How to “Hack” Biohacking: 9 Essential Health Fundamentals That Any Biohacker Can Master.

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Around ten years ago, the term “biohacking” was born, and ever since, health seekers, fitness fans, and high-performers have been jumping on the bandwagon to explore their health in a whole new data-driven, measurable way.

Biohacking has, in part, become hugely popular because it allows you to quantify your health goals, explore how your body works as an individual, track your progress, and see your results in black and white detail. Instead of relying on outside opinions to tell you what health needs to look like and how to get there, today, you can take matters into your own hands and optimize your health and performance far more effectively and efficiently—by using your own data plus various techniques not necessarily adopted by traditional medicine system or Western Doctors (yet).

Over the last ten years, biohacking has evolved and continues to do so, as the newest technology and latest scientific advances reveal novel ways to track and attain health and performance goals. This is fantastic news for the biohacking pros, but the avalanche of information out there can be overwhelming for newbies that are trying to figure out where to start.

What biohacking needs is a back-to-basics approach: a focus on “the fundamentals of health” that set the stage for optimal health, performance, and longevity as a byproduct, and creates a solid foundation on which you can build upon with more advanced biohacking techniques…

…and there's no one better to lay this out than Tim Gray, the UK's “Leading Biohacker,” a psychology specialist, and a successful businessman.

Tim, who I recently interviewed on the podcast, is known for his detailed tracking of more than 35+ biomarkers per day, is frequently in the mainstream media regarding practical, trackable, and immediately applicable health hacks, and is featured on dozens of podcasts a year. After spending years healing his body from chronic health conditions through biohacking alone, Tim embarked on a mission to educate and empower the masses. As such, he created The Health Optimisation Summit (use code BEN to save 20%), Europe’s largest health conference, which aims to provide people with the knowledge, tools, and resources to take their own health and performance to the next level.

So I'll let Tim take it away to inform you about all things biohacking, what it is and what it isn't, and the nine health fundamentals of biohacking to focus on, no matter where you are in your “health-hacking” journey.


What Biohacking Is (And What It Isn't)

Biohacking, at its core, is about giving our body what it needs to operate as it should.

It is not, despite common advice, about “overclocking the body” with oodles of different technology, devices, and data.

Technology should complement nature, not replace it altogether. It's often best used in a way that mimics what our ancestors did.

In other words, biohacking isn't about forcing the body into any specific state or manipulating the body to do things it's not meant to do. It's about creating homeostasis and balance, so you're able to optimize health and prevent states of disease (and if needed, help to reverse it, as the body is a self-correcting machine when it has what it needs to do so).

Biohacking, in essence, is:

  • Leveraging the power of nature first, and technology second, to optimize health.
  • Mimicking and utilizing what our ancestors evolved with for thousands of years.
  • Quantifying health with targeted strategies: hypothesizing, testing, and tracking outcomes.
  • Experimenting to find what your body needs (as an individual).
  • Leveraging preventative and functional techniques to promote longevity.
  • Optimizing the environment inside, and outside of you to take control of your own biology* definition as stated in Merriam-Webster dictionary.
  • It's preventative health care, not sickness care.

On the other hand, here's what biohacking isn't:

  • It’s not: Using every new health tech out there ‘just because.’
  • It’s not: Gene editing.
  • It’s not: Popping random supplements because so-and-so says you should.
  • It’s not: Forcing your body to change in unnatural ways.
  • It’s not: Passively trying out every health gimmick or fad diet on the market.
  • It’s not: Transhumanism, or biotech chip implants.

In a nutshell, biohacking involves becoming a scientist that's focused on optimizing the health of your body and mind with tried and true techniques that naturally move you into a state of homeostasis.

And most important, biohacking always starts with your “why.” Why is your body out of balance? This means that the tools that work for you may not work for your neighbor, and vice versa–it's about you, not the latest trends.


The 9 Health Fundamentals of Biohacking

So, where do you start on this journey to homeostasis and optimal health?

I suggest, before buying any fancy new device, piece of gear, supplement, or superfood, to always begin with these nine fundamentals:

  1. Sleep
  2. Hydration
  3. Natural light exposure
  4. Nature and grounding
  5. Breathing
  6. Exercise and movement
  7. Individualized nutrition
  8. Oral optimization
  9. A supportive community and human connection

Once these are dialed in, you can explore the ever-evolving world of biohacking—but without these, you'll just be building on a faulty foundation.

Below I'll explore each fundamental further, break down what it means to truly optimize it, and provide you with multiple ways to begin optimizing your health, performance, and longevity.

Biohacking Fundamental 1: Sleep

Getting a good night of sleep is vital for health and longevity. While you sleep, your body restores itself, cleans up shop, detoxifies, regenerates, and rebuilds from the damage done to it during the previous day.

However, many people struggle with sleep these days due to technology and the modern-day environment's impact on our circadian rhythm (biological clock). Specifically, research shows that EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) and blue light from our tech devices mess with the sleep hormone melatonin, throwing our sleep-wake cycle off track.

Eating after sunset also interferes with the repair processes that take place during sleep. A large percentage of our energy is used to digest food, so instead of using energy to repair, our organs are at full speed digesting food as we sleep. A study by Dr. Satchin Panda, as discussed in his book The Circadian Code, showed that rodents that ate within a restricted window of daylight hours lost weight due to their blood glucose levels being lower through the night vs. the control group that ate the same amount of food whenever they wanted in a 24 hour period.

The problems we get with faster aging, slower recovery, and chronic health issues are enhanced further, as most of us go to bed late (due to blue light exposure) and wake up early, which means we have significantly less repair and restore time on an ongoing basis. Over many years of following these sleep routines, the negative effects compound, often culminating into full-blown health issues.

So, since we spend approximately one-third of our lives asleep, it makes sense to focus on optimizing this aspect of our health before anything else. Sleep truly is the foundation of health.

Quick tips to improve your sleep:

  • Use blue-light blocking glasses such as the ones from Ra Optics after the sun goes down to support the secretion of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
  • Turn off screens and electronics at least an hour (preferably two) before bed.
  • Unplug your WiFi (a huge generator of EMF) at night while you sleep.
  • Pull your bed 18 inches away from the wall so your household electricity isn't stimulating you (you can measure your headboard with an EMF reader and see for yourself!)
  • Don’t eat much more than an hour after sunset, and ideally 4 hours before bed.
  • Wind down and relax without social media, stimulating TV, stressors, or anything that keeps you from being calm for at least 1.5 hours before bed.

And here are some other resources from Ben on how to dial in your sleep:

Biohacking Fundamental 2: Hydration

Every cell in your body requires proper hydration to function optimally; unfortunately, most people are walking around dehydrated, and they don't even realize it.

To be clear, there's a big difference between drinking and hydrating; just because you're drinking eight glasses of water a day doesn't mean you're hydrating your body. To properly hydrate, you have to consume water that is rich in minerals and low in contaminants.

Unfortunately, most sources of water, including tap, filtered, and bottled water are low in minerals, causing us to drink more to get the right amount of minerals we need. This causes a vicious cycle of drinking more, peeing more, and drinking more, on and on (waking at 2 am to pee, anyone?). Ben talked more about why drinking more water doesn't work in his recent podcast with Tracy Duhs.

Here are some biohacks that will help you stay truly hydrated:

  • Drink water that is mineralized so your body can absorb it. Add a pinch of Celtic sea salt (contains 78 trace elements and minerals), or a hypertonic like Quinton.
  • Use a high-quality filter (not a retail one from the supermarket), or Reverse Osmosis Water purifier for the removal of all contaminants from tap water.
  • Try to avoid drinking more than 2.5 liters of water a day.

To dive deeper into hydration, check out these podcasts and articles:

Biohacking Fundamental 3: Natural Light Exposure

Just a few generations ago, our ancestors would have awoken with the sunrise and spent most of the day outside in natural light hunting, gathering, and enjoying the natural world. They would have gone to bed shortly after sunset, likely after sitting by red-tinted firelight for a few hours while eating dinner and spending time with their community.

Today, however, we spend most of our time inside under artificial lighting, missing the precious hours of sunlight behind a desk while staring at a blue, flickering computer screen.

Light is energy for our mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of the cell. Therefore, depending on what light you're exposed to, you could be charging your cells with good energy, or draining them with bad energy. This is why natural light exposure at the right time of day is crucial for your energy levels, circadian rhythm, and hormones.

Also, it's vital that you respect the sun and not just jump out of a fake-lit office and into a 95 degree Fahrenheit sun during a holiday—if you expect you won't get burnt, that's just madness. You need to build up your sun exposure over a period of time if you want to be burn-free (without using sunscreens packed with nasty chemicals).

Simple ways to improve your natural light exposure:

  • Try to watch the sunrise and sunset as often as possible; at the very least, try to get outside first thing in the morning to get sunlight in your eyes. This helps set your circadian rhythm.
  • Aim for at least 15 minutes of sun exposure every day (all year round).
  • Get out during the day to optimize vitamin D synthesis which also converts your cholesterol into hormones.
  • Minimize artificial light, especially LED (rich in blue light) after sunset, and wear those blue blockers consistently.

Here are a few more resources on light from Ben:

Biohacking Fundamental 4: Nature and Grounding

In addition to getting plenty of sunlight, our ancestors would have been surrounded by nature all day, every day, likely touching the bare earth most of the time.

Research shows that when we walk barefoot outside (also known as “grounding” or “earthing”) we become connected to the earth's natural frequencies and negative ions, which can help to reduce the negative effects of positively-charged electric fields on our bodies. This provides a range of health benefits, including pain reduction, better circulation, reduced inflammation, and improved sleep. You can learn more about the details of grounding in Ben's excellent podcast interview with Clint Ober here.

Furthermore, a practice known as forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku in Japanese), which involves surrounding yourself in a natural environment, has been shown to reduce stress markers and promote markers for physical and psychological well-being. This could be down to the clean, fresh air, the different smells, calming sounds, the natural light exposure, the negative ions in the air, or the lack of manmade stimulation or immediate threats.

Some biohacks to help you connect to nature include:

  • Walk barefoot outside in the grass every day, even if just for a few minutes (22 minutes is the ideal minimum effective dose)
  • Get out in nature as often as possible: hike, walk, forest bathe, meditate, whatever you can do
  • Use products to emulate the earth's surface like grounding mats, grounding shoes, or shoe straps

Plus, you can check out more advanced information from Ben on grounding and earthing here:

Biohacking Fundamental 5: Breathing

Breathing is something that many people take for granted, as it primarily happens below our conscious awareness.

However, changing your breathing can alter your entire physiology and mental state for the better. There are many methods you can incorporate as a daily practice, from the Wim Hof Method to diaphragmatic breathing to the number of tactics covered in Ben's article here.

However, even more fundamental than an elaborate breathwork practice is to optimize your everyday breathing. Small changes can add up, fast.

Here's how to optimize your breathing:

  • Get a good air purifier for your home to remove household toxins, and pollution if you live in a city. Many allergies and irritations disappear when air is filtered well.
  • Avoid mouth breathing as much as possible; if you know you're a mouth breather, try mouth tape at night while you sleep. Research shows that nasal breathing allows for better sleep and better cognitive function than mouth breathing due to increased nitric oxide production. A great bi-product can be reduced snoring.
  • If you notice that you're breathing is short and shallow, elongate the breath and breathe deeper into your diaphragm – this helps to calm your nervous system.
  • Try breathing exercises throughout the day. My favorite is box breathing where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and repeat. This is also a great calming tactic when you’re trying to fall asleep.
  • Do breath-hold walks: Hold your breath on the out-breath while out on your daily walk. Start by holding your breath for 4-5 steps, then breathing normally for 4-5 steps. The better we are at holding our breath, the better we utilize oxygen, so this practice will help with many health issues, including asthma.
  • Practice Wim Hof breathing exercises using Wim’s iPhone app. You’ll feel awake, alive, and full of energy afterward. You can even do these in the morning while grounding in the sunlight!

And for even more practical tips on proper breathing, be sure to check out these articles and podcasts:

Biohacking Fundamental 6: Exercise and Movement

Perhaps one of the greatest differences between our ancestors and us is the amount and type of movement we get each day. Although our lifestyles and priorities are much different today, our need for regular movement hasn't changed.

It's well documented that living a sedentary life is one of the greatest predictors for early death. Our lymphatic system needs stimulation with movement, our body needs activity for increased oxygen, and our heart needs to be regularly challenged to stay strong and healthy.

Our ancestors used to use their bodies far more than their minds; but for us today, it's the reverse. For many people, this leads to an unhealthy body and an overstimulated mind. Luckily, there's no shortage of ways to get more movement into your daily life.

Hacks to optimize your daily movement:

  • Build a minimum daily movement routine that includes stretches, a 30-minute walk, 50 air squats, 20 chin-ups, and 15 push-ups, for example.
  • Get a doorway chin-up bar and do 5 chin-ups every time you pass through the door.
  • Get a rebounder and keep it next to your desk. I recommend rebounding for 5 minutes 2-3 times a day (it's a great break in between calls to freshen the mind and get the blood flowing).
  • Cut down on time spent sitting by getting a standing desk. Pro-tip 1: Get a balance board to engage your core throughout the day. Pro-tip 2: Get an Earthing mat to stand on so you’re grounded throughout the day too.
  • Remember to use your body as much as you use your mind.

Ben has no shortage of content on fitness and movement, but here are some of the highlights:

Biohacking Fundamental 7: Individualized Nutrition

While it's easy to jump on a diet bandwagon when you first foray into biohacking, successfully hacking your nutrition usually comes down to basic fundamentals: eat real, high-quality food, and mostly protein. From there, you can do elimination diets, genetic testing, or food sensitivity tests to tweak things even further (but you must start with the basics).

Eating like our ancestors means taking a good hard look at your diet and doing away with anything your ancestors would never have come across. A saying I use a lot is, “if it's in a packet or a tin, it's probably better in the bin.”

To be honest, this might mean changing your relationship and mindset with food, and eating for energy and nutrients, rather than pure enjoyment or satiation. Luckily, it also makes things much more simple from a nutrition standpoint and improves your health at the same time.

Here are some tips to individualize your diet while keeping it simple:

  • Remember: Food doesn't have ingredients. It is the ingredients.
  • Follow an ancestral diet whenever possible. Focus on single-ingredient foods while avoiding manufactured or processed “Frankenfoods” with more than 2-3 ingredients.
  • Eat for energy and nutrients, not for fun or just to feel full. Your food should be providing your body with the quality energy it needs; it shouldn't be used as a vice.
  • Try intermittent fasting (IF), which gives your body a break from food for 12-14 hours a day to do critical repair work and clear out toxins. Our ancestors didn't have kitchens stocked with snacks that they could graze on all day.
  • If you have digestive issues, try removing gluten, A1 protein milk sources (A2 raw dairy is great though), Lectins, Oxalates, processed sugar, and most importantly processed vegetable/seed oils like canola, sunflower, etc. They cause massive inflammation and cause metabolic diseases.
  • Try adding some digestive enzymes if you have intolerances, or even better, Ox Bile with fatty meals to support your liver and detoxification.

I must say again, before diving into advanced biohacks especially when it comes to diet and supplementation, test first. Test your blood, cellular health, gut bacteria, and blood glucose. If you find deficiencies or issues that can't be corrected with diet, then, and only then, supplement or splash out on technologies.

Ben also has a number of excellent resources on nutrition and customizing your diet, including:

Biohacking Fundamental 8: Oral Optimization

You've likely heard a lot about the gut microbiome and the importance of maintaining healthy gut bacteria, but what most people don't realize, however, is that your mouth has an even more diverse microbiome than your gut.

The truth is, your health starts in the mouth, and it's an important window into the health of the rest of your body.

If you keep getting cavities, root canals, infections or have bad breath, it's an indicator that something is out of balance—and that could be a lack of good bacteria, too much bad bacteria, oral candida (yep, it's a thing), leaky gums (like leaky gut), mineral or nutrient deficiencies, or the most well known one—too much sugar (without enough good brushing!).

Having metals in your mouth, using mouthwash that kills your oral microbiome, or having cavitations (with hidden chronic low-grade infections) constantly feeds down into the gut and causes havoc. This is why seeing a biological dentist like my friend, author, previous Ben Greenfield podcast guest, and Health Optimisation Summit speaker Dr. Dominic Nischwitz is key to reversing chronic issues.

Try these biohacks for a healthy mouth:

  • Trash the toxic mouthwash and try coconut oil pulling instead.
  • Get some oral probiotics.
  • If you have a “furry tongue” (a tongue coated with white fuzz) use a tongue scraper.
  • When you do need dental work done, go to a biological dentist so they can find chronic hidden infections traditional dentists aren't taught to identify.
  • Remove metal (mercury) fillings, metal implants, and root canals, as they should only be temporary for pain relief and removed to avoid any chronic issues.
  • Get ceramic implants instead of metal implants or root canals.
  • Read “Its all in your mouth” by Dr. Nischwitz

Plus, even more information on oral health from Ben:

Biohacking Fundamental 9: Community and Connection

As Ben discussed in a recent podcast, loneliness is a hidden epidemic that affects your health as much as diet, sleep, and movement. You just have to watch “castaway” with Tom Hanks to see what a lonely life can do to a human.

On the flip side, surrounding yourself with toxic relationships is no solution to loneliness. I once heard Tim Ferris say that “if 80% of your issues come from 20% of the people in your life—you know what to do.” If you wish to be happier, less stressed (less cortisol), and as a result, healthier, optimizing your social circle is critical.

One of the benefits of stepping into the world of biohacking is the incredible community that comes with it. A true biohacker embodies the “biohacker code”—helping each other out, working together, finding solutions, making all situations a win/win, always being kind, appreciating people for who they are, and having fun with the hacking process.

Here are some ways you can incorporate this same “biohacker community” into your own life and social circles.

Tips for community and connection:

  • Network and connect, join meet-ups, online communities, and build personal relationships wherever you can. Instagram is very powerful for this if you mix in the right circles.
  • Support your fellow biohackers and share knowledge, tools, and tips.
  • Embody the biohacker code and appreciate everybody for who they are, no matter where they are on their journey.
  • Schedule at least one evening with a friend (in person) every week.
  • Come to the Health Optimisation Summit and have dinner with me and Ben :) (and 35 other awesome speakers).

And be sure to check out these other resources on building a community and combatting loneliness:


Summary

The term “biohacking” is often misunderstood, with many people thinking it requires fancy gadgets, expensive treatments, endlessly tracking pointless amounts of data, and taking 27 different supplements every day.

But really, it's much more simple than that: it's giving your body what it needs to operate exactly as it should.

Yes, biohacking can indeed incorporate devices and data and supplements. But in order for your efforts to actually be successful in improving your health, performance, and longevity, you should always start with the fundamentals first: sleep, hydration, light exposure, nature/grounding, breathing, exercise/movement, nutrition, oral, and community/human connection.

Once you nail the fundamentals (many of which are free, by the way), any advanced hacking is just the cherry on top—and will be that much more effective in boosting your health.

So, here's a recap of where to start your biohacking journey:

  • Optimize your sleep by using blue-light-blocking glasses, turning off your screens an hour or two before bed, and condensing your eating window to sunlight hours.
  • Improve your hydration by drinking mineralized or salted water, using a high-quality remineralizing water filter, and avoiding drinking more than 2.5 liters of water per day (quality over quantity).
  • Get natural light exposure by watching the sunrise/sunset as often as possible, aiming for at least 15 minutes of sun exposure each day, getting out during the day to increase Vitamin D, and minimizing artificial indoor light as much as possible.
  • Walk barefoot outside, get out in nature in any way/shape/form, and use products to emulate the earth's surface such as a grounding mat.
  • Avoid mouth breathing (breathe through your nose instead), do breathwork exercises throughout the day, and get a high-quality air purifier for your home.
  • Follow a daily movement routine, scatter exercise equipment throughout your home such as a doorway chin-up bar or rebounder, and invest in a standing desk.
  • Eat for energy and nutrients as opposed to pure enjoyment. Eat foods your ancestors would have had access to, avoid things “in a package or a tin,” and incorporate 12-14 hour intermittent fasting.
  • Optimize your oral (mouth) health by seeing a biological dentist, coconut oil pulling, using a tongue scraper, taking oral probiotics, removing any metal (mercury) fillings, and getting ceramic implants instead of metal implants.
  • Combat loneliness with community and connection. Network within your local community groups, support and engage with fellow biohackers, and schedule at least one evening with a friend every week.

Phew! That was a lot to take in, but if you can slowly incorporate these simple tips from Tim into your lifestyle, your health will improve beyond your dreams and your body will be able to perform to the best of its ability, leaving you feeling good inside and out. I can personally say that I practice many, if not all, of these tactics and they're absolutely critical to my health and performance—more than any device or supplement or therapy out there.

By the way, if you'd like to hear more from Tim and get connected with a thriving biohacking community, consider joining me alongside 2,000 other people, 100 awesome health brands, and 45 global speakers in the flesh for an amazing, two-day immersive experience at the Health Optimisation Summit in London, May 28-29th 2022 (use code BEN to save 20%).

Game-changing speakers, incredible minds, and visionaries, including myself Mindvalley’s Vishen Lakhiani, Jim Kwik, Dr. Jolene Brighten, and Dr. Satchin Panda, will be speaking at the event. You'll also have access to workshops, hands-on sessions, a VIP area with the opportunity to meet and mingle with the speakers, and be able to try out the latest health tech and gadgets including cryo and hyperbaric oxygen chambers, red-light devices, EMF blockers, and the latest breakthrough supplements.

So what biohacking tips are you considering adding to your health optimization journey? Do you already swear by some of these tactics? If so, which ones have been the most effective for you? Leave a comment below and let's get discussing, I read them all!

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5 thoughts on “How to “Hack” Biohacking: 9 Essential Health Fundamentals That Any Biohacker Can Master.

  1. paddle says:

    Ben…crazy valuable article. Thanks for all your efforts

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      Glad you found it helpful

  2. Marie says:

    Ben,
    I truly am so grateful for you and your work. I read from, listen to, and incorporate your teachings into my and my families’ lives. Thank you for yet another insightful article and links to so much information.
    Best,
    Marie

  3. Steven H. says:

    wow…thank you, Ben, for this comprehensive article. There is already so much to apply for a solid foundation..

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      you bet Steven! thanks for the comment

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