Biohacking: Achieving the perfect self
Biohacking – what is it?
The philosophy behind this concept involves understanding one’s own body, and using this knowledge to optimise it. Biohackers compare this approach to that taken by computer hackers, who know PCs inside-out and use this knowledge to manipulate them. When this process is transferred to the real, biological world, this could mean knowing, for example, how the process of falling asleep works, so that you can more easily support this process – and improve your sleep. There really is no precise definition for biohacking. Even people who love equipping themselves with all the latest technical gadgets (such as body temperature sensors implanted in their ears that control heating systems via Bluetooth) call themselves biohackers. Here, however, we are talking about the people whose desire to optimise is focused on the sphere of health. US-American Dave Asprey is considered to be a pioneer in this field. The 45-year-old inventor of ‘Bulletproof Coffee’ has make it his goal to reach the age of 180 through biohacking. Even so, he did not invent this approach, whose roots can be found in high-level US sports. It is a field where a variety of measurements are used to analyse and improve athletes’ performance, so it should be no surprise that the tracking of sleep, heart-rate variability, body fat and many other things are also part of the daily routine for biohackers.
Characteristic 1: Bulletproof Coffee
For many hackers, a Bulletproof Coffee takes the place of breakfast in kicking off the day. You can make one for yourself quite easily: simply get some organic ground coffee, a French press (this is meant to ensure that the coffee is of high quality – with fully automatic machines it is never possible to be entirely sure of what ends up in the coffee cup), a mixer, meadow butter and MCT oil. Now make yourself 250 millilitres of coffee and pour it into a container in which you will be able to mix easily. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil, and mix until you achieve a creamy consistency. That’s it!
Why this is a good hack: Butter coffee is able to satisfy your hunger for a number of hours (good for Characteristic 3) with only about 200 calories, all while keeping you fit and alert for the same period. The beverage even spurs the burning of fat thanks to its high-quality fatty acids and low carbohydrate content – so you cannot under any circumstances add sugar, as that would negate this effect.
Characteristic 2: Ice bath
Spend four or five minutes every morning sitting in an ice bath (i.e. fill the bathtub with cold water and maybe a few ice cubes) and your day can only get better. Alternatively, a lot of biohackers like to take an ice-cold shower.
Why this is a good hack: Even if this may look more like a tip for saving money, the extremely cold moisture does more than lower your heating bill: it reduces stress, strengthens the immune system and improves circulation. And to top it all off, it activates your body’s brown adipose tissue (‘brown fat’). Unlike white fat, your brown fat releases energy when you get cold, helping you burn additional calories. A little tip: enter the cold water slowly. Ideally, you can continue lowering the water temperature gradually, culminating in a final cool-down.
Characteristic 3: Intermittent fasting
Biohackers don’t really like to snack between meals. Instead, they will wait anywhere from 16 to 18 hours between their final meal yesterday and their first one today. In other words, they practise intermittent fasting. This results in the elimination of one out of three meals every day, usually breakfast (see Characteristic 1). Ideally, the remaining meals should feature healthy, protein-rich foods – short-chain carbohydrates and trans fats are a strict no-no.
Why this is a good hack: By taking a break from eating, you ensure that your body is not continuously focusing on digestion, allowing it to use its energy for other things – such as your performance (say goodbye to afternoon lulls). And, because insulin is not being continuously released, intermittent fasting also supports efforts to lose weight while teaching your body to rely on burning fat for its energy needs.
Characteristic 4: Nutritional supplements
Getting your blood work done at the doctor’s allows you to find out which nutrients you are lacking. These blood tests are now available for home use as well – Lykon is one of the companies offering this. As a result, biohackers typically utilise a variety of nutritional supplements at various points in the day.
Why this is a good hack: You can top up on precisely those nutrients in which you are currently deficient. This means that the symptoms of such deficiencies, including tiredness, are no longer a problem for you.
Characteristic 5: Sun worship
Even your grandma knew that fresh air was good for you, and spending as much time in the sun as possible wearing as little as possible is also a very positive thing for biohackers. There are said to be followers of this philosophy who ski in their underwear on sunny winter days...
Why this is a good hack: In order to generate vitamin D, the body needs its skin to be exposed to sunlight. That is because the body is only able to get a marginal amount of vitamin D from what a person eats. Seeing as vitamin D is needed not only for your muscle strength, but also for strong bones, you should try to get as much sunlight as possible on your bare skin. Ideally, you can combine time outdoors in minimal attire with a short and intensive period of athletic activity. Formats such as HIIT and other similar approaches are fully in keeping with the biohacking philosophy, because they help to maximise fat burning.
Characteristic 6: Red-light suns
Instead of spending time in tanning salons or conventional saunas, biohackers head to the infrared sauna or make use of full-body red LED light units.
Why this is a good hack: Red light and infrared light have a positive impact that can generate good results both on and under the skin in accordance with the light frequency being used. While grandma’s old red light also offered both visible red light and invisible infrared light, today’s LED lamps can emit either type (and naturally both simultaneously) as required. Fewer wrinkles and improved thyroid function are just a few of the benefits offered by this red-light therapy. On top of these other effects, the lights emit warmth that stimulates perspiration and the removal of toxins. It is also extremely relaxing, and helps foster good sleep.
Characteristic 7: Sleep optimisation
Did you know that our day-and-night rhythms are governed by hormones, and that melatonin is primarily generated at night? If the body’s melatonin levels rise, you will grow tired and eventually fall asleep. Biohackers support this natural process by resting in darkened rooms or while wearing a sleep mask on their mattresses. Blue light inhibits the creation of melatonin, which is why they put blue light filters on their smartphones and computers to make it easier for them to unwind in the evening. They also turn off their home WiFi systems and remove all electrical devices from their bedrooms before it is time for bed – and they generally do these things at the same time every day, because keeping regular hours helps them enjoy a more recuperative sleep.
Why this is a good hack: The better you sleep, the more rested and fit you will feel the next day, allowing your body to work to its full potential and enabling your brain to come up with good ideas.
Characteristic 8: Meditation
Spending a few minutes a day – ideally in the morning or evening – just sitting or lying down and thinking about nothing at all: meditation is anything but new, but its effectiveness is so obvious that it is also surfing the biohacking wave.
Why this is a good hack: You constantly have a thousand thoughts running around your head. Thousands of deadlines to be met, things to be taken care of and offers to be made ... meditation offers your brain a very beneficial break. After all, your brain continues to work at night. It is only by forcing it to rest that you can allow it to deliver optimum performance later – and that you can once again be more relaxed, confident and cheerful as you master the challenges of the day. The method is up to you – you can opt for one of countless podcasts and audiobooks or join a group. Alternatively, you can simply spend a few minutes concentrating on what your breath feels like in your mouth and nose.
Characteristic 9: Openness
Biohackers are open to new things, and they start by trying these things out on themselves before telling others about them.
Why this is a good hack: Because it means that you know what you are talking about when you ask your customers to try out new things. Before they follow your advice to dive into a frozen lake, you should be sure to try it yourself first, so that you can prepare them for the possible consequences. This is especially true for more extreme biohacks, including the intake of vitamins and minerals via infusions, or placing plasters over the mouth to improve nasal breathing at night.
Characteristic 10: Independence
There is no such thing as a bible for biohackers. Instead, each person searches individually to identify the best things in a sea of guidelines and recommendations. Sometimes they mix these as well, such as by using red light therapy while sitting in an ice bath. Everyone decides what is good for them individually – and what is not. In other words, there is no such thing as a strict set of guidelines or rules that have to be followed in order to keep with the trend.
Why this is a good hack: Everyone is different, which is why the impact of each of these methods varies from person to person. As a result, anyone following the biohacker philosophy can choose and develop a method that suits their entire personality without having to slavishly follow any particular scheme.
Even more biohacks
One of Germany’s best-known biohackers is Maximilian Gotzler of Berlin – you can find out even more about the details of biohacking in his podcasts (Flowgrade Show) and on his website (www.flowgrade.de). There are also a number of companies who specialise in serving the needs of biohackers, including Braineffect (www.brain-effect.com) and Primal State (www.primal-state.de). Munich is home to the KTC Lab, Germany’s first biohacking laboratory (www.ktclab.com). Here, you can test various concepts free of charge: amongst other things, you have the opportunity to drink water enriched with molecular hydrogen, inhale special water vapour and/or enter an infrared sauna. You can even take an ice bath under infrared lights.