Soap box time: I strongly dislike the term “biohacking.” There definitely is some merit for select biohacking methods, but the majority of them have no evidence to support the preposterous claims they make.
My favorite biohack blunder is that of fasting and autophagy. In 2016, Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for his discoveries into the mechanisms of autophagy (1). Autophagy is essentially the cellular version of recycling! We have data in mice and other smaller organisms, that upon caloric restriction (fasting), the body will actually remove damaged cells and recycle some of the parts to feed the healthy cells. Thus, its a two-for-one deal. You remove potentially harmful cells from the body while also giving your healthy cells the fuel they need to grow and function.
And of course, the biohacking community has had a field day with this. They take data from mice and just assume the same will happen in a human. So now there are people who claim that fasting for several days will induce autophagy and literally make you invincible to any disease state. Yet, too my knowledge, there is no data in humans that demonstrate the ability of fasting to trigger autophagy (2). Sure there may be a few studies riddled about that use human cells ex-vivo (this means human cells are extracted from the body and then experimented on). But I am looking for in-vivo evidence (cells are still within the organism in their true state). If someone can find a quality study for me, I would love to be proved wrong…that is why I entered research in the first place.
I am sure that with enough caloric restriction in humans, some autophagy would have to occur to keep the body functioning, but we have no data demonstrating the length of fasting needed, the long-term benefits of fasting/autophagy, and the consequences of fasting/autophagy. We also currently lack the testing procedures to do this safely…BIG RED FLAG.
But of course, the biohackers do not care. They see the mouse data and run with it, which could be quite dangerous if someone dives head first into a prolonged fast without medical supervision.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t just stop with fasting. If you guys want to see some of the madness, go look up Dave Asprey or Ben Greenfield on Instagram. These guys are brilliant, don’t get me wrong. But they try some insane things to try and optimize their lives and “live forever.” Some of my other favorites: CRISPR (gene editing…holy shit bad idea alert), inserting a chip on your chest that vibrates when you face north (WTF? ever heard of a compass?), let me not forget those stupid vibrating plates you are supposed to stand on for optimal “exercise,” and the most cringe-worthy one yet: perineum sunning…placing direct sunlight on your butthole…trust me, I wish I was making this up.
OK, so enough of my rant. I wanted to point these things out to show you the madness. There is probably some merit in every biohack, but my point is that for 99% of the population, these are completely unnecessary, extremely expensive, and potentially dangerous.
Instead, here are some of my top tips for the 99% to optimize their lives without breaking the bank and potentially hurting yourself :)
- Consistent Sleep-Wake Cycle
This entails quite a few things that all are very beneficial. First and foremost, we need to get on a consistent sleep-wake cycle. I am sure most people have heard of the term “Circadian Rhythm” and without getting into the details (as I plan to write an article on Circadian Biology), our body requires consistency to function at its optimum.
This means Weekends as well. I am with you all that sometimes on the weekdays, I hate going to bed early and waking up early (actually I love the mornings, but I will just pretend here). So then when Friday night hits, instead of going to bed at 9 pm and waking up at 7 am on Saturday, you go to bed at midnight and wake up around 10 am. You do the same on Saturday night. Then Sunday night rolls around and your body fights the urge to go to bed at 9 pm, and you end up getting a measly 5 hours of sleep…and BOOM you are back in the same vicious lack of sleep cycle.
Bottom Line: Set a typical sleep and wake time, and try to maintain it within a +/- of 1 hour all 7 days of the week
2. Proper Sleep Amount
There is a reason why sleep shows up on my list twice. I always say that if sleep were able to be bottled up and sold, it would be the most illegal performance substance on the market…and it wouldn’t even be close. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults get between 7–9 hours of sleep per night (2). I like to aim for 8 hours minimum per night, and actually shoot for 9 hours if I can. Sleep is a non-negotiable.
And I know what you are thinking: “But Adam, I am so busy, I cannot possibly get even 7 hours of sleep a night and get everything done.” I use to be the same way. In undergrad I would get maybe 5 hours of sleep on top of making weight, classwork, and 2 wrestling practices a day. That is a recipe for disaster. My senior year I changed my mindset and set up my schedule where I would get 7 hours minimum, and then schedule the rest of my day around my 7 hours of sleep. I saw tremendous gains both physically and mentally. There gets to be a point in your day where you just aren’t productive anymore, and instead of slogging along, it is best to call it quits and attack again in the morning…on a fresh and well-rested mind. This will change your life. And if you still find that you need more time in the day, I urge you to look at how you are spending your free-time…try cutting out unneeded activities (like playing on your phone) before you cut sleep :)
If you are interested in some of the major benefits of consistent restorative sleep, I urge you to click here. Luckily for us, a little birdie has told me that Pinnacle Supplementation is about ready to release it’s new sleep powder that is so effective that Disney wants to start a “Sleeping Beauty” remake where she actually just takes a scoop of this sleep powder to fall asleep, rather than falling under some curse. Seems like a good idea to me!
3. Limit Processed Foods
I have written an ungodly amount on this subject, but it is worth briefly reiterating. A 2019 study of 100,000 individuals demonstrates that eating 10% more ultra-processed foods was associated with above a 10% increase in the risks of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and cerebrovascular disorders (4). Another 2019 study of about 20,000 individuals found that eating more than 4 servings of processed food daily was linked with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. For each additional serving, all-cause mortality risk increased by 18% (5). And of course, as I have covered many times before, processed foods are highly palatable, and can lead to overeating, thereby jacking your caloric intake up and leading to weight gain and its associated adverse health outcomes (6).
You can absolutely eat these foods if you want, but you have to do so in a smart and organized manner (see Plotkin’s Point #5). So in general, let’s try to avoid these foods as much as possible and focus on whole single ingredient foods (try to limit to 3–5 ingredients max).
4. Prioritize Protein at every meal
I have also written an article on this. I generally like aiming for 1g of protein per lb of body weight. Thus, if you weigh 150 lbs, set your protein intake for 150g, then fill in carbs and fats (see Plotkin’s Point #5). I will leave it at this, as you can read the other article for more info. But in general, since protein is so satiating (read the other article already!!!) couple this with Plotkin’s Point #3, and just think about how many calories you will be saving.
I will cover Plotkin’s #5–11 Priorities in the second part of this article.
- Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S. M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L., Hazen, N., Herman, J., Katz, E. S., Kheirandish-Gozal, L., Neubauer, D. N., O’Donnell, A. E., Ohayon, M., Peever, J., Rawding, R., Sachdeva, R. C., Setters, B., Vitiello, M. V., Ware, J. C., & Adams Hillard, P. J. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep health, 1(1), 40–43.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2014.12.010