Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and author of New York Times bestseller The Bulletproof Diet, is a Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur who spent two decades and over $300,000 hacking his own biology.
Dave lost 100 pounds without counting calories or excessive exercise, used biohacking techniques to upgrade his brain by more than 20 IQ points, and lowered his biological age while learning to sleep more efficiently in less time. Learning to do these seemingly impossible things transformed him into a better entrepreneur, a better husband, and a better father.
Dave and I are good friends, and today we’re talking about his new sexy hair—and just how he keeps it so meticulously beautiful…
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Actually, we’re digging into the problems with ketosis—and what to do about them. Plus, how to easily feed your kids properly (yes, kids can like sushi and sardines), and the trick to tackling food cravings.
First off, Dave claims that there’s nothing in his hair– he simply stopped cutting it in January and has been using a lot of collagen… now it’s really long in just three months! He also has been floating in his floatation tank, which gives his hair a nice magnesium salt soak. So, he’s rocking this awesome 70’s style.
KETOSIS: TACKLING THE PROBLEMS WITH GREAT RESULTS
The listeners on The Fat Burning-Man show have been asking a lot about ketosis, and there can’t be a more perfect guest to answer those questions than Mr. Ketosis himself. Ketosis is what we like to call “fat-burning mode.” It’s when your body switches to burning fat instead of burning sugar.
Our bodies are stupidly lazy– which allows us to stay alive for a long period of time and reproduce… which is kind of important. But that means you’re going to burn sugar first because it’s easy, even though there are all kinds of metabolic consequences. Then when there’s no sugar it starts ripping apart muscle for energy, and your adrenaline plays a huge part.
Finally, when your body starts feeling like it’s too much work to make energy out of protein, it switches to fat and it’s like, “I feel amazing.”
Dave says he fasted for four days in a cave in the desert with no one around for ten miles, at the end of which he got into an incredibly clear mental state.
Fasting Isn’t a Fad
Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism (Alyson’s family is sort-of Mormon)– just about every major religion includes some form of ritual fasting.
A lot of people want to radicalize fasting as a ridiculous new thing, but it’s much older than the way we are eating today (hyper processed foods). Look back into history and the practice of what it means to be human in surviving times of feast and famine, and you find your body is adapted to under-eat at times.
Some people do well in a constant state of ketosis—like Dave who lost about 100 pounds but doesn’t stay in ketosis all the time—he uses cyclical ketosis. He has found that surfing in and out of ketosis provides the most will power, resilience, and energy without the metabolic consequences of long-term ketosis.
While I (Abel) do recommend peeing on trees—best place to go in the wild—I do not pee on sticks or use technology of any kind to measure my ketones. The cyclical timing of my carbs has just become a natural way of life.
“When you’re straddling ketosis,” says Dave, “It’s a nice balance for a lot of people.”
While it’s nice at first to think that if you learn this new thing it will be a golden egg that will solve all your problems, it’s not.
When you first start a ketogenic diet, you might feel your sex drive and energy dip—don’t just focus on that one magic bullet to solve everything long-term. It might be useful for a week or two or a few days… and it might depend on season, work travel. You can time your carbs by eating more of them if you’re feeling undernourished or have a super huge workout, etc.
HOW DO YOU TARGET YOUR CARBS IN THE RIGHT WAY?
When Dave first started experimenting with a ketogenic diet, he did zero carbs—which actually caused some food allergies and he lost his mucus stomach lining and couldn’t create tears. So, he switched to a carb timing approach:
NEVER carbs in the morning. Carbs at breakfast are destructive to productivity and focus. I recommend doing them at dinner or a little bit after dinner for better sleep.
Carbs before bed. I recommend a little raw honey before bed to raise liver glycogen, increase storage for carbs and feed the brain. You’ll sleep more efficiently and increase adrenal restoration.
We save our treats for the very end of the day—it’s a beautiful time to crash out.
Abel: I had always had a really hard time sleeping—it would be eleven or twelve and I’m staring at the fan—brain wouldn’t shut off. Now I avoid carbs in first half of the day and then if I’m going to eat them (honey, maple sugar), I eat them at the end of the night or right after dinner and I get a great night’s sleep.
Dave: I want any sleep I get to be high performance sleep.
The glymphatic system dictates what the body does at night. You lay down to go to sleep and then a cerebral spinal fluid bath comes into the brain and washes out toxic proteins that buildup during the day. Is that the primary reason we sleep? We’re still not sure, but we know it’s a maintenance cycle.
If you can increase performance of mitochondria, then they can burn at a higher rate and you can get that fuel from ketones or sugar.
Bulletproof Coffee in The Morning
In the morning I do bulletproof coffee with Brain Octane Oil— because it sparks the ketones the fastest. If you can get them up to .3 (not nutritional ketosis) or .48, you manipulate ghrelin (which makes you hungry) and the CCK (which makes you feel full). It essentially turns off hunger.
No sugar or protein at breakfast– just saturated fat and brain octane oil.
What‘s really interesting is that when you go on a calorie-restricted diet and lose fifty pounds without addressing the ghrelin production, you’re just as hungry as when you were fifty pounds heavier. Then you start to use willpower, which is a finite resource— Your willpower will run out eventually.
If you don’t reset your ghrelin, you lose the willpower and gain back the weight.
However, if you at least go into a state of ketosis at the end of the diet, you can use that ghrelin to reset your hunger level to your current wait requirements. OR, you can do that every day by doing a daily ketogenic fast—or carb timing.
Women and Ketogenic Fasting
Women are more sensitive to men because adrenals tied to sex hormones.
Every day of the month is another part of their cycle—in terms of paying attention to the daily state of your body I think woman are trained from puberty to pay attention. What does that mean? Women, when they are too low in carbs for too long, they have sleep problems sooner than men.
“When I was too low carb,” says Dave, “I was waking up 12 times at night. My body was going ‘eat some carbs, stupid!’ And I developed food allergies.”
For a lot of women, it doesn’t work all the time. For some it works! If your sleep goes away and you get symptoms, just have some clean carbs in the evening.
Women— should replenish their carbs at least twice a week.
Men— should replenish their carbs at least once a week.
Look at past week and month and then decide what you need? If you’re biking 100 miles a day it’s a different refeed than if you’re not.
Dave puts butter on everything. Putting butter on stuff is really fun.
People don’t have enough fun with their food.
Kids, however, have fun with their food. According to Dave, toddlers absorb half of their calories through their face. Food is a tactile experience, and they’ll smear food everywhere. So, when Dave’s daughter was three, they let her. They hauled all kinds of food outside and let her go crazy—and it’s an experience she will never forget.
HOW DO YOU FEED YOUR KIDS THIS WAY?
It is so easy—especially if you eat this way during pregnancy, they’re primed to eat this way. They’re like little birds, they will smear food on everything in your house. I’d hand them a bite of butter and it would be all over their face. They’d open their mouth, “Daddy can I have a bite of butter in my mouth please.” Let them have salt and butter. Of course, it’s Himalayan salt that’s clean and full of minerals. They try restaurant salt and it doesn’t taste right.
Assure them: You won’t starve if you don’t eat.
“I don’t like it. I don’t want to eat this.” Okay. We’ll have another meal in four hours. Be respectful and just let them know that it’s okay if they don’t eat anything. But then they don’t snack until the next meal—and they shouldn’t have to snack anyway. They won’t starve.
After a time or two doing this, they always choose to eat. Dave’s kids eat sardines, olives, anchovies, sushi (salmon eggs)—which are so high in nutrients that Indians used to dry the salmon eggs and save them for pregnant women to eat. That’s what’s normal to them.
Dave’s kids eat vegetables with lamb sausage on the top for breakfast—and they know when they need 1 ½ sausages verses two! They won’t eat a steak covered in a sickly sweet sauce, either.
When Dave’s son Alan was at school, his teacher asked him if he wanted an apple. He answered, “Is it organic?” YES. “Is it moldy?” No. So, he eats it. Dave is kind of a self-admitted freak about toxic mold because it messes with hormones, kidneys, liver… mold is behind a lot of chronic diseases. The daily oxidative damage adds up over time… And apples are one of the moldier crops.
If your kids want junk food let them know it’s not a treat. Junk food is junk food, it’s addictive. We don’t eat that. Kids who eat a high fat diet with the right kinds of fat and no junk food don’t whine!
If my kids go crazy and cranky it’s probably because they had sugar.
If they happen to get some food that’s not fresh, contains chemicals or sugar, you can give them some activated charcoal and you’ll see an almost immediate change in their behavior.
HOW DO YOU USE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL?
For about 10,000 years, humans have used charcoal as a digestive remedy. In Cambodia they sell capsules of it all over the place. The molecules are super crinkly so there’s a lot of surface area with a lot of negative charge so the positive particles stick to it.
Disclaimer: Dave manufactures the upgraded coconut charcoal. It comes in capsules and you take one or two and it opens up in your stomach and it sticks to protein and other bad stuff in your food.
Nutrient density is not the most important thing in food—You need calories for fuel and nutrient-only plans ignore the fact that you need calories for energy.
When you’re on the road, you can take a little upgraded coconut charcoal to avoid the crashes after restaurant meals—which often triggers hypoglycemia. Why? Because the toxins in the food divert attention from the brain—but you can avoid that by not allowing the toxins from the food to get absorbed in the first place.
What about for kids? How do you know you’re getting a right amount? “When they were little and they had a really upset stomach, we’d make a paste with activated charcoal and raw honey.” If it doesn’t constipate them, then it’s not too much.
You know you’ve had too much when it constipates you. “When my kids were really young they’d take one capsule. If they eat a meal and they both start melting down right after and I feel tired and Lana’s cranky, we each take a capsule. Then you have calm focused kids.”
THE BULLETPROOF COFFEE SHOP
I love it when virtual things come to real life, and Bulletproof is coming out in the flesh!
Dave has been working for almost two years on opening the Bulletproof Coffee Shop, which will feature a full menu of fresh local grass-fed meat featuring different ranches on a monthly basis.
Meat is no different from wine or choc or coffee… there’s an artistry to making good quality lamb and beef and pork. The café will also serve salad with salad undressing—amazing dressing and the salad is in the dressing as well as in the salad.
This is so far from a McDonald’s Salad Shaker it’s ridiculous.
Of course there will also be a selection of Bulletproof Coffees with all kinds of ways to stack upgrades. The goal is to feed you stuff that makes you not want to eat for a very long time.
No sugar, just xylitol and erythritol, fats, brain octane oil, avocado… upgraded collagen You go in for breakfast and maybe you’ll buy lunch to go and you’re good until dinner. You don’t have to fend off bagel cravings and that’s how I live my life now—it used to be a constant food-seeking behavior.
Once you get to this bulletproof stat of high performance– it’s an effortless state wherein your brain just works.
When Dave used to believe in cheat days, he’d go out and chow on sugary layered desserts and then feel awful for four days afterward. Now, the eating urge is completely uninteresting… even if the grass-fed steak with bacon sounds good, it’s not a craving. It’s a desire.
WHERE TO FIND DAVE ASPREY
Well, once it opens in May you’ll find him at his Bulletproof Coffee Shop in Santa Monica at the corner of Venice and Main—right beneath Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office!
You can also find him and lots of awesome info on the Bulletproof web site and on his podcast, Bulletproof Radio!
i would LUV to hear you have a discussion with a leader in the 80/10/10 movement!!!!
we would LUV to no longer hear any more from the cultish, emotionally manipulative and self righteous 80/10/10 movement!!!!
Is there any more info on the web discussing toddlers absorbing calories from their face?
Always love the interviews with Dave!
It was enjoyable to hear him talk about his weight loss experience more than he usually does. Makes it more personal.
In all honestly, there are some great YouTube videos of Abel and Dave talking about the “Paleo” diet and why they eat animal products and cooked foods. In general, it explains both of their reasoning for not eating an 80/10/10 style diet. However, much of the diets overlap. They both mention having diets similar to 80/10/10 in the past.
In fact, Abel and Dave commonly joke that 70% of their diet is “raw vegan” (i.e. a diet of raw or lightly cooked vegetables; “good fats” such as avocados, olives/olive oil, butter/ghee, and coconut oils; with quality, grass-fed, pastured and local animal protein, and fruits/legumes/grains/honey/starches being used sparingly and timed appropriately for optimal body response).
Any type of diet has its ups-and-downs of immediate benefits and long-term consequences. If this interview says anything, it’s that “everyone has their own specific needs” that may change over time. Fasting, cycling, timing; all of these are key to a sustainable lifestyle-diet, and even a diet tailored for performance/modeling.
Plenty of vegans have loved their life on a vegan diet for years—maybe even a decade or more—and then found their body craving fats/proteins from animal products as they (1) aged, (2) had a change in lifestyle, and/or (3) had a major hormonal change due to a condition (e.g. pregnancy/birth, disease, long-term lifestyle consequences). Choosing that diet isn’t out of foolishness, and vice-versa. The shouting on either side is just noise.
But seriously, check those videos out. They are a bit off-the-cuff, but the information is great. Dave goes into great detail about what is going on in the body by eating his Bulletproof diet, discusses vegans/vegetarians specifically, and Abel does the same with his “Wild Diet”. Agree or not, they have their reasoning and are informing themselves. The interview with the Young and Raw co-founders also touches on some of these points.
More personally, I was a vegan for a year (inspired by the 80/10/10 diet and “Forks Over Knives” documentary), then went pescetarian, and finally to a more “High-Fat, Ketogenic, Paleo-Style Diet” that has land-animal meat products in it. Along the way I seriously considered the environmental, ethical, social, cultural, emotional, and biologically-individual implications of each diet—major motivations for why people choose the diet that they do. It’s not always based on the latest scientific research. There are a litany of other factors that must be considered.
I’m still researching and may change my mind. That’s okay. Changing your mind is okay. Learning more is okay. We should radically support that if new research comes out. Learn more. Learn about crop-diversity. Have an opinion about a “whole-ranch-ecosystem” approach to food, as opposed to a crop-only method. Do the research and see what uses less water, less resources, and is better for the surrounding environment. Have an opinion about meat consumption for health and the impact on the environment. Make a choice to be 80/10/10 or not—but make the choice consciously and realize we’re all on the same team.
Everyone in this sphere agrees more than they disagree: avoid processed foods, make vegetables the majority of your diet, support diversity of crops and local farmers/food producers, and time your carb intake to help—not hurt—you. That’s the goal for all casual listeners, and performance athletes may be after different gains, but the approach is very similar.
“To 80/10/10, or not to 80/10/10? That is *NOT* the question.” That’s getting caught up in the minutia.
It’s about getting everyone in the U.S. to get behind a diet that is as healthy as the 80/10/10, the Wild Diet, the Bulletproof Diet, or countless others that *aren’t* the Standard American Diet (SAD) of low-quality grains and sugars that are made because they don’t spoil as quickly, keep you coming back for more, and are primarily profit-focused. It’s making us sick and tired. I was sick and tired and changed things radically. That’s the goal.
It’s about trying to get people to wake-up to eating food that is alive, fresh, less processed, less-pesticide-sprayed, less-genetically-modified, and move towards a different mentality altogether. That’s the big picture.
Abs are nice, PRs on benchpress are fun to bro-out about, but health and sustainability for a country that has been deprived of choice and health (since post-WWII, Nixon farming regulation, or early ’90s GMO/chemical allowances—pick your starting point) is real the goal.
Thanks for the great content and info, Abel!
Dan @ Biohacking Entrepreneur says
Lee, I love the way you summed this issue up! I may very well have to turn these points into a post.
1. We are all on the same team. We are all working towards healthy, DATA-DRIVEN dietary choices, that break this mold of profit-driven, garbage food.
2. Let’s stop fighting about who has the best diet and focus on an INFORMED understanding how our dietary choices affect us, our environment, and our society.
3. Our dietary choices may change over time, whether through a change in dietary needs or knowledge, and that is OKAY!
Thanks for commenting. I really appreciated what you shared.
Beth @ Hooked on Health says
REALLY enjoyed this interview. You guys are a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit. This is the first time I have heard of using activated charcoal. Sometimes you guys seem to speak a sort of shorthand though and I got a bit lost a few times. Probably because you know each other so well. 🙂
Anyway thanks for another great podcast!
Beth @ Hooked on Health says
Oh yeah, while I am paleo and lovin it I also follow the blood type diet as the foods on my avoid list create joint problems for me when I eat them. My question, unfortunately coconut is on that list. I realize you can use butter (I use ghee), is that a one to one exchange for bulletproof coffee?
sarah watson says
As always, wonderful reminders and info, especially for women. I love how you two remind us all the time that everyone is so different and how fun you make this lifestyle sound to those who think it’s so restrictive. Also, thanks so much for the part on feeding kids healthy. Sent it to everyone I know.
Abel James says
Awesome, thank you for sharing Sarah!
sarah watson says
Oh, forgot. I finally ordered Dave’s charcoal and have given it to my grandchildren along with butter and coconut oil ALL with great effects! I love you guys!!
Dan @ Biohacking Entrepreneur says
Dave and Abel put together some more great info once again!
I love the emphasis on how everyone is different (especially the acknowledgement about women having different diet requirements due to different hormones). Yes, start with what has worked for someone else (like Dave), but Dave always talks about the necessity of tracking your own data religiously.
Luckily for us, the scientific community is starting to pay attention to the biohacking community, so we are getting more research that gives us more data to start our biohacking at.
Quick question: after a complete fast, or at least a carb and sugar fast, and you’ve entered Ketosis, how much carbs can you eat on your cheat days or in the evenings without taking your body out of Ketosis?