Breaking Down Bulletproof
I had been doing the Paleo-Ketogenic diet for a couple of years before coming across the work of Dave Asprey. Asprey is what gets referred to these days as a “biohacker”, someone who practices the art/science of engaging their biology with the hacker ethic.
It’s basically a fancy way of saying someone who uses the latest science to try and get their body to the ultimate in performance, including diet, physical exercise, and supplementation to optimize physical movement, brain function, sleep and even play. It sounds like fun, so I was immediately intrigued by this guy.
Asprey himself has a pretty impressive story. He was sick and 100 pounds overweight, suffering from environmental sensitivities and food allergies and spent 20 years “hacking his own biology” to bring himself back to a state of glowing health. I watched a few videos of him online where he talked about his story as well as some of the unseen toxins in our environment that sap us of our health (mycotoxins and molds being the big one), and they’re definitely worth checking out.
Asprey’s biggest claim to fame is probably his invention of “bulletproof coffee”. While this is the name of his own coffee brand (more on this below), it also refers to a recipe that blends a pristine-grown and processed coffee with grass fed butter and MCT oil, making a delicious concoction loaded with beneficial fats. The recipe has been diluted somewhat to be sold as “butter coffee” which has been adopted in many cafes and coffee shops all over the world, but these generally miss the true essence of the recipe in favour of simply going for novelty. It was even served at the CNE this year as part of its luxuriating-in-unhealthy-food extravaganza which included such culinary delights as battered and deep fried butter, a coffee and donut milkshake, Frosted Flake battered chicken on a stick and Timbits poutine, among other monstrosities. But to lump butter coffee in with this processed food frenzy completely misses the point.
The Ketogenic Diet
You see, people who are regularly drinking the bulletproof coffee recipe, myself included, are doing so as part of this biohacker ethic – as a means of getting the body functioning at its optimal state. I’ll try not to get too much into the science of the ketogenic diet and keep this brief, but it basically works like this:
Any time your body has carbohydrate in the blood (blood sugar), it prioritizes burning this before it burns any fat, simply because raised blood sugar is potentially harmful to the body. This means that any fat consumed gets stored instead of burned. So eating a very low carbohydrate diet allows greater access to your fat stores.
But it goes beyond just simple weight loss. There’s a lot of science out there on the benefits of being in a fasted state. When fasted, the body breaks down old unneeded parts and recycles them, getting rid of a lot of the debris and cellular material that isn’t functioning at its best. But here’s the thing – you can remain in a “fasted state” and still eat fat. As long as you don’t eat any carbohydrate or protein, your body stays in this fasted state, breaking down the bad stuff and recycling it, but you don’t feel hungry because you’re eating fat. It also has a “muscle-sparing” effect, meaning that your body won’t cannibalize lean muscle mass for protein like it will on other types of fasts (measure someone’s lean muscle before and after the Master Cleanse and you’ll see what I mean).
So by waking up in the morning, having a bulletproof coffee but nothing else, you extend your fasted state beyond the 8 hours of sleep you just had and continue to reap all the benefits, including detoxification, fat burning and lean muscle building. Pretty cool, eh? It’s a method of intermittent fasting that makes the process a lot easier because you’re not hungry.
This is just one of the “hacks” Dave Asprey has come up with, and it’s taken the world by storm. He has a complete Bulletproof Roadmap that outlines an entire diet strategy for optimizing your health and performance. It’s essentially a Paleo-Ketogenic diet with a few twists.
As with any diet guru, however, Asprey isn’t without his critics. One of the main criticisms you find online is that there are a lot of products offered, leading some to claim it’s nothing but a marketing blitz. But I think it’s important to point out that this lifestyle doesn’t require Bulletproof products. As I said, I’d been Paleo-Ketogenic for a few years, chugging along quite happily without any special designer health products. That said, Bulletproof products are really very cool. They take what’s needed for this type of lifestyle and make it easier.
At the centre of the Bulletproof family of products is the Bulletproof Coffee itself. This essentially was a way for Asprey to take coffee and turn it into a superfood, by paying particular attention to where along the line of standard coffee production things can creep in that rob the coffee of its health benefits and even turn it into something unhealthy. For one, Bulletproof coffee minimizes the opportunity for performance-robbing mold toxins to get into the beans. They also grow the beans at high altitude on single estates in Guatemala, hand-harvest it, handle and roast it in a way that maintains its integrity. If this weren’t enough, the coffee undergoes 3rd party testing for 27 of the most common molds and toxins.
Also integral to the Bulletproof family is their varieties of MCT Oil. MCT stands for “medium chain triglycerides”, which are super-healthy saturated fats found in coconut and palm oils. Bulletproof has two types of MCT oil – their Brain Octane oil and their XCT oil. Most MCT oils on the market are about 50% lauric acid, a 12 carbon chain fatty acid. This fatty acid is processed in the body in the same way long-chain fats are processed, going through the liver before making it to the cells for energy.
The Bulletproof oils remove lauric acid altogether concentrating instead on the shorter chain MCTs. The XCT oil is a combination of the 10-carbon MCT called capric acid, which usually only makes up about 9% of coconut oil and the 8-carbon MCT called caprylic acid and usually only makes up about 6% of coconut oil. These tasteless and colourless oils go straight to the cells for instant energy, they aid in healthy digestion, help fat burning and are the preferred fats for fuelling our brains. The Brain Octane oil is 100% caprylic acid, the most readily converted to ketones of all the fats, which are used by the brain faster than other fats, keeping the brain in peak performance all day. It’s a perfect addition to coffee, tea or other beverages or can be used in salad dressings or other places you use fats or oils.
Another of the Bulletproof products is the Bulletproof Collagen Protein. Collagen is truly a superfood, with so many amazing benefits they’re hard to list here! You find collagen in its natural state in bone broth, which is what makes it such an amazing food to have in the diet. But second best would be supplementing. Bulletproof Collagen comes from pasture raised cows, essential for ensuring a clean and healthy product. Collagen is amazing for tissue repair, building up muscle matrix and bone. It’s amazing for rejuvenating skin, regenerating cartilage, helping to heal joints, enhancing immunity and reducing inflammation. At its essence, eating collagen builds collagen. Bulletproof Collagen has been hydrolyzed, meaning it’s “pre-digested” to make it more bioavailable and mixable in cold applications like smoothies.
And rounding out the Bulletproof family of products is the Bulletproof Whey Protein. It’s basically a top of the line whey protein which comes from all grass-fed cows, pesticide and chemical free and, on top of this, is tested for heavy metals and environmental toxins. They also include colostrum in with the whey, boosting immune factors and adding in a host of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants; something you don’t find in most whey proteins on the market. Bulletproof Whey undergoes a proprietary filtration process which involves the bare minimum of processing, keeping all the important protein factors intact.
All of these Bulletproof products are now available at The Big Carrot, so if you’re curious, you can check them out. As I said, you can certainly achieve an optimal diet without these products, but they offer some amazing benefits that can increase your health and performance in really cool ways. So if you want to give “biohacking” a try, or want to become “bulletproof”, your opportunity is here!
Doug DiPasquale, Certified Holistic Nutritionist
More on Dave Asprey and his Bulletproof program, click here.