Recently I crossed the pacific to attend the 2017 Bulletproof Conference in Pasadena LA (read my review here). The timing was great, as it was also the opening of the early anticipated Bulletproof Labs Biohacking centre located in Santa Monica.
I was fortunate to have a day free before my long flight back, so I spent this time exploring the new Bulletproof Lab centre. Asking (too many) questions, trialling some of the equipment there and hanging out with some of the staff.
As a result of this time in the lab, I decided to share my thoughts and experiences with the world.
First, what is Bulletproof?
The 'Bulletproof' brand is the brainchild of biohacker/entrepreneur/coffee connoisseur Dave Asprey. Asprey has built a company that helps one optimise their health and performance.
Often labelled as the 'butter in coffee guy' his eagerness for being a human guinea pig, whilst sharing his experiences with the world through his blog, books and podcast Asprey as amassed a world wide following online.
But it's the materialisation of his online brand into the physical marketplace that has really exploded in recent years. With the widespread rollout of Bulletproof Coffee into cafes around the world, the every growing Bulletproof supplement line, the Bulletproof Cafe located in Santa Monica and now Bulletproof labs.
Bulletproof Fame - Quality Coffee with Butter
What exactly is Bulletproof Labs then?
On the Bulletproof Labs site they make it clear that 'It's NOT a gym'.
And it's definitely not. Though you could do a workout there (more on this later), Bulletproof Labs is more of a wellness centre. But not your typical 'Spa, facial and massage' wellness centre, this is a centre focused on improving health, performance, resilience and recovery using the latest in science-backed technology.
This is where the term 'Biohacking' comes in. Biohacking is all about changing and improving the body using tools, tricks and technology.
Combine 'Biohacking' with 'Wellness centre' and you start to get a better idea of what exactly Bulletproof Labs is.
In a nutshell, it's a place to go to improve the body using tools and machines that are lesser known to conventional medicine, fitness and health circles.
The Bulletproof Labs logo sums it up well.
Machines! Lots of machines!
On my visit in 2017 there were 17 different machines functioning in the Lab. These 'machines' are categorized into Body, Mind and Measure.
Let's take a look at some these more unique machines and why you would use them:
A big room full of biohacking machines!
This was a human sized 'pod' connected to a giant machine. It was the first thing I noticed when I walked in. Though I didn't get a chance to experience it, I was told that when inside the sealed pod, the air pressure fluctuations during the 20-30minute session.
Effectively taking the body from ground level up to high altitude and back down again through a step interval pattern. According to the manufacturer - CVAC Systems - It is perfectly safe and designed to help with improved oxygen utilisation, energy production and metabolic waste removal).
Bulletproof Labs have labelled their ARX machine 'The Cheat Machine'. And this is a rather fitting name. Why? Because you can literally take the entire body (muscles, nervous system, range of motion, cardiovascular system and joints) through an intensive, effective, safe workout in under 15 minutes.
And you only need to do it once or twice a week.
Man vs machine 💪🏽 and the machine smoked my ass 🤕😵😳 Hadn't trained for over 10 days... so what better way to break the training fast than with a Doug McGuff body by style H.I.T workout on the revolutionary ARX machine 👌🏼 4 exercises, each 1:30min constant TUT, workout all over in less than 10mins... but it took me 45min to recover 🤢 and I'm still twitching 3 hours later. #brutal #outofshape I need one of these machines 🤔🤑
I'm serious. I've used this machine numerous times now and I've fallen in love with it. This type of high intensity training coupled with the adaptive resistance technology utilized by the 'Cheat Machine' can (and should) revolutionize fitness training.
This is a perfect tool for the time poor, lazy, or the biohacker looking for the best way to train the body.
For a bit more on this style of training have a read of this article - Super Slow High Intensity Training: Is 15 minutes of Strength Training A Week Enough?
Next to the Cheat Machine was the Bone Trainer. To be honest, I feel like this machine is a bit redundant given the Labs possess the ARX. From my understanding you're getting all the benefits that the Bone Trainer provides plus more with the ARX/Cheat Machine.
Nevertheless, if someone wants to simply improve Bone Density in a safe, simple and fast manner, then theres a machine for it at Bulletproof Labs!
This is a pretty neat setup for those looking to boost cardiovascular function and performance.
Put simply, you strap a breathing mask on while exercising on a spin bike. The Oxygen Trainer alternates the amount of oxygen you can breath - taking you from a low oxygen state (hypoxic) up to a high oxygen saturation state.
The idea is as this oxygen level changes, you are to exercise on the bike, thus helping the body maximise oxygen uptake and transport this oxygen to where it's needed.
Oxygen Trainer with the Stationary Bike
I managed to spend some time with the VASPER team at the Bulletproof conference where I learnt about all the great benefits of this System. So I wasn't surprised to see it sitting there inside the Bulletproof Labs.
Vasper Systems is a rehab and fitness technology that amplifies exercise benefits at low levels of exertion. You get more bang for your buck.
Biohacking is all about getting more from the body, ideally by using less or taking a supplement. The Vasper system (like the ARX machine) effectively stimulates the body to change (causes a training affect) without the high volume or time that is traditionally used to create the same stimulus.
If ARX us the ultimate biohacking device for strength and muscle gain, then Vasper may be the ultimate biohacking device for cardiovascular fitness.
It combines high intensity interval training, cold therapy, compression therapy and low impact exercise to stimulate extremely high levels of anabolic hormones (such as testosterone and growth hormone).
Though I learnt a lot about the setup, and understand the mechanisms, I never had an opportunity to try it myself. A few friends did however, and they said it was rather 'brutal, but enjoyable'. Sounds a bit sadistic to me!
#Repost @bulletprooflabs (@get_repost) ・・・ 21 Minutes on Cold HIIT Earns YOU: 👉🏻 Increased energy and endurance 👉🏻 Enhanced muscle mass and strength 👉🏻 Improved sleep 👉🏻 optimized hormone balance 👉🏻 Reduced inflammation and pain 👉🏻 Minimized joint loading and muscle tissue damage 👉🏻 Increased lactate threshold and VO2 Max
Cryo chambers are already well established in the 'alternative health and fitness' market. With many dedicated cryo clinics opening up in cities worldwide, this isn't much of a revolutionary find.
But, the science behind cold exposure is sound (read more about it HERE) and cryotherapy chambers allow you to tap into these benefits in a quick and rather easy manner. So it's perfect for a biohacking centre!
Cryotherapy Chamber at Bulletproof Labs
This was the machine I was most excited about when visiting The Bulletproof Labs. But unfortunatley it wasn't up and running (I was told to come back in the morning, but I was flying out that night).
Why the personal excitement? A week before my visit, I had published this article The Fascinating Healing Properties of Red Light Therapy: Rapid Healing, Reduce Wrinkles & Rejuvenate Health and had just picked up a Red Light Panel from the conference.
So I was rather keen to start tapping into the goodness of red light, and what better way to do it with a full Red Light Bed!
Next time I guess.
I'm told that this particular bed utilises 630nm and 880nm light (compared to the 660 and 850 light that my MitoRed Light unit emits). Unfortunatley the Labs' staff member that gave me the tour didn't have any more technical information around power density.
But being 'Asprey approved' I'm sure it's a great unit. I'm just saddened I couldn't see it in action!
Not a photo of the Bulletproof Lab RedCharger (as it wasn't working), this is me in front of my Red Light panel - so hopefully it gives you a rough idea of what the RedCharger room would look like!
Those were the main 'Body' tools and machines that I encountered, but there were a few more Body improvement devices in the centre. These included:
On the 'mind' side of the Bulletproof world I only took the time to get hands on with one of the machines (you can see my physical interests coming through here huh!), so I can't provide the best review for the following machines.
But I do have experience with a few of the technologies, so I will share my thoughts if possible:
To be honest I think this name is misleading. I have done float tank sessions in the past. And I understand how the sensory deprivation component works.
But the virtual float tank is not a virtual sensory deprivation machine. In fact, I believe it's the opposite - a sensory overload machine. And thats where the magic happens.
The Virtual Float Tank Pod
You enter a full body pod where you lie on your back, a mask with bright blinking lights is put over your ears, and a headset with binaural beats is put over your ears.
Then the 'pod' spins at a gentle pace. So you're laying there, moving, exposed to light and sound. Physically not much is happening, but in your brain, your minds eye, it's a different story.
The staff attendant told me people came out crying, inspired, full of ideas and everything in between. For me personally, it took me a few minutes to relax and settle in. I think the best results would come from multiple sessions and or a longer one off session.
From a benefits point of view, the Virtual Float Tank helps the brain produce theta-waves - which is a brain state where deep thought happens.
Virtual float tank at @bulletprooflabs Though it's not necessarily meant to simulate sensory deprivation, my 10minutes in the machine was a rather interesting experience! It was almost like reaching that state between awake and being asleep... pretty cool, and I think a few 30-60min+ sessions would be really powerful
HRV, or Heart Rate Variability - is a technology (or maybe 'metric' is a more accurate word) that I have extensively written about in these two articles - How To Easily Measure Your Heart Rate Variability and The 3 Minute Test You Should Be Doing Everyday For Optimal Health & Performance
With the HRV trainer used at Bulletproof Labs, your body is connected to a sensor which reveals your HRV score. With coaching you can change your breathing and thoughts to help boost your HRV score - improving your stress resiliency.
This uses red light - that we touched on above - but rather than the skin being exposed to the light, it's pushed deep into the brain.
Red light therapy to the brain will help with creativity, mood and cognitive function. It's not necessarily a device you would want to be using out in the public (you look a little silly!) but these fears are unnecessary when at Bulletproof Labs!
I really wanted to spend some time with the EEG Brain Trainer, but unfortunatley I couldn't get a free slot. Next time.
The Brain Trainer uses neurofeedback to help improve cognitive performance and even decreases stress and anxiety.
I personally think this is the ultimate 'mind' biohack technology, hence why I was bummed I couldn't give it a go. But if you are serious about improving cognitive function and looking for a effective and simple way to do it, then you should check this out.
As well as these mind and body technologies, there was a bunch of 'Measurement' tools and technologies.
These are all great options for someone who wants to find out whats going on inside their body, or also to quantify the benefits of the other technologies they may be using at the Lab.
Off to the side of the Labs was also the IV Clinic.
The IV Clinic
Here you work with a registered nurse who will administer a IV cocktail of your choosing. These range from 'Hangover' cures, to a 'Bulletproof' stack.
Perfect for the hard charging athlete or executive, or even a biohacker looking to revitalise after pushing the body hard after a long weekend!
IV Clinic Info Flyer and Prices
Reception at Bulletproof Labs
Everybody. Well maybe not kids. But anyone who wants to improve health, performance, their body or mind will benefit from something at this centre.
Saying that, a lot of people don't really care about health or performance, or even how their brain is functioning. It took me a while to realise that not everyone cared about these things, but I digress! Anyway, these people would still benefit from a place like this, but it's not going to become their weekend hangout.
In simple terms, it's a place for health freaks to geek out. It's a place for athletes to squeeze out an extra few % over their competitors. It's a place for time poor executives to train the body in a short, sharp efficient manner. It's a place for average Joe and Jane to boost their health while living a less than ideal lifestyle.
But for me - a health nut, performance junkie, biohacker - Bulletproof labs was my version of Disneyland. Where the rides push the body and brain to new levels, where the visual effects send the mind on a creative journey, where the staff are just as excited to be there as you and where the snacks are not only tasty, but good for you as well!
Bulletproof Labs use a credit system, but instead of the word 'credits' they use the term 'Bullets'. Each machine, or 'hack', is rated at one or two bullets.
You can either buy bullets out right, or subscribe to a monthly membership option.
The monthly membership option has prices ranging from $510 per month (12 bullets plus some perks) up to $1440 per month (36 bullets and perks).
You can then use these bullets on machines, just as you would use tickets at a theme park.
The monthly option is great value for locals and those who are serious about improving their health, mind and body.
Alternatively, you can buy 'Bullet Packages'. This starts at $50 for one bullet, up to $1080 for 24 bullets (these have a 12 month expiration and include some perks).
As I have touched on above, it's a perfect 'everything under one roof' centre for those who want to take their body, brain and health to another level.
If your goal is health and fat loss, in one short hour a week you could do a intense workout, followed by a Redcharger session for health and recovery and then finish off with a cryotherapy session to fast track burning.
If you had an injury and needed to get back on the sports field as soon as possible, then the Bone Trainer, combined with the Redcharger and Vibe could help fast track your recovery time.
If you were studying for exams, a session in the virtual float tank and the EEG Brain trainer would do wonders for your cognitive function.
As you can see there are options for everyone, including those who just want to look and feel amazing (at the end of the day, don't we all?).
Though it may seem intimidating and something out of a sci-fi movie, the science behind the technologies is sound and no doubt in the near future you will see many of these technologies making their way into mainstream gyms and clinics.
Having all these amazing (and expensive) technologies under the one roof, with a team of experts to help out, is really the main attraction in my eyes. Its a place where you and I can go to utilise these machines without having to outlay hundreds of thousands of dollars!
I can't see any reason why you shouldn't? If you're in LA - living or travelling - and you're keen to boost body, mind or health, then hell yeah. Pop in for a look.
I wish there was a Bulletproof Labs in my home town! But I don't see this happening any time soon, so for me I will continue building my own biohacking recovery centre in my garage and will make sure I stop in to the Bulletproof Labs whenever I'm in LA. Even if it's just to get an IV drip after the long haul flight!
Personally, as the science behind these technologies continues to grow, I expect to see a lot of these machines pop up in more gyms, health centres and garages.
Bulletproof, with their mass following, powerful branding and willingness to try new things, is the leaders bringing these cutting edge technologies into the minds and hands of health conscious people across the world.
Have you been to Bulletproof Labs yet? What was your favourite hack? If you haven't been, what would you like to try?
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is an ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
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