Biohacking For Beginners: What It Means, How It Works And Top Hacks To Try
What if there was a way to feel really good every day?
We’re not talking about just on the weekends when you’re relaxing, or only when you’re on top of work and everything is running smoothly either. We’re talking about unlocking your potential and consistently feeling, working, training and being your best. Biohacking could very well hold the key.
Biohacking is a fairly new term that covers a wide range of practices undertaken in the pursuit of optimal mental and physical human functioning. New as the name ‘biohacking’ may be, some of these “hacks” are practices humans have been performing since antiquity, like meditation. You might be surprised how many are already in your personal maintenance regime.
Take, for instance, your morning coffee. It’s an example of a nootropic. Nootropics are substances — ingestible ones, usually — that can be used to increase cognitive function, particularly executive functions, whether that’s bettering your memory, attention span, focus or productivity. But does just drinking coffee make you a biohacker?
“The main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology,” says best-selling author and founder and CEO of Bulletproof Dave Asprey.
“If we want better outputs — to have more energy and focus, to be free of disease, to have a better memory, to perform optimally in business and athletics – then let’s tweak the things we put into our body and mind to stack the deck in our favor.”
Julian Mitchell, alongside Ryan Creed, is one of the co-founders of biotechnology company Life Cykel, which makes some of the leading biohacking mushroom extracts on the market. Mitchell expands: “Another word would be anti-aging, but really it’s going beyond that, it’s about how you feel your best every day, mentally, physically and spiritually.”
The interest in performance is a natural one for Mitchell, who has a background in elite sports working in the English Premier League as a physiotherapist. After elite athletes and formula one drivers, Mitchell cites executives and CEOs as other early adopters to the movement—but biohacking isn’t just reserved for those on the court or in the boardroom. There are a number of simple practices, biohacks for beginners that can help the average person.
“Biohacking is going forward with technology, and it’s going backward to ancient wisdom,” says Mitchell. One of the practices he mentions includes watching the sunrise and sunset — something that anyone, anywhere, can try for free. “We know that it activates our melatonin receptors, it activates our pineal gland, it helps with our sleep cycle — and that doesn’t cost anything to do,” he says. “It’s one of the most important biohacking tools you can use.”
He also cites fasting as a practice that he does daily. “In the morning, I just have a coffee or green tea, with a mushroom extract, specifically Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Turkey Tail, and then fast until about 2pm for five days a week.” Fasting, particularly intermittent fasting is a practice that’s seen a surge in interest and adopters in recent years, and it’s not difficult to see why.
The benefits of fasting range widely, but some key ones include the adjusting of hormone levels in your body (specifically Human Growth Hormone) which aids fat loss and muscle gain, improvements in insulin sensitivity and the lowering of insulin levels (which makes stored body fast more accessible and thus easier to burn) and catalyzing processes of cellular repair.
Mitchell adds that he also works out just before he ends his fast. “That’s how you can raise your testosterone levels, which gives you more energy and you’re more clear,” he says.
And those mushrooms in his green tea? For many key areas — physical performance, creativity, sleep, cognition — that there’s a mushroom that unlocks the door. “When we look at fungi, it’s an entire kingdom of about 3.2 million strains, and of that we’ve only identified about 7 per cent and the benefits that they have.”
If you feel that your memory isn’t where it used to be and you’re not as sharp, Lion’s Mane has been shown to have benefits for concentration and memory. Feeling a little low energy and looking for a boost? Research into Cordyceps shows that the bioactive compounds it contains may have benefits on lipid metabolism and protect your mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) and improve endurance, particularly to high-intensity exercise.
“Fourty per cent of pharmaceutical medications contain mushrooms as an ingredient,” says Mitchell, but where biohacking differs from conventional medicine is that it’s about prevention and continuous optimisation, not treatment, “Why wait until you get something and then have to go down that road of ‘oh well, we can stabilise it or maintain it, but what’s done is done’.”
We also do not have to be perfectly optimised individuals to see the benefits of mushrooms and other biohacks. We asked whether people who, for example, drink or smoke would still benefit from biohacking: “In an ideal world, you would be minimising these things, but at the same time, yes they can help,” says Mitchell.
Biohacks can be applied according to the fluctuating needs and situations modern life throws at us. For example, in times of stress, you might try meditation, gratitude journaling, or adding a Reishi mushroom extract to your tea, which has been shown to benefit sleep and relaxation.
“The overarching aim of biohacking is to optimise your day so you feel as good as you can, explains Mitchell, “of course, things will be out of your control, but it’s trying to control what you can as much as possible.”
(Lead images: Björn Antonissen & Luke Chesser / Unsplash)
Published 10 February, 2020