May 8, 2013
This post is part of Tech Cocktail’s “Healthy Entrepreneur” series, bringing you insights on food, exercise, and sleep on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout May. The series is presented by Coromega (more info and a giveaway at the bottom).
For many, regulating a healthy body composition is a lifelong battle. Countless hours are dedicated sweating on the stairmaster in an effort to expel more calories than what is consumed. Twenty minutes on the treadmill barely negates that afternoon bran muffin. But unfortunately, there are no shortcuts toward getting lean. Eat less and/or move more. Right?
Don't tell that to Dave Asprey, founder of the Bulletproof Executive. After years of fighting to lose the excess fat (at 300lbs, there was fat to spare) with diet and exercise, he turned to “biohacking”- a method of using technology to measure basic biological processes and consuming a diet body to support these functions. Instead of calorie restriction with diet sodas and marathon training, Asprey targeted an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle that included copious consumption of butter, bacon, and coconut oil, regular meditation, and – get this – no exercise.
The result? Asprey dropped 100 lbs.
Curious to learn more? So were we.
I caught up with Asprey to go deeper down the rabbit hole with this butter-centric diet, his unique blend of no-toxin coffee (i.e. Bulletproof Coffee), and what gadgets he recommends to entrepreneurs for a performance edge. You can listen to the full interview below and read the highlights beneath.
On Losing 100 lbs.
“I lost 100 lbs. I used to weigh 300 lbs. I've been as low as 200 lbs., but with the amount of muscle I'm carrying right now, I'm closer to 220. So I can only technically say only 80 lbs right now, but certainly 100 lbs of fat. I've kept it off for 10 years, and I didn't use exercise or calorie reduction to do that. I used biohacking, which means I modified what I ate. I ate something called the Bulletproof Diet, which is really carefully crafted with about 900 to 1,300 references, to different parts of science around controlling inflammation, optimizing hormone levels, and building proper cell membranes.”
“I found that you can lose that kind of weight. But I also spent a quarter million dollars on every conceivable technology that I could find in order to upgrade my performance. How do I measure myself better? How do I change the way my brain works and add IQ points? There are several different ways to add IQ points and that your IQ varies on a daily basis based on how well you slept, what you ate and drank the night before.”
“One of the first things a biohacker is going to look at, is what a computer scientist would say, is the hardware. If your basic biochemistry isn't running very well, it's unlikely that you're going to be a high performance human. The vast majority of us are eating a lot of processed junk foods, which leads to poor performance, and it does it through chemical means. If you're eating bad fats, your body has to do something with them, and tries to build cell membranes with bad fats, it tries to build parts of your brain with them, and it doesn't work that well. So the first thing you want to do is get rid of things that limit performance in the diet. It's not about eating healthy or eating low fat, it's about figuring out what's in the body, that the body needs, and what's keeping the body from doing the biological processes that it's naturally supposed to do, and then consciously changing what you put into the body to cause that difference to happen. When you do it, you get a huge boost.
Step two is looking at the signals coming off the body. What about your heart rate? What about the EEG signals from your brain? What about the oxygen levels in your blood? If you're listening to this, you're thinking, “this guy's nuts, I don't have access to these technologies.” Except, you do. There's a $99 sensor that I use, it's called the Inner Balance Sensor. You plug it into an iPhone and it shows me the spacing between my heartbeats. I'm not talking about heart beats per minute, I'm talking about is literally beat by beat changes in the organization of the heart beat. When you learn how to consciously change that you can turn off your fight or flight response. Most of us walk around all day, hundreds of times each day, with their fight or flight response triggered by things that somehow their nervous system believes are dangerous, because there's a part of our brain that is the same as a labrador. We walk around constantly filtering out what our bodies tells us to do. If you think about a labrador, it says, “oh look there's a leg, go hump it”, “oh there's some poop, go eat it”, “there's a stick, go chase it”. Those basic things: eating, sex, and destructibility are what limit performance for a huge number of people, and it's all programmable at the nervous system level. And do this items like this $99 sensor. It takes 10 minutes a day for about six weeks, and you can learn to turn off the flight or flight response consciously.
On Diet Misinformation
The nail is in the coffin on the low fat diet.
“When people go on a low fat diet they experience a signal to the genes in their body that says “there's a famine happening now.” Eating a low fat and/or low calorie diet, your body's stress response goes up and you actually don't do very well. So we had this theory that's been disproven that fat makes you fat. As it turns out, extra sugar and starch makes you fat. However, it's not so simple to say just eat more fat because if you eat more corn oil and canola oil and things like that, it's not going to work. You need to eat more of the right kinds of fat. You need to eat moderate amounts of protein- high protein is not good for you- and you need to eat tons of vegetables and very limited amounts of starch. And while you're doing all of this you also want to avoid eating things that are highly inflammatory, and unfortunately a lot of common foods trigger inflammation in people. If you're trying to lose weight and your body is so inflamed that you keep adding water weight you can walk around with a spare tire today that you didn't have yesterday. That spare tire is not fat, it's just inflammation around the midsection, it shows up there first.”
…the right kinds of fat
Butter from animals that ate grass. Irish butter, Kerry Gold is my favorite brand. You can other types of butter from grass-fed cows. Animals that ate grass, like beef fats. Bacon as long as it's a properly fed pig. You can also do egg yolks, particularly lightly cooked egg yolks. Well cooked egg yolks are not that good for you. My favorite fat is medium chain triglyceride oil, which is an extract from coconut oil that is six times stronger than oil for specifically inducing this state called ketosis, which is your body's fat burning mode. A lot of people don't quite understand that if you eat mostly fat, even for one meal a day, you can trigger your body to start burning fat for energy. After you do this reliably for a while, your body changes the enzymes it makes so its more set up to burn fat for energy. When you do that, you feel much better, you have far fewer food cravings, you basically can go a full day without food without getting tired, or cold, or weak, or starting to shake, which is the state most people are in because their metabolisms are so unhacked.
Nutrition “Hacks” for Time Starved Entrepreneur
Screw breakfast. It's a waste of time and it makes you weak.
“The breakfast of champions, as far as I'm concerned, is called Bulletproof Coffee. This is coffee with no toxins, and I make a special process called the Bulletproof process, that creates a coffee that doesn't have a crash or jitters associated with it…And then you blend it with butter and MCT oil…Brew coffee in the morning, throw a tablespoon or two of the right unsalted butter in, add some MCT oil from a bottle and blend it with a little stick blender. Drink it on the way to work, it only takes about 5 minutes for that whole process. You will not be hungry for the next six hours, no food cravings, no hunger, perfect mental focus. I've got so many I can't even count any more people who are senior executives or CEOs at startups who do this for breakfast because they're losing a pound every day or two effortlessly. Most importantly, it's the mental focus.”
“If you're an entrepreneur, you're dealing with insane amounts of stress. Stress makes you gain weight and it also makes you perform poorly. If you can tackle anything that gives you more brain energy and gives you the ability to not waste a bunch of energy exercising every day to try and stay lean, you'll actually be a higher performance entrepreneur.”
What Makes Bulletproof Coffee Different?
“I had to give up coffee for five years because I found that when I would drink it I would get a headache and brain fog after I drank, and sometimes sore joints, and I realized, this is not helping my performance…So I would get on this treadmill: drink coffee, feel good, crash, drink coffee, feel good, crash, and I'd it three, four, or five times a day. I finally gave it up, but I love the stuff.
I brought together research from the coffee industry itself on brewing techniques and the biological impacts of coffee, but I also went into agricultural research and specifically around the presence of two performance robbing toxins that are endemic in coffee. One of them is called biogenic amines, the most famous which is histamine. The other one is called mycotoxins. This is formed by the fungus that grows on top of meat and they're introduced during the part of the coffee process where they take the soft parts- the cherry -off the coffee so all that's left is the seed in the middle, it's what we call the coffee bean. When I realized what was going on here I went out and reengineered the whole process of coffee, from how it's picked with a preference for where it's grown, and then how it's processed. I eliminated any source of contamination. There's hundreds of steps that have to be done right, and maybe if you skip a few steps it doesn't really matter very much, but the end result is – the process of building coffee is wrong. Right now it's optimized for economics and simplicity. Mine is optimized for human performance.
On Maximizing Exercise Effectiveness
“If you only have one free hour, break it into two half hour sessions. Actually you only need two 15-minute sessions, so you can have a half hour of that time back. The first time what you want to do, you want to lift a few heavy things with a few basic exercises. I have the Bulletproof exercise principles on my website, it's free. What you want to do basically is squats with as much weight as you can handle, pullups, and pushups or chest press, and other exercises like that. Four heavy, heavy exercises until failure. You want to be completely dead in fifteen minutes. And then get some extra sleep that night, eat some extra protein. And don't exercise again for at least three days, because you need to recover.
For your second workout of the week, you do 400M sprints with one minute of space between them. Most people will throw up after four, or three. If you can do more than that, great. Do it for 15 minutes. As fast as you can, like something is chasing you, that's going to eat you. Do that stop, probably fall over. Get up, and do it again. And that's it. You'll get more cardio development and a healthier exercise response than you will from grinding out some miles on a stupid elliptical trainer. It's not how the body works. This old equation of calories in vs. calories out, is ludicrous. You don't burn many calories from exercise. I have a blog post up where I look at the science and 50% of your calorie burn doesn't come from movement at all. A lot of it though 20 -25% comes from your brain. So if you're going to exercise a lot and then eat less calories to try and lose weight, what you're doing is you're reducing the energy available for your brain to do its job. If you're an entrepreneur you need your head working, and raising your stress levels by telling your body, “oh there's a Tiger chasing me because I ran every day and there's no food,” that's not really a way to thrive as an entrepreneur. That's a way to mistreat your body, raise your stress levels, raise your cortisol levels, and probably die earlier.
On Favorite Wellness Gadgets
“My top one is called the Upgraded Focus Brain Trainer. This just became available…This new device has only been on the market for about three months and I've had one for a couple of years, because I got one of the early prototypes from the inventor. The Upgraded Focus Brain Trainer shines an infrared light and a red light into the front of your brain and it looks for reflective oxygen levels. It helps you play a boring video game on your computer. You place this for about five minutes whenever you get a chance, like once a day, once every couple days. It's like lifting weights for your brain. It teaches you to consciously move blood to the front of your brain. And blood carries oxygen and it carries away toxins. So it turns up prefrontal cortex activation and it turns out that's where your ability to focus and pay attention comes from. You can take someone who doesn't have anything wrong with their head, and teach them to have more control of the circulation in their head. When they do it, they're ability to focus goes up, and you can measure it using scales like the TOVA Scale, which is a scale which is used to measure if someone has ADD or not, so it's a quantifiable measure of cognitive performance.”
“That leads us to my final recommended biohack, that is neurofeedback. Where you get the electrical signal off your head using EEG and you play it back to your brain. When you do that, you can very quickly achieve things in your head that you would never otherwise do. One example, I did the equivalent of four years of Zen meditation in seven days. I had seven really intense days hooked up to an EEG machine, a custom built one, that has about $11M of R&D into it. I spent this entire week working on putting my brain into the same state, measurable, quantifiable state, using that a lifetime Zen mediator would do. I would have spent hours a day meditating versus I spent seven days doing the same thing. I didn't get all the knowledge that a Zen master might have, but what I did get was the cognitive, mental, and relaxation, and physiological benefits, of years of that practice. The side effect was 12 IQ points and a documented 50% increase in creativity. I've done it three times. I actually bring my coaching clients through that training with me and it's transformative. You can drops years worth of stuff, and when people are done they become aware of how they're getting in their own way, and they stop doing it. I found that it's been transformative for me.”
Three Tips for Maximizing Wellness
“Number one, eat more healthy fat. I'm serious about the saturated side of things. If you find that you just do that, you'll find that you have a lot less cravings. When you have a lot less cravings, you'll find that you get more done. It just sounds ridiculous, but it's that simple. When you do that life is going to get better. While we're talking about eating the right stuff, just cut out gluten. Gluten is not your friend, it's not helping you, it's sucking your energy and performance and causing you to be more distracted.
The second one would be take up a meditation practice or use the Inner Balance Sensor, because if you're not doing that and you're under great stress you're taking years off your life, but you're also probably acting like a jerk. If you're acting like a jerk towards the team that you rely on everyday to get stuff done, or your partners, or your customers, or whoever else- your family, it's not going to be a good outcome. You need to be grounded and centered even if there's a storm going on around you, because you're guy in charge, you're the leader. If you're not taking the time to do some breathing exercises , or 15 minutes of meditation, or 15 minutes of this Inner Balance training, you're not at your full potential, you can do better than you are today with that.
The third one is maybe a little bit more out there but you need to know what you came here to do. So work on your mission. Figure out exactly what good you want to be doing with what you're doing today and if you're out to just make a buck, you're probably going to have a hard time of it. If you're out to cause something good to do something of service of humanity, and at the same time make a damn good living, you're going to do much better, and you're going to be happier doing it. Make sure that your entrepreneurial venture is in alignment with your core values, and write it down. Figure out what it is and do that.”
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