Biohacking, much like the word “hacking,” seems to have nearly as many meanings as there are people who call themselves biohackers. That makes for quite a complex subject, so if you feel a bit confused when you hear someone called a “biohacker” or hear the term “biohacking” being used in your favorite podcast, blog post, or TV/streaming show, you are not alone.
Here are just a few of the definitions:
Dictionary: “The activity of exploiting genetic material experimentally without regard to accepted ethical standards or for criminal purposes.” (Sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it?)
Wikipedia: “The terms biohacking and wetware hacking emphasize the connection to hacker culture and the hacker ethic. The term hacker is used in the original sense of finding new and clever ways to do things.” This includes:
- Do-it-yourself (DIY) biology, in which people study biology outside of traditional research institutions, though often using the same methods
- DIY citizen science merging body modification with technology, in which hardware is implanted into the body to facilitate a specific technological function (i.e., “grinders”)
- DIY gene therapy or DIY intramuscular gene injection, where folks use DIY gene therapies
- Nutritional genetics (including nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics), which explores how food influences how our genes behave and how our genes affect our responses to foods
Dave Asprey, a well-known and respected biohacker, says: “There are two perspectives on biohacking. One is that biohacking is something you do to biology, outside of yourself; you’re going to change a cell… The other perspective… is you can hack your own biology, and you can gain control of systems in your body that you would never have access to.”
And perhaps our favorite health and fitness biohacking mogul, Ben Greenfield, has this to say: “Ultimately, biohacking is exactly as the word implies. Hacking your biology to achieve some outcome more quickly or more efficiently than you would be able to do so otherwise, with your body in its natural, unassisted state.”
For the purposes of this article, we’ll skip past the biohacking performed in laboratories with injections, implants, looking at making changes on cells (and the potential ethical questions involved) and instead look at biohacking as, essentially, how to get more quality and efficiency out of life by testing different ideas/theories, shortcuts (or “hacks”), nutritional changes, and devices on or within your own body.
In other words, we like to think of biohacking as the practice of biological self-experimentation with the goal of optimizing health, productivity, and feelings of well-being. In this sense, biohacking really isn’t anything new; people have been thinking outside the box for performance-enhancing strategies throughout human history. That said, the “quantified self” movement (i.e., n = 1) has become popularized within the last decade, and being a biohacker typically means being very self-aware and closely tracking key performance variables.
Biohacking for Beginners: 3 East Tips
Tip 1: Biohacking with Nutrition: Nutritional Genomics
One of the best places to start when it comes to testing out biohacks on your own body is with nutrition. Nutritional Genomics is gaining attention as our individual genetic blueprint can both affect and be affected by what we consume and the environments we’re surrounded by. For example, I may feel energized and focused with a few cups of coffee a day while you may find your heart racing and your body jittery with a single cup. Yet another friend finds coffee calming and can fall asleep even after drinking several cups.
Discovering how your body reacts to the foods you eat (such as by increasing protein or fiber in your diet), how often and how much you eat (by trying intermittent fasting vs. eating several small meals a day, for example), what you drink (by increasing the amount of water you drink daily or cutting out caffeine for a trial), and the supplements you take (such as adding a nootropic or probiotics to your daily plan) are simple and foundational biohacks.
By experimenting on your own body, you can discover the right diet for you and your genetics (which might not be the same as your best friend’s or significant other’s best diet). With small tweaks and close observation to your nutrition and environment, you might just discover how much control you really have on how you look and feel.
Tip 2: Biohacking Your Breath
Another simple tool to help you better control your body and become more efficient and effective in everyday life is by biohacking your nervous system. Two simple tools include breathing exercises and meditation. For example, by helping you practice mindfulness without distractions, you can learn to better deal with everyday stresses that may have put you on edge in the past. With deep, steady breathing, you may be able to lower your heartrate as your mind and body relax.
You may also choose to experiment with your morning routine. If you start with meditation, gratitude, neck traction, and gentle stretches, for example, instead of diving straight into your workday, how does that affect your attitude, energy levels, focus, and efficiency?
If you want to go higher tech, you can look into HeartMatch technologies for one example or try Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) to affect the influx of oxygen and nutrients at a cellular level.
Tip 3: Biohacking Your Circadian Rhythms
Alright, you already know how important sleep is, but be honest, are you getting enough? If you aren’t feeling well rested when you wake up in the morning, even after spending 8 hours in bed, you might want to try biohacking your circadian rhythms. If these rhythms are disrupted, especially for extended periods of time, it can put extraordinary strains on all the systems of the body.
There are numerous ways to help reset your circadian clock, such as by blocking blue light at night, keeping your room cool and dark as you sleep, ensuring you get sunlight first thing in the morning, and practicing healthy sleep hygiene.
Biohacking for Beginners: A Recap
These three examples are an extremely short beginner’s list of some simple biohacks you can try to get more quality and efficiency out of your life. There are so many more—from different exercise devices to foam rolling to grounding outside daily to wearing special light-blocking glasses to using different lighting to listening to different musical rhythms to diffusing essential oils… (again, this is still part of the short list!).
The limits to biohacking are as boundless as human potential itself. In general, there are three categories of biohacking practices: 1. Electronics and Devices, 2. Supplements and Drugs, and 3. Lifestyle Strategies.
While it’s important to discuss changes in your exercise, nutrition, and supplementation plan with your personal healthcare practitioner and to avoid dubious and potentially unsafe practices (let’s leave gene injections to the professionals, shall we?), it can be fun, educational, and even life-changing to be your own guinea pig, using different biohacks to help you to live YOUR best life.