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What is biohacking?
Everything you need to know about biohacking your body
You’ve heard of hacking computers, hacking smartphones and hacking email. You’ve even heard of hacking elections. But what about hacking your body? The concept is called biohacking. While it may sound like something out of Brave New World, it’s really all about self-improvement, and there are numerous ways to incorporate methods of biohacking your body and mind into your daily routine.
In an episode of his popular podcast, Tony talks about three of his favorite biohacking methods: cryotherapy, red light therapy and dynamic sequential compression. He says that the combination of these methods is “invigorating, strengthening and allows me to recover so much faster and perform at a higher level.” Give yourself an edge in sports and in life with these three top techniques – and discover even more tips for how to biohack your body.
What is biohacking your body?
Biohacking your body means changing your chemistry and your physiology through science and self-experimentation to increase energy and vitality. It’s a broad definition, but that’s also because the concept is constantly evolving. There are many different answers to “What is biohacking?” including:
Lifestyle and dietary changes
These include the more traditional habits that you may not even think of as biohacking: yoga and meditation, eating healthy, spending time in nature, finding exercise you enjoy, sleeping well and using biohacking supplements. These are the rituals you must master before learning more about how to biohack.
Did you ever think of your Apple watch or weight loss app as biohacking? All the wearable technology that gives you reminders to take more steps each day, drink water or stand up and stretch is a type of biohacking – and can be extremely helpful to those who are just starting out.
Many in the biohacking world consider implanted technology the next level, but it isn’t mainstream yet. Yet the technology exists for microchips, bionic eyes, mind-controlled drones and gene editing – and it could be in our futures.
This is the type of biohacking that makes the news. It’s based on a technology known as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), which allows individuals to edit their own genetics. It’s highly controversial and unregulated, for now existing only on the fringes of the biohacking world.
The possibilities are endless, but they are all rooted in the idea that we can change our bodies and our brains, and that by doing so we can ultimately become smarter, faster and better as human beings.
What is the difference between biohacking and biotechnology?
The main difference between biohacking and biotechnology is that biotech is a regulated industry, while biohacking is more “underground.” Biotechnology encompasses any type of science that studies biology and technology together. Biohacking frequently makes use of biotechnology, but it doesn’t have to – changes to what you eat through a diet or to your mindset through exercises like priming or visualization are types of biohacking.
How to biohack
The best place to start biohacking your body is with diet, exercise and mindfulness exercises. From there, start using wearables like the FitBit or the Apple Watch to track the way you operate. You could also start experimenting with the power of music in your everyday life and adopting a sustainable diet. Once you’ve mastered these basic biohacks, you’ll be ready for something new and different. Consider one of these non-invasive methods and see what benefits you reap.
1. Biohacking your circulatory system: Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy or cold therapy is a biohacking method that exposes the entire body to very cold temperatures. Cryotherapy causes severe vasoconstriction throughout the body. When the body returns to normal temperature, there is a rush of blood back to the tissues, which brings with it lots of nutrients and minerals – and gives you an endorphin rush.
The best part of cryotherapy is that it takes only three minutes. Our time is valuable. Most of us don’t have an hour every day for a massage or a chiropractor visit. But we probably have three minutes. It’s worth it for this invigorating, restoring experience.
Athletes from Usain Bolt to Floyd Mayweather use cryotherapy for sports recovery and to perform at their best. This biohacking technique is becoming more popular and accessible, doubling in growth in America for four straight years. Take it from Tony and go for it. He says, “When you experience it directly, you’ll never go back.”
2. Biohacking your health: Red light therapy
Have you ever spent a lot of time indoors and begun to feel. . . off? Our bodies and brains need light to function at their best. Not only does the sun give us an important dose of vitamin D, but it helps us in a number of other physiological and emotional ways. Let’s look a little closer – specifically at the light wavelengths between 600 and 900 nanometers (nm). How does this range of light waves impact us and how can we use it to biohack the body?
Studies have shown that your body responds particularly well to red and near-infrared wavelengths, which range from 600 to 900 nm. This particular range of light waves are absorbed by the skin to a depth of about 8 to 10 millimeters, at which point your mitochondrial chromophores absorb the photons. This activates a number of nervous system and metabolic processes.
In plainer terms, red light therapy has become an increasingly popular form of biohacking used to treat a number of conditions. It has been proven to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and restore function. And because it is a non-invasive and non-chemical treatment, it’s not as intimidating as other forms of biohacking.
Here are some places that provide red light therapy:
- Rheumatologist or dermatologist
- Medical spas
- Your home
3. Biohacking your lymphatic system: Compression therapy
As Tony says, “If you don’t get the dirt out of your gas tank, the fuel isn’t going to work properly.” That’s why he focuses on cleansing and detoxing first before strengthening. The way to do that is through the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is the sewage system of the body. It gets out the waste and lactic acid that builds up from working out and from natural bodily processes. Compression therapy increases blood flow to certain parts of the body, flushing out toxins and speeding up recovery.
Tony, Zac Efron, LeBron James and plenty of other celebrities are fans of compression therapy. Tony finds that a combination of cryotherapy and compression therapy is especially valuable for recovery.
4. Biohacking your bones: OsteoStrong
We talk a lot about cardiac health. After all, heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States. Everyone needs to be aware of cardiovascular diseases and how to protect themselves as best they can. As a culture, we also talk a lot about skin health – slathering on sunscreen as part of our daily routine and supplementing our diets with collagen-boosting foods. Weight loss, inflammation, memory, GI health and how an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can prematurely age you – these are all at the forefront of our minds. But how often do we think about the health of our bones?
A decrease in bone health creeps up on you and most people are unaware of how bone density changes over time. Roughly up until the age of 30, men and women actually build more bone than they lose, so we are constantly strengthening our bones and working on bone density. But when we hit our mid-30s, things change. And if you’ve passed that benchmark, you may have felt that shift.
After reaching their mid-30s, women lose about 2% of bone density every year, and that continues for a few years following menopause. This leaves women with a high likelihood of experiencing osteoporosis.
Men lose bone density at a much slower rate, but they continue to lose bone mass until the age of about 65. So even though they may have adequate bone mass for a longer period of time, the older they get, the more susceptible they are to developing osteoporosis.
A solution to declining bone density
So what do you do? Consider OsteoStrong, a non-pharmaceutical way of improving bone density, strength and balance as one of your biohacking supplements.
According to OsteoStrong’s website, research indicates that the stimulus required to activate the growth of healthy bone tissue is 4.2 multiples of body weight. However, this level of force would be exceptionally difficult to achieve on your own. That’s why OsteoStrong utilizes the Spectrum System, which is part of a category of devices called the Robotic Musculoskeletal Development System (RDMS).
The Spectrum System consists of four separate devices. Under the supervision of a trained technician, each device allows you to achieve forces in excess of five to 12 times your own body weight.
The company behind OsteoStrong maintains that this system is not meant to replace exercise, but to supplement it. In fact, their system is meant to increase bone and muscular strength in a way that you can’t achieve in a gym, but will show immediate results in the way you perform while working out. This biohacking supplement is meant to improve your overall health by providing extra support to your skeletal system. It can be done by everyone at every age – and it only takes about seven minutes per week. Customers have seen increases of 4% to 12% in bone density per year.
5. Biohacking your diet: Intermittent fasting
We can’t have a conversation about health and biohacking without talking about biohacking your diet. Carb-light meals. Eating the right kinds of fats. Abstaining from sugar. Eating more superfoods.
Research has found that it’s not just what we eat, it’s when we eat that can make a huge difference. Many experts have turned to intermittent fasting to help you optimize your body’s nutrition intake. Intermittent fasting will not only help you lose fat but also gain muscle and energy.
If you just flinched at the idea of “fasting,” we hear you. The notion of prolonged fasting – not eating for 48 to 72 hours – isn’t practical for the average person. But intermittent fasting is a happy in-between. It’s more of an eating pattern that you follow throughout the day, not an old-fashioned diet, and will allow you to still reap many of the benefits of a true fast.
To understand why intermittent fasting works, you need to make the distinction between your body being in a “fed state” and a “fasted state.” When your body is in a fed state, you are digesting and absorbing food. Generally speaking, you are in a fed state for about three to five hours after eating. During this phase, your insulin levels are high and your body is focused on digestion.
When your body is allowed to rest during the fasted state, you experience a number of benefits. When you fast, you increase your levels of growth hormones as much as five times their normal rate, which boosts your metabolic rate. Fasting can also reduce your insulin resistance, which lowers your blood sugar and makes stored body fat more accessible to burn. Some experts indicate that intermittent fasting may also reduce LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), which is a known risk factor when it comes to heart disease.
Fasting may also provide a number of other significant benefits including improved cognitive function, cancer prevention, increased cellular autophagy (cellular waste removal) and lower levels of inflammation.
While there are many versions of intermittent fasting, the most user-friendly is the 16/8 method (also known as the Leangains protocol). This method involves a straightforward structure in which you restrict your daily eating period to eight hours. For example, each day you eat from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., and fast for the other 16 hours.
Biohacking your body involves testing out new techniques and finding out what works. Alternate day fasting has you fasting one day, then eating normally the next. You might restrict calories one day, then eat normally the next. The 5:2 method involves eating normally five days a week and completely fasting the other two days. You can also lengthen or shorten your eating window.
Does this type of diet sound intimidating? Start with a 14-hour fast for one week. With this fast, you can eat from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., then fast for the next 14 hours. When that becomes comfortable, cut back to an eating period of 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a week and so on until you reach a fasting period of 16 hours.
6. Biohacking your brain: Functional music
Music has an incredible effect on the brain. With over 100 billion neurons that are constantly using electricity to talk to each other, your brain is like Grand Central Station. If everyone is chattering loudly at the same time, it can be tough to concentrate on what you need to get done. That’s where music biohacking comes in. Brain activity can be measured in a wave-like pattern and determines if you feel alert, sleepy, relaxed or stressed. Things that can affect your brainwaves include the activity you are currently performing, how much restorative rest you’ve had and what you’ve just eaten or drank.
One of the most reliable ways to change your brainwaves is through a consistent sound wave. Audio entrainment, a form of music biohacking, uses binaural beats and tones to synchronize with your brain waves and induce a meditative, relaxed state. You can access programs developed specifically for your own brain and the activities you want to accomplish at Brain.fm. If you’re not ready to go that far, you can still change your mood and mindset by queuing up your favorite playlist and listening while you work out, cook breakfast or commute to work.
7. Biohacking your mindset: Gratitude
How we view life has a huge effect on our moods, how we treat others and our general levels of fulfillment. When you have an abundance mindset, you’re consistently grateful for everything that comes your way and are always focused on the positive. Have a hard time adopting this type of perspective? Changing your mindset is really about nothing more than practice. You need to consistently refocus your brain to see the positive in every situation until it becomes second nature. These biohacking techniques and tools can help:
- A gratitude journal in which you write three to five things you’re grateful for helps you reframe the day to focus on the positive and reflect on all the good things that happen to you.
- Take a gratitude walk where you give thanks and send positive energy to every living thing you see. If you walk to work or take a morning jog, you can easily incorporate this into your normal routine.
- Write a weekly letter of gratitude to someone who has helped you or who means a lot to you. It could be a family member, a long-lost friend or even a coworker who always remembers to stock your favorite coffee.
- Begin the day with a ritual, such as meditating, and set an intention to be grateful for all you encounter.
8. Biohacking your function: Supplements
Exercising, eating right and developing the right mindset are important steps to unlocking an extraordinary life. Biohacking supplements help you take this to the next level by improving focus, increasing energy and helping your body benefit from the most bioavailable forms of nutrients on the market.
We often don’t get all the vitamins and minerals we need to keep us at peak performance. High-quality supplements in the form of pills, shakes, bars or drinks can fill the nutritional gap and help boost performance, detoxify our systems and achieve daily energy.
Tony has created a variety of healthy supplements, drinks and bars that help you feel your best every day and make biohacking your body easy, including:
Vitamin B12 and folate are essential to your nervous and circulatory systems, helping to optimize your mood and increase your focus. This supplement boosts your brainpower so you can perform at the highest levels.
Are you always tired and in a fog? When you put demands on your mind and body without refueling your tank, you’ll run out of gas. Vital Energy supplies you with the vitamins and nutrients you need to run at peak efficiency.
Biohacking for health and happiness
Ultimately, what is biohacking? It’s a way to change your body, your health and your brain so that you can reach your goals and achieve a peak state of mind. Whether you use supplements, technology like red light therapy or you make changes to incorporate an abundance mindset, biohacking is meant to help you make lasting, positive change.
Need help incorporating biohacking into your life? Speak with a professional, like a coach, and start educating yourself on the subject. Once you’re ready to begin, your body will thank you for all the hard work you’ve put in to making it the best it can be.
Header Image © Shutterstock / Jacob Lund