You might already be doing it and not even know it.
While biohacking may sound like something unnatural and painful that should only be conducted in a science lab, it’s actually quite the opposite. You see, humans have been biohacking forever—experimenting with diet and lifestyle in order to look and feel our best. It’s just that recently, someone assigned a name to it, and a very die-hard group of high-achieving practitioners have given it momentum (we’re looking at you, Silicon Valley).
Bio-hacking is simple: a way of understanding the way the systems of your body run and how certain things like food, water, exercise, and sleep affect these systems so that you can become the best version of yourself. Something as simple as a standing desk can be considered biohacking (said to improve posture, muscle recovery, and mental focus), but other practices that have developed over the years are, shall we say, a bit more extreme.
Intrigued? Us, too. Read on for some of the top ways biohackers are slowly but surely becoming superhumans.
A more DIY everyday version of chryotherapy, cold thermogenesis (aka freezing your booty off in the shower) is thought to have a bevy of health benefits, from burning a higher amount of calories throughout the day, to improved mental clarity and focus, to quicker muscle recovery, balanced hormones, and better sleep. There’s a couple ways to tap into these benefits: 1) sitting in a bath filled with ice; 2) dunking your face in a bowl of ice (the vagus nerve in your face is connected to the nervous system throughout the body); 3) chugging ice-cold water; or 4) 30 blissful seconds under freezing-cold water in the shower, followed by 30 seconds of warm water, 30 of cold, etc. Pick your poison—we mean, practice—of choice, rinse, and repeat.
Nate Brown introduced us to these a few weeks back, and we haven’t been able to get them off our heads since. According to him, nootropics are special blends of “natural and synthetic compounds that have shown evidence in improving cognitive capabilities in already healthy individuals.” They are made up of substances that exist in nature or are already being produced by the body (totally natural!), and work to tap into the little nooks and crannies of your brain that are bursting with ideas, energy, and productivity to enhance these capabilities. If taking a handful of supplements every day can unlock a hidden talent in us that brings Beyoncé and Kanye into our lives (à la Brown), we’re in.
Liquid meals that are easier for the body to digest, contain the precise right amount of nutrients for the body to run in tip-top shape, and remove all that stress and time usually required to feed yourself? Sounds like a bio-hacker’s dream. Soylent, which comes in powder or liquid form, “contains a complete blend of protein, carbohydrates, lipids, and micronutrients: everything the body needs to thrive.”
The most famous of bio-hacking tools, IF involves fasting anywhere from 14 hours a day to several days a week (eeek!) to bring the body to ketosis. Ketosis is the state where the body has run out of carbs and is burning existing fat instead (okay, we’re back), and is believed to not only boost focus and productivity, but also increases longevity. There are even entire companies (like Nootrobox) that practice IF together: fasting for 40 hours (that’s Monday dinner through Wednesday lunch, for those that haven’t done mental math in a hot minute) until a company-wide break-feast Wednesday at noon. According to Nootrobox founders, Tuesdays are their most efficient days of the week and have been deemed “super-productive Tuesdays”. [Ed note: If you plan on practicing Intermittent Fasting, please consult a medical professional first.]
Bio-hackers believe that sleep is not simply something you partake in every day out of habit—it’s a science and an art. After all, if you got the right amount of quality sleep your body needs night after night, wouldn’t you be a happier, healthier, more successful person? But what if you could be a happier, healthier, more successful person with only two to four hours of sleep each night? Although much more controversial than the other bio-hacking practices, this is exactly what sleep hacking is. Based on the theory that quality sleep is exponentially more important than quantity, and some of the greatest geniuses of all time created infamous masterpieces off of little to no sleep each night (Einstein and Da Vinci to name a few), sleep-hackers do just that: two hours of sleep each night, with an additional two hours of sleep broken up throughout the day in the form of 20-minute naps. That means a good 20 hours of awake time each day to unleash the creative genius you are meant to be.
Blue light blocking
Blue light, used in all electronic devices (phones, computers, iPads, TVs…), suppresses the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) for up to 4 hours(!). This means staring at these guys hours before bedtime can lead to little sleep, poor sleep, headaches, eye problems, and much, much more. While you may feel as though shutting your computer screen and putting down your phone an hour before bed is plenty, bio-hackers believe in avoiding all blue light after sundown. They use apps (f.lux for iPhones and Macs, Twilight for Android) that switch your device’s blue light to a soft orange light that doesn’t interfere with your hormone production as soon as the sun sets. And because sleep is a complicated science, bio-hackers also believe in blackout shades, putting black tape over any LED lights, not eating or exercising two hours before bed, abstaining from caffeine after 2 PM, and sleeping on an earthing mat.
Butter in coffee
A morning cup of coffee in itself can be considered biohacking (you go from a state of slow and groggy to energized, motivated, and buzzed in a matter of minutes), but adding some fat to that coffee (grass-fed ghee or butter, or coconut oil) takes it to the next level. Not only do the medium-chain triglycerides in these fats help bring an even greater mental and energy boost than a regular cup of coffee, but they help prevent the body from crashing hours later and keep the body in ketosis (the state where the body burns fat because it’s out of carbs). It’s basically a one-stop-shop to becoming a lean, motivated, focused machine.
[Editor’s Note: As ever, we are not doctors or medical know-it-alls. And everybody is different, so make sure to check with a doctor before trying anything new.]
Pajamas, Morgan Lane