The annual Bulletproof Biohacking Conference is like Disneyland for wellness junkies—in more ways than one.
There are rides, including the ThetaChamber: a spinning, waterless “float tank” designed to drop you into a deep state of Zen (even though it looks like it’s designed to make you hurl). There are tasty treats, in the form of endless trays of free Bulletproof coffee. There are large crowds (around 3,000 people attended the three-day 2016 event, which took place September 23-25). And there may not be any parades or fireworks, but there are dazzling displays of a nerdier sort: an entire schedule of talks by health and wellness thought leaders, who this year riffed on everything from stem cells to light therapy.
I checked out the conference, which took place in Pasadena, California last week, and walked away with not just a serious caffeine buzz, but also a ton of new intel on health trends and emerging science on how we can “hack” our biology to perform better in every area of life. (If you haven’t heard of biohacking before, here’s a primer.) Basically, it’s my definition of the happiest place on earth.
Keep reading for 10 cool things I discovered at the fourth annual Bulletproof Biohacking Conference.
1. Dave Asprey’s opening a Bulletproof “gym” in LA
If Bulletproof creator Dave Asprey is the Willy Wonka of biohacking, Bulletproof Labs is set to be his factory. When it opens later this year—in Santa Monica, California, just next door to the first Bulletproof Coffee shop—you’ll be able to work out on super-futuristic, high-intensity exercise equipment in minimal amounts of time (we’re talking 10 minutes, in some cases); use an EEG brain trainer to make yourself more focused, creative, and calm; get cryotherapy or take infrared LED light baths; and yes, take a spin (literally) in that virtual float tank. Kind of makes your gym membership seem a little snoozy, right?
2. There’s about to be a tracker for everything
The conference’s Tech Hall was absolutely filled with behavioral trackers, all of which provide real-time feedback on your mindset and progress toward goals. (They are trending, after all.)
My favorite was Moti, a mini robot that provides motivation and accountability—it buzzes, chirps, and lights up when you’ve made progress toward building a habit, whether it’s meditating twice a day or going to bed at 10 p.m. Beddit 3 and Thim both claim to be more accurate than fitness trackers when charting sleep habits, giving users in-depth feedback on their zzz’s (and how to optimize them). And unlike trackers that are worn as accessories, the brand-new Lief patch attaches directly to the body to measure anxiety levels based on heart rate variability and breathing patterns.
3. Paleo is more than just a food thing
Living that Paleo life isn’t only about ditching grains and loading up on bacon. Take Dry Farm Wines, which creates organic and biodynamic vino that’s sugar-free (a Paleo must) and low in sulfites and alcohol. The brand claims that you won’t have hangovers or brain fog after drinking it—sign me up?
On the beauty front, Fatco is a Paleo-certified skin-care line made from grass-fed beef fat, oils, and healing herbs. There’s also The Dirt, which makes Paleo-friendly personal care products including MCT Oil toothpaste, oil-pulling mouth wash, and trace mineral tooth powder made with herbs, spices, and bentonite clay.
4. We should be fueling our long runs with fat
We’ve been hearing for a while now that fat’s nothing to be afraid of, and Mark Sisson—author of The Primal Blueprint and the Primal Kitchen product line—confirmed that’s even the case for endurance athletes.
“For decades, so much of [endurance] training was about carbo-loading,” the former distance runner said in his lecture. “The new assumption is that fat is the preferred fuel.” He outlined the training paradigm from his new book, Primal Endurance, which involves a low-carb/high-fat diet and a base of ample low-intensity cardio, short sprints, and long rests—all of which, he says, have been shown to improve performance and fat burning while reducing burnout and injury.
5. Have an injury? Try stem cell therapy
Asprey (pictured above) and several of his guests sang the praises of stem-cell therapy—a tactic that involves taking stem cells from one’s own tissues and depositing them elsewhere in the body for therapeutic purposes. “Stem cells are some of the most cutting-edge and interesting things in biohacking,” proclaimed Asprey, who has used them to help heal injuries to his brain, knee, and shoulder.
So how do they work, exactly? According to fellow conference speaker Harry Adelson, N.D., stem cells “are primitive cells that can either self-renew or turn into a target tissue cell.” The latter, which can differentiate into all of the different musculoskeletal tissues in the body, are called mesenchymal stem cells. (Bet you didn’t know your bod was capable of doing that, eh?) “Think of them as your body’s own drugstore,” Adelson says.
The procedure isn’t exactly pleasant—a doctor extracts the cells from your bone marrow or the fat pads in your lower back, and then re-injects them where your body needs them. Yet Adelson claims they’re game-changing, especially when it comes to healing injuries that would be hard to resolve otherwise. If plant stem cells’ ability to give us flawless skin is any indication, he’s on to something.
6. Camel milk could be the next big thing in dairy
Just when you thought the dairy case couldn’t handle any more alt-milks, along comes Desert Farms—a brand of camel milk (!) that’s pasture-raised, hormone-free, and sourced from small US farms. Camel milk is apparently easier to digest than cow’s and goat’s milk and may be suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. Plus, it’s high in protein, B-vitamins, and calcium—and you only need to drink two ounces a day to get all of the nutritional goodness. Not that it’s a chore; I tried a sample at the brand’s booth in the tech hall, and it just tastes like a milder version of cow’s milk.
7. We need to stop fearing the sun
According to engineer and color expert Leanne Venier, who spoke at the conference: “Everybody has been groomed to be afraid of sunlight, thinking it causes cancer, but research shows that it prevents cancer and other types of disease. Sunburn is what’s bad.”
Asprey agreed with this statement, adding, “Having too little sunlight can be just as bad as having too much. UVB radiation is required to activate vitamin D. It’s a necessary nutrient”
He believes we all need at least 10-20 minutes of sunlight on our skin at least twice a week (if not daily), between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. “If you don’t get it, you won’t be able to do all the things you’re biologically capable of doing,” he says. If you do, Asprey claims you can count on a reduction in blood pressure, inflammation, skin issues like acne and psoriasis, and mood disorders. (If you do burn easily, take a vitamin D3 supplement instead.)
8. Indoor light matters, too
Sleep experts are always preaching that blue light is bad for us, but remember: that’s only at night. “In the morning, you should be getting both blue and red light,” says Asprey. Blue light inhibits melatonin, which helps us stay awake during the day, while he says that red light charges up our mitochondria, the energy-producing powerhouses in our cells. (He recommends sticking red LED tape lights behind your computer monitor to strike the right balance.)
Once darkness falls, that’s the time to use a few new products showcased at the conference. Turn on your phone’s Night Shift app and run F.lux software on your computer, which automatically makes the screen more orange and less blue. And if you’re really hardcore, you can change all the lightbulbs in your house to red ones, like Asprey does—but that one’s totally optional.
9. Women should be doing more heavy lifting
Want to sleep better, decrease anxiety, improve your cognitive function, lower your cancer risk, and boost your sex life? According to Tyna Moore, N.D., you should be lifting heavy weights, even if you’re a woman. “Putting on muscle will do more for you than any doctor will ever be able to achieve,” said the naturopath in her talk, which warned against the dangers of being “skinny-fat.” (That’s to say, slender but without any muscle tone—some doctors believe it’s deadlier than obesity.) Moore says the magic formula lies in lifting heavy weights for a short duration of time at high intensity—and that “the magic is in the rest.”
10. The new medical lab: your bathroom
As much as we all love trekking to the doctor when we want to get lab work done, a new crop of startups is allowing you to order your own diagnostic testing from home. Want to know whether your gut bacteria is normal? uBiome allows you to collect samples from different areas of your body—gut, mouth, skin, and more—to find out the exact composition of your microbiome. Have a sneaking suspicion that you have an allergy or wonky hormones? At Everlywell, you can order up your own food sensitivity testing, hormone profiles, and more. With prices starting at $79, it’s way less than the cost of getting it done at a doctor’s office—which means more cash to splash on butter coffee.