Top 10 Lessons Learned at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking Conference

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“Biohack Your Life”.

That is the promising theme of Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking Conference – where I’m currently at in San Francisco (and yes, that photo above is me getting the hell shocked out of my abs on Day 1 of the the event).

Dave is perhaps most famous for his Bulletproof Coffee brand, which has mushroomed (mold-free of course) into an entire Upgraded Self website that features supplements, tech gear, and biohacks that all promise to make one “bulletproof”.

And from speeding up fat loss to enhancing triathlon training and strength, there were definitely some new biohacking lessons learned in the past two days.

So without further ado, here are the top 10 lessons learned at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking Conference, with another shameless photo of my abs thrown in.

bulletproof coffee
A piping hot cup of foamy Bulletproof coffee.

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Lesson 1: Not All Coffee Is Created Equal

Yesterday morning, I wandered sleepy-eyed into the event, and within 30 minutes my eyeballs were popping out of my head from a piping hot cup of “upgraded” organic, mold-free coffee blended with organic KerryGold butter and Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil with a touch of vanilla powder and chocolate.

The idea behind Bulletproof Upgraded Coffee is that most coffee beans are processed by either leaving them in the sun and elements to wither and dry – or by pressing them and letting them ferment (spoil) to remove the outer layer of the bean.  Both of these techniques produce significant levels of unhealthy mycotoxins.

In contrast, the Bulletproof Upgraded Coffee beans are mechanically processed after picking using only clean cold water, which is more expensive, but safer because it significantly reduces harmful molds and bacteria from impacting your health.

So why add the oil and butter to the coffee?

The addition of the MCT oil provides a readily available fuel source brain mitochondria, and may help you to excrete toxins from the brain, while the fat from the butter and the oil improves the ability of mind-stimulating terpenes and caffeine in coffee to enter your brain, along with potent coffee-based anti-inflammatories such as cafestrol and kawehol.

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Lesson 2: Electrical Stimulation Goes Way Beyond “As-Seen-On-TV” Six Pack Abs

In the photo at the top of this blog post, you see me engaged in a 100% maximal abdominal contraction. I stood there for 10 minutes with those electrodes attached to my stomach, sweat pouring down my face with every muscle in my body directed to my core.

When I finished, I felt as though I’d literally done 1000 situps, or worked my core for a full hour.

“We are electrical beings…” is the way that Jay Schroeder, the featured conference presenter from Evosport.com, defines the human body. During 2 intensive days of electrical training, Jay taught us how reflex patterns and arcs, the nervous system and your body position and emotions influence mental and physical abilities.

Jay uses an electrical stimulation device called the “ARPwave”, which possesses characteristics not found in any conventional therapeutic neuromuscular electrical stimulator (specifically something called interferential, microcurrent, galvanic, Russian stim, iontophoresis). This specific wave is supposedly more harmonious with the body and significantly reduces skin and fatty tissue impedance, which allows much deeper penetration of the direct current without the side effects of nasty stuff like skin burning.

Think of this like electrostimulation on steroids.

By combining movement patterns with use the ARPwave, Jay is able to achieve extremely fast injury healing time, and as you’ll learn in Lesson 9 of this post, if you can learn how to combine this type of electrostimulation training with heavy lifting or a type of training called “extreme isometrics” you can get extremely fast sports performance body transformation results in no time flat.

Geeky? Yes.

Quite handy if you’re short on training time, need to recover fast, and can find a provider in your area or want to shell over $13,000 for a unit? Absolutely, especially if you like to own really nice things.

The way Jay put is that he gets people back to running after ACL knee surgery in just two weeks.

Dang.

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Ben Greenfield absLesson 3: A Good Biohacker Combines Cold With Supplementation to Maximize Fat Burning

Dave dropped a knowledge bomb when he mentioned a special compound called pterostilbene, which is chemically related to resveratrol and is found in blueberries, grapes, and also in a more potent supplement form. Pterostilbene is thought to exhibit anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-hypercholesterolemia, and anti-hypertriglyceridemia properties, and may also fight off and reverse cognitive decline.

From what I can tell of the mechanism of action, it may work very similarly to the MPX100 bitter melon extract I describe in my “best fat burning supplements” post. Bitter melon extract is the supplement I personally combined with a CoolFatBurner cold thermogenesis vest to achieve 2% body fat loss while eating like a pig over the holidays (pictured left).

Turns out a lot of other biohackers here also use a similar strategy of fat burning supplementation combined with cold thermogenesis to maximize fat burning, and I certainly saw a few cold packs scattered around the room the past couple days.

Take note. Fat burning with no exercise is a very useful biohack.

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Lesson 4: Tour de France Cyclists Aren’t the Only Ones Who Use Earthing

Back in the early days of this podcast, when I was curious how Tour De France cyclists make it through all those grueling stages day after day, I interviewed Dr. Jeff Spencer – who described the concept of “grounding” or “earthing” mats as a strategy used by professional cycling teams at the Tour de France to recover more quickly while they sleep.

Basically, the idea behind earthing is that the surface of the earth emits a natural magnetic frequency that assists with our circadian rhythm, hormonal cycles, and absorption of negatively charged free electrons (which can mitigate oxidation, stress, etc). Dr. Jack Kruse recently wrote a really good blog post about this called “EMF – Does Your Rolex Work?”.

Since most of us spend much time wearing shoes, being indoors, not touching the ground/grass, etc. we can benefit from this frequency by increasing contact with the earth or the “ground” – and using a mattress or mat wired to the earth via an outlet in your home or office is one way to do this.

earthing mat
An Earthing Mat.

Another, even more powerful way to ground is through the use of devices which emit the same magnetic frequency as the earth, and this is what I personally do. The electromagnetic device I use under my mattress every night is called an Earthpulse, and you can listen to a podcast I did about it here. I also wear a the Superhuman Encoder on my wrist 24-7, and it is embedded with a quartz crystal that releases that same 7.38Hz earthing magnetic frequency.

Finally, during a lunch break, I even learned about new footwear called “EarthRunner shoes” (here’s a link to their KickStarter project), which apparently feature an original conductive design allows you to absorb ever-present subtle electrical energies of the Earth.

Nothing like getting down with your hippie self.

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Lesson 5:  A Vibration Platform Makes Yoga Much More Challenging

Bulletproof Vibe
The Bulletproof Vibe, plain jane with no bells and whistles, but it does the job.

During one of the conference breaks, I hopped on one of Dave’s Bulletproof Vibe vibration platforms(pictured right).

Within a few minutes, Dave walked up and got me to go into a single leg standing yoga balance pose while on the vibration.

This massively worked my nervous system within just a couple minutes.

And as if the coffee wasn’t enough, I felt like my brain had an intense buzz after focusing, posing and vibrating at the same time.

How does this vibration thing work?

Whole Body Vibration (WBV) therapy (basically, standing or moving on a vibration platform) is used in universities, professional sports teams, and medical facilities around the United States. WBV was invented by Russian cosmonauts in 1960s and can:

-Detoxify and strengthen the immune system (pumps the lymph system thoroughly)
-Help regain muscle strength and bone density
-Reduce recovery time
-Stimulate healthier brain function

Beyond just standing on the platform, which quickly becomes easy (and frankly, boring), you can do squats, pushups and of course, any number of balance poses and yoga moves.

The Bulletproof Vibe is  designed to transfer vibration energy you, and not to the floor – and although it doesn’t quite give the enormous amplitude and frequency I’ve experienced on the big commercial units in biomechanical labs and some fancy gyms, it is comparatively more quiet, it stays in place without moving around the room, and at $1495 it won’t set you back $6000 to $8000 compared to a big commercial unit.

So if you’ve got some cash to burn and want to get the lymph and blood flowing every morning, throw back a cup of coffee and hop on a vibe.

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Lesson 6: We Still Need One Self Quantification Device To Rule Them All

When it comes to self quantification, there are a ton of devices out there for tracking hours of sleep, heart rate, heart rate variability, pulse oximetry, perspiration, respiration, calories burnt, steps taken, distance traveled and more.

For example, you’ve probably heard me talk emWave2, which seems like it is quite popular heart rate variability tracking device among the biohackers here. The emWave2 is a biofeedback device that trains you to change your heart rhythm pattern to facilitate a state of coherence and enter “the zone.”

Basically, when you use the emWave2  a few minutes a day, it can teach you how totransform feelings of anger, anxiety or frustration into peace and clarity.

But the emWave2 is kinda big, and you certainly can’t place it discreetly in your pocket or take it with you on a run.

Zensorium Tinke
The Zensorium Tinke

So there are other devices that do something similar, and track even more than the emWave2, such as the Zensorium Tinke (pictured right). This is a small smartphone device I’ve been experimenting with each morning to take my morning resting heart rate, breath rate, heart rate variability, pulse oximetry and heart rate.

Perhaps you’ve also heard me mention the the SweetBeat HRV System, for which you will need the SweetBeat phone appcompatible chest strap, and wireless ANT+ adapter. The SweetBeat system will allow you to track your heart rate variability in real time, such as when you’re out on a run, and is also something you can use with meals to test food sensitivities by tracking heart rate response to foods.

Then you also have apps that simply use the lens of your phone camera to check your heart rate or heart rate variability, or even teach you how to breathe properly. The Azumio Stress Check App is a perfect example of that.

There are also wearable units you can clip to your body throughout the day, such as the Jawbone UP and FitBit, which measure sleep, movement and calories, but not heart rate, pulse oximetry, or heart rate variability.

Finally, wrist units are getting fancier, such as the new MyBasis watch, which is a multi-sensor device that continuously measures motion, perspiration, and skin temperature, as well as captures heart rate patterns throughout the day and night – but it doesn’t measure things like heart rate variability and pulse oximetry.

And here at the biohacking conference, I’ve seen a little bit of everything, but ultimately, we still need one device to rule them all – a la Tolkien’s magical ring.

In other words, we need one simple wearable unit to be designed that 24-7 tracks heart rate variability, heart rate, pulse oximetry, global positioning, sleep, steps taken, calories burned, respiration, perspiration and skin temperature.

Does something like that already exist? If so, I’m unaware of it. Let me know in the comments if you know something I don’t.

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upgraded-vanilla-borderLesson 7: Vanilla Goes Way Beyond Making Ice Cream Taste Good

You may have noticed earlier that I said I added “vanilla powder” to my fat-filled coffee.

This is a new discovery for me: “Upgraded Vanilla”.

Why vanilla?

Vanilla contains compounds called vanilloids that are similar to capsaicin (the hot part of hot peppers), which has been used throughout history as an anti-inflammatory and cognitive enhancing agent.

Vanilloids are potent anti-inflammatories, and many of them such as vanillin, eugenol, zingerone, and capsaicin are also found in ginger (zingerone), cayenne (capscaisin), and bay, allspice, and cloves (eugenol).(1-3) All of these spices can have potent anti-inflammatory effects (and inflammation decreases your cognitive performance and damages your health).

In addition, vanilla has been used for centuries to help prevent stomach ulcers, sooth upset stomachs, and improve digestion, and can also be a good way to bolster your immune system against bacterial infections.

When you eat the right kind of vanilla, your body has an easier time fighting inflammation, and your brain can work faster. Cooking vanilla at high temperatures vaporizes many of these molecules and destroys their anti-inflammatory effects. Dave designed Upgraded Vanilla to be a compound that is gently made in a way that preserves the cognitive enhancing properties of vanilloids, so you get the biggest boost in brainpower.

I actually really liked the way this stuff made my coffee taste and my brain feel, so I’ll be bringing some Upgraded Vanilla home to add to my homemade coconut ice cream and avocado-chocolate pudding. I’ll bet I’ll be able to think of some other ways to use it too.

Who knew vanilla was a biohack?

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Lesson 8: Lactic Acid Is A Fuel Source That Can Be Biohacked

During the conference, Jay Schroeder (who works with a ton of elite athletes) brought up a very good point about lactic acid.

Lactic acid gets a bad rap, but ultimately, if you train your body at high intensities, it can become very efficient at shuttling lactic acid back up to the liver and converting it into glucose, after which the lactic acid can be “recycled” and used as a concentrated energy source by your muscle. This is called the Cori cycle.

So lactic acid can be used as a fuel source, and as you probably guessed, training at high intensities or with high amounts of resistance can teach your body how to more efficiently do that, but here’s the part where biohacking comes in:

Oxaloacetate
The label of Dave Asprey’s Anti-Aging formula – see something you like?

A significant rate limiting step of converting lactic acid into glucose is the conversion of NAD into NADH, and in studies, acute oxaloacetate exposure enhances resistance to fatigue by allowing lactic acid to get recycled and converted to glucose at a much higher rate.

As a matter of fact, along with calorie restriction (which isn’t much fun, really), enhancing your Cori cycle efficiency is also one of the ways (geekspeak warning) that you can increase the enzyme AMPK, which upregulates mitochondrial biogenesis.

Basically, this means that you can become a complete lactic acid metabolizing endurance beast if you take oxaloacetate in supplement form 15-30 minutes prior to any endurance workout, preferably one that includes high intensity intervals.

I’ll be adding this tactic in and reporting on the results. Feel free to grab yourself some oxaloacetate, join me in the experiment, and report on your results in the comments below.

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Lesson 9: The “4 Minute Triathlete” Might Be A Reality

Jay has trained Olympic swimmers who swim just 100 meters per workout.

He prepared a woman who successfully ran 93 marathons in 93 days, with just a mile of running every few days.

A man after my own heart, Jay has prepared endurance athletes to achieve maximum results with minimal training - although he uses tactics I have not yet begun to implement, but plan on “guinea-pigging”.

How does he does he accomplish this?

What you’re about to learn was a huge value for me, and I wrote furiously the pure workout programming gold that Jay gave out in this part of the conference.

Here are three of Jay’s tactics:

1) Use overspeed training. We’re not talking about doing “100rpm” on a spin bike. Jay used figures of 200+ cycles per minute on a bike. He tows guys running at 30 miles per hour behind his van. He uses overspeed elastic band tubing on athletes swimming 25′s in the pool. Training your nervous system how to do this kind of massive overspeed results in freaking enormous economy and efficiency improvements (and yes, Jay uses electrostimulation to achieve some of these abilities).

2) Do very, very slow super-slow training. This a technique Jay refers to as extreme isometrics, and it goes way above and beyond something like the Doug McGuff Body By Science protocol. We’re talking 5-10 minutes per repetition. Intense focus, but extreme results. Go ahead, just try and do a 10 minute push-up and see what happens.

3) Electrostimulation + resistance training. Jay’s athletes do heavy weight training and body weight exercises combined with or preceded by very high levels of electrostimulation. This may seem like a tactic that is not accessible to the general population, but a good little biohacker endurance athlete should definitely consider some form of electrostimulation.

I’m going to be in discussion with Jay about how we can bring more of his specialized knowledge (especially the electrostimulation stuff) to the endurance masses, so look for a podcast on this very soon.

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Lesson 10: It’s The 23 Hours During The Day When You’re Not Exercising That Truly Matters

Bulletproof Biohack
We all practice our bulletproof standing biohack.

Jay teaches that a true athlete is a person who utilizes everything that comprises a human being to the greatest level of achievement that they possibly can.

He call this “P.I.P.E.S.”, which stands for Physiology, Intellect, Emotion, Psychology and Spirit.

Without any of these things being  at 100%, you simply can’t optimize your body.

Some of us optimize these variables when we’re exercising.

Others when we’re meditating.

But whether you use a standing workstation, sit all day, or exercise several hours per day, how often are you completely aligned with all aspects of your mind, spirit and body?

At one point during the conference, Jay had us all stand up and simply breathe properly (pictured right).

It was amazing how difficult it actually was to focus on true breath coordination with the pelvis in a neutral position, the stomach expanding and contracting on each breath through the nostrils, and the hamstrings pulling the knees into a soft position – and if you’re not breathing, standing or sitting properly throughout the day, your P.I.P.E.S. aren’t working (if you want to know how to breathe the right way, then here’s a good place to start).

With his trainees, Jay has added strength, power, size and endurance, along with optimizing fat loss, with as little as just 5 minutes of postural and breathing focus each day.

Do you think you’ve perfected your postures and breathing and want to take it to the next level and try Jay’s extreme isometrics? Jay had seven extreme isometric positions:

-Push-up
-Scapular Pull-up
-Dip
-Lunge
-1-Legged Squat
-Standing Hamstring
-Curl

Jay’s trainees must master all seven positions before advancing to any other training, and that means holding the extreme isometrics for five consecutive minutes.

Now there’s an extreme biohack for you. But I’d suggest you start by simply seeing if you can stand with perfect breathing and form at your geeked out standing workstation for just 5 minutes.

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Summary:

So that’s Day 1 & Day 2 of Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking Conference.

At the time I’m writing this, it ain’t over yet, and Day 3 of the conference is going to feature speakers in the realm of biohacking, fat loss, performance, anti-aging and more, so I’m excited to sit in and see if it’ll be as good as my upcoming Become Superhuman live event in March promises to be (did you register yet?).

In the meantime, leave your bulletproof biohacking questions, comments and feedback below, and be sure to check out the biohacking supplements, gear and tech tools on UpgradedSelf.com.

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52 thoughts on “Top 10 Lessons Learned at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking Conference

  1. What's the difference between vanilla powder and pure vanilla extract? I have been putting cinnamon and vanilla extract in my black tea in the morning to create my own "chai" type tea…. am I getting the anti-inflammatory benefits with the vanilla extract?

    As for mastering the isometric exercises you list above… does that mean holding in the bottom of a lunge or pushup for 5 straight minutes… ?

    1. Extraction methods may damage the vanilla you're using and I can't speak to quality, but it may be working!

      Also, from Dave's site: "Most vanilla bean powders are mixed with fillers like acacia gum and inulin, which decreases the quality and concentration of the vanilla. You end up having to use far more vanilla than you should to get the same taste. Upgraded Vanilla is 100% vanilla with no added fillers, so you can use far less while getting even more flavor. When you do the math, you actually save money by buying Upgraded Vanilla over cheaper vanilla products."

  2. I've been listening to this dudes podcast for sometime now and tried their bulletproof coffee (can't afford it) and now drink Avion "Wild Blue Blend" coffee (also wet processed) with MTC oil and butter from grass fed beef which was their old formula prior to the vanilla. I need to check this out.

  3. Can you talk more about his recs for Pterostilbene? How much? When to take?

    Research shows that resveratrol works for life extension by turning fast twitch fibers to slow twitch ones. I don't want this effect. What exactly does pterostilbene do?

        1. I looked into this a bit more and with use of these type of supplements you're looking at primarily conversion of fast twitch glycolytic fibers to intermediate fast twitch oxidative fibers. Think of it like fast twitch "couch potato" fibers vs. vs. fast twitch "athlete" fibers. Bad fast twitch vs. good fast twitch. ;)

  4. Thanks for this great info man, it’s almost information over-load. I’m really intrigued by this concept of “bio-hacking” and how it can improve my ultra-running and music performance from a mental, physical, and emotional stand point. Being short on $, what would you recommend be the first to get out of all of these items?

  5. I sense a contradiction here – you endorse earthing and grounding and warn about EMF exposure. Yet you also recommend wearing a cell phone 24×7 for the convenience of gathering biotelemetry data. You have no worries about the EMF exposure from a cell phone (or other transmitting device)? Otherwise, lots of great ideas here and thanks for sharing.

    1. Linda…I'm not endorsing wearing a cell phone 24-7, and I try to keep mine in airplane mode as much as possible. It would be possible to have a device that doesn't emit much more EMF than a regular wrist watch. Ideally, you'd combine it with something like the quartz crystal in the Encoder wristband to mitigate any EMF effects from that.

  6. Hi Ben,

    I'm building the device you discuss under post-6 with a bright team out of Harvard. You can find our landing page at mybobo.com. I completely believe in 24/7 monitoring and I think the market has failed to deliver the proper device/analytical platform. If you send me a quick email at [email protected], I'd be happy to tell you more about what we're doing. We're also putting together a stellar board of advisors which you might be interested in.

    Best, Will

  7. Hi everybody,

    I've recommended several of Ben's podcast episodes on hunch.com. You can find them in the browse section by searching for "ben greenfield", "ben greenfield fitness" or bengreenfieldfitnesscom".

  8. What a great post. Regarding FitBit and other similar sleeptracking apps, what do you think about having a cell phone next to your head for 8 hours a night?

  9. Because I've had issues with Kidney Stones, and am on a some what low Oxalate diet, I'm assuming Oxaloacetate wouldn't be recommended for a person which has had kidney stones?

    BTW,
    I use the earthing mats at work with a standing workstation and advocate both (cool fat burner for this spring).

    thx,
    Bill

    1. When you make your muscles move faster, you teach your nervous system to recruit more motor neuron units and muscle fibers. Try this: go to a golf course and do 10 repeats of running down a slight, soft downhill with your legs going as fast as they'll take you (be careful!). Then go for a quick run on a flat course. You'll notice your legs *move* faster.

      1. I took my my favorite blips from many youtube videos to have something to quickly communicate what I loved about earthing. I hope everyone watches it at http://youtu.be/1qSAZXjOo9g.

        Ben, I haven't found anything better than your website for my interests. You are expanding my mind and everything else constantly. Thank you so much. Next I'm gonna work with some of the cold stuff.

  10. Thanks for the report Ben. Can you provide some more information of the Iso Extremes, maybe using the lunge as an example. Would you be able to describe the basic position, including muscle activation on both the front and back legs. Also, any thoughts on what we are actually training on the Iso's eg. CNS, Muscle activation, posture, lactic acid tolerance and absorbsion. Any further insights would be greatly appreciated.

    Matt

  11. Hi Ben. Just following up on my last question. Would love to hear your thoughts. I’ve introduced the Iso’s to my training programs but are still in a learning phase with them.

      1. How much as a dosage? Would think taking it again during a race could be beneficial? Have you done any watt tests on your bike or a specific exercise that indicates a quantifiable benefit you've seen?
        And it goes with out saying, thanks for doing all of the work on this blog as well as your podcast and twitter feed.

  12. Ben, I know you say that while on the bullet proof diet people find that they lose weight, but what if I were to implement it with not much weight to lose and just the goal of getting fitter and increasing definition of my physique? Would the increased intake of fats go against my goals then?

  13. I get lots of info from Ben and some other podcasts. I've dropped bulletproof since their info and hacks are only for the very rich rather then the majority of people.

  14. Great article Ben, and although I have been a bullet-proof coffee advocate for many years this article was a real eye opener.

    Vey cool!

    John – Chief Running Officer / Editor
    Australian Marathon Reviews

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