In an unassuming storefront on Santa Monica's Main Street, just two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, the concept of exercise is undergoing a radical transformation. It's called Bulletproof Labs, and it represents the most recent business venture of renowned biohacker Dave Asprey, the creator of Bulletproof Coffee.
In short, BL is Tesla meets Gold’s Gym, the product of millions of dollars in investment and 20+ years of globetrotting research. Asprey's goal: to assemble a battery of workouts and recovery processes that optimize both physical and mental performance.
As for whether it actually works? We recently attended the grand opening to give some of their space-age machines a test drive.
A Data-Driven Approach
Asprey’s Silicon Valley mentality is at the core of Bulletproof Labs’ fitness philosophy: as in all things, process should be a product of meticulous metric analysis.
Upon a client's first visit, a “Biohacker Technician” runs a set of analyses to establish baselines: biomarkers, gut biome, cellular health and breath composition, to name a few. Your fitness program is then personally tailored to improve upon that starting point. Similar to running a startup, these Key Performance Indicators are taken at intervals to ensure that the process is achieving its intended results on schedule, with maximum efficiency.
During our visit to Bulletproof Labs, we didn’t have the time to draw blood, but we definitely had time to break a sweat.
This is in part because the devices are engineered to push the body to its limits as fast as possible, leveraging groundbreaking biotechnologies such as oxygen restriction, vascular compression and barometric pressure manipulation.
For example, their Vasper machine combines a low-impact recumbent bicycle with compression cuffs (like a blood-pressure test) filled with circulating chilled water. At intervals, the cuffs inflate, restricting blood flow and “tricking” the body into responding as if it has put in 2.5 hours worth of exercise in 20 minutes.
Other pieces of equipment improve bone density with five-second bursts of calibrated exertion, optimize oxygen and sugar processing for body fuel, and rejuvenate mitochondrial function with a pressure chamber that simulates Everest’s base-camp barometry.
At the end of working a “stack” of three “bullets” — the in-house name for training exercises — I felt like Ivan Drago during the Rocky IV training montage (sans illegal injections, of course).
Focus on Recovery
I queried multiple Biohacker Technicians on their favorite stacks. The bodybuilder focused on the “Cheat Machine” that maximized the “negative” portion of a lift. The Crossfitter preferred the oxygen trainer, and was devising ways to combine it with a Kettlebell routine. The one common thread? To a man, they all emphasized the importance of finishing the workout, waiting a few hours, and then hopping in the Cryo chamber to boost recovery.
In addition to Cryotherapy, Bulletproof Labs offers a virtual float tank, a red and infrared light bath, neurofeedback trainers, platforms that vibrate at 30 times per second to stimulate healing, and vitamin booster shots. Simply put, the goal of biohacking isn’t to live to workout — it’s to work out in a way that constantly challenges your biological limitations, thus expediting the process from start to finish. And for that, a science-driven recovery is necessary.
The Takeaway: Your Body Will Surprise You
I’m not a doctor. Nor have I conducted zero double-blind studies on the veracity of Asprey’s claims, so I’ll refrain from making grand biological pronouncements. What I do know is my trip to Bulletproof Labs resulted in a natural physical high I’m lucky to achieve once a year with my usual fitness regimen.
Furthermore, for the first time in a life chockablock with exercise, I felt direct, granular influence over my fitness beyond “eat healthy, workout and sleep.”
While the program costs a pretty penny, it sits comfortably within the budgets of Hollywood heavy hitters or Silicon Beach techies.
For mainstream America, don’t worry: good tech has a way of starting expensive and then decreasing in price as it gains mass adoption. And Bulletproof’s biohacks are very, very effective.