Bulletproof vs. Paleo vs. Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets: What’s The Difference?
By: Dave Asprey
April 23, 2015
I was in my 20s when I started suffering from severe fatigue and cognitive dysfunction. I was 300 pounds, sick constantly, and almost had to drop out of grad school because I couldn’t concentrate.
Back then, I thought my inability to think clearly and perform at high levels was some sort of moral failing. I would beat myself up. I would work harder and stay up later, trying to catch up with my peers.
I tried every diet imaginable, including raw vegan and years of falling off the low-fat bandwagon. I hit the treadmill for hours every day. Nothing worked. So I took matters into my own hands.
The Bulletproof Diet was born after a decade of working with some of the world’s top health and nutrition researchers. Over a span of about 15 years, I devoured thousands of research papers and books on human nutrition. I used my body as a testing ground to determine what worked best for my biology.
The result is a diet that has helped thousands of people lose fat and gain the energy and clarity they thought they’d lost forever. So, what differentiates the Bulletproof Diet from other low-carb diets? Read on to find out.
For an in-depth plan on how to boost energy and increase brain function in just two weeks, get your copy of Head Strong.
Bulletproof vs. Paleo: The Big Picture
If you were to map out the most popular diets, you’d see a vast spectrum of practices and plans ranging from low-fat vegan to high-fat, low-carb (HFLC). This deliciously fatty end of the spectrum is where the Bulletproof Diet and the Primal, Paleo, and Atkins diets would lie.
The Paleo diet eliminates processed foods and focuses on what our paleolithic ancestors ate – mostly meat, plants, nuts, and seeds. The Bulletproof Diet is similar but designed to maximize your willpower by reducing cravings and minimize aging by focusing on how food works in your body on a biochemical level. Cavemen didn’t have mass spectrometers and microscopes and modern science. They weren’t biohackers and lacked the control of their environment that we take for granted today.
While both diets agree that sugar and grains aren’t really food, Bulletproof came about through anti-aging, cognitive performance, and fertility research, not by focusing on ancestral health. The Bulletproof Diet is different than Paleo and similar diets because it takes into account the factors outlined below.
The Bulletproof approach to fats, meat, and carbs
The Bulletproof Diet focuses on both quality and quantity: the quality of your food is super important, but you should also play around with the ratios of fat, protein, and carbs you consume. We encourage a bit more fat than most Paleo authors (50-70% or more), including butter (a food that’s been debated in the Paleo community for a while), and moderate protein consumption.
This is opposed to most Paleo meal plans, which offer a bit more protein, and moderate fat and carb consumption.
One of Bulletproof’s most distinguishing, most effective features in making you feel your best is that it encourages you to eat more fat than most HFLC diet plans and includes one day per week of protein fasting. Pretty unheard of in the Paleo scene.
And of course, there’s Bulletproof Coffee, which isn’t technically Paleo, because cavemen didn’t have butter, lab-tested mold toxin-free coffee, or the ability to concentrate the most useful 6% of coconut oil in a non-oxygen atmosphere (i.e. Brain Octane oil). Or blenders. Cavemen didn’t have those either. But Bulletproof Coffee totally rocks when you add it to the Paleo template!
A focus on food quality
Think about how vegans, particularly raw vegans, pay attention to food quality. They’re obsessive for a reason – because it matters!
Bulletproof food quality principles agree with veganism on food quality more so than say, Atkins diet followers. Many people who follow an Atkins or general low-carb diet will eat non-organic produce and grain-fed meat out of a sense of convenience or maybe they just don’t know any better. But these foods contain hormones, pesticides, and other toxicants that can harm your performance and make you slow. A Bulletproof Diet includes nutrient-dense, high-quality foods that feed your body at a cellular level and minimize your body’s exposure to harmful chemicals and mold.
A focus on food processing
You likely know that processing your food is bad. But cooking food is processing food, even if you do it yourself. The Bulletproof approach to nutrition focuses on how your food is prepared or cooked. That means cooking your food gently and avoiding over cooking or charring your meat.
Cavemen stuck their meat on a stick over a fire and they created heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (a.k.a. HCAs and PAFs, capable of damaging DNA after they are metabolized), a topic the Bulletproof Diet book specifically addresses and teaches you how to avoid. Better prep = better food, bottom line!
Some Paleo authors might recommend crispy bacon or charred, heavily cooked meats – Bulletproof does not! Gently cook your foods, or they will lose some of their most important nutrients.
‘Suspect’ foods on the Bulletproof Roadmap: customizing the diet for you
No two Bulletproof Diet followers eat the exact same way or take the exact same supplements.
We like to think of it as “this is more Bulletproof or less Bulletproof.” Everybody is different but the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap makes it easy to identify potentially performance-robbing, brain-fog inducing Kryptonite foods that make it hard to reach your peak mental and physical performance.
Maybe you should eat nightshades, maybe you shouldn’t: the best way to find out is to try both for yourself and see what kind of difference you feel. But if you don’t have a spectrum to tell you that these are suspect then you have no way of telling how the foods you put in your body are affecting your everyday performance.
The only way to really figure out which foods may be giving you problems is to use your body as a testing ground. This means eliminating suspect foods, then methodically adding them back in. There are some guidelines on how to do this in the Bulletproof Diet book.
Food, technology, and timing
It’s ok to improve food through the use of technology. The Bulletproof Diet doesn’t reject improvement of food using technology, like Xylitol. Birch sugar is totally acceptable on this diet, even if it is made in a lab, because the biochemistry works. It’s also ok to use supplements to help you digest your food or promote better energy or sleep.
The Bulletproof Diet also incorporates some meal timing elements that various versions of Paleo have yet to adopt. For example, Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting is not the Paleo-approved plain Intermittent Fasting because you’re drinking Bulletproof Coffee, but it works very well, giving you energy and clarity throughout your day. Bulletproof also encourages you to time your carb consumption to improve sleep quality.
New To The Bulletproof Diet? Here’s The Overview:
- The Bulletproof Diet tells you the right type of food to eat – plus when to eat it and how to cook it.
- It’s based on high amounts of healthy fats, moderate amounts of high-quality protein and tons of organic vegetables eaten at the right times in order to create unbelievable levels of energy and mental clarity throughout the day.
- It identifies the exact foods that provide the most energy and contain the least performance-robbing, inflammation-causing anti-nutrients and toxins.
- It hacks the root of food cravings, allowing you to lose weight with zero hunger or a battle of willpower.
Note: there are many versions of the Paleo diet out there, so take this section as a broad example of a Paleo template; this description is one commonly agreed upon definition of Paleo, but there are several others.
Paleo is a primal or ancestral diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy, grain products, and sugary processed foods.
- Uses lean proteins and healthy fats to support strong muscles, healthy bones, and optimal immune function.
- Recommends a higher percentage of consumption of fruits and protein than The Bulletproof Diet, which recommends more healthy fats and vegetables.
Is Bulletproof a ketogenic diet?
Not necessarily. It does utilize intermittent, cyclical ketosis but discourages long-term ketosis for everyone due to a number of factors including thyroid or hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, poor sleep quality, and extremely dry eyes, to name a few. It’s also clear that for some people, permanent ketosis is not optimal.
Check out Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting, a hack that allows you to tap into a ketogenic state without starving. This is dramatically different from ketosis-style fasting espoused by some Paleo communities.
The bottom line
Paleo is committed to the ancestral modality and I’m a fan of it. Meanwhile, The Bulletproof Diet focuses on the research behind ways to improve performance and mental clarity by providing ample amounts of resources for your body’s building blocks.
But we’re all friends, we’re all working towards higher food quality, more grass fed meat from healthy animals, better vegetables, and higher performance humans.
Have you tried both the Paleo and Bulletproof Diets? Noticed a difference? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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