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bi·o·hack·ing

/ˈbīōhakiNG/

noun
  • The activity of exploiting genetic material experimentally without regard to accepted ethical standards, or for criminal purposes.
  • Do-it-yourself biology, a social movement in which individuals and organizations pursue biology and life science with tools equivalent to those of professional labs.
  • What you get when you combine biology with hacking. It’s a way for individuals to effectively “hack” their bodies to achieve certain goals. Sometimes, this hack is as simple as taking a nootropic supplement every day to boost your cognitive ability.

Whatever fits your definition of biohacking is up to you, hopefully it isn’t the criminal end game.  But if you want amazing health and performance expression, it all comes down is the basics.  You don’t need to hack anything.  You already possess the most amazing blueprint and access to quality building materials to create sustainable longevity and a phenomenal quality of life.  You just have to follow some basic guidelines.  You need to biohack your biohacking.

The Key is Vitamin C (Consistency)

Consistency may be the most unsexy word to a biohacker.  In fact, I think they get turned on by just saying biohacking and try to use the term biohacking in as many biohacking context filled videos and posts possible…about biohacking.

The reality is that health and performance are never lost overnight and therefore will never be gained overnight. The more you try and cheat your innate genetic expression (though disguised as enhancing it), the more your practices will end up harming you then helping you.

Biohacking Blue Light Dangers.

If you’ve listened to any of the booming number of podcasts, online summits, or just eavesdrop at your local Starbucks, I’m sure you have heard someone say that the next major detriment to human health expression is the uber amounts of blue light.  In order to stop these harming rays, all your devices need to be outfitted with a blue light blocker or you can even purchase glasses with blue light reflecting lenses.  Harvard even says that some research is pointing that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

For however old you think the earth is and however long humans have existed, the sun has been the major source of lighting, including blue light.  Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night.  And the proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

But you don’t need to be a self proclaimed biohacker to know that it’s really hard to get a good night’s sleep when it’s wicked light out.  So here’s my ‘getting back to basics biohacking strategy’ to deal with blue light.

TURN. YOUR. STUPID. PHONE. OFF.  Stop being scared about all the blue light penetrating your skull and go to bed early.  While you are getting ready for bed, chuck all your electronics into the next room.  You’re not that important that you need to be reached at 2:30am…unless you’re my midwife, got appointed to a cabinet position in the middle of a nuclear war, or you’re the ‘time to make the donuts’ guy.  If you need an alarm clock, cover it up.  Mine wears a hat.

No one has ever woken up earlier than their alarm clock, rolled over to look at it, and felt thankful that the time displayed was hours before they were supposed to wake up.  You set the alarm.  You test the alarm.  Now cover it up and go to sleep.

When I say get to bed early, I’m talking 9-10 pm.  Why?  Because you’re going to wake up early (4-5 am early) and engage in a double-dipping-biohacking-explosion of increased brain productivity.  I triple dog dare you.

biohacking functional medicine

Biohacking Ketosis.

How are you going to boost brain performance that early in the morning when you can barely keep your eyes open?  It’s called exercise and movement.  The greatest disservice the fitness industry has done in regards to your fitness is to equate it to weight loss.  Weight loss may in fact be the least beneficial effect of exercise, if in fact you do lose weight.  I can’t tell you how many people I consult with that keep throwing exercise at their weight loss goal with poor results. There are a number of issues that can be an underlying issue in that hang up but chronic cardio seems to be at the top of the list.

Think of movement as your car’s alternator and your brain as your car’s battery.  You need movement to recharge your brain.  It amplifies your cerebellum, which is referred to as your ‘mind-body-integration-homeostatic center.’  The cerebellum will integrate movement at the spinal and vestibular tracts of your spinal cord.  The cerebellum will coordinate thoughts and memories via the cerebral cortex.  The cerebellum will coordinate learning at the hippocampus.  The cerebellum will even coordinate affect/emotion and stress reduction at the amygdala and hypothalamus.

But walking isn’t going to cut it.  For the amazing capabilities the human body possesses, thinking walking only is going to create sufficient needs to recharge the brain is a hack, not a biohacker.   You have to train and exercise like you’re preparing to do whatever it takes to protect your kids.  Sprinting, jumping, climbing, pulling, pushing, and balancing.  Stop counting minutes and start accomplishing the same distance, reps, and load in a shorter period of time.

What’s the double dipping effect of working out that early?  It’s the fact that you probably don’t have time to eat in the morning and therefore you are going into survival training on an empty stomach.  Don’t worry, you will adapt fast.  You aren’t worried about sufficient calories with a mountain lion creeping on your space.

Just think if you were really in danger or your kid was getting abducted as you put your groceries into your car (my wife’s worst fear).  You’re not going to stop and try and eat that food before chasing after the kidnapper to keep your energy up.  Screw that, you’re going to run as fast and as hard as possible to get your kid back.  Your body will use whatever is available to turn into instant usable energy. In this instance of chasing your kids down, it’s probably sugar your body will utilize.

But when you exercise first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, you will most likely burn fat as fuel in the form of ketones.  Biohackers love to optimize ketones and say ketogenic as much as they love saying biohacking.  But the reality is that you already use these energy forms on a regular basis.  Fat is like diesel fuel, slow burning.  When you’re sleeping, you need some slow burning fuel to keep your basic functions going without the energy spike to keep you awake.

Most of us should naturally switch into some level of ketosis overnight.  What does this mean for your brain?

GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian nervous system. Turns out, GABA is made from glutamate, which just happens to be the major excitatory neurotransmitter. You need them both, but we seem to get into trouble when have too much glutamate. Too much excitement in the brain means neurotoxicity, the extreme manifestation of which is seizures. But neurological diseases as varied as depression, bipolar disorder, migraines, ALS, and dementia have all been linked in some way to neurotoxicity.

Biohacking Side Note: Folic acid is just a string of glutamate molecules.  If you get too much folic acid (since everything is fortified with it) or you have a problem processing it (MTHFR), there’s a good chance that excess folic acid gets dumped into creating more glutamate than necessary.

Glutamate has several fates, rather like our old buddy tryptophan. It can become GABA (inhibitory), or aspartate (excitatory and, in excess, neurotoxic). Ketogenic diets seem to favor glutamate becoming GABA rather than aspartate. No one knows exactly why, but part of the reason has to do with how ketones are metabolized, and how ketosis favors using acetate (acetoacetate is one of the ketone bodies, after all) for fuel. Acetate becomes glutamine, an essential precursor for GABA.

Emily Deans MD

But what about the mitochondria? (Another biohacker love child).

Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells, where all the energy is produced (as ATP).  Here’s the dirty little secret about glucose, when you look at the amount of garbage leftover in the mitochondria, it is actually less efficient to make ATP from glucose than it is to make ATP from ketone bodies! A more efficient energy supply makes it easier to restore membranes in the brain to their normal states after a depolarizing electrical energy spike occurs, and means that energy is produced with fewer destructive free radicals leftover.

What does it all mean? Well, in the brain, energy is everything.  When we change the main fuel of the brain from glucose to ketones, we change amino acid handling. And that means we change the ratios of glutamate and GABA. The best responders to a ketogenic diet for epilepsy end up with the highest amount of GABA in the central nervous system.

Ketosis occurs with carbohydrate and protein restriction, MCT oil use, or fasting. Some people believe that being keto-adapted is the ideal, others will suggest that we can be more relaxed, and eat a mostly low sugar diet with a bit of intermittent fasting thrown in to give us periods of ketosis. (A caveat: I don’t recommend intermittent fasting for anyone with an eating disorder without some extra support and consideration). Ketosis for the body means fat-burning (hip hip hooray!). For the brain, it means a lower seizure risk and a better environment for neuronal recovery and repair.

Emily Deans MD

I personally will do 40 grams of protein after the workout but then no solid food until 10:30 at the earliest but usually closer to 11:30.  I’ve always eaten light during the day and my largest meal has been at night.  It wasn’t intentional. It was a product of being with clients all day, not able to take time to eat something large and getting home very hungry and refueling from the day.

So if you want to optimize your intermittent fasting and ability to get into ketosis, go work so hard that you don’t have time to eat a lot.  You want to have increased productivity?  Go serve a bunch of people, not named you.

Biohacking Cryotherapy

Now you have a great night’s rest, a killer workout in, and you’re on your way to being in ketosis, it’s time to hack cryotherapy…being really cold for a short period of time.  The best way to experience this is that when you get home from the gym that early, chances are the sky is still dark, and it’s pretty cold outside.  Go walk your dogs.  You get to breath in all that cold air.  If it’s not cold enough, walk your dogs naked.  The colder the better, right?  Chances are no one else is up that early so no one can identify you.

The best feature of all is that since the sun is still set, you don’t have to worry about those harmful blue rays you are trying to avoid, unless you’re trying to take selfies while walking your dogs to show everyone how biohackerish you are by being up early and fasting. #Instagram #Biohacking #ImBetterThanYou

Biohacking Productivity

The ultimate reason people pursue biohacking is to increase their productivity.  The problem is that they are doing the formula upside down.  In my book, I spend a fair number of pages walking the reader through the 4 Ps of Prosperity.  In this case, you can substitute prosperity for productivity.  Those 4 Ps are Philosophy, Purpose, Psychology, and Procedures.  These were inspired by Dr. Patrick Gentempo.

Think of these Ps in a pyramid.  Philosophy at the bottom, next up is Purpose, next up is Psychology, and at the top is Procedures.  Most biohackers are trying to hack productivity by starting at the top of the pyramid.  This is no different that repeating the workout and eating routines of your favorite celebrity.  In other words, they have the pyramid upside down so it looks more like a top.  The only way a top can stay upright is if you spin it fast.  But eventually that top tips over and with it you productivity ambitions.

Steward Leadership Book

In order to make your productivity lasting, you have to create a firm foundation and work yourself up.  Forget all the blue light blockers, cold showers, and time spent not eating.  Unless there’s a solid reason as to why you are doing those things and understanding about what how those practices will enhance your role in life, results will be fleeting.

If there are any contradictions in those 4 Ps, there will be destruction.  If you desire lasting productivity at a high level, your time best spent is clearing up any contradictions.  I know the long game isn’t sexy to biohackers but the more they concentrate on the procedures, the more they will be onto the next gimmick looking for investor money on Shark Tank, selling nootropics. I’m not saying there isn’t validity to their practices, I’m just saying they are creating a new application to old common sense.

Biohacker Blueprint Review

  1. Want to block blue light?  Wear sunglasses during the day and turn off your devices at night.
  2. Want to experience the benefits of ketosis and fasting?  Go to bed early, wake up early and go workout, hard. Then get ready for work and serve so many people that you don’t have time to eat until that evening.
  3. Want to experience the benefits of cryotherapy?  Come walk my dogs with me after I get home from the gym before the sun rises.  Better yet, you walk my dogs, I’ll stay inside.
  4. Want to be productive for the long haul? Find something you love doing, have passion doing, and you never want to quit, even through the tough times.  People admire the successful that also love what they do. I’ve never met a miserable wealthy person and thought, “I want to be like him.”

If you need help biohacking your biohacking, you know how to find me. I’m right here standing, hungry, wearing my blue light blockers, with the heat turned down.  I couldn’t be happier.