Biohacking: A Buzzword In Lifestyle Tweaking
The word might be new(ish), but the concept is not: Biohacking is the process of improving your health by ‘hacking’ your body’s biology, in effect, making changes to your lifestyle. It is based on the idea that everything you do to your body – food, movement and thoughts – has an effect on how you feel. So by making changes and manipulating nutrition, fitness and lifestyle, you can improve your health. While at one extreme, you could use all sorts of gadgets and measurements to biohack yourself, the more natural way is to make small changes, and see how those affect you over a shortish period like a few weeks, based on just a few lifestyle tweaks.
Viewed from this perspective, there are a few easy changes you can introduce:
What you put into your body
This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult, but most crucial, hacks to achieve. While it does not mean eliminating food containing natural sugars, like fruit, don’t use honey and molasses to sweeten food and drinks. Look further than chocolate and sweets, and check labels on processed foods, flavoured yogurt, condiments (mayonnaise and tomato sauce) and energy drinks. Add refined carbohydrates to your list…
It seems obvious, but staying hydrated – and not only while exercising – is important because it helps your body to perform at its highest level. Water promotes cardiovascular health, keeps your body cool, helps muscles and joints work better, keeps skin supple and helps to cleanse your body (inside and out). If you don’t drink enough, you may feel tired, have muscle cramps or get dizzy.
If you struggle with staying hydrated, keep a bottle of water with you during the day, add a slice of lemon or lime to your drink, make a habit of drinking water before, during and after a workout, and drink water when you’re feeling hungry.
Sort out Allergies and Sensitivities
Your allergies may not be that obvious, but consider it if you have trouble digesting foods, suffer from skin issues like eczema and acne or are constantly tired. A natural way of finding your problems is by an elimination diet during which you cut out foods that are known allergens (like gluten, soy, dairy, peanuts and corn) for 3–4 weeks. Then slowly re-introduce them back one at a time. If your symptoms re-appear, again remove that food and see if the symptoms clear up. The goal is to pinpoint which food your body ‘doesn’t like’ and thus to make informed decisions about what you are putting into it.
Change When you Eat
Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity as a method of losing weight and normalising insulin sensitivity. One of the biggest advantages is that it helps to regulate the levels of ghrelin, more commonly known as the hunger hormone, which is an appetite-increasing hormone that signals when you are hungry.
There are two ways to go about intermittent fasting. The first is alternate-day fasting, in which you limit your calories to 25% of your normal intake on a fasting day, and then eat your usual amount of calories on the second, non-fasting day. The second is time-restricted eating, in which you only eat during a certain period, and ‘fast’ for 12 to 15 hours per day (so eat your last meal at 7 in the evening, and the first meal of the next day at 10). Because you consume fewer calories, it helps with weight loss, but it also has health benefits, such as improved heart health and lower blood sugar levels.
 Intensive Dietary Management, Fasting and Ghrelin – Fasting 29, https://idmprogram.com/fasting-ghrelin-fasting-29/; Dr Axe, Ghrelin: How to Control This ‘Hunger Hormone’ in Order to Lose Fat, https://draxe.com/ghrelin/.
 HeathLine newsletter, Time-restricted eating: A beginner’s guide, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/time-restricted-eating.
What you do to your mind
You need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. If not, you are at risk of numerous health issues, such as a lack of concentration, irritability, an increased appetite and poorly functioning hormones. Simple techniques to improve your sleep centre around a good sleep regime, and include keeping to a regular sleep schedule, banning electronics from the bedroom, avoiding stimulants such as coffee and keeping your bedroom dark.
Watch your Stress Levels
Constant stress can have real physical effects on the body. It has been linked to a wide range of health issues, including mood, sleep and appetite problems, and even heart disease. Stress could also cause you to act in ways that increase your risk of heart disease, for example by eating unhealthy food and not having the energy or time to exercise. In fact, more ghrelin is released directly in response to stressful situations, which explains why so many people have the tendency to eat when stressed.
Be aware of what causes your stress, and use some simple techniques to prevent it from getting out of hand: stay positive, uplug (switch off electronics) and take the edge off (do something pleasant like taking a warm bath or listening to music). But here meditation is the ultimate brain hack: It can reduce pain, increase sleep quality and boost productivity. It is also a very effective – and natural – way of dealing with stress symptoms.
 Harvard Health Publishing, Healthbeat, 5 ways to de-stress and help your heart, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/5-ways-to-de-stress-and-help-your-heart
What you do to your body
Seeing that is The Fitness League website, this one should come as no surprise! But really, one of the best biohacks it to move your body. Going to a balanced exercise class at least twice a week has so many benefits – your body begins to enjoy the exercise, you feel good about yourself and if feeds into the other techniques: you de-stress, sleep better and will be less inclined to turn to food for comfort.
Add to this with a few basic biohacking movement ideas:
- Walk barefoot and outside – this is known as grounding, which entails allowing your feet to connect with the earth surface and its natural energy and gets you in touch with nature, while at the same time giving you a dose of vitamin D.
- Get up and stand up – stand and pace while talking on the phone; take the stairs instead of a lift or escalator, walk the dog…
The bottom line: be creative about movement and feel the benefits.
What these basic biohacking suggestions should show you is that natural biohacking means finding simple ways to make lifestyle changes – spending more time outside, eating less processed foods, drinking water and moving. All of these will promote a better lifestyle and better health. The ultimate aim: to optimise the way your body functions.