact level that your own government has said is safe for your population. So, no, we won’t stop, because we’re only doing what you feel is okay to do to your own people.”
Dave: Exactly. So, you know, Cold War has to have been fun, right?
[laughter] Dave: It has a biological effect. The best writing about this is Robert O. Becker. I think his book is called Electromagnetism and Life. This is the guy who figured out how to cut the arm of a salamander and cause it to re-grow using electricity. Like, he knows his stuff. He’s a lifelong researcher into electromagnetism and life. There are real electromagnetic effects whether we like it or not.
Abel: You also wrote a killer post recently about why getting your nutrients only from food is a bad idea. So what are some of the benefits of strategic supplementation?
Dave: Well, it turns out that if you’re going to get enough food to meet just the US recommended daily allowance, you’re going to need somewhere between 17,000 and 22,000 calories. Armi, do you remember the exact—like 22,500 or something?
Armi: 27,575 calories for the average quote-unquote balanced diet. One of them was about as high as 34,000 calories.
[laughter] Abel: Geez! That’s a lot of potatoes.
Armi: Indeed, yeah! There’s some other really good research in there, too, just basically highlighting the various aspects of what blocks nutrients or exhausts nutrient stores in your body, or even things like water and nutrient depletion in food, too. Modern agricultural practices and how they deplete nutrients from food, and increase the volume of food without increasing the nutrient density.
Abel: So, this could go to either of you: what are the most important supplements these days?
Dave: So, magnesium is one of those things many people are short on. It helps with sleep, it helps with muscle relaxation. Fortunately most of the Paleo people out there, I’ve started saying, “For god’s sake, take your magnesium!” I’ve been on the D3 bandwagon for years because of the anti-aging non-profit that work I do, and that’s also reached like…okay, everyone in Paleo gets that you need vitamin D, but I still find people who are on the Paleo diet that don’t take enough. And unless you test your blood, the numbers that we recommend to people come from the Vitamin D research panel with Dr. Kanel, and it’s 1,000 IU vitamin D3 for every 25 lbs of body weight. For me, I took about 10,000 IU’s, but my blood levels were so low. I don’t respond to it that well to it. So I actually need about 16,000 IU a day to get my blood level up to mid-80’s to 90 where I want it. The test is $45, it’s the cost of dinner out on the town at, you know, Denny’s.
[laughter] Abel: Denny’s…
Dave: Yeah, it’s not a big expense. So, from that perspective, I highly recommend just getting it done. From there, the cod liver oil or fermented cod liver oil is a great way to round that out with some K2 and A. I’m also a fan of supplementing with K2. Potassium taken at exactly the same time as the magnesium is actually important because in order to enter the cell you need to have them together. And it’s something that a lot of people miss.
Dave: I’m a fan—for Paleo people in particular—I’m a fan of turmeric, which is also kind of reached consciousness there because of some things how it does for nitric oxide formation in the body and actually avoiding extra, it’s called inducible nitric oxide synthase. But it’s a precursor to many types of inflammation, so turmeric’s good. The one that no one seems to think about is something called calcium D-glucarate. I have a whole blog post on that on Bulletproof Exec, but if you’re going to be eating a high-animal products—especially a high cooked animal products diet—you really want to invest in this supplement, because it helps you to excrete extra toxins. There’s a process called gluconeration. And the two things that really help it are both inositol, which is one of the B-vitamins, and calcium D-glucarate. So I’d say if you’re going to be doing a lot of meat, especially if you like to barbecue or roast and things like that, you ought to be taking a capsule of that with those meals, because your liver and kidneys will thank you when you’re 70. Yeah, there are 2 other supplements I would recommend as well, and that’s iodine and selenium
Dave: The iodine especially, since most people are not drinking well water, they’re drinking municipal water or city water, which has fluoride added to it. And there’s a lot of evidence that it might not be that good for you.
Abel: It’s a waste, really.
Dave: Yeah, actually. And iodine is a good way to help detox from that. And most people don’t get enough from the Paleo diet. If you’re like me, you eat beef way more than seafood, you don’t eat a lot of seafood, then you should be taking iodine. A lot of people are deficient in selenium as well, and there are studies showing that even if you are sufficient in selenium, some extra can still be beneficial for you.
Abel: Right, right. I recommend to a lot of folks kelp and Brazil nuts, which can both help with the iodine and selenium in kind of a natural way. Because I’m still…I try to take everything a step back and just think about it almost philosophically. Does it make sense to use a synthetic when you have a natural option? I would say, most of the time, no. But I was talking to Paul Jaminet, actually, about synthetic versus whole food supplements. And it’s a really interesting thing that’s happening in the field right now, because whole food is catching on, and some of the science is saying, you know what, maybe it’s not so good. Maybe you don’t need some of those co-factors. So we’re still figuring some of that stuff out.
Dave: We are. There’s something about Brazil nuts, which are a classical way of addressing that, especially the selenium problem. It turns out that I’ve been unable in the last two years at any normal store to find Brazil nuts that aren’t significantly moldy, they even smell moldy. So there’s a real problem with storage. So even if you can’t see or smell it, doesn’t mean you’re getting something that’s free of toxins.
Dave: So I’m to the point where I don’t eat Brazil nuts anymore because most of them, I’d say like 90% of the ones I’ve been able to find, have mycotoxins. I’m sensitive, I’ve lived in several houses, including one that had Stachybotrys before I knew any of this. And that’s one of the nastiest molds that has immune activating effects. I’m a canary, you give me a moldy nut, my brain swells up. You can see my forehead, it’s a little bit Klingon.
[laughter] Dave: So I’m not going to eat those Brazil nuts anymore, I’ll get my selenium supplements.
Dave: They’ve got that methylselenocysteine, which is a good form of it that’s more absorbable than what you’d get in the form of a nut anyway, then you need to look at how they were grown, were there radioactive isotopes that they picked up, was there enough selenium in the soil? And the dose depends on the soil quality, and the soil quality depends on the state. Were they Chinese Brazil nuts? So I’m kinda done with Brazil nuts. And very few nut processors take care to refrigerate and properly humidity control them from the minute they’re picked.
Abel: I would say that synthetic sounds much better than a rancid, moldy Brazil nut.
[laughter] Dave: You just don’t know, like, rancid and moldy, it’s not like a yes or a no, it’s a question from the second it’s picked, you start on the path towards rancid and moldy. And it’s just a question of how far down the path are you. So if I had a Brazil nut from my back yard, when they’re first ripe, I’d probably pick some and freeze ‘em and eat ‘em with no problems.
Dave: But the one that came at Whole Foods packed in a wholesale bin that’s from God-knows-when, maybe I don’t want to do that.
Abel: Yeah. You know it all gets very complicated. But we’re coming up on the time, but before we take off, I know you’re working on a bunch of things, like a book, whey protein powder, coffee, very busy man! So what’s going on, and what do you want to talk about?
Dave: Well, the coffee’s been really popular with the Paleo community. If you want to post a link to it on the blog.
Abel: Oh, totally.
Dave: By all means do that. And then, the whey protein stuff is really cool. We just, in our last podcast, we recorded—it hasn’t even gone live yet. Some new research just came to light that talks about the amount of bovine serum albumin in whey protein as being the number one indicator of how much it’ll raise glutathione. The average listener may not know what that is, but glutathione is a major detoxifying enzyme in your liver and actually in all of your cells. And the more of it you have, the faster you can clear toxins and generally the better you’re going to be. Well, our whey protein is formulated with 20% bovine serum albumin added in. So it’s actually way stronger than any other whey protein you can buy, particularly for those immune-stimulating compounds. And so we call it upgraded whey, because it’s actually 75% from raw milk, unprocessed, un-denatured whey protein that was hard to source, plus this added bovine serum albumin, plus MCT oil, so you actually get the full feeling and it helps you with thermogenesis. So putting together a product like that, from a biochemical perspective versus, “Oh, look, it’s grass-fed, we’re just gonna do straight, isolated, just go for it.” It’s just a different effect. So I’m stoked that we have chocolate and vanilla coming down the pipe line next that are both specially processed to have different cognitive and health and anti-inflammation effects than normal stuff. That’s kind of the direction we’re headed.
Abel: That’s really cool. I’d like to try that stuff a lot. It sounds a lot better than some of the ones I know that I have. I have a whole shelf of different protein powders. Because, like you, I test pretty much everything on myself to see what works and what doesn’t.
Dave: I would love to hear your feedback on that. We can actually send you some. You know, we don’t do sample packs, so I’ll send you the full 2-pound bag.
Abel: Oh, man.
Dave: But just let me know. So far, the feedback has been, like, “Wow, I take 12 spoonfuls a day, I don’t get sick anymore.” That’s a typical comment we get. I’ll send you some. I need your address, though.
Abel: That’s awesome, thanks Dave. Alright, cool!
Armi: I just wanted to mention real quick, the tooth decay article I was talking about earlier for wisdom teeth, that’s actually going to be available on our site, and we’re going to make it a PDF download, too, so if anyone wants to print that off and take it into the orthodontist, and you know, not get their teeth cut out…
Abel: That’s an awesome idea. Spreading the love.
Abel: Alright, guys! This has been so awesome hanging out with you guys. We’ll have to do it again sometime soon.
Dave: Anytime, Abel.
Abel: Pretty cool guys, right? I wanted to mention that Dave is going to be coming out with a video pretty soon about bacon as a performance-enhancing drug. And I’m not going to spoil the fun just yet, but stay tuned to Bulletproof Exec.com for that, and I’ll definitely be putting a link up on my site as well. And don’t forget to check out the show notes for some of the other things we were talking about here today. And before you go, please leave a review on iTunes if you have the time, because it really helps spread the word. So with that, I’m out! I’ll be talking to you guys soon. Cheers!