Episode 9 | Dave Asprey | How To Have More Energy Than You Ever Thought Possible
Why you should listen –
How do we get maximum energy and maximum willpower? Today, we’re talking with Dave Asprey, is the creator of Bulletproof Coffee and he’s the host of the top-rated podcast, Bulletproof Radio. He’s one of the most unique people I’ve ever met and he has an intense desire to understand the human body and optimize its functions. Let’s go back a little bit. Back in 1979, I was having treatments at an Ayurvedic center in Los Angeles. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems and it’s based on the belief that wellness is based on the balance of body, mind, and spirit. The practitioners at the center recommended that I have this drink every morning – a hot tea with a few scoops of ghee (clarified butter). The prevailing thinking at the time was that fat simply wasn’t good for you – however, here we are thirty years later and we’ve got Dave Asprey and his Bulletproof Coffee.
Follow Along With The Highlights Of The Show
Kathy Smith: Hi, Dave.
Dave Asprey: Hi, Kathy. It’s an honor to be on with you.
Kathy Smith: You have this phenomenal success and we’re going to get to all that. First of all, I want to rewind a little bit and start your journey, thinking back to when–you’ve talked about this before. You were overweight. I don’t know if it was accurate or not, but you had an extra 100 pounds. I wanted to just find out what was the tipping point? What was it in your brain and your mind where you said, “Ok. I’ve got to do something about this and I’ve got to solve it.” Can you take us back there?”
Dave Asprey: Sure. I was fat as a teenager and getting to be successful as an entrepreneur in my mid-twenties. In fact, I made $6 million when I was 26 years old and, then, I lost it when I was 28. Oops.
Kathy Smith: That’s a big oops. Ok.
Dave Asprey: I was pretty darn fat. In fact, I had hit 300 pounds. Along that journey, I decided after having had two knee surgeries before I was 23, I just decided that the most important thing I could do was to get healthy to lose the weight.
So, I did what I thought you were supposed to do. I went to the gym six days a week, an hour and a half a day. I was religious about it. I did half weights and half cardio. I did this for 18 months. At the end of 18 months, I could bench press all of my friends while they were eating French fries and I was eating a little salad or something. I got strong, but I never lost the weight. So, I was so frustrated. I’m still wearing my size 44/46 pants. I’m a 34 now.
I’m just going, “What’s going on?” That was one of the turning points where I started playing around with my diet. I tried all sorts of different diets. It was actually a bodybuilding magazine in the early 90s in the small farming town where I was. I don’t think anyone read bodybuilding magazines, but I found one and it said this idea that maybe carbohydrates could make you fat. Not even understanding much in the way of nutritional chemistry back then, I cut out a bunch of carbs including gluten, and my personality changed. I managed to lose half of my 100 pounds in about three months and the other 50 pounds took many years. It’s that focus for years that led me to create the Bulletproof diet and the Bulletproof coffee and to understand really what’s going on in our hormones and our biochemistry even at the level of our cells.
Kathy Smith: You lost the initial weight, then you lost the 50 pounds, but what’s interesting is–I’m sure you read the New York Times article on The Biggest Loser and they took season six and they looked at people that lost that weight and I think all except one had gained the weight back again.
So, you lost the weight and, then, did you notice–you obviously kept the weight off. Did you go through peaks and valleys where you regained and, then, lost again or were you able to keep it off?
Dave Asprey: I’ve been trying to lose weight since I was a teenager. When you’re fat, you know you’re fat, and you count the number of ripples in your stomach above your belt. You’re like, “Oh, my God.” So, I tried every diet under the sun. I said I lost 100 pounds. I probably lost 250 pounds, because you lose 20, you gain 30. You lose 30, you gain 50. You lose 40, and you yo-yo.
And now that I understand how a lot of this works, I actually feel kind of betrayed, because there’s this hormone called ghrelin and research has shown that if you cut calories or exercise more in order to lose weight, your ghrelin tells you how hungry to be, and if I weigh 300 pounds, I’m going to have the hunger of a 300-pound person. If I go down to 250 pounds by cutting calories – which for me didn’t even work – but if it did, I would still have the hunger levels of a 300 pounder. I would keep eating that way and eventually my willpower would fade, because willpower is limited. This is why yo-yo diets happen all the time.
What resets ghrelin is getting enough fat without carbohydrates present. When you can get just a little bit of ketosis present – this thing that’s kind of all the rage in some dieting circles, which was originally pioneered by Robert Atkins in the Atkins diet in the year I was born. If only someone had just told me, “Hey, Dave. Don’t eat any carbs for three or four days and eat a lot of fat and not so much protein, and magically your hunger levels will match your body weight,” I could have lost all that yo-yo dieting. But no one told me.
The whole reason I started Bulletproof is–ok, I’m 43. If I could go back to when I was 16 or 20 or 23 and just tell myself all this stuff that I wished someone had told me, I would have saved myself so much suffering and effort that didn’t have a return. I’ve spent more than half a million dollars on hacking my biology. I’m really fortunate to have been in a position to do that. But my brain was failing. I couldn’t remember things and I got kind of scared because they told me when I was 29 that I was at very high risk of stroke and heart attack. I’m like, “I’m not even 30 and I’m going to die like I’m old.”
All that stuff came together and I just realized this was the most important thing I could do. I made it my mission. If I wasn’t working to put bread on the table to feed my wife and kids and all that kind of stuff, I was going to get on top of this. I was going to learn how to control my biology, and I did.
Kathy Smith: Yeah, and I want to switch over to that. It’s interesting you mentioned Atkins. Atkins was so popular and then it fell out of popularity. Part of reason is because part of the principles were there, but people talked a lot about you can eat as much meat as you want, you can eat as much bacon as you want, you can eat as much sausage. But they kind of missed the messaging about the vegetables and the greens and that aspect of it.
So, as the marketing people in those days, they started jumping on that diet and the negative aspects of the diet. Now, it seems like we’ve refined that going into more of the paleo diet that’s more balanced with the vegetable side of it and, obviously, the fat side of it.
I want to jump into that because I have to say, honestly, when I taught exercise classes in the 80s, it’s kind of scary when you think back on it. It was like you left that exercise class and you had a low-fat bran muffin in one hand and you were slathering a little margarine on it because, of course, we wanted to stay away from the fats. That was a turning point where everybody started getting addicted to sugar and sugar calories. But we also lost common sense about fat, so give us a little fat tutorial here.
Dave Asprey: It turns out that some fats really are bad for you, and some fats are good for you. So, when someone like Robert Atkins would come along and say, “Eat more fat,” a lot of people would eat more corn oil and canola oil and bacon grease from burned bacon. The quality of the fat and type of fat is terribly important, but when you eat fat including saturated fat, which has just been shown to not be correlated with heart disease. In fact, the study just came out yesterday saying that butter was not at all correlated with heart disease and actually was helpful in type 2 diabetes, which is pretty incredible.
So, I recommend, on the Bulletproof diet, that people go between 50 and 70% of their calories from fat, which means a plate covered in vegetables with a moderate amount of protein and tons and tons of fat from the right undamaged sources. That means extra virgin olive oil – the good stuff – and it means avocados, it means animal fats from grass-fed animals, it means dairy fat like butter and ghee which are staples Ayervedic nutrition and things like fish and some macadamia nuts.
When you focus on that kind of quality undamaged fats–this is what your brain is made out of. It’s actually made out of water like the rest of you, but if you get rid of the water, the next most common thing is fat.
When you keep digging in, every cell in your body is surrounded by little, tiny droplets of fat. We call it the cell membrane, but it’s fat. The power plants in your cells – the mitochondria – have a membrane made out of fat. So, throughout your body, this is a precious building block if it’s undamaged and it’s biologically compatible. Your hormones are made out of fat.
To try and take this out of the diet is really stressful on the body. When you go on a vegan diet–if you look at the amount of carbohydrates in your body, one percent of your body is carbohydrates, but you have far more that’s fat and far more that’s protein, so if you want to put your body under less stress, you give it more of the things that it can use as building blocks. It turns out when you metabolize fat for energy, it makes more energy than carbohydrates. We got stuck in the 80s where we used to believe, well, the fewer calories you eat, the more weight you’ll have.
That certainly wasn’t my experience when I exercised all the time and ate less calories. There are a lot of studies that show calories in/calories out doesn’t work for people out in the real world.
What is interesting, though, is that instead of counting your calories, you increase the amount of fat. Fat has more energy, but wait a minute, didn’t you want to have more energy? That’s what I found. I was having brain fog. I was tired all the time and I was just struggling in my career. Well, when I added fat in and my body was set to burn fat by not eating a lot of sugar, suddenly that extra energy in the fat went into extra energy in my brain. I have more energy now in my mid-40s than I did when I was 20. I have more energy than most of the 25-year-olds working for me, and it’s totally because of fat. I love fat. It just has to be undamaged and the right kind of fat.
Kathy Smith: Yeah, I’m big with fat throughout the day also. I agree. It keeps you satisfied also so you’re not craving. I find that when I cut way low on the fat, I’m craving sugars, carbohydrates, things all the time. You get that good avocado, as you said. You get some good macadamia nuts, you get your fat throughout the day and all of a sudden, it’s like, “Wow, I’m not hungry.” And all of a sudden, I see my belly just flatten out, because it’s concentrated foods so you don’t have to feel like you have to bloat yourself up all day long with other high-volume foods, let’s say.
Let’s switch gears and go into one of your claims to fame, which is Bulletproof coffee and the concept. I told you about my tea and the ghee and back with Ayervedic medicine, but when did you put the connection together that this is part of your plan and you started getting good results with the coffee. As you go through it–I’m asking about eight questions in one right now, but I’ll let you go with it. But that is, I know that a couple of things are really important with Bulletproof coffee – and coffee in general if anybody tries this approach – is the quality of the coffee and the quality of the fat. Why don’t you just talk about it?
Dave Asprey: Alright. In 2004–this is going on a dozen years ago–I went to Tibet and I went to this very remote part of Tibet. I wanted to learn to meditate with the masters. Part of my interest in controlling my biology is understanding what’s going on inside my head. I’m meditating and spend all this time learning stuff.
Then, I’m at 18,000 feet elevation, walking around a frozen mountain. It’s 10 degrees below zero. The headwaters for the Indus and Ganges Rivers and considered a Holy mountain by two of the world’s largest religions in the middle of nowhere, and this little Tibetan woman gives me a bowl of yak butter tea, which is literally yak butter and tea mixed up.
The wealthy Tibetan nomads have a car battery that runs a blender to make their yak butter tea, and the poor ones have a wood butter churn that they use to make this. I noticed that and was like, “Why do these nomads who carry everything they own on yaks, literally, why would they carry a blender?” It was to make yak butter tea.
When I drank it, I felt like I’d had a video game level up – like I just suddenly woke up. I felt better at high altitude there than I did in the Andes or anywhere else in the Himalayas. I felt upgraded in a very noticeable way, so I drank about 20 more of these little, tiny cups of yak butter tea that day and I felt the best that I’ve ever felt at altitude.
So, I came back to the states and said, “I want to try this.” So, I bought some butter and bought some tea and it was awful. It just gave me indigestion, and I was sort of sad. So, then, I went to the tea house and tried 50 different kinds of expensive tea, and I tried many different kinds of butter and realized grass-fed butter had the magic feeling in it, but regular butter didn’t – because regular butter is made from cows that eat corn and soy and they put that kind of fat in the butter. So, I needed to get butter from cows that ate real cow food.
Then, I switched to coffee instead of tea. I’d given up coffee for almost five years because when I drank it, it would make me feel anxious and jittery and, then, I’d get tired. I’d feel good and, then, I’d crash.
Well, I realized that some types of coffee didn’t do that and some did. That was a big clue for me to understand that we have problems in our coffee supply. The problem in coffee is mold. During the production of coffee, it’s fermented and the fermentation process introduces a toxin that makes you tired. Well, it also makes you anxious and jittery. That toxin is not regulated in the U.S., but in China, Japan, all of Europe and most of the world, there are government limits. So, coffee that’s too high in toxin to sell in England or Japan get sent to the U.S. and we drink it and, then, the toxin makes us jittery and tired and gives us food cravings.
So, I created a new coffee process to have the lowest levels in the world, that I’m aware of, where we test for 27 toxins. This coffee totally works with butter. It turns out, also, that milk in coffee–milk protein sticks to coffee antioxidants so you don’t get all the benefits of coffee. Coffee is the largest source of antioxidants in the typical American’s diet, which is pretty amazing. Coffee’s kind of a super food that way.
The final ingredient in Bulletproof coffee came from the knowledge I gleaned from running an anti-aging research group for 10 years. This is an oil called Brain Octane Oil. I used to use something called MCT oil. MCT oil is an extract of coconut oil, but it unfortunately gives you diarrhea, so I switched out MCT oil for something called Brain Octane, which is one of the many types of MCT oils that has much less of a gastric distress problem and the one that gives you the most energy from ketones. So, when you add a teaspoon or a tablespoon of this to your Bulletproof coffee, it completely changes how your mind works, because it pretends like your body just went into this state of ketosis.
Kathy Smith: Could you let me interrupt for one second? Could you use that Brain Octane oil on anything else and get the same result or does it have to be in the coffee mixture?
Dave Asprey: It doesn’t have to be in the coffee mixture. I recommend on the Bulletproof that you just pour a teaspoon to a tablespoon–it depends on your body and what your metabolism likes. Have a little bit with every meal. I’ve done this for years now.
I just finished lunch and I had some roast fennel and, then, I had a salad and the salad dressing was made with Brain Octane and vinegar and some avocados all blended together with spices. That Brain Octane completely takes away hunger for four to six hours as in someone can bring your favorite food in front of you like ice cream or cookies or whatever, you just don’t care about it. It’s not that you’ve thought about it and, then, have enough willpower to say no. They bring it in front of you and you just don’t want it. So, there is no willpower involved.
For me, as a former 300-pound guy, to have no thoughts about food and no willpower wasted on food, I can apply that willpower to writing another book or to doing an interview with you, Kathy or anything else. It’s been liberating for me.
Brain Octane is something I travel with for that reason. I have little bottles of it that go in my TSA safe travel baggy and I pour a little bit on every meal. I have it three times a day every single day, and it’s completely changed my relationship with food.
Kathy Smith: So, you don’t have to white knuckle it. You’re not white-knuckling willpower, oh my God, I can’t eat this. I want to eat this, but I can’t eat it. All of a sudden, all those thoughts just drift away or minimize.
Dave Asprey: It’s full silence. Someone could bring the most delicious–you think of pizza or think of whatever, like fresh bagels or doughnuts or whatever–my whole life even bran muffins have been like, “Oh, those smell good. I want to eat just one bran muffin.” That whole conversation in your head, your head says, “Eat it.”
And you’re like, “No.”
That whole conversation just goes away, because eventually I’d give in and I’d eat half the cookie and I’d think I was a bad person because I didn’t have enough willpower. I was wasting my willpower. When I use Brain Octane, it raises the level of ketones in the blood enough to suppress that hunger hormone called ghrelin. Once you suppress ghrelin, it sets you free and, then, you can go about your day without worrying about the energy crash and without worrying about food.
What’s happening there is that your cells can process two kinds of energy – energy from carbs or protein which comes in and makes electrons in your body or from fat. But we almost never make energy from fat unless we’ve been fasting for several days or unlike the Atkins or a strict paleo diet. Since most people listening to this are not on those diets, they’re not getting those benefits. When you add Brain Octane to your food, it makes ketones as if you were fasting or on a high-fat diet even if you’re not.
Kathy Smith: That’s brilliant.
Dave Asprey: It’s cheating.
Kathy Smith: I love it. Ok. We’re going to switch here for a second. Just really rapid questions – true or false questions. You can add to them as little as you want or as much as you want.
First of all, your favorite muscle to work on your body is butt. True or false?
Dave Asprey: That would be false.
Kathy Smith: False. Ok. I read that somewhere. Ok.
True or false? You can be a tea drinker and still a Bulletproof tea drinker.
Dave Asprey: Absolutely.
Kathy Smith: Absolutely. Ok.
Dave Asprey: For that one, by the way, just a quickie. All you do is add grass-fed butter and Brain Octane and blend the tea. Matcha works best.
Kathy Smith: Ok. You’ve got to blend it though. That’s the key. When I first started, I didn’t blend it and it wasn’t so tasty. Yeah, you’ve got to blend.
Dave Asprey: Blending’s required for the–it changes the water chemistry when you blend it. That’s why Tibetans have blenders. You have to do it.
Kathy Smith: Ok. True, false. You meditate for an hour each day.
Dave Asprey: I did for a long time, but after neuro feedback, I don’t need to anymore.
Kathy Smith: Do you want to expand on what that is?
Dave Asprey: Sure. Neuro feedback is when you hook a computer up to your head and it shows your head what it’s doing so it can have much more rapid progress than meditation alone. The problem with meditation is you don’t know if you’re doing it right. When a computer teaches you to meditate like an advanced monk, it changes your life. I spent 10 weeks of my life doing this through a program called 40 Years of Zen. Each time, it takes five to seven days of focused meditation with a computer telling me every single second whether I’m doing it right. So, I’ve become very proficient at being in those meditative states even without sitting down for an hour to focus.
Kathy Smith: Ok. True or false? The craziest bio-hack you’ve ever done is trying parasites.
Dave Asprey: You could say that’s one of the craziest ones. I had 40 rat tapeworm eggs last week to turn off my food allergies. Don’t worry. They die quickly and they will not turn into rats or tapeworms.
Kathy Smith: Don’t tell me not to worry. I should say, “Don’t worry,” back to you. “Don’t worry, Dave. You’re ok.”
Ok. True or false? You think you can live to be 180.
Dave Asprey: Absolutely true.
Kathy Smith: Do you want to expand on that or just accept it as fact at this point?
Dave Asprey: Well, aging is death by a thousand cuts. There are so many things in the environment around us that just take a little bit away from you. And I’ve made a study of the last almost 20 years of figuring out the things that make you strong, the things that make you weak and I do all of the things. I have a half a million-dollar lab underneath my feet where I’m standing right now–I’m on the second floor–of things that make you stronger, and I remove all of the things that make me weak. I live on an organic farm.
Technology’s changing. I’ve done stem cells, I’m doing the human genome project stuff. I’m pulling out all the stops and I want what I’m doing that is incredibly rare and expensive and out on the cutting edge, I want to make this normal so that my kids will live to be 250, and it’ll be affordable. This is cutting edge science, but it shouldn’t be this expensive. We all have a birth right to live a lot longer than we’re supposed to. We’re just wasting it and we’re not sure of why and how. Well, I’m figuring out the why and how and so are a lot of my friends and we’re going to change it all.
Kathy Smith: Well, I want to ride on your coat tails the whole way there.
Dave Asprey: You’re doing pretty well, Kathy.
Kathy Smith: I want to not have to repeat the mistakes. I may not go the parasite route, but whatever you’re doing, you’re looking mighty fine, my friend. It was such a pleasure having you on the show. I’m a fan. I look forward to hearing all about your upcoming projects. Do you want to just tell us quickly where people can find out all the latest and greatest from you?
Dave Asprey: Sure. Head on over to BulletproofExec.com for the blog. Bulletproof radio is one of the top ranked radio shows on iTunes. And September 23, in Pasadena, California, the Bulletproof conference for biohacking is happening. You can join about 3,000 other people who are really interested in getting control of their own biology so they can do more of whatever they like to do, and it can be easier. That’s BulletproofConference.com.
Kathy Smith: I might just have to swing over there. That sounds like fun.
Dave Asprey: It’s going to be a blast.
Kathy Smith: Thanks again, Dave. It was great having you.
Dave Asprey: Thanks, Kathy.
Kathy Smith: I love people who push boundaries, so it was so much fun spending time with Dave and hearing about his latest and greatest experiments. I think today’s show taught me, and the moral of the show is that when you eat good food and you put the right combinations of food into your system – especially the right oils – it really requires less willpower to stay on track. You don’t have to have that fight all the time with yourself. Should I eat the cookie? Should I eat the pizza? Should I eat this or that? Because you’re naturally supplying your body with the appropriate amounts of oil, which is going to really help to make you feel satisfied and just bring that control back in your life.
I will tell you that if you listen to some of the things that Dave said today, it will really change your life. In the long term, restricting your calories won’t help you lose weight. Counting calories doesn’t work, because your biology is far too complicated to reduce weight loss to just calories in and calories out. A much, much better approach is to optimize your metabolism and your hormones, both of which contribute to fat burning. You can do that and that’s going to help you curb your hunger with foods that are going to keep you full for hours.
As always, don’t forget to keep tuning in each week. I love to hear from you. Go to iTunes. Write your questions, write your reviews. I always love hearing from you. Ok. See you next time.