Did you know coffee is a superfood? That fasting doesn’t just mean drinking only water? Or that you have the power to change and control your biology? In this podcast (episode #247) and blog, I speak with founder of Bulletproof and NY Times bestselling author Dave Asprey about about common dangerous wellness myths, how coffee is amazing for your brain, what biohacking is and how it can help you, how to navigate the many wellness trends out there and find the ones that work for you, how to fast correctly, the benefits of going without and putting your body under good stress, and more!
After suffering with his health and weight for years, Dave, a former computer hacker in Silicon Valley, decided that he was going to find a way to “hack” his biology. He eventually founded Bulletproof Coffee, discovering that coffee is a superfood. There are so many mental and physical health benefits of a good cup of black coffee—just type “coffee health benefits” in your search engine right now and see how many studies come up! It is no more a vice than kale or water.
Research has even shown that drinking coffee on a regular basis may help depression, because coffee has similar effects on the brain and body as exercise. Of course, with coffee, timing is important, because drinking it too late in the day can affect your sleep quality. Yet the evidence is quite strong that drinking coffee before 2 pm can have many beneficial health effects. Indeed, up to 5 cups of good quality coffee a day can help reduce mortality and combat many of the negative effects aging has on the brain and body.
Jitters and other side effects from coffee often come from the way coffee is processed, not the coffee itself. Many modern processing methods leave toxins like mold in the coffee we drink, which can affect both our mental and physical health. Dave realized this was the case in his life, and started Bulletproof Coffee to provide high quality, toxin-free and lab-tested coffee beans.
He is also famous for his Bulletproof Coffee recipe. After months meditating in the mountains in Asia and drinking yak butter tea, Dave discovered the power of adding good fats to black tea or coffee and how it has the potential to power the brain and energize our thinking. Dave’s original Bulletproof coffee recipe adds grass-fed butter and MCT oil to coffee. MCT oil (like the Brain Octane Oil sold by Bulletproof) contains ketones which provide an incredible source of energy for neurons in the brain. This makes it a great way to gain clarity and think well, whether you are working at a desk or meditating on a mountain top!
Drinking Bulletproof coffee is just one of the biohacking techniques that Dave uses in his own life. Biohacking is the art and science of changing the environment around and inside of you to help you gain control over your biology. Our genes respond to our environment, and there are many ways we can control this. As Dave notes, it is easier to have more energy, feel better, heal the brain, change your thinking and become less reactive when your raw, biological power is higher. This is why we all need to make lifestyle choices that harness and increase this natural power and help us control our biology, so we can live the life we want to live.
However, biohacking has its downsides. When you follow one wellness trend too zealously, biohacking can be dangerous. We are all different; no one thing will work for everyone. The best way to find out if something works for you is to measure your results. If there are no results, or if you feel worse, try something different!
The same can be said for fasting. As Dave discusses in his incredible new book, Fast This Way: Burn Fat, Heal Inflammation, and Eat Like the High-Performing Human You Were Meant to Be, we need to be careful of fasting myths and misconceptions:
1. Understand the difference between cravings and hunger. A lot of things we eat every day increase our cravings instead of satisfying our hunger. It is hard to resist these cravings, especially when the things that cause them are so readily available. However, when we understand this and how our natural wiring works, then we can learn how to control it and control what we eat—we don’t have to be controlled by our desires! One great way to do this is through fasting.
As Dave points out, for the average person, 15% or more of the thoughts in their head are about their next meal. If you can control your hunger, you can repurpose this 15% and use it for other things, like learning that language you have always wanted to learn—you will have more power over your thinking and life.
2. You don’t only have to drink water when you fast. You can still get the metabolic and brain benefits of fasting with black coffee or tea (with no creamers or sweeteners). In fact, research has shown that around 2 cups of black coffee can make fasting more effective by doubling the amount of ketone bodies in the brain and body, which energize your neurons and increase mental clarity as well as balance the hunger hormones. This helps you control your appetite and feel full.
3. Fasting doesn’t just mean not eating or restricting calories. It means “going without,” which can refer to anything, from certain kinds of foods that impact your metabolic activity to avoiding food in general. In fact, prebiotic fiber can boost your fasting regimen, especially if you are just starting out. It feeds the good bacteria in your stomach, healing the gut-brain connection, and keeps you full for hours! You may also find that adding a Bulletproof coffee to your fasting routine is helpful, as the MCT oil in the coffee will energize your brain by increasing ketone production, helping you think clearly and feel satiated.
4. Don’t always fast in the same way or at the same times. If you fast too much or in the same way, you will end up starving your body. When fasting, practice variability! Don’t just keep doing the exact same thing every time, as you will benefit less and less over time. Listen to what your body needs at different times in your life.
5. If you are a woman, be careful of fasting. It can have different effects on the brain and body, as it is a stronger stressor for women! For more on this, see my recent podcast and blog.
6. Fasting is not for everyone. Stress can be good for your body...WHEN your body is ready for stress. Research has even shown that good stress fasting can increase our longevity! Indeed, it is a way to make the brain and body more resilient to stress by making us stronger. It puts us in an acute state of good stress, if we are ready for it! However, as Dave notes, we need to be careful. Depending on what our health issues are, fasting can help us or can make us sicker. We always need to consider our unique situation and health condition before fasting.
7. Examine your motivations before you start a fast. There are two sides to fasting: the biological aspect, which helps us keep our brain and body healthy, and the mental/spiritual aspect, which aids our personal development.
Always ask yourself: “Why am I fasting?” and “What is going on in my head?”. This is important for your spiritual development. Fasting is a way to dive in and understand your mind and think with clarity.
In fact, in traditions around the world, there are generally three levels of spiritual states when fasting: empathy, compassion and equanimity. If you do the spiritual work, fasting can actually make you a better person. However, if you do extreme fasting or fast for the wrong reasons, it can end up backfiring!
For more on coffee, fasting and mental health, listen to my podcast with Dave (episode #247), and check out his website and his new book Fast This Way. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
3:07 Why Dave loves coffee and biohacking
4:47 Is coffee good for us?
7:43 How coffee can improve our mental health
9:17 What is biohacking and how can it help us?
11:17 Can biohacking be dangerous?
13:17 How fasting can increase brain power
28:26 Tips to fast better
44:33 Why not all stress is bad for us
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