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

paleo vs. bulletproof
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When people get tired of being fat and look for ways to get thin or have more energy, eventually they hear about cutting carbohydrates. After a few clicks, it’s overwhelming: Do you try Atkins, Paleo, ketogenic, Bulletproof, HFLC, Sugar Impact, or just a general low carb diet?

If you are familiar with Bulletproof, it’s pretty obvious I’m a big fan of the paleo template.

Bulletproof Radio has hosted a number of Paleo experts including Mark Sisson, New York Times best selling Sugar Impact Diet’s JJ Virgin and the ever popular low-carb Dr. Mark Hyman on recent episodes, not to mention “Livin La Vida Low Carb’s” Jimmy Moore himself.

Are we all on the same team? Yes.

I consider us all to be brothers and sisters in improving food quality, and the Paleo movement has successfully helped turn on thousands of people to a happier way of eating and living.

Later this month, I’ve been invited to be a guest speaker at the 2015 Paleo f(x) conference in Austin. It’s worth your time to come hear me and many others talk about the latest food and lifestyle interventions, so sign up here now!

Do I seek out Paleo restaurants when I travel to a new city? Heck yes.

But do I also seek out vegan restaurants? Of course! And do I make special meal requests at either one? Yes! Read on to learn why.

Bulletproof vs. Paleo: The Big Picture

When you map out diets, there’s a vast spectrum of practices and plans. On one end there’s the low fat vegan diet, in the middle are various clusters of diets, and on the other end there are high fat, low carb versions of primal, Paleo and Atkins, as well as Bulletproof.

Paleo is based on what our ancestors ate, which is an important clue to what we ought to be eating and it works. The Bulletproof Diet isn’t based on that; it’s a diet to maximize willpower and minimize aging, not a diet concerned with what our ancestors ate. 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.

Even though we share a common hypothesis that sugar and grains really aren’t food, Bulletproof came about through anti-aging, cognitive performance, and fertility research, not ancestral health. The Bulletproof Diet is different than Paleo and similar diets by taking into account the factors outlined below.

The Bulletproof Approach to Fats, Meats, and Carbs

To Bulletproof, it’s about both quality and quantity: the type of fat, the type of meat, and the type of carb all matter. The words “high fat, high meat, low carb” diet could mean anything from wonderful to terrible in terms of the actual quality of the foods you are consuming.

Bulletproof encourages consuming even more healthy fat consumption than most paleo authors (50-70% or more), including butter (which has been debated for years in the Paleo community but is – I think – currently accepted mostly) and moderate protein consumption. This looks a bit different than most Paleo plans.

One of Bulletproof’s most distinguishing, most effective features in making you feel your best is that it encourages the consumption of even more undamaged saturated fats than pretty much any other eating plan around. It also encourages a day of Bulletproof protein fasting a week, which is totally not Paleo.

And of course there’s Bulletproof Coffee, which isn’t technically Paleo, because cavemen didn’t have butter, lab-tested 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 – Just Like Vegans!

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 perhaps more so than with paleo folks. We all want to eat tons of vegetables every day, but I know a lot of paleo people who will still eat CAFO and grain-fed meat for convenience, or non-organic produce. Bulletproof acknowledges that these choices harm human performance, but that you may make them anyway and guides you to know how to cut the lowest impact corners first.

A Focus on Food Processing

No one eating for health wants to eat processed foods. But cooking food IS processing food, even if you do it yourself. One of Bulletproof’s big things is how your food is prepared or cooked. Cooking gently to avoid over processing your meats and veggies matters for how you’ll feel after the meal. Note: I don’t order a lot of items at Paleo restaurants because they tend to overcook their 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 specifically addresses and teaches you how to avoid. Better prep = better food, bottom line!

Some versions of Paleo 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 (free download) makes it easy to identify potentially performance-robbing, brain-fog inducing Kryptonite foods that make it hard to be at 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 effecting your every day performance.

And if two different “suspect foods” from the Bulletproof Diet roadmap are causing a weakness, you won’t ever know unless you eliminate both suspects at the same time. That’s the Bulletproof 14-day program in the book. You might get away with some non-paleo foods like legumes, but you’ll only know if you test it right.

Food, Technology, and Timing

Bulletproof takes a different approach – it is 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 ok to use supplements to help you digest your food.

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. And Bulletproof encourages you to time your carbs 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. The Bulletproof Diet (download the free roadmap here) is based on high amounts of healthy fats, moderate amounts of high quality protein and tons of organic vegetables eaten at the right time in order to create unbelievable levels of energy and weight loss.

  • Identifies the foods that provide the most energy and contain the least performance-robbing, inflammation-causing anti-nutrients and toxins.
  • Hacks the root of food cravings, allowing you to lose weight with zero hunger or a battle of willpower
  • Targets 50-70% of calories from healthy fats (this is easy and tastes good), up to 20% from protein, and the rest from vegetables.

The Paleo Diet 101:

Note: there are many versions of the Paleo diet out there, so take this section as merely 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.

Is Butter Paleo?

A couple of years ago it wasn’t, but we’re doing our best! At this point, it depends on whom you ask. I really don’t know if butter is “paleo” or not because I’ve gotten a lot of different answers.

Is Bulletproof a Ketosis Diet?

Bulletproof is not a pure Ketosis diet. It does utilize intermittent, cyclical ketosis but discourages long term ketosis for everyone due to a number of factors including thyroid fatigue, poor sleep quality and extremely dry eyes, to name a few. It’s also clear that for some people, permanent ketosis is optimal.

Check out Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting, a hack on top of intermittent fasting so you don’t actually have to fast to get the benefits of it. 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 (pick up a copy of the book here) 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 meats from healthy animals, better vegetables, and higher performance humans.

That’s why I’m so excited to be speaking at Paleo f(x) April 24th-26th – I’m going to learn from all my Paleo friends!  You can come too, just register here for Paleo f(x) now.

So, who’s up for vegan food tonight for dinner? 😉

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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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