Biohacking Your Lifestyle
Ali Othman, NSCA-CPT®
Biohacking has become an increasingly popular trend in recent years as people look for new ways to optimize their health and wellness. Sometimes referred to as do-it-yourself biology, biohacking is the practice of making small changes to your lifestyle to improve your overall health. From tracking sleep patterns and food intake to controlling exercise and breathing, biohacking offers a range of tools and techniques to help you take charge of your health and wellness. Here are some ways you can use biohacking to take you to the next level:
The first step in biohacking is understanding your body in its current state. Take some time to gather data that will help you make informed decisions in your efforts to optimize an aspect of your diet or daily routine. There are lots of tools you can use to monitor your vitals. Fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, sleep monitors, blood glucose monitors, and other wearable technology can track your activity, heart rate, sleep quantity and quality, and other important metrics. Using this data, you can make small changes to your diet, exercise, and lifestyle that will enhance your performance throughout the day.
Diet plays a critical role in achieving your best physical performance. In order to tweak your diet to enhance your health and wellness, you must first understand your body’s nutritional requirements. Start a food journal where you log everything you eat and drink for three days. This baseline will tell you what nutrients your body currently consumes. It may also give you a little shock when you realize all you eat throughout the day and how much excess there is. This excess can be trimmed or changed to provide your body with better nutrition, enhance your energy and focus, and increase your strength and endurance.
The month of Ramadan has recently finished, and now is the perfect time to review our consumption habits. Trimming excess by increasing the number of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet is one of the best adjustments you can make for your long-term health.
Intermittent fasting continues to gain popularity because the science behind when you eat is as important as what you eat. Take a look at your schedule and try to maintain a two- to three-hour period before sleeping where you don’t eat or drink anything other than water. When you’re standing, walking, and even sitting, the body’s position—and even the earth’s gravity—pulls the contents of your stomach downward. When lying down, this effect is lost. With a full stomach, the contents press against the muscle that prevents stomach contents from traveling backward into the esophagus. This can cause temporary burning pain in your chest, known as acid reflux, which can become a chronic condition if not monitored and controlled.
Small adjustments to your diet, like not eating before sleeping, can prevent problems such as this and may have positive effects on other parts of your life. When you’re not waking up in the middle of the night with acid reflux, your sleep quality improves. With better sleep, you’ll have more energy at work and feel good enough to exercise after a long day on the job.
A balanced exercise routine is essential to maintaining a healthy working body as we get older. Exercise typically concentrates on three main activities. Resistance training is a great way to build muscle and increase strength. You can do this with any kind of resistance, such as weights, bands, a partner, or just your body weight. Cardiovascular exercises like running, biking, and basketball are essential to building cardiovascular health and endurance and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Pilates, yoga, and exercises that incorporate stretching and long-fluid motions are excellent for improving flexibility and reducing your risk of injury. If you’re not sure where to start, a personal trainer can point you in the right direction.
We’re always told that we need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but we don’t pay as much attention to the quality of that sleep. You can be in bed at a certain hour, but it might take you an hour to fall asleep. Maybe you’re a light sleeper and wake up several times throughout the night due to noise in or around your home. If you wake up to kick off the covers in the middle of the night, try lowering the room temperature by a few degrees.
One trick to falling and staying asleep is to regulate your heart rate before going to bed. The mind, lungs, and heart are deeply connected in their reaction to external stimuli. Try sitting down for a little meditation before lying down to sleep. Meditation is a breath- and heart-rate-regulating exercise that helps clear your mind, slow your heart rate, and regulate your oxygen consumption.
Control external stimuli like light and sound, set your alarm, and put your smartphone on its charger an hour or more before bedtime. Going to sleep in a relaxed state can improve your sleep quality and start you off on the right foot in the morning.
Your overall health is closely connected to your gut health, and the type of foods you eat have an impact on your microbiome. Most of your diet should consist of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins from a variety of sources. Include prebiotic-rich foods like garlic, onions, and apples to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Look to fermented foods for increased variety within the prebiotic category. Kimchi, yogurt, and sauerkraut are examples of high-value fermented foods that can positively influence your gut health.
HBOT is a medical treatment where a patient breathes in pure oxygen while resting inside a pressurized chamber. The increased pressure, usually two to three times atmospheric pressure at sea level, allows the lungs to absorb more oxygen. HBOT sessions last anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes and aid in tissue repair by delivering oxygen-rich plasma throughout the body. This therapy is cleared by the FDA for certain disorders in which delivering an increased amount of oxygen can improve the recovery process. However, HBOT comes with its own risks, which is why it should only be performed at accredited facilities under the supervision of professionals.
Adaptarian is a term conceptualized by the Korea Vegan Center (KOVEC) to explain the beliefs of lifestyle vegetarians. An “adaptarian” follows an adaptable approach to eating rather than strictly following a vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous diet and lifestyle.
Adaptarians make conscious choices to remove animal byproducts from one or more aspects of their life. Both an individual who consumes meat but solely uses vegan cosmetics because they are better for their skin and someone who abstains from wearing animal fur because of their stance on animal welfare could be considered adaptarians. The adaptarian concept is all about figuring out what works best for you and adapting a part of your life to improve your wellness. That concept is hard to argue with.
Biohacking is a powerful tool that can help you take control of your health and wellness through small lifestyle modifications. Optimize your nutrition, sleep, and exercise to improve your physical and mental performance, improve immunity, and prevent chronic disease. Adopting a biohacking mindset and experimenting with different techniques can be the keys to unlocking your full potential. In the end, the most successful biohacking involves listening to your body. Consult with your physician before beginning a biohacking routine, be patient when starting, and enjoy the long-term journey to enhanced physical and mental well-being.
Ali Othman is an NSCA-certified personal trainer with over fifteen years of experience in the health and wellness industry. He works in the Technical Department at IFANCA and manages IFANCA business activities in South Korea.