In today’s interview I get to speak with quantified self expert, Bob Troia a.k.a Quantified Bob, about what happened to his brain when he took ketone esters and his other fascinating self-experiment health results.
Bob is very passionate about self-improvement in all aspects of life especially improving his personal health through biohacking.
He is a famous New York city biohacker who shares loads of his personal results online via his blog.
In the interview you’ll not only hear what is the difference between quantified self & biohacking, but also Bob’s latest results of testing KetoneAid’s ketone ester for memory enhancement.
Bob shares some great information about his experience with different diets like a low carb diet, Bulletproof diet & ketogenic diet.
We not only talk about only the positive results from his n=1 experiments, but also what Bob cautions people on when testing different health gadgets, devices or substances on yourself.
If you know someone who is interested in biohacking, taking ketone esters or the quantified self experiments then this episode is for them!
I enjoyed this interview as a fellow biohacking fan I love following people like Bob who shares such great insight on what happens when you take different supplements, eat different diets or use different biotech wearables.
After speaking with Bob I’m keen to get a chance to take some ketone ester when it becomes commercially available to everyone to see how my brain feels from it.
Special thanks to Bob for joining me on the show. Enjoy the episode!
Highlights of what we talk about during the interview:
Click on one of the timestamp links in the brackets to jump to that point in the interview audio.
[00:20] – Introducing Bob Troia a.k.a “Quantified Bob”, who in addition to being an entrepreneur, creative technologist, musician and an athlete, is Quantified Self and a serious biohacker from New York.
[01:13] – While there is an overlap between Quantified Self (QS) and biohacking ideas – the two complement each other and are similar in many ways. Bob explains that there are differences between them and that there are people at both ends of the spectrum who don’t associate themselves with the other. QS isn’t all about the body and your health; it can also be used to track your finances, or the movies you watch. In turn, some biohackers are looking to optimise various aspects of their wellbeing without wanting to quantify what they are doing, instead they base their results on how they are feeling.
[02:44] – Bob explains what sparked his interests in this area. Growing up he was always interested in how things work and optimising his performance but it wasn’t until 5 to 7 years ago when technology evolved and became available to the consumers. He then came across an organisation called Quantified Self and connected to a community of people who were experimenting in a similar way, tracking things and sharing information. This was an early movement of biohackers some of who had expertise in different areas of medicine as well as other expertise and were sharing interesting concepts. Bob was inspired to start tracking his own experiments in a blog which led to people reaching out and sharing ideas and tips to help him improve and look at things in a different way. The main thing was always using this information to help improve his wellbeing.
[07:24] – It is informative to be able to have objective quantifiable data to complement the subjective ratings of how you are feeling. There is an advantage to being able to check certain things more frequently and get a better picture of what is going on. Bobs tells us about his own experience with this; he always thought he was in fairly good shape, but he suddenly crashed and felt exhausted. This inspired him to take a closer look into what is going on inside and with the help of a great network of experts he realised that there are things that have been developing slowly over decades that he wasn’t aware of and that will now take time to correct.
[10:16] – Cholesterol biohacker, Dave Feldman, has taken numerous blood draws and is collecting a huge amount of data – using his own samples as well as data from other people – in regard to cholesterol. Using this health data he developed the Feldman protocol for manipulating levels of cholesterol, especially if you are worries about having high cholesterol on a keto diet.
[12:15] – What is Bob API (Application Programming Interface). Bob collected a lot of data from different sources which he shares so it can be accessed by anyone. Bob also wanted to have all his data in one place and be able to compare it without having to manipulate it from different formats so he started creating his own database.
[16:42] – For a lot of device companies the biggest asset is the data which is why it was so important for Bob to be able to own his data, while he is happy to share the data he also wants to have control over what happens to it and who has access to it. One concern is companies getting a hold of it and using it for commercial purposes.
[18:16] – The best part of the biohacking movement is sharing information and not having to rely purely on released studies with questionable methodologies and fudged results. Bob hopes this information inspires people to set up some of their own experiments or start observing more about themselves. It is about raising awareness and learning from each other. Bob also highlights the importance of constantly questioning ourselves and evolving our way of thinking.
[21:09] – Professor Stuart Phillips also talked about how differently people respond to different diets and there are examples of people doing well on each end of the scale. We need to personalise our diets and figure out what works best for us; some people can’t be ketogenic and others can’t tolerate certain carbohydrates, it is important to experiment.
[22:23] – People don’t always think about the environment they live in. Gary thinks New York and other big cities pose a challenge to staying healthy – there are issues with air quality, amount of sunlight, condensed EMFs, but how does Bob find living in the NYC environment? He has spent a lot of time exploring these issues and trying to find ways to mitigate the effects of modern living and the environment around him, which can be challenging. He believes it’s probably one of the most important aspects of biohacking.
[25:10] – Bob talks about experimenting with different diets and switching from a low-fat diet to a paleo/bulletproof diet. He also explains how he began experimenting with intermittent fasting and came across Dr Valter Longo from the USC who came up with the fasting mimicking diet protocol. The fasting mimicking diet protocol is where you do cycles of eating a minimum number of calories (300-400) for 5 days to get all the benefits of fasting and then eating a regular diet for 25 days. A commercial product called ProLon came out of the protocol for people trying to lose weight. Bob shared his n=1 experiment results & says he would eat something like half an avocado a day, or some light broth etc. To get some nutrients and after two days he reached ketosis and his glucose plummeted. He also observed a spike in testosterone and almost everything dialled in except for cortisol levels which went up a bit. People who repeat the cycle tend to see improvements magnified over repeated cycles. (ref)
[34:02] – Going zero carb & eating a carnivore diet does not work for Bob, but he is a fan of low carb, high fat diets. He talks about how most people see positive changes on this type of diet both cognitively and in their physiology. Bob explains he is in a state of a nutritional ketosis every day for a part of his day, but does consume some carbohydrates, saving them for when he needs them. He is also conscious about the types of carbohydrates he is consuming, choosing types that won’t cause huge glucose spikes.
[36:07] – There is research comparing the effects of different carbohydrate on different people shared in the Wired to Eat book by Robb Wolf and Bob will be replicating this experiment and posting results online. He explains how by measuring glucose before and taking a few measurements after eating different types of glucose each day we can plot a curve and see how people respond to different carbohydrates differently; it is very individual and while rice might cause a spike in glucose for one person, it might not do much for someone else. This is a great way to tell if you are in danger of diabetes, too and which carbs you should avoid. In certain situations people might also want these spikes, e.g. after a workout for muscle growth.
[38:54] – The conversation switches to talking about ketones. Bob talks about his experience with taking ketone esters; he reached out to some people who were making these esters and tested how they would affect his cognitive performance across different areas. He explains how he used apps and games such as Luminosity as a tool to assess his performance. He reached therapeutic levels of ketosis within 30min, measuring off the meter, but was advised to wait an hour for the ‘sweet spot’ where the body works best with the esters and do the games. Too much can cause toxicity issues. For the most part his game results were remarkable, there was an increase of up to 30% in his performance. We also find out what these esters taste like – something like really bad tequila.
[45:12] – Bob also explains how he felt after taking the ketone esters. The effect wasn’t like you would get in ketosis, he experienced better clarity, super sharp focus and was dialled in; generally, things felt a little easier.
[46:12] – Currently these esters cost a lot of money and people are working on bringing the cost down to a few hundred dollars per serving, which would benefit professional athletes, but still might not be accessible to the average person.
[47:25] – Because there are therapeutic benefits to using these ketones to help treat cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s or even help cancer patients when they don’t want to take glucose, Bob, hopes to see them continue to build the scale of production for this product so it can become more readily available to everybody.
[48:05] – The salt based ketones that are currently available on the market are a different product; to get the same effect one would have to drink 7 servings with over a gallon of water, which is a lot of salt. He also explains that the ketones come in two different forms: while the esters are all the bioavailable D form, the salts are only 50% bioavailable, the rest is L form which we can’t use. Bob explains why he doesn’t recommend trying to replicate his experiment with esters using salts. When we take our ketone reading we are only measuring the D form ketones and getting a reading of half of what is actually present in our system which can result in a toxic state. (Biohackers Lab Tip: Listen to Dr Brianna Stubbs on what are ketone esters)
[50:34] – Gary mentions how people often report similar experiences going into ketosis resulting from prolonged fasting periods, would this still result in a similar cognitive boost? Bob believes that the issue with this method is while you would get the cognitive boost the fasting would leave the body feeling worn down. It might make a good experiment though!
[51:32] – Gary and Bob are both fans of red light. Bob explains there are many ways to deliver these wavelengths into the body – whether it’s using light or PEMF, but primarily he ensures he gets enough sunlight when he can and when it’s available. In the winter, when it’s less available, he tries to find other ways to get some of these UV wavelengths. At home, he ensures he is mitigating the effects of blue light and he experiments with ambient lighting. He also started experimenting with red light and infrared light to mitigate some gut issues, after reading about people shining certain wavelengths light through the belly button. He talks about how doing this gave him a boost in energy, which he found surprising at the time but not so much now that we know more about mitochondria, the power cleanse of the body and how they love certain wavelengths. Now he integrates red/infrared light as part of his daily ritual.
[54:26] – Bob did a lot of experiments around the usage of infrared saunas and detoxing from heavy metals. He found that these wavelengths penetrating your body have numerous positive effects including boosting the immune system (near infrared) and assisting in detox (far infrared). Bob built his own near infrared sauna to help boost immunity.
[56:08] – There are other devices now available that play off of this effect; Bob is wearing the Quantlet on his wrist, which came out of an experiment at Stanford University with different light and the effects they would have. Bob has only started experiments with this device and different wavelengths in the morning to help wake him up and different ones at night to help him relax.
[58:46] – Are there biohacks that made Bob feel worse? He talks about lessons learned during his experiments such as when he was shining certain lights on his head/forehead area and ended up having trouble speaking afterwards due to overstimulation. He explains that he always does an extensive amount of research before experimenting with anything. tDCS devices which stimulate certain regions of the brain for more focus etc…, using electrons on your head for example, need to have certain safety measures in place before he is comfortable using them. Same goes for pharmaceuticals such as metformin (diabetic drug), for example. Bob always considers what the near-term benefits are vs any potential long-term harm and exercises caution around this. He will consult various experts and if there are conflicting opinions will refrain from using them until he gets more concrete information.
[1:02:46] – InsideTracker is a blood testing service in the US that provides in depth analysis and recommendations based on your bloodwork. Bob talks about a continuous glucose monitor he used which allowed him to take multiple glucose measurements throughout a two-week period including throughout the night; this gave him better insight into what was happening when he was sleeping. Geoffrey Woo also talked about using one of these monitors called a FreeStyle Libre. Gary also mentions Grindhouse and Wetwear but Bob is not really there yet and prefers not to implant things under his skin unless it offers immense benefits.
[1:07:41] – The goal is to live a good life long term. Gary believes hacks need to be sustainable long term. Bob agrees our quest to optimise ourselves should not become a burden to us.
[1:08:56] – To find out more about Bob’s latest experiments follow him on his website quantifiedbob.com on Instagram and Twitter as well as LinkedIn.
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