What is biohacking?
The term “biohacking” itself has been known for quite some time. Moreover, it is ambiguous and is used in English for several different concepts. First, biohacking is the name for DIY biology (Do IT Yourself Biology), the scientific study of biology in amateur laboratories. Ellen Jorgensen talked about this phenomenon at the 2012 TED conference.
Secondly, biohacking is often understood as the implantation of various technological devices into the body. People who perform such experiments are called Grinders; their ideas are related to transhumanism and the search for immortality. Grinders include both academic scientists and amateurs, acting at their own risk.
Professor Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading is well known for his research in this field. Since the late 90s, he and his colleagues have been studying the possibility of creating a computer that could interact with human biological systems. Back in 1998, Warwick implanted a chip in his hand, which opened doors in the laboratory and started computers when he entered the department. His later experiments involve transmitting information through sensors to brain cells, and their interaction with external stimuli.
The third concept is what Fage and other biohackers talk about. It is, rather, personal biohacking. In the West, there are other terms – Quantified Self & Self Hacking, Body Hacking. In the context of this article we will talk about biohacking – a systematic approach to the study of the peculiarities of the vital functions of the body, different ways to influence physical and mental health; a comprehensive method of improving the condition of the body, based on recommendations from the field of a healthy lifestyle, medicine, as well as other “hacks” that are not always confirmed by science.
Biohacking: pros and cons
Biohackers claim that since they started working on themselves, they have become significantly healthier and happier, have reduced the impact of stress, and have improved the efficiency and quality of their decision-making.
But what caused these changes? Doctors and scientists say that tracking a large number of biological indicators is ineffective – their change does not always indicate disease or improvement in the body. The same goes for analysis of the genetic code, which is used in biohacking to assess the likelihood of disease. Interpreting information from genes is still a very difficult task, and science is just taking its first steps in this direction.
Other composite biohacking techniques, such as therapeutic fasting, have also been criticized. But the main stumbling block is the interaction of various drugs and supplements that biohackers take by the handfuls and the delayed effects of their long-term intake on the body. The impact that a combination of drugs can have is unstudied – in pharmacological laboratories, such studies (combinations of dozens of drugs and supplements) are simply not conducted.
Among the drugs loved by biohackers, by the way, not the least of these are nootropics. They are taken to improve cognitive abilities and improve attention, and concentration. They have gained particular popularity even earlier among students, who use them to increase productivity in their studies. But despite the presence of reviews about the effectiveness of a particular drug, there are no major scientific studies on the effects of their long-term use on the body.
So, is it harmful or useful to engage in biohacking? The answer to this question can only be given by science, which has not yet accumulated enough empirical material for any substantiated conclusions. However, there are many obvious points. Biohacking is a complex method, in addition to the medicinal influence on the body, is based on many “traditional” means of improving health and combating negative environmental influences.
Healthy sleep is very important. There are numerous studies on this topic, and the figure of 7-8 hours of sleep for humans is not taken from the ceiling. This is the average time the body needs for proper rest and normal functioning, as confirmed by experiments by scientists from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.
Fage also says that 3-4 hours before bedtime you should block the “blue” light, sleep in the dark, and it should be cold (18-19 degrees) and humid in the bedroom. You should get up at the same time.
Here the author adheres to the following key ideas: not to eat sugar in any form, to refuse salt, to eat only natural food, not to eat cheap food made of the meat of animals that are bred on an industrial scale, to eat mostly vegetable food, to choose organic products from animal origin, not to drink alcohol. Fage also practices cyclical fasting and dietary ketosis–trying to consume foods high in fat, medium in protein, and low in carbohydrates.
As you can see, most of these dietary principles are not radically new either, they have long been known, have many admirers and, at least in some aspects, are confirmed by science.
Optimal physical activity
Physical activity is good for the body – this is also a truth. As for workout complexes – there are as many people as there are opinions. But Fage’s recommendations, in general, are not at odds with what doctors, trainers, and what has been studied by science advise. For example, he talks about the importance of warming up, exercises that engage the leg muscles, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Also, you have to sit less and walk more.
An important element of biohacking is coping with stress, and being resilient to it. The author talks about the benefits of meditation, psychotherapy, and sex, and also encourages not to lie. In this regard, there is a huge amount of accumulated practical experience, as well as individual studies by scientists on the subject, which are not difficult to find on the Web.
It turns out that much of what Sergei Fage does is not something radically new, and simply repeats what is already known, studied, and practiced in HLS. But let’s look at the recommendations of other biohackers.
Biohacking guide for beginners
Its author is the famous biohacker Mark Moshel. The full version of the article can be found on the “Bulletproof” blog of another equally famous biohacker Dave Asprey, whom we have already mentioned. Here’s a short description of the 7 biohacks that Moshel recommends for beginners:
Be mobile. Sitting is bad for you-it leads to muscle strain and is not good for your fitness. One simple exercise to avoid negative effects is to exercise for 10 minutes a day, rolling around on a fitness roller.
Eat right. In short, you need to eat a lot of vegetables, dress them with vegetable oil, eat natural beef, eggs, and fish with low mercury content, and in moderation – fruits and starchy foods.
Return to nature. Man has “domesticated” himself and has begun to think that this is the norm. But our ancestors adapted better to the environment and were less prone to chronic diseases. We recommend eating “wild” unprocessed foods, drinking unprocessed water, breathing the clean air of pristine nature, being out in the sun more often, and getting outdoors in general.
Don’t raise expectations. It’s helpful to meditate and expose yourself to various challenges to get out of your comfort zone and increase resilience: from cold showers and sports competitions to living outside (the author of the article says he had that experience, too).
Listening to music, changing your brain. “My secret concentration biohack: put on headphones, open Spotify, turn on instrumental rock or electronica. After that, the world around me ceases to exist, I dissolve into my work.”
“Hack” the state of flow. Flow is the optimal state of consciousness in which we feel best and are most productive. To achieve it, Moshel recommends following the advice of Stephen Kotler, author of the bestseller “Rise of Superman”.
Be grateful. About the same event, or experience, we can think in different ways. When we are grateful we focus on the positive aspects of the events in our life. To practice the skill of gratitude you can make a special “gratitude journal” or regularly thank someone personally.