The Ultimate Guide to Biohacking 2019
There is a hack for everything, and your body is no exception. With the amount of available “biohacking” data out there more people are taking the time to look through this information to apply it to themselves.
In this short guide we’ll look at what biohacking is and a number of ways you can apply biohacking within your own daily regimen.
What is Biohacking
You probably keep hearing the term biohacking and are wondering what it is. Is biohacking safe? Is it going to make me healthier? Faster? Better? Stronger? Alright, before this turns into a Kanye song, let’s define biohacking first.
Biohacking is the act of tweaking your body’s system to optimize performance and prolong your life. Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof coffee describes it as the method of using science, biology, and self-experimentation to upgrade your body, mind, and relationships. Basically, becoming superhuman.
Biohacking requires you to pay close attention to what you eat, drink, smell, touch, hear, and see. Simply put, you not only look to what you put in your body but the external stimuli that’s affecting it as well.
With the help of modern science and information, you can hack your health to become the absolute best version of yourself.
Biohacking consists of small incremental lifestyle changes that lead to small improvements in your health.
If you have tried to tweak your habits and environment in an effort to improve your mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual health, then you have essentially tried biohacking.
The term biohacking goes back to 1988 in Washington Post article talking about biotechnology.
The biohacking movement can be largely attributed to Bulletproof founder, Dave Asprey and biohacking expert Ben Greenfield. They share experiences with different biohacking methods hoping to help fellow biohackers who wish to do the same.
Biohacking has already been around for quite awhile, long before Dave Asprey came to the scene. However, it wasn’t until Bulletproof coffee came into the mainstream did biohacking really become a well-known practice.
Biohacking is the act of manipulating your genes and may involve building or changing things to monitor what happens.
The benefits of biohacking will likely differ from person to person. Some do it to lose weight permanently while others do it to improve their brain function.
However, there seems to be a consistent theme in the reasons why biohackers do that they do:
- Better cognitive function
- More energy
- Better productivity
- Better mood
- Better sleep
- Less unhealthy food cravings
- Fight deteriorating
Not all forms of biohacking are equal, results largely depend on what your goals are.
What Can You Biohack?
Biohacking can be applied to different aspects of your health. You can do it to improve your thinking, enhance your strength, or general health.
How is Biohacking Different from Wellness?
Biohacking is different from wellness in a way that the typical biohacker will have a systems-thinking approach to their own biology.
With this system comes inputs that affect it such as food, exercise, medicine, practice, etc.
Biohackers will make little changes to these things to see if there are any results, then make a decision from that. Often they’ll keep notes, and track the outcomes of various changes they make day-to-day.
Ways to Biohack Your Body
The biohacking world introduces you to practices that range from the mundane to borderline weird.
Below are just some of the most popular biohacking methods to give you a high level idea of what biohacking may entail.
Different supplements can help boost your body’s performance. They also help you balance out the deficiencies in your body. For example, if you don’t get enough sun exposure during the day, it helps to take some vitamin D.
If you get stressed easily, you can take magnesium, St. John’s Wort, or GABA. These supplements not only reverse the effects of stress on your brain, they can also enhance cognitive function and memory.
Other supplements to consider for cognition include;
Krill oil: Contains DHA, EPA, and astaxanthin which promotes better communication in your nervous system.
Turmeric: Contains curcumin which is a strong antioxidant.
B Vitamins: Fights and slows down brain shrinkage.
And then there’s nootropics. Nootropics come in both natural and synthetic forms that help improve your mental performance.
Nootropic substances can target different processes in your brain helping you to become more focused, motivated, process information faster, remember better, recover faster from a brain injury, and more.
Some nootropic examples include;
CILTEP: A supplement to improve mental performance by regulating the production of intracellular second messengers.
Choline: A nootropic precursor to Acetylcholine, which increases cognitive function.
If you’d like to improve your physical strength, cryotherapy is worth a try. Professional athletes have used cryotherapy for many decades to enhance strength, stamina, and performance.
Basically, what you do is submerge your body in a tank of iced water to reduce inflammation and promote healing. However, if you don’t have a bathtub, you can simply jump into a cold shower.
You’ll find that taking a cold shower early in the morning shocks your body from a sleep state and wakens you ready to take on the day.
EMS is short for Electrical Muscle Stimulator and refers to a device that can contract your muscles by sending a small electrical current through them. It sounds a little strange, or scary, but this method is common in rehabilitation –like say, where someone is learning to walk again.
EMS devices can be used while you’re sitting or standing at your desk, or during a workout. When used during a workout, they can help you get results somewhat faster –again, depending on what your goals are.
Listening to Binaural Beats
Binaural beats are tones with a frequency that imitates brainwaves. Some say that by listening to binaural beats, you can make your brain think better, more fluidly, or sleep better. There are different frequencies for each goal (beta waves, theta waves, etc.) so it’s up to you to find out what your needs are and listen to the appropriate binaural beats.
You can easily get these beats on the internet and listen to them to stimulate your brain. You may already be doing this without realising it –like listening to a Chill Out mix on YouTube, or find that you work better next to the ocean or during light rainfall. Often we do this and aren’t even aware that they affect our output.
Since we’re in the topic of tunes, we might as well talk about how music enhances your brain.
Study after study shows that listening to the right kind of music can improve your focus, motivation, and even lift your mood. Make sure to change up for best results.
Developing Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene refers to the habits you do while approaching bed time.
As we all know, sleep is a very important part of life. We often forego sleep health because we are too busy with the daily minutiae. As a result, you feel groggy, irritable, and unable to focus.
Not only that but lack of sleep results in long term consequences like chronic disease, a weak immune system, increased appetite, and imbalanced hormones.
To get a proper amount of quality sleep, you need to have good sleep hygiene. Some habits you can adapt include:
- Putting on blue light blocking glasses during night time
- Drinking chamomile tea an hour before bed
- Avoiding electronics hours before bed
- Reading a boring book
- Investing in curtains that block light
- Going to bed at the same time every night
Certain food can actually trigger allergies and cause unwanted symptoms like itchy skin, acne, digestion issues, and feeling tired. If you are one of these people who suffer from these symptoms you may want to start doing the elimination diet.
It sounds difficult at first but it’ll do good to your body in the long run.
Write down the top food items you suspect are causing your irritation and try to go for 4 weeks without it.
Slowly reintroduce the food item to your diet and see how your body responds.
If you suspect that it’s bring back your symptoms, get rid of it and see if the symptoms also disappear. You want to pinpoint the culprit to these unwanted symptoms so you can decide if you should permanently get rid of it or not.
Elimination diet is one of the most common biohacks you can do. If you’d like a faster route, you can talk to a naturopath or physician who have more advanced biohacking tools to help pinpoint allergens in your diet. They can do a blood or urine test which can accurately tell what substances might be causing your body to react negatively.
Most of today’s serious health conditions is associated with high levels of inflammation in the body.
To start an anti-inflammatory diet, you can eliminate foods that contribute to it such as sugar, fried foods, saturated fats, and refined flour.
It’s hard to give up some of these food groups so what most biohackers do is eliminate one food item or food group at a time, before completely going all in on the diet.
It takes some patience to do this because often you won’t see results until after a month. But once you have done it and have proven that certain foods make you feel bad, you can keep the habit permanently and move on to a better life.
Inflammation makes you dumber. Eating food that you are sensitive too will only make inflammation worse and make your body work harder –stealing valuable energy for processes that help it to cope with inflammation.
Biohacking your nutrition means identifying areas in your diet that could use some improvement.
For example, you may find that you are deficient in a certain vitamin and therefore need to eat more foods rich in that vitamin. Controlling the food you put in your body is one of the most common ways to biohack.
Eat foods that are alive. I’m talking plants and unpasteurized, fermented products like Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.
Food does impact your genes and everyone responds differently to changes they make to their diet.
Quit sugar, it’s linked to some of the most common diseases and it’s addictive. The earlier you quit, the easier it will be to stick to it.
Giving up sugar is simply one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and dairy are fine. The ones you really need to watch out for are those found in processed food. Sugar is not only strongly related to inflammation, it also addictive.
Nourish Your Body
This varies greatly by person. Common knowledge will tell you to eat lots of fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. But there are some people who cannot tolerate vegetables and need to eat meat more than anything.
Vegetables have protective processes much like animals do, and they give off acids that can cause harm to your body.
Intermittent fasting is where you restrict food intake to only a few hours in a day. Digesting food takes a lot of effort for your body and it may have to skip other processes to deal with food digestion.
Over time, after many days of back-to-back meals –your body may become inefficient. Fasting helps your body recalibrate, heal, and optimize itself.
This method has been found to help with weight loss, insulin sensitivity, and other serious health conditions.
Intermittent fasting regimens can vary. You can fast for 16 hours and have an 8 hour time window for eating, or you can fast for a whole day several times a week.
It’s important to find out how your body reacts to certain diets and go deeper if something is wrong.
Meditation is the act of bringing your awareness to the present moment.
Most beginners need to start with their breathing. Whenever a thought passes by in your head, don’t judge that thought as negative or positive. Don’t get upset because you failed at being present.
Simply be aware that you have the thought, let it go, and bring back your awareness to the present. The longer you are able to stay in meditation mode, the better the results will be. You’ll be more focused, less reactive, and aware of the present moment.
Another way to raise your well-being is to go out and get some sunshine. Spend some time outdoors even for just an hour. Bask in nature and sunshine. Walk around and get the blood flow going.
We spend so much of our time sitting down –the body was made to move, not stay in the same place for hours on end.
Sun exposure also promotes a healthy circadian rhythm. When your body click is on point, it’s easier to fall asleep at night.
For some, life circumstances make consciously thinking about and feeling gratitude difficult. Maybe some of you are predisposed to negatively thinking about anything that comes your way.
However, once you practice gratitude your whole worldview changes –and stress hormones like cortisol lessen. Cortisol is another chemical in your body responsible for inflammation.
When you feel good, you’re more energized and hopeful of what’s to come. It seems like a mundane thing to do but the power of gratitude does many great wonderful things to your brain and overall well-being.
Of course, thinking in gratitude does not come easily, which may mean starting some new daily habits.
Start with a gratitude journal. You can do this every morning before you begin your day.
You can also take a gratitude walk with your loved one. Instead of dreading work, you’ll feel energized.
Like meditation, gratitude eventually becomes second nature when you practice it long enough. Just like how food affects how you perform, your thoughts also affect how you perceive experiences. Make it a practice to be grateful and reap the benefits.
Since we’re talking about well-being, may as well talk about letting go of grudges. Forgive those who have wronged you in the past. This doesn’t mean you give them permission to wrong you again. It just means you are letting go of the anger and hurt that’s stressing you out.
Focus on Flow
Flow is the term used to describe a state where you are so immersed in your work that you barely notice time passing by and the distractions around you.
If you want to perform at your best, you want to be in this state of consciousness. It can be a struggle to get into flow and it will take some practice for you to consistently get to it.
Flow requires several triggers so get familiar with what these are so you can do the same for yourself:
- Intense focused attention; you must only focus on a singular task
- Clear goals; know what you want to achieve out of this task
- Immediate feedback; you know exactly what about the task that needs improvement so you can apply it right away
- Challenge to skill ratio; the task needs to be challenging enough that it meets your skills. If it’s too hard it will only frustrate you, too easy and it will bore you
Is Biohacking Safe?
If you want to take charge of your health and love manipulating different elements to your lifestyle, trying out new things, then biohacking is definitely for you.
Biohacking is fun because you get to hack your body and improve it in ways you wish. However, it can get addicting particularly to those obsessed with high performance.
The problem with some of these methods is that they are untested and take a lot of effort to achieve. It’s nice to see people reach their full potential in natural ways but remember that biohacking is relatively new.
Developing an unhealthy obsession with it can quickly become unhealthy.
Take a holistic approach by starting with what you put in your body. It’s as simple as that.
Food is fuel and so you treat it as such. Find out what food fuels your body and eliminate ones that don’t.
You don’t need fancy technology to biohack your body. There are simpler, more natural ways to do it. The methods we mentioned above are the ones you can try yourself.
How to Start Biohacking
Certain methods of biohacking are perfectly safe. For example, tweaking your sleep or taking supplements are considered safe.
However, extreme methods such as injecting chemical agents into your body or implanting foreign objects could put you at risk of dangerous reactions.
With any experimentation on your body, comes dangerous risks.
Assess Your Health
You must first understand your body before you can biohack it. As biohacking becomes increasingly popular, more technology has come out to help you track your body’s function and vitals.
The most basic example of this is a pedometer which helps you track your steps.
Nowadays, you can also wear a smart watch or ring to track your heart rate, etc. This technology helps you make an informed decision before deciding to implement a hack.
You can also buy tests to help you understand what’s going on inside your body. There are tests that let you know how acidic your body us, what’s going on with your gut, etc.
Regular blood testing can tell you a lot about your body’s health. It provides you raw data to help you determine whether what you are doing is working or not.
You can do this by tracking your blood sugar, heart rate, number of stakes. The goal here is to determine what change you need to do.
Or, you can go to a doctor that you trust.
Determine Your Goals
Pick something you’d like to achieve. Maybe you want to stop feeling sluggish every afternoon. Or you want to sleep better. Maybe you found out that you are predisposed to a certain disease and would therefore like to decrease that risk.
Start with Just One
Most of the biohacking methods we discussed above are not easy to implement. They require discipline and willpower.
As with anything worthwhile, you will need to experience the bad first before you can reap the good.
To avoid failing, take on one method at a time. Going back to the previous point, think of the one goal you want to achieve and determine which biohacking method will help you best meet that goal. Then, practice it consistently until it becomes a habit.
There is this thing I like to do which helps me stick to my habits. It’s called the “don’t break the chain” method. Basically, I mark an X on the calendar every time I’m able to perform that habit. And I do it long and consistently enough that I wouldn’t want to break the habit. It’s a simple method that’s quite effective and plays on your visual need to tick off that box.
Do Your Research
Do your homework and research the biohacking method first before implementing it in your lifestyle.
Just because you see changes, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good to do it on the long term.
Focus on the big picture. For example, just because you’re taking the right supplements everyday but you have a crappy diet, it doesn’t mean it’s good.
Focus on the big stuff before going into the tiny details before taking it further.
- Track your results
- Find out what is working and what is not
- Test your biology and track your results
- Learn from experience
The biohacking movement is just getting started. There is more we can expect from it in the coming years. As science develops rapidly, expect more biohacking methods to come which you can apply to get to your goals faster.