How much time have you spent being too tired even though you work out, or struggling to find a way to lose fat?
If you’re like most people, the answer is too much.
Being healthy is just as important for entrepreneurs, college students, and soccer moms as it is for elite athletes. It gives you more confidence, authority, and stamina. It helps you to live longer and healthier. Plus, it just feels good to know your body looks good.
More importantly, having a Bulletproof Body is the foundation for your resilience and energy levels. When your body is working right, you can get everything done at work and come home with energy to spend on what’s important to you, whether it’s playing with your kids, studying, or even biohacking.
Flying around the world frequently, attending board meetings, creating corporate strategy, presenting to thousands of people, and running an awesome blog (shameless plug), then coming home to spend quality time with my young kids takes its toll. In order to manage all this without destroying my health, I’ve hacked my body and mind to let me do more than most people think is possible.
Imagine if you could stay lean and muscular without spending much time on exercise. Imagine being able to eat 4000 calories a day without having to “burn it off.” Imagine having hours of extra time that would normally be wasted being sick or just not at full performance.
Now you can. If a typical dietitian or doctor were to look at my diet and (non) exercise regimen, they’d say I must be obese because I went two years eating over 4,000 calories a day, and I stopped exercising entirely during that time.
But if those exact same medical professionals examined me in person at the end of those two years without knowing my exercise or diet, and they saw my shockingly low triglyceride levels (47) and high HDL (87), they would probably say I worked out several times a week and ate a low-fat, low-calorie diet. They would be dead wrong, because their assumptions about what makes people fat – and what makes people muscular – are simply incorrect.
According to one of the world-class anti-aging physicians I’ve worked with, I’m in the lowest percentile for diabetes risk, heart disease, and cancer, despite being a high risk for all of those when I was 10 years younger. I have lower triglyceride levels than most anyone I know. How can I do it?
The methods are simple, effective, and easy. This plan is not meant to turn you into a bodybuilder (though I start to look like one after a couple workouts), triathlete, or Crossfit competitor. You’ll need a lot more training – and more carbs – to become an elite athlete. But unless you’re a paid athlete, you might want to consider the fact that you can look and feel great without needing to train like an elite athlete. By using this protocol, you can free up hours of time every week, which lets you be a professional father, student, or friend.
The Bulletproof Body plan is meant to provide you with the bare minimum to look awesome and stay healthy for life. This is the foundation for fitness and health. Even if you’re not a hardcore athlete, this can serve as your default program for feeling and looking like you mean business.
Step 1: Eat A Bulletproof Diet For A Bulletproof Body
The Bulletproof Diet is the foundation for health and fitness. It allows you to maintain muscle mass, lose fat, avoid disease, and delay aging. Depending on how well you choose to adhere to the diet, it can be all you need to maintain a Bulletproof Body. Most of your body composition is determined by what you eat (and what you don’t eat!). Exercise can make up for a poor diet to some degree, but you’ll be fighting yourself the entire way. Which would you rather do: overstress you body by running marathons as a way to counter your bad diet, or eat more butter?
Exercise can be used to fill the gaps in an *almost* Bulletproof Diet. Maybe you can’t find grass-fed meat or you cheat every now and then. Exercise can make up for a small level of toxin exposure or bad fats. Before getting into the exercise portion of the plan, there are three points that must be understood about the Bulletproof Diet.
1. Eat Lots
Long term calorie restriction is not an effective weight loss method and it has disastrous effects on your health and your brain. When I was 300 pounds, I ate 1500-1800 calories a day and worked out 9 hours a week. I didn’t lose a pound – if anything, I was gaining. Here’s why:
a) Calorie Cutting
Restricting calories is a stressor. When your body is stressed and believes it is starving, it wants to hold on to fat. By eating more of the right foods, you tell your body it’s okay to burn fat.
b) Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutrient dense foods are often sacrificed when people restrict calories. Things like grass-fed butter, fatty pasture raised meat, and organs have highest nutrient content of any food. They’re also high in calories, which is why misinformed calorie-fearing people avoid them. Without proper nutrients, your body won’t efficiently burn fat or build muscle. Eat nutrient dense foods like those on the Bulletproof Diet and ignore the calories. It’s food quality and composition that matter, not volume.
c) Low-Calorie Junk Food
In order to cut calories, many people resort to things (I’m not going to call them foods) like 100 calorie snack packs, diet soda, and fat free yogurt. Big mistake. These foods might be lower in calories, but they make you crave more food. They don’t satisfy your appetite or provide nutrition. They contain toxins that will impede your fat loss goals and make you sick. Refined and packed “food products” make you fat. You’re better off to go hungry – seriously – than to eat these junk foods.
2. Maintain High Healthy Saturated Fat Intake
Eating a high fat diet teaches your body to burn fat instead of sugar. It also keeps you satisfied which prevents cravings. Make sure you’re eating high quality fats – not vegetable oils or peanut butter. Saturated fat like coconut oil and grass-fed butter will not cause hardened arteries; they help your brain and body perform and look better. Fats are needed for the formation of sex hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone. A high fat diet prevents blood sugar swings and low energy. When in doubt – eat more fat. I eat 60% of my calories from fat, and often have a meal that is only fat, which keeps my metabolism ready to burn fat for fuel.
3. Avoid Toxins
One of the reasons the Bulletproof Diet is different from a regular paleo diet is the special attention to toxins. Xenoestrogens, mycotoxins, and other substances can act as “obesigens” (compounds that make you fat). Plastics can leach BPA into your water which disrupts hormone production. Molds and fungi produce mycotoxins that can be in your food, your house, or your gut. Watch this video to learn how to avoid mycotoxins.
Step 2: Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a Bulletproof Body. Without proper sleep, your body won’t repair muscle tissue, burn fat, or recover for the next day.
Poor quality sleep = hungry, distracted, weak, sick, and fat.
Through various techniques, I’ve been able to hack my sleep to the bare minimum. This is after wrecking my adrenals by doing it wrong. One of the reasons I can sleep so little it because I’m healthy. If you’re currently obese or struggling with body fat issues, you can’t afford to limit sleep. Don’t try to sleep five hours a night and lose 100 pounds at the same time – it won’t work. And don’t try to start a weight training program while cutting sleep either.
Athletics & Sleep Hacking Don’t Mix
If you’re exercising, you need to sleep much more than a sedentary individual. Muscle tissue doesn’t repair unless you get adequate Delta (deep) sleep. Aside from my two-year long no-exercise experiment, one of the reasons I don’t exercise regularly is that I would have to sleep a lot more. A 20 minute workout can increase your sleep needs by over three hours. Sleep as long as you need if you’re exercising more than two times per week. If you want to hack your sleep, do it right – read our articles on sleep hacking. This is not an area where you can afford to be reckless. Sleep deprivation can cause severe adrenal fatigue, cortisol imbalance, and long term neurological/endocrine damage. But having an extra 4 hours a day is priceless.
Step 3: The Bulletproof Body Exercise Guide
Exercise isn’t the most important part of achieving your desired body. If done improperly – as in marathons – it will cause more harm than good. However, exercise does offer a number of advantages. Exercise improves bone density, mood, blood lipids, and increases insulin sensitivity and lean muscle. It can also decrease inflammation and help you sleep.
Exercise is simply not a way to burn calories directly; that faddish way of thinking makes no sense if you pay attention to your body. Your body composition is not determined by the amount of calories you eat; it is determined by hormones. Therefore, exercise should be viewed as a way to influence hormones, not as a method for burning calories. You are not a gasoline engine and you do not burn anything for energy. If we actually did burn things, we’d all be eating coal, which burns well and is high-calorie.
Proper Exercise? Correct Hormone Balance? Burn Fat & Gain Muscle
- There is a point of diminishing return with exercise. More exercise will not always lead to more benefits. Most people over-exercise.
- Exercise sessions should generally be no more than 20 minutes, and they should be VERY high intensity.
- Perform no more than one exercise session per week if you’re sleep hacking.
- Workout up to three times per week otherwise.
- If you aren’t getting high quality sleep, don’t even consider exercise.
It is possible for you to stay lean with any combination of nutrition or exercise when they are done properly, but combining the two creates the best overall health. From a Bulletproof perspective, that means you use the most efficient techniques that get the job done in the smallest amount of time and effort.
You’ve probably seen how we do that with the Bulletproof Diet. Here is its’ companion – the Bulletproof Exercise Guide.
This isn’t an all encompassing fitness manual. It gives you a basic framework which you can use to stay fit in the least possible amount of time, far less than even “The 4-Hour Body,” Tim Ferriss’ most awesome guide, which you should own for sure if you have enough interest to read this post this far. By comparison, Bulletproof Exercise would be “The Forty Minute Body.” But read Tim’s book. It’s good.
There are two parts of the Bulletproof Exercise guide:
Exercise & Activity.
Part 1: Exercise
Exercise has a specific definition. To quote Dr. Doug McGuff, a gifted biohacker, friend, and author of Body by Science:
“Exercise is a specific activity that stimulates a positive physiological adaption that serves to enhance fitness and health. It does not undermine the latter in the process of enhancing the former.”
There are five keys to Bulletproof exercise. Make it:
Anything that does not meet these criteria is not exercise. Marathons, Ironmans, ultra endurance events, and even bodybuilding are not exercise based on these criteria for the simple fact that they do not optimize health while creating fitness. They are immensely challenging and require great physical and mental strength, but they are their own separate entities – not to be confused with exercise. Being fit or being able to compete in a specific sport does not mean you are healthy.
No matter how fit you are, you won’t achieve Bulletproof resilience and power unless you’re healthy.
Sure, you may become healthier by doing some sort of intense exercise, and you’ll certainly become more fit, but it simply isn’t the best way to do so. There are better methods.
The most effective and efficient form of exercise is outlined in the book Body By Science. It is a weight training protocol which fatigues muscle fibers in sequence to produce the best adaptions in the least amount of time – about 40 minutes per month.
This page outlines the basic concepts. For a detailed description of this method, please read Body By Science. It belongs on the shelf of any self-respecting biohacker (or athlete).
Here’s what a workout looks like
- Each workout uses only 3-5 compound movements (listed below).
- You perform only 1 set of each movement per workout.
- You take each set to the point of positive muscular failure. This is the point where the weight won’t move anymore no matter how much effort you apply. Each set will last 90-120 seconds.
- The weight should be heavy enough (usually 75-85% of your 1 rep max) that you will reach muscular failure somewhere between 1.5 and 2 minutes.
- The weight is moved at a slow tempo for the duration of each set. This should be 6-10 seconds concentric (raising), and 6-10 seconds eccentric (lowering). The movement should be as slow as possible without becoming a series of starts and stops.
- The next movement should be performed as soon as possible after the completion of the previous one. The time between movements should not exceed 2 minutes.
- Each workout should not exceed 20 minutes.
- This workout is performed every 7-14 days. Volume should be reduced if training stalls – not increased.
- Breathe through your mouth throughout each exercise without holding your breath.
- “Cardio” is not necessary for improving cardiovascular function. In most cases, it is detrimental to health and practiced for the wrong reasons (to “burn” calories). It is impossible to isolate one aspect of fitness (cardiovascular system, muscular system, aerobic system, etc.). Even if it was, it would not be beneficial. The goal is “global metabolic conditioning” as Dr. McGuff says.
- There is nothing wrong with using a different program, but this is the most efficient method for most people.
- This program will benefit everyone from stay at home moms, to elite athletes, to entrepreneurs. Stronger is better.
- This program (or any program) will not substitute for sport specific goals like running, cycling, swimming, hockey, etc. In order to become better at a given sport you must perform that exact sport.
- Seriously, don’t hack your sleep for the next 3 nights after you exercise. It’s not safe.
Why Weight Training Is The Best Form of Exercise
- It meets all the requirements outlined above for proper exercise.
- It increases lean muscle mass which is going to make you healthier in almost every way.
- Strength training boosts insulin sensitivity and metabolic rate for days and increases your testosterone and growth hormone levels (including healthy amounts for women).
- Having more muscle allows you to perform with more confidence and pride.
- Resistance training decreases your risk of injury and facilitates healthy aging.
- It makes you more resilient to fatigue, disease, pathogens, and toxins.
- It’s fun.
The Big 5 Movements
The following movements are the only ones necessary for most people. They should be performed using machines since reaching muscular failure under free weights is dangerous. There are free weight variations which can be found in the book. (I’m a fan of using kettle bells sometimes too.) Watch the video for demonstrations of proper technique on each movement.
- Seated Row
- Chest Press
- Pull Down
- Overhead Press
- Leg Press
The Body by Science “Big Five” Overview Part 1
The Body by Science “Big Five” Overview Part 2
Common Thinking Errors About Fitness & Health
This is a great video for anyone interested in the best ways to perform better in any way.
This workout program is not the be all and end all of exercise. It is simply the most effective form that works for the most people in the least amount of time. Here are two more methods which fit the definition of exercise:
Enter The Kettlebell! Strength Secret of The Soviet Supermen by Pavel Tsatsouline
Starting Strength, 3rd Edition by Mark Rippetoe
Part 2: Activity (MOVE!)
Walking, hiking, surfing, and carrying groceries are purposeful and safe activites, but they are not brief, infrequent, or intense. They are not exercise – they are physical activities. Exercise makes you better at moving. Low level physical activity has numerous health benefits. It decreases your risk of metabolic syndrome, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and vascular dementia. It also decreases overall systemic inflammation, which contributes to almost all known diseases. Moderate physical activity also decreases the incidence of colds and improves mood in people who are depressed. In healthy people, easy movement can improve mood for 2 hours afterwards. It also improves mitochondrial function.
Most people don’t know about one of the most important health reasons to move frequently, which is lymphatic circulation. Lymph is the fluid that your body collects from interstitial fluid, the fluid that lies between cells. You have an entire lymphatic circulation system designed to return dead cells, proteins, and excess interstitial fluid back to the circulation system for removal. Lymph helps to remove some bacteria, cancer cells, and toxic metabolites, and also transports fats from the digestive system.
Unlike your cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no central pump, so lymph moves only from alternate contraction and relaxation of muscle, valves, and compression when you flex nearby muscles. So you need to move to help your body carry off excess toxins and fluid. After all, excess interstitial fluid will give you “muffin top” long before abdominal fat will.
Even if you exercise, people who sit more than 6 hours a day are 40 percent more likely to die in the next 15 years. The fact that sitting burns only one calorie per minute isn’t why it’s bad for you. Sitting decreases HDL cholesterol and blood flow. It decreases electrical signaling in your leg muscles and causes functional shortening of tendons and ligaments.
Low level aerobic activity has been shown to improve insulin signaling, reduce stress, inflammation, and boost longevity. It reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia, and even the common cold. Move at a slow pace as much as possible.
4 Ways To Move More
- The most Bulletproof (maximum benefit, minimum time) way to get in a day’s worth of moving is to use Whole Body Vibration. Standing on a rapidly vibrating plate for 15 minutes every day or two will cause massive lymph circulation throughout your body and move oxygen to tissues that may not get very much of it, even areas you’re unlikely to reach while walking around. It has other benefits that simple movement doesn’t have, like stimulating bone strength and firming muscles and skin.
- Work at a standing desk or (my favorite) sit on an inflatable ball. Only use a standing desk if your body can comfortably stand all day first. Most people need to see a functional movement specialist (or a biohacker who uses measurement technology) to correct their posture. Standing with poor posture all day is bad for you because it raises stress levels.
- Take every opportunity to move (lift things for people, walk instead of driving, take the stairs, etc).
- Do fun things that involve moving: hiking, gardening, playing with your kids, etc.
Step 4: Supplement Smart
There are numerous supplements that can improve fat loss, muscle gain, immune function, and performance. Here are several that almost anyone can benefit from.
1000 IU / 25 pounds (~11kg) of bodyweight.
- Supports immune function.
- Allows proper tissue formation.
- Improves exercise performance.
- Acts as a pro-hormone in the body.
400-800mg / day.
- Needed for bone formation.
- Relaxes blood flow and reduces stress.
- Improves cardiac function.
- Enhances mitochondria activity.
- (I manufacture this supplement with a new technology for maximum absorbption)
- Protects your body from free radicals and helps maintain healthy toxin levels.
- Mitigates much of the negative effects of air pollution, over-exercise, and lack of sleep.
- Supports healthy liver function.
One or more tablespoons per day.
- Promotes fat loss.
- Enhances insulin sensitivity.
- Increases metabolism.
The Bulletproof Diet may be all you need to maintain muscle mass and look good naked. Sleep should be your next priority, and then a moderate level of movement and exercise. Supplementation is a good idea for almost everyone.
If you enjoyed this article and are thinking about purchasing one of the supplements, please consider supporting the blog by buying from the Bulletproof store.