What is biohacking and how do we do it? And is it safe? We answer all that and more in this detailed biohacking guide
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably already indulged in some biohacking. Maybe you’ve made some changes to your diet, started tracking your steps or taken supplements. But if you’ve ever taken steps to improve the way you feel, think or perform by changing the way your body works, then you have indeed hacked your biochemistry.
WHAT IS BIOHACKING?
Biohacking is a process that allows us to change our body chemistry and physiology through intervention. The idea is that these will enhance the body, making it faster, smarter, and more efficient. The term “biohacking” covers a range of different things, from simple dietary changes to genetic engineering. For beginner biohackers, it might be wearable technology (think FitBits and Apple Watches) and listening to music to work better. However, extremists take it to the next level (and beyond). Just think of Wim Hof (aka “The Iceman”) who uses extreme breathing and cold-exposure to boost immunity or Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey who famously eats one meal a day and takes an ice bath before walking five miles to work. Below, we introduce a few popular biohacking methods.
Music can significantly alter our brainwaves, which is why humans have always used it to improve their focus, boost their mood, and train better at the gym. However, instead of listening to their favorite songs, pro biohackers choose tracks that use binaural beats. That’s because these unique tunes have tones that sync with our brain waves to induce a meditative state that can change your mood and mindset or help you focus.
RED LIGHT THERAPY
We all know that spending too much time indoors isn’t great for us. That’s because our bodies (and brains) need the boost of Vitamin D we get from exposure to sunlight. For biohackers that want to reap the benefits of high doses of Vitamin D (and understand that pills don’t have the same effect), red light therapy is a popular choice. These light waves are absorbed by the skin and activate numerous metabolic processes. The result: pain relief, reduced inflammation, and better body function.
You’ve probably already heard of IF, as it’s often referred to. The practice involves putting time limits on your eating and it’s become quite the fad. Some follow a 5:2 pattern – eating normally for five days and restricting themselves to 500 calories for 2 days – while others opt for the 16:8 method, where they fast for 16 hours and eat in an eight-hour window. Many experts say that if you do it right, IF has great effects such as lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff), boosting your metabolism, improving cognitive function, and reducing inflammation.
This popular – but sometimes controversial – biohacking method is based on the idea that our genes determine what types of food work best for us. Therefore, by testing our DNA, we can understand what foods agree with us and which are best avoided. As a result, you might choose to alter your diet, or perhaps follow plans like the Keto diet or a blood type diet. The end goal here is to change your diet to improve how you feel, think, and behave. Those who believe in its efficacy think Nutrigenomics can decrease your risk of developing a disease you’re predisposed to, address weight issues and depression, and even stabilize blood pressure and gut bacteria. Interestingly, the principles of nutrigenomics are similar to those that underpin Ayurvedic medicine.
An extreme subculture of biohacking, grinders look to optimize their body functions by inserting gadgets, chemicals, and implants into their bodies. Ultimately, they aim to harness scientific progress to allow them to perform better and live longer. Perhaps the most famous grinder is Dave Asprey. He’s the founder of Bulletproof Coffee – which in itself is a biohack – and has had his own stem cells injected into his body as part of his many attempts at biohacking.
IS BIOHACKING SAFE?
Some of the basic biohacks may be considered safe since they’re everyday actions. For example, taking supplements, lowering your carb intake, or listening to music while you work are all generally considered safe. Even more extreme measures – such as RFID implants or vitamin injections – could be safe if overseen by a medical professional. However, many biology-altering processes are considered unsafe for humans, especially if they’re self-administered grinder hacks. The main point is that because most biohacking processes occur outside the remit of governmental, academic, pharmaceutical or medical institutions, they’re largely unregulated – and that’s what makes them dangerous.
TO HACK OR NOT TO HACK?
For most people, entry-level biohacking is generally safe. If wearing a FitBit or watching what you eat is going to help you move more and clean up your diet, then it’s probably only going to do you good. But you may want to think twice about extreme measures. You never really know how these biohacks will affect you – and you could end up shelling out huge amounts of money in the process.