Bulletproof vs. Paleo vs. Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets: What’s The Difference?

paleo vs. bulletproof
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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.

Paleo 101:

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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By Dave Asprey

  • littlemissmiddleburg

    thank you for a clear, concise and “non judgy” answer to the question I get all the time. I have been a fan of your protocol thus far and am interested to see how things continue to play out!

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  • wolverine1972

    I wish I could be there, just to see the interaction between the bulletproof coffee camp and the caveman coffee camp , sorry dave but caveman coffee taste a little better

  • Fiona Davis

    I’ve been paleo for almost 5 years. Food quality is extremely important to me, but I did not know that eating well done meat could pose a problem. I definitely plan on picking up a copy of your book. You’ve piqued my interest!

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  • Peggy Holloway

    I love this and your approach. This is so sensible. I keep evolving in my diet from my original conversion to low-carb with Atkins 15 years ago. Focusing on whole/unprocessed foods developed over the years and a move to higher fat and more moderate protein consumption and the move to ketogenic was optimal for me as someone with serious genetic insulin-resistance and a desire for better performance as a distance cyclist. My son introduced me to Bulletproof and that has been my most recent “tweak” which has been amazing. I’m sure over time I will continue to experiment and learn even more about my own needs, which of course will change, as I am now 62 and looking to age as gracefully as possible!

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    LOVE LOVE LOVE this article team Bulletproof! Simple and informative.

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  • Karen Holt

    Just one comment – being in nutritional ketosis has greatly improved my dry eyes!

    • Rodolfo Oliveira

      Jimmy Moore adresses all criticisms to ketosis in his book Keto Clarity. He says the thyriod problems happen when keto dieters stay with low calories for a long time, and the dry mouth/eyes thing is related to amino acid imbalances. Just to add to the discussion, these are very nice topics to test in each person’s diets.

      • Karen Holt

        Indeed though Jimmy’s like Dave’s is based on personal experience – so is mine I freely admit. We also measure ketones, glucose, temp etc. daily. I just think it is interesting that for both me and my husband, dry eyes – which were the bane of our lives especially as we worked in IT – disappeared entirely never to return once we had been in nutritional ketosis consistently for around 9 months. I posted just to offer a counter experience – it is of course individual because we all react somewhat differently but in this case it was both of us and a dramatic improvement.

        • Carin

          Interestingly enough, my ‘dry eye syndrome’ has also become a thing of the past since eating in a more ketogenic way.

  • Jeroen van Vlodrop

    I’m on the bulletproof diet for 3 months now and I feel great. But I’ve lost too many weight.. What can I do to gain it back on without feeling cranky???

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  • Peter Martinez

    Minimizing aging has to do with maintaining the structure and function of a cell. Low carbohydrate diets are unable to perform that function as they do not support cellular respiration because CO2 is deficient. Please read some physiology before recommending people become ‘fat burners’ because liberation of free fatty acids for energy is equivalent to metabolic stress.

    I was Bulletproof for 2 1/2 years and all I got was hair loss and stress. If you’re eating a diet for the purpose of ‘losing weight’ you have an inappropriate priority. Good health is paramount, weight loss and ‘performance’ are secondary in the sense that you mean it.

    Norepinephrine is a helluva drug.

    • Joseph

      There’s so many gene mutation triggers at this point that people’s mitochondrial process & metabolisms can be vastly different. At some point in my teens, I activated a gene that forced me into ketosis at all times. Any carbs get me deathly ill. I try 15 a day, if I go over that I risk seizure or fainting spells. Also severe fatigue.

    • Darth Folwart

      “If you’re eating a diet for the purpose of ‘losing weight’ you have an inappropriate priority.”

      That is an irrational and utterly moronic statement.

  • Jessica Burnett

    Typo in this paragraph “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 EFECTING your every day performance.”

  • Kimberly White

    Hummmm….. I found this topic fascinating, but noticed the posts to this page are from months ago, makes me wonder why no one has been making any comments recently!!

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  • Wikki One

    People talk about cave men did this and did that, ate this way.. Well we are not cave men/women any more. We have evolved from then and we continue to evolve. We cannot eat the same way they did. I am no expert, but I am also not living in a cave. ( well maybe a man cave)

  • Rodolfo Oliveira

    It is indeed very refreshing to have a modern take on nutrition utilizing all that science have contributed to mankind without losing the true purpose of nutrition: to feed our bodys so as to give us the capacity to change our enviroments the best way possible. Rock on Mr. Asprey!

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  • Liz Esquivias

    Is the Palm Oil used in the Bulletproof Brand products like Brain Octane from a Sustainable Source? If not when will it?

  • John Reeves

    “Cavemen stuck their meat on a stick over a fire…” Our ancestors may have been a little more bulletproof than that. My dad, who spent some time living in an Australian aboriginal community, told me that animals were roasted whole – skin, fur and all. The charred outside parts were then used as a kind of plate – easy to hold, but not eaten – while the meat inside that was actually eaten would have been (relatively) undamaged, since it wasn’t exposed to such high temperatures. So Paleo and BP principles might be a little closer after all.

    • Simon Larochelle

      I confirm your Dad saying. Most of aborigina community basically ate their meet
      Blue Rare

  • Megan Sheniqua

    i cant believe you would start this article off with “When people get tired of being fat and look for ways to get thin or have more energy..” what about the people who have no choice? being a type one diabetic who also has celiac disease, both are out of their control, don’t really have much of an option. shame on you!

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  • Camille Smith

    I have a question…I am currently on an AIP diet due to auto immune disease. I’m interested in the bulletproof method but scared by the idea of fasting. I’ve heard fasting isn’t good for those with Ai disease. Thoughts on this?

  • John Werner

    @252lbs i started paleo, then paleo and intermittent fasting with homemade bulletproof (butter/coconut oil conventional coffee) and now am 100% Bulletproof Coffee/Intermittent fasting (Getting ready to take the leap to be completely bulletproof) and am under 227lbs. Ive never felt better, never hungry, no brain fog and working out as hard as i want. the best feeling is having improved cognition and not counting a single calorie while by body continues to shed the fat!!!!!

    • Bob Dooley

      There Have Been Some Case Reports of Dramatically Elevated Cholesterol Due to Bulletproof Coffee. Hope you’re getting labs done to check for this.

  • Melanie Cribbs

    Ten years ago I found the Paleo diet and tested it for my daughter (type 1). She was not successful at the diet but the changes it made for me were amazing.

    Fast forward to now. I’m ten years older and have fallen out of the strict diet and I find that I have put on 10 pounds of unwanted weight. At my age (55) it is so hard to drop the weight so I’m looking into the Bulletproof, Keto and hitting Paleo and because you threw out the challenge of finding the differences between Paleo and Bulletproof I’ll try your diet and let you know of any differences I notice along the way.

    As a side note~I tried your original bulletproof coffee years ago and I still make my coffee with butter and coconut oil every day. I have found that it helped with my hyper/ADD issues so that was a godsend!