The do-it-yourself (DIY) movement has thoroughly permeated our culture. People are doing everything from brewing their own beer to butchering their own meat, often in the interest of saving money while learning something new. But what happens when you apply the DIY spirit to biology? You get biohacking.
This practice of experimenting—either outside the body or on oneself—is gaining popularity, according to PBS NewsHour. One famous biohacker mentioned in the PBS piece is Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and author of The Bulletproof Diet. According to his website, Asprey has spent over a million dollars hacking his biology, a process that spanned two decades and helped him lose weight and raise his IQ, among other things. But what exactly is biohacking, and should you do it? Here are four of the best biohacking tricks.
Sharpen Your Mind with Nootropics
One way to biohack your brain is by experimenting with nootropics, also known as “smart drugs.” The Washington Post reports that these cognitive enhancers are popular in Silicon Valley, where aspiring entrepreneurs will do whatever it takes to get a leg up on their competition. (Bestselling author and influential podcast host Tim Ferriss is reportedly a big fan.) Here are a couple of my favorite natural nootropics.
You may recall this one from my list of top supplements for brain health, but I’m mentioning it again because it’s so great for improving focus without the jittery (and potentially serious) side effects of stimulants like Adderall. A compound found in black and green tea, L-theanine can bring about a state of relaxed alertness.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, this herb (also known as Brahmi) has long been used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, to enhance memory and learning. Modern research supports this use, making bacopa a popular nootropic herb. In one study, volunteers who took 300 mg of bacopa every day for 12 weeks showed improvement in visual information processing, learning rate, and memory consolidation compared to those who took a placebo.
Maximize Your Exercise
It may sound like something from the future, but the cold treatment known as cryotherapy is gaining popularity, particularly among athletes. According to the Guardian, people are incorporating cryotherapy into their training programs because of its purported ability to relieve inflammation, speed recovery, improve focus, and more. Sound a little extreme? You don’t have to freeze to get more out of your workouts. Even the simple act of wearing a weighted vest while you exercise is a way to biohack your fitness.
Focus on Fat
Bulletproof’s Asprey and other prominent biohackers typically follow high-fat, low-carb eating plans like the ketogenic (keto) diet. Healthline explains that cutting carbs can put you into ketosis, a state that causes your body to burn fat for energy. The keto diet may also boost your brain power and lower your blood sugar, among other benefits. Other biohackers recommend intermittent fasting or the fasting mimicking diet developed by Dr. Victor Longo (www.prolonfmd.com). I feel so strongly about this hack in terms of helping with weight loss, detoxification (it helps with a process called autophagy – basically getting rid of crap you don’t need that just gunks up your system), and anti-aging, that I sell it at a discounted price to patients. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for yours.
Tweak Your Bedtime Routine
You can biohack your body until the cows come home, but you won’t be able to function optimally without adequate rest. Adjusting your bedtime habits can make a big difference in the quantity and quality of sleep you get every night, which can, in turn, help you get the most out of your days. Here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation:
• Don’t take naps longer than 30 minutes during the day
• Avoid caffeine and other stimulants too close to bedtime
• Get plenty of exposure to natural light to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle
• Establish a relaxing evening routine
Interested in more specific biohacking? Check out our Tack180 program for help creating your own research-backed biohacking strategy.
About Myles Spar, MD
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher