I read a decent amount of books that span a wide range of genres and topics, but I have to be honest - I’ve never read a “diet book" before and didn’t know what to expect when I picked up The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey. I have been following Dave for some time now and was admittedly pretty excited to check out his book that he had been promoting for months on his podcast and blog. However, I also started reading this with a bit of skepticism for a few reasons. First, I don't always agree with 100% of what Dave teaches and preaches. Second, this is marketed as a "diet book" and I've purposely avoided reading any up until now. Third, Dave's company sells health products - namely Bulletproof coffee - and most likely he would want to promote his supplements and add to his bottom line.
With that being said, Dave does a great job of explaining his methods in his book, even things I didn't agree with or fully understand before. Also, I have to say that the book's title does not do the contents justice, which addresses my second concern. This book is much more than a diet book; it is more of a healthy lifestyle book with the science to back it up. Fortunately, Dave does not use his book as a platform to pitch his products to the reader. He mentions supplement names, for example, and explains how to find the highest quality and best versions of them. Of course, his company carries many of these products (and they meet the criteria he lays out for quality), but I never felt like I was being sold to while reading his book. Dave really does a good job of breaking everything down into relatively simple terms, while still providing explanations for the chemistry and biology behind his methods. In other words, he doesn’t just tell you what to eat - he explains how to eat/prepare it, when to eat it, and (most importantly) why to eat it (or not eat it).
For those who don’t know, Dave is the creator of Bulletproof Coffee (low-toxin coffee mixed with grass-fed butter and MCT oil), the host of the Bulletproof Radio podcast (top ranked health podcast in iTunes), and runs the Bulletproof Executive blog. His bio describes how “in his mid-twenties, Dave Asprey was a successful multimillionaire” who “also weighed 300 pounds, despite the fact that he was doing what doctors recommended.” He was “eating 1,800 calories a day, and working out 90 minutes a day, six times a week” (sound familiar?) with no success. Dave has since spent a crazy amount of money and over a decade “bio-hacking” his diet and lifestyle to maximize his energy, performance, appearance, and happiness.
I have been listening to Dave’s podcast for several months now, never missing an episode. I also went to the Bulletproof bio-hacking conference in Pasadena back in September, and had an amazing time. I have learned a lot from Dave and the guests he has invited as speakers on both platforms. Dave is not a doctor or nutritionist (his training is actually in systems analysis), but if you’ve ever heard the man speak, it’s clear that he knows what he’s talking about. In fact, he is the chairman of the board of the Silicon Valley Health Institute. More importantly, his guests are experts in their fields and are at the cutting-edge of physical and psychological health advancements. Dave has done plenty of his own research too, and the compilation of his knowledge and experiences plus the expertise of his expert friends has been distilled and put into this book.
I learned a lot of new concepts from Dave's book, some of which challenged my existing beliefs. Dave has his fair share of critics for this exact reason - many of his dietary strategies seem almost counter-intuitive, but he consistently gives explanations that will test what you may believe to be a health fact. (For example: butter as a health food...uhh, what?) Dave also confirmed a lot that I already knew, but much of that was from my own experiences and “bio-hacking” myself over the years. I have to admit, it was enlightening but also humbling reading the explanations behind why my body and mind react to certain foods the way they do.
Like I mentioned, the book treads into the “sciencey” territory and may be a little too technical for some people. But in my opinion, it was not too much so and was still an enjoyable read that was easy to follow. Someone with no nutrition or health background may grab this book based on the title or subtitle (“lose up to a pound a day, reclaim energy and focus, upgrade your life”) and be frustrated with what’s inside. This is why I believe the title does not do the contents justice; in fact, it could be deceiving to some people. I understand that Dave and his publisher have to approach this from a marketing standpoint, but there is so much valuable information in this book relating to being a high-performing human, perhaps it could have been titled Bulletproof or The Bio-hacker’s Bible.
Some of the most valuable information in this book comes right in the first chapter when Dave explains what lectins, phytates, oxalates, and mold toxins are. He explains how to “make your body a detoxification machine” and “hack your gut bacteria before they hack you”. Right off the bat, you will learn a lot of new information and likely have some of your beliefs challenged. This is even more true in the second chapter where he breaks down several diet myths that many people still swear by. Perhaps you’ve heard someone tout one of these before, or even practice these yourself? One of the myths Dave dispels that is paramount to the rest of the book is that “eating fat will make you fat” and “a low-fat diet is healthy”. It’s become clear to most health experts that fats have been demonized over the years, and Dave does a great job of explaining what are good fats and why they are so important to our bodies and minds. Another two myths that I want to point out that may challenge many people’s beliefs are “everything natural is good for you” and “salt is a hazardous substance.” I know quite a few "health experts" that need to read those sections very carefully.
In chapters 3 and 4, Dave goes into more detail about “fantastic fats”, “preferred proteins”, and of course, the crucial benefits of certain vegetables (something most everyone can agree on). Dave definitely challenged my beliefs on which fruits are good, how much I should be eating, and when I should eat them. He also explains the main sources of what he calls “nutritional kryptonite”, including sugar, processed foods, GMO ingredients, vegetable oils, grains, and dairy. One of the more interesting parts in this section of the book was his explanation of intermittent fasting and using Bulletproof coffee to stay in a fasted state while keeping hunger at bay.
Dave knows that sleep is one of the pillars of being healthy and performing at optimal levels. So much so that he wrote an entire chapter on sleeping better to boost energy. This includes diet hacks for better sleep (e.g. filling up with healthy fats at dinner), supplementing your sleep, tech tips, and what to avoid before bedtime. There was a lot of useful information in this chapter that I will surely be revisiting several times. One point he made that I think is very important is that quality of sleep is more important than quantity, and if you’re fueling your body (and brain) with the right foods, then sleeping 8 hours may not be necessary for everyone.
In the following chapter, Dave argues that you can work out less and get more muscle. Although Dave’s position makes sense, I have to argue that it really depends on what your fitness goals are and your genetics. Personally, I am generally building or maintaining a certain physique that Dave is not necessarily striving for. He admits that he is an extremely busy, married man with kids and doesn’t have the time or desire to “look like a fitness model”. I can agree with Dave that working out excessively is not only counter-productive, but it can be very unhealthy. But exercising is an essential component of being healthy inside and out, and I personally place a lot more importance on it in my life than Dave does in his life and his book.
In the next couple chapters, Dave goes over more supplements and how they contribute to health, longevity, and high-performance. He also explains tweaks that can be made to make the diet work better for women. In addition, he gives some recommendations for sex hormone supplements for both men and women. Before writing this book, Dave co-authored The Better Baby Book with his wife (who was infertile when they first met). With that being said, Dave is quite knowledgeable about eating and supplementing for virility and fertility.
The next several chapters are really the meat and potatoes (err…meat and butter?) of The Bulletproof Diet book. This is where Dave goes into detail as to what foods you should be eating and where they fall on his “Bulletproof Diet Roadmap”. This roadmap provides a spectrum from green/Bulletproof to yellow/Suspect to red/Kryptonite. Basically, you should eat as much in the Bulletproof section as possible every day and completely avoid Kryptonite foods at all costs. The suspect area is a little tricky - some of these foods may be ok if they’re obtained from the right source. Some may be considered Kryptonite for some people based on common food sensitivities and allergies. Dave suggests eating only Bulletproof foods for a period of time, then slowly reintroducing suspect foods one at a time and carefully observing how your body reacts to them.
What I really appreciate about the Bulletproof roadmap is that it doesn’t require you to be perfect and you aren’t supposed to count calories or macronutrients. Dave recognizes that everything falls on a spectrum and certain people react differently to certain foods - it isn’t really as simple as “good” or “bad”. He also encourages the reader to listen to their body in regards to how full one feels and eating accordingly. Dave touches on everything from vegetables (yes, there are kryptonite vegetables too), fats, proteins, dairy, nuts, starches, fruits, spices & flavorings, sweeteners & sugars, beverages, and even cooking methods. This information is invaluable, and the roadmap can even be downloaded for free. But to really understand why everything falls where it is on the roadmap, these chapters are a must read.
The final chapters explain how to get started with this plethora of new information, meal plans, and tracking. There are even some great recipes at the end of the book that are considered fully “Bulletproof”. I think many people will be surprised to find that they don’t have to starve themselves to lose weight to be healthy (quite the contrary actually). Many, if not most people will be shocked by the emphasis the book places on eating fats. But I think these people will also be shocked by how delicious their food can be while still eating healthy and staying satiated all day long. Overall, this was an enjoyable read with lots of valuable information that can benefit anyone from an athlete to a desk jockey to someone with serious weight or health issues. I was already applying many of the principles taught in this book to my life, and since reading it have implemented many more of Dave's strategies. Personally, I have had great results living and eating within most of these guidelines. But remember, don't consider it a diet. Consider it a lifestyle.