The non-billionaire’s guide to biohacking
What do you think of when you hear the term biohacking?
In some ways, it’s just the latest version of something humans have been pursuing for centuries: reaching peak potential and living longer.
But the modern version of biohacking can get pretty intense. We’re talking pills, potions, regular stem cell infusions and sleeping in hyperbaric oxygen chambers. A decade ago, Google even founded a company with one mission: to “solve death”.
While we’re not completely writing these things off, they’re certainly not for everyone. Especially if your bank account is missing a few zeroes.
But even if you don’t have the cash, we’ve got good news: everyday biohacks still offer plenty of value. And most of the time they don’t cost a thing.
Let’s explore what biohacking is, and the most effective techniques available to regular non-billionaires.
We don’t see the value in obsessive biohacking that gets in the way of enjoying life.
The backstory on biohacking
In the broadest sense, biohacking – sometimes called body hacking or DIY biology – is an attempt to manipulate your body and brain for enhanced health, performance and longevity.
Some biohacking techniques are things we’ve been doing for hundreds of years like meditation, cold and heat therapy, and changing your diet. Others are at the cutting edge of science and technology, such as chip implants and gene editing.
While it’s the boys’ club of biohacking that makes headlines, any woman who tracks her menstrual cycle to optimize sporting performance or takes up strength training to mitigate the effects of menopause is already biohacking (without even knowing).
The more notorious examples of biohacking can veer into dystopian Black Mirror territory, or give off big movie villain energy (like transfusing a younger person’s blood into your older veins in an attempt to fight aging).
But where does that leave the average person who wants to feel better and optimize performance?
At Centr, we don’t see the value in obsessive biohacking that gets in the way of enjoying life. We also know that shortcuts don’t usually lead to long-lasting results.
Our version of biohacking is about tweaking your lifestyle to make it easier to perform at your best every day. And potentially live better for longer.
Biohacks you can try without breaking the bank
You don’t need a top-secret laboratory to try these performance-enhancing hacks.
1. Increase your VO2 max
VO2 max is considered the best measure of cardiovascular fitness – it refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise. The more your muscles can call on, the better and longer you’ll be able to perform.
You can have your VO2 max measured in a lab by running on a treadmill while wearing an oxygen mask. But if you want a rough idea without the lab, many smartwatches and fitness trackers estimate VO2 max using your heart rate. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology also has an online test to estimate your numbers.
Once you’ve got an idea of where you stand, how do you improve it? One way is to fire up a HIIT workout with your Centr experts.
“HIIT is amazing to do as we age,” says Ingrid Clay. “High-intensity interval training can help to improve your VO2 max or cardiovascular fitness – thus decreasing your risk of heart disease.”
Get your heart thumping, and your VO2 max climbing higher, with a high-intensity bodyweight cardio blast with Chris and Luke.
2. Get in the zone… 2
Different levels of exertion send your heart rate into different zones. Somewhere in between sitting on the sofa and doing the 100m sprint, there is an overlooked heart-rate zone that is winning fans – including our very own Luke Zocchi.
Zone 2 is reached by performing cardio at 65-75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Luke’s treadmill approach to getting into this zone is not that different from Taylor Swift training for her tour while singing, but you don’t need to know all the lyrics to Shake it Off.
“The easiest way to gauge which zone you’re in is the talking test – if you can hold a conversation while exercising, you’ve hit that sweet spot,” he says.
Your aerobic endurance will improve with zone 2 training, but the real biohacking benefits happen on a deeper level. There’s evidence it can boost the strength of your mitochondria, the tiny organs that power your cells. And the stronger your mitochondria, the easier it is for them to use fat as fuel and clear waste from your cells, reducing your risk of many diseases.
To reap the benefits of zone 2 training for your fitness and longevity, Luke recommends aiming for three or four 60-minute sessions a week.
“If that’s a bit challenging, start at 30 minutes and build your way up,” he says.
It’s important to mention that there’s some evidence that zone 2 training might not be as beneficial for mitochondrial function in women. But it’s still a worthwhile form of active recovery and endurance training.
3. Build muscles (that’s it, that’s the hack)
There’s more to building muscles than looking buff. As you layer up the gains, you’re also layering up the biohacking benefits.
Lifting weights over extended periods can halt brain degeneration and increase cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. For the guys, studies have shown a long-term increase in testosterone levels in men.
Need another reason to hit the weights? Research suggests that regular resistance training may kickstart autophagy – the process by which cells clean out waste material they don’t need anymore. And a boost in autophagy has been linked to slower aging.
In other words, putting those dumbbells to work with a strength workout could be a great boost for your overall longevity.
4. Fuel up on morning light
Your body is busy biohacking while you sleep: flushing waste build-up from your brain, repairing and growing muscle, regulating emotions and setting you up for better physical performance.
But did you know that you can improve your sleep by waking up with light? A dose of natural sunlight in the morning not only delivers a mood-boosting serotonin hit and improves your daytime energy, but it also increases your sleep drive at night by regulating your circadian clock.
Getting some rays can also help you to focus and boost your immune system.
Not a morning person? Power Sleep with Chris Hemsworth is designed to help you tap into this priceless power source.
5. Fight inflammation with cold therapy (no cryochamber required)
In Limitless, Chris shocked his body by jumping into the icy waters of the Arctic. And it wasn’t just to entertain his brothers.
Cold therapy usually involves immersing your body in water, snow, ice or a specially designed chamber from the neck down at any temperature below 60ºF (15ºC).
It may not be comfortable, but there is growing evidence that cold therapy reduces inflammation, which is increasingly being linked to aging illnesses such as dementia and cardiovascular disease.
This anti-inflammatory action also helps to reduce muscle soreness, to power better recovery from training.
The cold also appears to have the ability to boost your immune system, elevate mood, and increase circulation (once the cold treatment is removed, of course).
Can’t afford a cryotherapy chamber? Luke has got you.
“Fill a bath or a tub with cold water, put some ice in – job done,” he says. “Or you can stand under cold water in the shower for 30 seconds.”
If you’re combining your cold therapy with a workout and heat therapy like a sauna, Luke recommends doing it in this order to maximize the benefits: training, heat, cold.
6. Shore yourself up against stress
Chronic stress is bad news for your physical and mental health – and it could be impacting your longevity, too.
While the connections are complex, there’s growing evidence that chronic stress can accelerate aging and lead to poor health.
How do you biohack to fight back? Short bursts of controlled stress can build your tolerance:
- Exercise appears to change the chemistry of the brain over time, helping you to stay calm and adapt in stressful situations.
- The sauna will expose your body to heat shock and cause your cells to go into defensive mode, cleaning out harmful waste and building up your defenses against stress.
- Breathwork is also an accessible way to build up your baseline resistance.
Breathing with good form is a fundamental biohack that can improve oxygen levels, energy, focus and stress levels.
7. Food is the best supplement
A major part of biohacking is looking to nutrition to take the human body to new heights. You can be sure tech tycoons are spending big in an attempt to create magic life-extending supplement pills as we speak.
But sports dietitian Angie Asche says you should think twice before blowing your salary on a bunch of buzzy supplements.
“The US FDA does not regulate the ingredients in these products, manufacturing, or the claims being made," she says, adding that real food sources should be your first choice for essential nutrients.
“When you consume foods that are a source of these nutrients, you’re also consuming a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols that work together to improve health and performance.”
With Angie’s expertise, here’s how to get 4 of the most popular nutrition supplements from real food.
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