How To ‘Biohack’ Your Brain And Body

In a perfect world, we could design our bodies to be whatever we wanted them to be: smarter, faster, stronger (Kanye knows what we’re talking about). But as ‘sci-fi novel’ as that may sound, there’s a community of health fanatics out there right now that believes we can do just that. This crew calls themselves ‘biohackers,’ and they’re taking DIY biology to a new level.

One of the thought-leaders behind the biohacking revolution is Dave Asprey, founder and CEO of Bulletproof, the ultimate resource for all things biohacking. He defines the term as “changing your environment from the inside-out, so you have full control of your biology.” Simply put: “the art and science of becoming superhuman.” Asprey and his fellow biohackers believe that by experimenting with your daily routine, your sleep habits, your diet, what supplements you take, and your stress levels, you can take control of your mind, body, and life.

Perhaps you’ve heard about Silicon Valley execs fasting for days and fitness junkies sitting inside infrared saunas to ease sore muscles? Both examples of ‘biohacking.’

That probably sounds intimidating and extreme (uh, it is!)—but biohacking doesn’t have to be complicated or hardcore. In fact, at its root, the term is just a fancy way of saying you’re going to make proactive lifestyle changes to boost your health, says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.

Some of biohackers’ main goals are to perform better (body and mind), shed body fat, feel more energized, and ward off lifestyle diseases so many Americans face. “When you’re younger, you want to run faster, jump higher, lift more weight, and think smarter,” says Jim Goetz, C.S.C.S., co-founder of BioHackers and author of Biohacking the Brain for Success. Then, as you get older, you want to turn the hands of time so you can continue to function at your best.

You don’t need fancy equipment, an endless budget, or the grit to fast for hours and hours in order to hack your biology. All you need is the willingness to switch things up and get out of your comfort zone—and you can get started right now.

Biohack Your Diet: Ditch The Bad

If you eat foods that don’t jive with your body, you can’t function at your peak. Think about it: Lots of not-so-great body issues like skin problems, stomach pain, and fatigue circle back to your diet—and there are more than 160 foods out there that can cause reactions.

That’s why Rizzo recommends newbie biohackers try an elimination diet to identify any food-related issues. “Essentially, you eliminate certain foods from your diet and reintroduce them to see if they are triggers for your symptoms,” she says.

Ideally, you’d work with a doctor or dietitian to remove common-culprit food groups—like dairy or wheat—for anywhere between two and six weeks. Then, you’d carefully bring them back onto your plate one at a time and monitor how your body reacts, she says. Keeping a food journal throughout the process can help you identify unpleasant patterns—like fatigue, heartburn, bloating, or constipation—more easily.

Biohack Your Fitness: Hone In On Your Goals

To biohack your fitness and physique, first you need to understand your specific goals, says Goetz.

For instance, biohackers looking to burn fat fast often take low-carb approach to their nutrition, such as the trendy keto diet (in which more than 70 percent of your calories come from fat). “Fat is the only macronutrient that does not trigger an insulin release, which is why ketogenic lifestyles allow individuals to lose large amounts of fat while preserving muscle,” says Goetz. Keto can also be an effective option if you’re looking to drop pounds, because healthy fat is so satiating that it may help reduce your appetite, says a review in the Journal of European Nutrition.

Related: 5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

Really want to bulk up? Hack your strength training routine with techniques like blood flow restriction training, in which you wrap a strap or band around the upper portion of the muscle you’re working to restrict the blood flow to that area, says Goetz. This helps increase protein synthesis and develop a greater amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers, both of which are key for measurable muscle growth.

Biohack Your Mind: Give Your Brain a Boost

Another of biohackers’ top priorities: their brain. After all, it is responsible for literally every function in our body. Not only are biohackers interested in clearer, faster thinking for more productive days, but in warding off stress, frustration, and depression.

Their go-to for mental clarity is simple (and free): the outdoors. Research shows that nature can help combat the rising levels of mental illness associated with our increasingly urban world, with one study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that time spent in green spaces may reduce activity in your brain associated with bad mood states. Asprey echoes this sentiment, encouraging biohackers to soak up more sun, take in more fresh air, and trade their Wi-Fi for wilderness to rejuvenate their minds, and subsequently, their lives.

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Brain-boosting supplements—sometimes referred to as ‘nootropics’—are often another part of biohackers’ strategy, says Goetz. These natural substances support various aspects of cognitive performance, like memory, attention, and motivation—often by increasing blood circulation and oxygen flow in your brain, says a review published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Some of the most popular cognitive supplements out there include adaptogenic herbs like ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, and Rhodiola rosea.