How To Stay Bulletproof In College
I wrote this article with the help of a Bulletproof team member who’s a recent college graduate. He started Bulletproof his first year of college and got his degree a few months ago.
He picked up some pretty useful habits along the way, and not just ones for college students. These hacks can help almost anyone – especially if you want to save money on good food or optimize your learning.
Going Bulletproof helps you perform better, and that extra edge is especially helpful when you’re in college. Between rigorous courses, long nights of studying, and occasional (or more than occasional) partying, your higher education years can be hard on your biology.
But how do you stay Bulletproof in college? It poses a few specific obstacles:
- You may be short on cash
- You often don’t have kitchen access
- Your classes demand serious study skills and an uncommon amount of focus and energy
- You’re probably surrounded by substances that are rough on your body and brain
What’s a dedicated biohacker to do?
Good news: you can stay as Bulletproof as you want in college, even with the added challenges. All it takes is a little extra effort and cleverness. The payoff will be big, too – physically, mentally, and academically. Your assignments won’t know what hit them. This post covers how to eat Bulletproof cheaply, cook without a kitchen, optimize your brain function, and hack partying so it won’t devastate your performance.
Hack your food and supplement costs to fit a college budget
Quality food and supplements can get expensive quickly, but the Bulletproof Diet doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg (especially not a grass-fed arm and leg). Here are a few ways to hack the cost of food:
Are there farmers’ markets near you? Better yet, can you buy from the farmers themselves? Many small, local farms will sell directly to you, and by skipping out on the middleman you can get higher-quality food than you’d find in a supermarket at a much lower price. This strategy is particularly useful for pastured eggs, a dozen of which will often go for $7-9 at a high-end supermarket. Farms will often sell those same eggs for $3-4/dozen.
Don’t pay retail for grass-fed meat
There are a couple ways around this one. One option requires a little capital. The other doesn’t.
- Buy in bulk. Alderspring Ranch will sell you an eighth or a quarter of a grass-fed cow at deep discount, and U.S. Wellness Meats will give you a price break if you buy more than 40 lbs. of beef in one go, as well as other discounts if you buy a lot of ground beef or a single cut. Both companies carry top-notch beef. You can throw the extra in your freezer and it’ll keep for a year. Just be sure you have enough space.
- Supermarkets have to sell meat by its sell-by date (go figure), and some supermarkets mark their meat down to half-price on the last viable day to sell it. Many Safeways do this, for example. Next time you’re at the supermarket check the sell-by dates on grass-fed beef. Then come back on that date, money in hand, and buy the place out. You can get grass-fed ground beef and lamb for $3-4/lb. this way. Remember to freeze it when you get home, and thaw 1-2 days’ worth of meat at a time.
Know when to go organic
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a national organization that looks at toxic chemicals in consumer products, periodically releases a list of produce with the highest pesticide levels. The next time you’re buying a veggie or fruit, check to see where it falls on the list. If it ranks below 20, you’re probably better off going organic. If it’s above that, though, it’s relatively low in pesticides, and you can save money by buying conventional. Squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, green onions, cauliflower, and avocados all consistently have low pesticide levels.
Stick to the most cost-effective essentials
Upgraded Coffee and Brain Octane are worth the cost, even on a budget. In fact, if you’re drinking Bulletproof Coffee instead of eating breakfast (which is great for you, by the way) you’ll probably save money. Vitamin D is cheap and powerful. So is vitamin C.
No kitchen? No problem
With a little ingenuity you can rig a simple kitchen in your dorm room or common area. Here are the basics of a good portable kitchen:
- A small blender (Nutribullets are compact, powerful, and BPA-free)
- A French press
- A fridge/freezer (if your floor has a communal one, great. If not, ask around – upperclassmen and graduating students often sell their mini-fridges for cheap)
- An inexpensive hotplate (like this one)
- A pot
- A pan (go ceramic if you want nonstick. Teflon is a potential carcinogen)
- A plate, a bowl, a mug, and utensils
If you’re thrifty you can get all of the above for under $200. You can use the blender to grind your coffee beans and blend your Bulletproof Coffee, the hot plate as a stove, and the pot and pan to do your cooking.
Just check your housing rules. Some colleges frown on hotplates in the dorms (but if you use one anyway your secret is safe with us).
Boost your brain to ace your classes
College is like a marathon for your brain: you have to study for hours, focus, learn, and memorize, sometimes late at night. Unless you’re superman (or superwoman) your brain could probably use a little extra help. These are a few good options.
Exercise in the morning
A half hour of intense, continuous exercise may increase your brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that improves learning, memory, and brain plasticity [1,2,3,4]. Aerobic exercise seems crucial to the BDNF boost; normal strength training may not affect BDNF . Long-distance running is not Bulletproof but you do want something aerobic, so opt for the happy combination of strength and endurance. Try some high-intensity interval training (HIIT), either with weights in your school’s gym or with your own body on a football field or in your dorm. You’ll be sharper for your morning class and you’ll learn more efficiently.
Do Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting
Like exercise, intermittent fasting also increases BDNF , and doing it the Bulletproof way can curb the hunger issue common in standard intermittent fasting.
Try a nootropic
Boosting your study skills may be as easy as taking a nootropic. Nootropics are compounds that improve brain function. You can use them to enhance focus, motivation, energy, and learning, among other things.
Racetams are some of the oldest and most trusted nootropics. They’re also inexpensive, which is a plus for budgeting. The two big ones are piracetam and aniracetam.
Unfortunately, most of the research backing racetams involves animals or people with neurological disorders and not healthy humans. That said, the research in those two groups is pretty impressive. In guinea pig cells, aniracetam improves long-term potentiation (LTP), the process responsible for learning . Aniracetam also increases brain function with few to no side effects in people who have cognitive disorders . There is a single study of piracetam in healthy college-aged adults, in which piracetam greatly improved verbal learning .
Overwhelming evidence? No. But if you take the racetam studies alongside tons of anecdotal evidence about their benefits in neurologically sound people, racetams begin to look like excellent candidates for a personal biohacking experiment. Here are sources of inexpensive, third-party-tested aniracetam and piracetam.
Upgrade your party recovery
Let’s face it: there’s a lot of partying at college, and unless you’re committed to not drinking or doing drugs you’ll probably ingest some mind-altering substances now and then (or more than now and then). Sometimes the social benefits of partying outweigh the damage it brings, especially if you use biohacking. We’ll cover increasing your resilience to the two most common substances: alcohol and marijuana.
If you do decide to drink, we’re willing to bet it won’t be a glass of wine with dinner. Binge drinking is particularly taxing on your body and brain. Keep your resilience up by:
- Choosing low-toxin alcohol. This infographic lists alcohols from best to worst. Potato vodka is the most Bulletproof; sadly, beer is the least. A good general rule is that clear spirits contain less sugar and fewer toxins than their unfiltered/undistilled cousins.
- Taking activated charcoal. This step is especially important if you’re drinking unfiltered alcohol like beer or wine. Activated charcoal mops up the mold toxins in your drinks before they can get to your brain. Take a capsule with every drink you have.
- Blocking conversion of alcohol to aldehyde. To do this you can follow the steps suggested in the infographic linked above, but it’ll get expensive quickly and you’re on a college budget. Instead try Alcohol Detox by Nutrition Dynamics. Steve Fowkes, organic chemist and scientific badass extraordinaire, recommends these pills (you can listen to a podcast with Steve here). You get 60 pills for $10. Take two before every drink.
Bonus tip: People tend to be curious about why you’re downing little black pills with each drink. Be ready to explain your biohacking practices to fellow partygoers.
In the last few years there have been a lot of positive studies on marijuana and cannabinoids. There are negative ones too, though, and there’s genetic modification and pesticide use to consider. If you decide to partake, here are ways to upgrade your consumption.
- Moderation, moderation, moderation. Getting high compromises productivity and focus, and research over the last 15 years reliably shows that THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) has addictive potential . Treat marijuana like drinking: if you’re going to use it at all make it occasional.
- Avoid smoking. While less damaging than cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke still contains carcinogens and irritants that are rough on your lungs [11, 12]. Skip smoking in favor of other methods. Vaporizing is lower-heat and produces fewer toxic byproducts than smoking does . You could also make THC-infused grass-fed butter or coconut oil.
- Prepare for snacking. Marijuana use brings with it the happy marriage of food cravings and impaired judgment. As one research team so eloquently puts it: “marijuana use is classically associated with snacking behavior” . Ironically, the foods you may be tempted to snack on are probably worse for you than the marijuana itself is. Avoid that late-night pizza order by filling your fridge with Bulletproof goodies.
Research suggests that THC triggers particular cravings for high-fat, heavily salted snacks . Good thing we love fat and salt around here. Stock up on tasty treats like bacon, dark chocolate, and Upgraded Collagen Bars. When you wake up the next day without a food hangover you’ll thank yourself.
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That’s it! We hope these hacks help you make the most of your college experience. Do you have tips for college-bound Bulletproof readers? Questions? Thoughts? Leave it all in the comments below and, as always, stay Bulletproof!