What is biohacking?
Biohacking is a citizen or do-it-yourself biology. For many biohackers, this consists of making small changes in diet or lifestyle to make a little improvement in their health and well-being.
Biohacks promise getting anything from quick weight loss to improved brain function. But the best biohacking outcomes come from being well-informed and careful about what works for your body.
Different types of biohacking
Biohacking comes in many forms and the three most popular types are nutrigenomics, DIY biology, and grinder.
Nutrigenomics focuses on how the food you consume interacts with your genes.
This popular, although controversial, form of biohacking is founded on the idea that your body’s total genetic expression can be mapped out and optimized by testing how distinct nutrients affect your health over a period of time.
Nutrigenomics also looks at how different nutrients impact how you feel, think, and behave.
DIY biology (or DIY bio) is a type of biohacking led by people with education and experience in scientific fields.
They share tips and techniques to help non-experts conduct structured experiments on themselves outside of a controlled environment, like labs or medical offices.
The grinder is a biohacking subculture that considers every part of the human body hackable.
In general, grinders want to become “cyborgs” by optimizing their bodies with a combination of gadgets, implants, chemical injections, and anything else they can put to make them work the way they want them to.
3 Biohacking Myths Debunked
Megadosing Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and has other supportive functions like helping in making collagen. Vitamin C also keeps your immune system strong and also fights inflammation.
But its importance is often misinterpreted, especially with people being so insecure about viruses lately. Due to a misunderstanding of the basic nutrient, people think more is better. The biohacking community usually encourages people to megadose thousands of mg of vitamin C daily, suggesting that they will gain invulnerability to viruses.
But increasing your intake of vitamin C is only relevant if your body is deficient. Remember more isn't better under normal conditions.
The recommended daily intake is approx 100mg, but optimal recommendations can stretch to about 200mg for more active people. Anything above this is unnecessary.
An average individual who eats a few servings of fruits and vegetables a day has a sufficient amount, but if your diet constantly consists of colourless fast food, here are some vitamin C-rich foods you can add to your diet:
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy and sweet peppers
- Strawberries or other berries
- Green vegetables or green herbs
Intaking additional vitamin C supplements on top of an already solid diet can be taken if you think you need to take extra precautions, like if you're going to be around sick people. But taking extreme doses definitely won't turbo-charge your immune system to another dimension as usually claimed by biohackers.
So just keep in mind that optimal is optimal. More doesn't mean extra optimal; it just means unnecessary or suboptimal.
Polyphasic sleep is the practice of sleeping multiple times a day in short bursts instead of the traditional way. These multiple sleep can be as frequent or infrequent as you'd like, but the idea is to have less total sleep while apparently achieving human augmentation (more cognition and productivity).
Biohackers claim polyphasic sleep is optimal as babies and animals particularly have these sleeping patterns. As per them, human adults are refusing their natural physiology if they don't follow polyphasic sleep.
Babies certainly use polyphasic sleep because their optimal napping time is 17 hours. As for animals, well, humans are animals too, but our physiology and lifestyle are completely different.
The scientific literature discourages polyphasic sleep for adults and also suggests it might be suboptimal. Like night workers who notoriously suffer from poor sleep quality pile up their sleep debt that can only be fixed by sleeping for more continuous hours, not short burst hours.
Furthermore, our bodies aren't simply designed to get disrupted sleep. We all go through a sleep cycle every night, but these cycles are best when strung together. If the sleep is interrupted, again and again, it affects cognition in both the short and long term. Having irregular wake times is classified as a disorder.
If you want to perform well in your everyday life, nothing beats getting the recommended 7-9 hours of continuous, good-quality sleep.
Bulletproof coffee is a so-called magical mixture of coffee with coconut oil, grass-fed butter, or medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Basically, it's coffee mixed with fancy kinds of saturated fat.
While several people praise the taste, the proposed fat-burning and brain-boosting impacts are grossly amplified. Coffee does have various health benefits and caffeine can help boost your energy levels a bit, but adding fat doesn't give it any magical powers, especially any fat-burning powers.
It's true that medium-chain triglycerides have a more thermic effect than other saturated fats, which means you'll burn a few more calories when digesting them. However, this doesn't bypass the laws of thermodynamics which means if you add calories to a drink, you're still adding calories to your daily diet.
Any thermic effect is very small to neglect the calories in the drink, especially when it has a stratospheric 450 calories in every serving. The irony in the supposed thermic effect is that an ordinary mixed meal extracts a higher thermic effect than coffee, along with giving more vitamins and minerals.
Drink it if you like its taste, but don't consider that it is going to help you lose weight or boost your brainpower.
Biohacking does have some advantages. Some forms can be easily done at home and easy to reverse as well if something goes wrong.
But in general, be cautious. Experimenting with yourself without taking all the necessary precautions can result in unexpected side effects.
Consult a doctor or nutritionist before making any significant alterations to your diet. And make sure to conduct your own research before putting any foreign substance into your body.