October 26, 2021
The shape of my life and business is starting to shift a bit more dramatically than usual…
…and where I envision myself in five years is actually quite a bit different than where I happen to be right now.
In this article on (literal) vision and this article on (personal) vision, I talk about how I am moving away from my identity as a “biohacking and fitness expert” towards what I feel is my greater purpose—serving as a channel of wisdom and ideas on topics near and dear to my heart, topics that span from parenting to prayer to creativity, while yes, still also providing informative and leading-edge content about physical health.
A natural consequence of this evolution is, I think, going to be an inclusion of a broader range of topics that I cover as I continue my pursuit to be intensely curious about all aspects of God's creation, paired with my hope being that if you have landed upon my content during a search for biohacking or nutrition or fitness content or the like, you'll stay for my storytelling and that I may also begin to speak to those of you who may not be quite as invested at the crazy, cutting-edge scientific biohacking side of things, but are also or instead looking to expand your understanding of holistic health, spirituality, family, plant foraging, hunting, survival, and even economics, politics, and beyond—all through the lens of body, mind and spirit optimization. And while nearly half of you are already female, my thought is that this focus shift may bring even more women into the fold as there could be less chatter of, say, injecting stem cells into male genitalia. :)
After all, while I strive to offer content that is valuable to both men and women, as a dude, I have been able to be my own “research subject” (AKA, guinea pig) for more manly-type topics. For example, I have put out the following articles and podcasts about testosterone, which are worthy of consideration for women but of course may primarily address men (I mean, the titles about icing your balls and biohacking your manhood are telling):
- Testosterone Decoded, Shattering Testosterone Myths (& Everything You Need To Know About Testosterone Optimization Therapy.
- Hair, Hormones, Icing Your Balls & 6 Other Little-Known Strategies To Boost Testosterone, Balance Your Hormones & Reclaim Your Rightful Man & Womanhood.
- Is Metformin Really Dangerous, Little-Known Peptides For Muscle Gain & Fat Loss, Testosterone Replacement Therapy & Much More!
So, I thought it was high time to shift gears and publish an article today that predominately looks at and speaks to you women.
See, recently I had Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps of HigherDOSE on my podcast, and they really made me think even more about the role of women in the health, fitness, and nutrition industry. While there are plenty of practices and protocols that have universal benefits, regardless of sex (such as sunlight exposure, proper hydration, EMF avoidance, and adequate sleep), women's bodies undoubtedly warrant special consideration, don't you think?
After all, even the word “biohacker”—in my opinion—sounds like an edgy masculine type of term. When I was talking to Lauren and Katie, they asked me if there was a good term for a female biohacker and I didn't have an answer there. They proposed “biohack-HER,” which I think is kind of interesting, and which I have now considered adding to my lexicon, though it still seems a bit awkward.
Anyway, these gals, my new biohack-HER (let's just roll with that for now) friends, seem to just blow my mind whenever I talk to them about what they're up to—they're constantly on the cutting edge of the health industry, particularly when it comes to beauty biohacking—er—biohackHERing.
As we discuss in our recent podcast, the DOSE in Lauren and Katie's company HigherDOSE stands for dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, which are the four main happy chemicals in your brain. Lauren and Katie's mission with HigherDOSE is to make people feel good with products that naturally release those chemicals (hence their tagline, “Get High Naturally”), and while their products undoubtedly benefit both men and women, their personal and professional focus on the female body informs the way that they run their company and develop their products.
I was first introduced to Lauren and Katie when they sent me one of the HigherDOSE sauna blankets to try. Now, as you know, I'm normally into trying any new biohacking gear, but I'd already mostly renounced electrical blankets because of the EMF factor—they're notorious for kicking off tons of it. Also, I have to admit that I doubted whether I could get the kind of sweat that I do in my full-sized sauna. However, Lauren and Katie assured me that the HigherDOSE blanket is low-EMF and when I tried it, I was definitely able to get enough sweat going. I even ended up giving a HigherDOSE blanket to my mom, who found that after she climbed into it at night it ended up banishing her hip pain with surprising speed and efficacy. I was sold. (You can get $75 off the HigherDOSE Sauna Blanket, PEMF Go Mat, or Infrared Mat with code BEN.) I now own three of these blankets: one that is currently on the floor of my office that I've been climbing into for my afternoon work siesta, and two more that my thirteen-year-old sons use while reading up in their bedroom.
During that podcast, Lauren and Katie also really made me think hard about the role of sex in this industry. As I've talked about before on podcasts, there is a clear gender bias in medical research, with only 6% of studies including female-only participant groups and only 12% of animal studies including females at all.
The reason for this lack of inclusion?
Well, it's mostly because the female body is more complex and variable throughout the month, dependent on where a woman is in her cycle—which is precisely why, as Lauren and Katie contend—it's so important to carefully heed the impact of your biology if you are a woman. It's also worth mentioning that the male-focused bias has historically led researchers to conduct their observations on males, in addition to studies of both male humans and male nonhuman animals. Males have been the animal subjects of most experiments, with one study finding that neuroscientists used 5.5 males for every one female, pharmacologists used five, and physiologists used 3.7. This gender gap in research subjects extends to humans as well; another study, in the Journal of Women’s Health found that women made up less than one-quarter of all patients enrolled in 46 examined clinical trials. As a result, we have scarce information about the biology of female organisms, other than their general reproductive biology. Moreover, women have been historically excluded from leadership roles in science, further leading to the male-focused bias in scientific roles.
So in this article, written by Lauren Berlingeri of HigherDOSE, I want to give you a good look at how and why what works for men's health may not be the right choice for you women. While this article is addressed primarily to women, the information here is relevant to both sexes, considering that—as I have advised extensively in the past—you should never take health advice as gospel without considering your individual biology and responses and this article, I hope, helps you think about what does and does not work for you.
The Biohacking Sex Gap & The Birth of HigherDOSE
Women are biohackers, by nature. We’ve been tuning in to our bodies since the beginning of time.
We balance work, play, motherhood, partnership, and never-ending to-do lists. We nourish complex female bodies that visibly transform as we prepare for motherhood, carry children, and raise the next generation. And, in order to get it all done, women innately know how to balance their resources and energy as their bodies cycle through four distinct hormonal phases each month.
Women are natural biohackers in every sense—but the biohacking movement that is gaining momentum around the world? It was primarily built by and for men. All those tools, tricks, technologies, hacks, and help guides you’re hearing about? They are largely modeled after a man’s body and mind.
It’s not that women can’t stand up to the challenge. We are simply working with different systems. And assuming that the best biohacking practices are suited for female biology is not only leading us to lackluster results—it might even be harming our health.
It’s not that men are intentionally leaving women out. We have simply been raised in a world where women have been left out of medical, health, and fitness research so universally and for so long that most of us don’t realize the scale and impact of this research gap.
I’m Lauren Berlingeri, co-founder of wellness-tech brand HigherDOSE and a female biohacker living between Miami, Florida, and upstate New York.
Along with my HigherDOSE co-founder Katie Kaps, I have spent the past year deep-diving into the statistics behind this sex gap in the wellness industry. It was staggering to learn about the disparities and resulting dangers to women’s health.
Using this research as fire beneath us, Katie and I launched a web series called Biohack-HERS alongside HigherDOSE to explore the best biohacking treatments out there—to understand what parts of this movement work for women’s bodies, and why. In order for women to ignite their most vital lives, we need to start a larger conversation about our unique needs, strengths, and limits.
Before I break down some of my findings, let me tell you about the personal journey that led me here. I share these details as I see my story mirrored in thousands of women I have met through the HigherDOSE community. After years of fighting my body in hopes that it would perform, I finally learned how to slow down and listen to it. That intuitive listening, in my opinion, is the foundation of the female biohacking movement. And it’s what will allow us to build a better wellness framework in which female bodies can thrive.
How I Learned Self-Listening And Paying Attention To My Body
My body was my product. I didn’t know how to care for it.
I started my career as an international model. At the age of eighteen, I was traveling around the world and living off the ‘model diet’ (cigarettes, coffee, diet coke) in order to maintain an unhealthy size zero. It’s a funny concept to reflect on: as models, our bodies were our products—yet I had absolutely no idea how to take care of mine. Or how to ignite the best version of it through healthy practices.
I loved that the job allowed me to travel and meet exceptional people, but my passion for the industry ended there. When I turned twenty-five, I decided to study nutrition. This sparked a real passion in me. I was obsessed with testing out different wellness and nutrition philosophies and became a certified nutritionist and health coach. Running my own practice, I was asked by Wilhelmina (my modeling agency) to take on other models as my clients. Suddenly, my passion for taking care of myself had graduated into a passion for giving others the tools to take care of themselves in the same way. I carry this with me today.
Extreme fitness became my religion. But did the pendulum swing too far?
Fitness, nutrition, and healthy living quickly became my religion. I left the fashion board at Wilhelmina. I became a fitness model, which renewed my interest in the industry. Attracting creative collaborators with my enthusiasm for extreme fitness and wellness, I developed and starred in a YouTube series called Woman vs. Workout.
As the name implies, Woman vs. Workout was an intense showdown between my own limits (physical, mental, emotional) and the most hardcore challenges we could find—challenges like hell night with Navy Seals, Nascar driving, Motocross, Firefighter training, and beyond. It was an awesome, inspiring show that got me nominated for a Webby award and led to more hosting opportunities for Extreme sports brands like UFC, EA Sports, and IMG's sports division.
In order to prepare for these challenges, however, I had to train like a professional athlete. I worked out up to 2-3 times a day, very intensely. Over time, this regimen took its toll on my body. My hormones were out of whack. I couldn’t sleep through the night. I felt more aggressive and irritated than ever. I had trouble regulating my nervous system. I had made what I thought was a huge shift towards healthier living, but I began to wonder: did the pendulum swing too far? (Interestingly, Ben recently wrote an article about how to determine if your exercise is tending towards addictive and what you can do about it.)
Everything changed when I discovered infrared and learned about the power of self-listening.
Feeling pulled back to my true passions of nutrition and wellness, I started working for a wellness start-up called ALOHA, where I managed the ambassador program and worked on product development. I spent hours each day speaking to the most influential wellness leaders around—doctors, naturopaths, fitness experts, energy healers, etc. They told me about their favorite wellness technologies, products, and ingredients. It was in one of these conversations that I first learned about infrared sauna therapy.
Curious to know more about this “healing heat,” I started interviewing doctors and experts about the benefits of infrared saunas—and was shocked to learn that infrared might be the antidote to most of the aforementioned side-effects of overextending my body. I was told that infrared therapy would help me calm my nervous system, deepen my sleep, and improve my skin. I was intrigued. So, I looked up the only infrared sauna that existed in New York City at the time (in a basement of a colonic studio, hidden behind a curtain) and tried it out.
I was blown away. I stepped out of the sauna experiencing instant benefits. I felt calm and connected (a New York City miracle, as any New Yorker will understand). I slept through the night for the first time in years. And my skin was glowing for days to come. I couldn't understand why everyone didn't know about the healing power of an infrared sauna.
How did infrared get me such great results? It wasn’t deprivation like my early modeling days. And it didn’t call for extreme exertion like my more recent hardcore fitness exploits. It was a deeply relaxing experience that just so happened to also come with transformative health benefits. So, I made it my mission to bring infrared to the masses. This was the spark for HigherDOSE, which Katie and I founded seven years ago as a collection of infrared spas in New York City.
Today at HigherDOSE, we are purveyors of a suite of wellness-tech devices that harness the most healing technologies available—from infrared’s healing heat to PEMF’s grounding technology to red light’s rejuvenating rays. These devices from HigherDOSE offer powerful results for everyone, but I am particularly passionate about our offerings because they are well-suited for a woman’s body.
What does that mean?
Well, the products at HigherDOSE are biohacking tools, but they do not rely on “hacking cortisol” or optimizing the 24-hour male hormonal cycle. They simply relax the body, reset your system, and allow your natural processes to function at their strongest. For women, in particular, these practices—of resetting, recharging, and tuning in—are vital when embarking on any health journey, especially a biohacking journey.
However, the products are undoubtedly beneficial for men, too. Ben already talked about how he is a fan of the sauna blanket, and now he's also a devotee of our latest offering at HigherDOSE—which has been wildly popular since launching—the Red Light Face Mask.
The mask is a light therapy device that combines red and near-infrared LED technologies. Light therapy is a gentle, non-invasive treatment that mimics low-level wavelengths found in natural sunlight. This relaxing and effective treatment warms the skin, boosts your mood, and enhances your natural glow after just a single session. Ben really likes that the design (cordless with functional eyeholes) allows you to wear it while you're walking around, doing yoga, and even working out.
And yes, that's Ben in the photo here, with the HigherDOSE red light mask on top of a clay mask from Alitura, and while the look may be somewhat creepy, the results are well worth it.
Mind The Gap
Let’s talk about the research gap in the medical world.
What dangers underlie the historic absence of female bodies in fitness, health, and wellness trials?
Until 1933, women were not required to be included in clinical research. And that precedent has carried over to present-day practices.
Today, 75% of medical research is still performed on men, because researchers have historically felt (and continue to assume) that menstrual cycles and pregnancies confound and complicate the clinical process. Only 4% of healthcare R&D spending goes towards women’s health in the United States. And a 2010 study revealed that male animals are used six times more in lab research than female test subjects.
The result? Top health trends are not always fit (or safe) for the female body. Which adds to a woman’s confusion as she attempts to navigate the best vitality practices. Male and female biologies are significantly different systems—and treating them as the same comes with consequences. Over 13,000 genes are expressed differently between the sexes. And sex-biased patterns of gene regulation are linked to more than 50 bodily traits and functions.
But the biggest difference between males and females lies in our hormonal cycles and stress responses. Males have one hormonal cycle: the 24-hour clock. Female bodies run on two different inner clocks: a 24-hour hormonal cycle and a 28-day monthly cycle. This means that men have a high success rate with the same routine each day, but women need to consider both cycles when making health and fitness choices. Tentpole biohacking practices like the keto diet or intermittent fasting work well for men, but might not be the healthy solution for women during every phase of their cycle.
The other main difference to consider is the different stress responses in male and female bodies. Many of today’s top health trends tap into the male stress response, “hacking” adrenaline, and “optimizing” cortisol. “Fight or flight” (a male’s stress response) has become the cultural narrative. When reacting to a stressful event, a male’s spike in cortisol channels glucose to the muscles, while rising adrenaline boosts blood pressure and heart rate. Our male ancestors benefitted from these biological reactions when outrunning a charging animal or facing an incoming tribe. When the danger passes, their system returns to normal.
During a stressful event, we are biologically hardwired to tend to our young ones and befriend others to increase our chance of survival—not just our own, but also the survival of our offspring. As a result, cortisol has a vastly different effect on the female body. Too much of it can deplete our energy and resources, negatively impact our menstrual cycle, weaken our immune system, and ultimately lead to burnout.
How does this disparity show up in today’s wellness world?
All those depletion workouts (going hard while fasting, training when muscle glycogen levels are depleted) might lead a man to impressive results. But a woman on the same regimen could find herself facing a health crisis. These low-energy states don’t simply lead to less impressive results for women, they can actually trigger a slew of harmful hormonal responses: chronic stress, bone-stress injuries, hormonal imbalance, and poor performance. And recent studies suggest that the keto diet and intermittent fasting may disrupt a woman's cycle, deplete her fertility, and mess with her libido. These are times when self-listening can really come into play, because your body will respond, ladies.
If we continue to ask women to play within male-suited fitness and health worlds, we will continue to see women struggle. On the flip side, if women learn to listen to their bodies, we can build a powerful wellness framework for women to thrive in. The female body is an incredible machine that can be unlocked and optimized, simply by understanding how it works and tuning in to what it is telling us.
Advocating For Bio-Individuality
If we educate women about their bio-individuality and give them the tools they need to reach their own best, we will see women thrive. This idea is central to our mission at HigherDOSE.
The wellness business can feel cluttered and confusing because it has never been individually curated for one’s bio-individuality or unique health needs. We (men and women!) have been historically marketed to with sweeping, general solutions that chip away at our intuitive powers to tune into our body’s unique needs.
Health and wellness are not one-size-fits-all industries and biohacking is not a one-size-fits-all trend. The responsibility of leaders in this space is to provide their communities with the education, tools, and community they need to peel back the layers of their own wellness goals and take control of their unique health journeys.
So while I can’t offer a template for all women starting out on their wellness journeys, I can share my best tips for finding the right practices for your body.
I urge more women to try the gentle, yet effective infrared and PEMF treatments—and to look to nature to uncover the most healing modalities available to us. These natural highs are a powerful base for an intuitive wellness practice. From there, I would love to see more women matching their fitness and health regimens to the four distinct phases of their cycles.
Following are my top three tips or special considerations that, worked into your daily lifestyle, will move you towards optimal female health.
1. Natural Highs
Have you ever spent a day in nature and returned feeling blissed, buzzed, and beautiful? There are scientific reasons behind this vitality boost. The sun is a natural source of healing infrared heat. The earth is a magnetic field that produces negative ions and neutralizes the positive charge found in most human bodies, helping us return to a balanced energy state. The sea contains high concentrations of magnesium: an essential mineral that is responsible for more than 300 vital functions in our bodies.
While biohacking is gaining buzzy traction in our modern world, the best biohacking practices have been used by our ancestors for centuries. And most are readily available and free for all if we have access to nature.
Biohacking is not a movement confined to high-tech, high-concept practices. Biohacking includes naturally available health solutions—like walking barefoot, eating healthy, tuning into hormonal clocks, and soaking up direct sun exposure—and advocates for an intuitive approach to caring for your body and mind. As female biohackers, these are the areas that we are most passionate about harnessing and scaling. At HigherDOSE, when we are looking for inspiration on how to level up, we look to nature.
2. Harnessing Nature In Technology
We know that “getting into nature” is not the easiest thing to do for most people leading busy, modern lives. That’s why we’ve harnessed the healing power of nature in our HigherDOSE devices.
HigherDOSE products are designed to support fulfilling energy exchanges. Infrared and PEMF are gentle, yet effective therapies that mimic the healing power of nature—bringing these naturally potent modalities indoors so that more people in our modern world can benefit from them.
Infrared technology mimics the power of the sun and stimulates healing on a cellular level. Far infrared waves are the safest segment of the sun’s energy. These powerful rays penetrate deep beneath the skin, where they are known to assist with detoxification, relaxation, burning calories, pain relief, rapid recovery, anti-aging, skin purification, cell health, and improved circulation. But the part that really got us hooked at HigherDOSE? Infrared saunas boost your mood and provide a rejuvenating, euphoric experience (what we call a “natural high”).
PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field technology) is a powerful healing tool that mimics the Earth’s magnetic frequency (7.8 Hz, to be exact). The benefits of PEMF are out-of-this-world (literally, astronauts use it to recover from a debilitating space mission): it helps your body manage chronic pain, reduce stress, improve the immune system, speed up recovery after injuries, or intense workouts.
3. Customizing Your Health Regimen To Your Cycle
There is nothing more frustrating than making progress in your fitness and health regimen—and then stalling out. If you are a woman, this plateau (or worse: burnout) is likely because you are not adapting your strategies to the four distinct phases of your 28-day hormonal cycle (our infradian rhythm—a rhythm with a period longer than the period of a circadian rhythm, i.e., with a frequency of less than one cycle in 24 hours—and second internal clock). If you are going to biohack your female body, you need to understand your biochemistry.
The four phases of the female cycle are the menstruation phase, the follicular phase, the ovulation phase, and the luteal phase. Research suggests that, during the luteal phase (the second half of your 28-day cycle), women fatigue faster and should spend more time recovering. Estrogen and testosterone levels drop during your luteal phase, leaving you with less energy to crush those high-intensity workouts. Listen to these energy states as exercising harder during this time can actually backfire. You will need to consume more calories, but your metabolism burn will also rise. It’s vital during this phase to downshift your workouts and focus on restorative movement.
I love to train hard, but I keep high-intensity exercise for the first half of my cycle when my metabolism is slower. HIIT training speeds up metabolism and helps support weight loss and muscle gain. There are a wealth of emerging resources, like FloLiving, where you can learn about which workouts to take on during each cycle. So it goes without saying at this point that there is a certain method to the madness in terms of planning your exercises around your menstrual cycle and at certain phases of your cycle, which I talk about in this article and this podcast as well. There are also some great books out there that cover this exact topic that Ben has talked about before, including Flo by Alisa Vitti and some really incredible female-focused books by Stacy Sims on how to match food and fitness to your individual physiology and much more.
As a general rule of thumb, you should work out mildly during menstruation (walking is great), pick up the pace during your follicular phase (get going on that cardio), lean into HIIT when you are ovulating (try bodyweight in the mornings when you have extra energy due to higher testosterone levels) and transition to restorative practices during your luteal phase (think: pilates, yoga, stretching, infrared saunas).
You’ll be amazed at the shift in your energy levels and physical results when you begin listening to your body and customizing your health regimen to match what it is asking of you during each unique hormonal phase.
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, and regardless of whether you are structuring your workout, planning your weekly meals, beginning to use nootropics, or optimizing your biohacking routine…
…I have long advocated for individuality and self-listening.
For women, in particular, the education component of biohacking is a vital first step in creating a space where we can thrive. At the end of the day, biohacking is founded on a simple shared goal: to be the absolute best version of ourselves. That means that women’s goals are going to look very different from men’s goals.
Women are natural biohackers—due to the menstrual cycle and life demands. Once women realize that the hormonal cycle is a pro, not a con, they can begin to harness it for health, power, and the ultimate hacking strategies for our unique bodily makeups. Women's complex bodies and constantly changing hormonal cycles are a superpower, not a limitation.
I titled the nutrition chapter of my book Boundless “F&*K DIETS: How to Customize Your Nutrition to You,” which is a perfect example of how I feel about bio-individuality and the fact that there is no universal prescription for wellness—and getting to know Lauren Berlingeri has helped to bring women's unique health needs to the forefront for me.
The following points are among those that Lauren and Katie Kaps consider when developing products and practices at HigherDOSE:
- Women are natural biohackers, but the biohacking movement was primarily built by and for men. Therefore, when women adopt certain popular biohacking practices, it might not only lead to lackluster results—it might even be harming their health.
- The biggest difference between males and females lies in the hormonal cycles and stress responses. Females have to consider a 28-day monthly cycle in addition to the 24-hour hormonal clock that exists in both men and women. Women also have a different response to a spike in cortisol as a response to stress; it can be highly deleteri0us.
- Depletion workouts (going hard while fasting, training when muscle glycogen levels are depleted) might lead a man to impressive results. But a woman on the same regimen could find herself facing a health crisis. These low-energy states don’t simply lead to less impressive results for women, they can actually trigger a slew of harmful hormonal responses: chronic stress, bone-stress injuries, hormonal imbalance, and poor performance.
And here's a recap of Lauren's top biohacking and health tips specifically for you women:
- Try gentle yet effective infrared and PEMF treatments—such as the HigherDOSE infrared sauna blanket.
- Try to match your fitness and health regimen to the four distinct phases of your cycle. As a guideline, you should work out mildly during menstruation (walking is great), pick up the pace during your follicular phase (get going on that cardio), lean into HIIT when you are ovulating (try bodyweight in the mornings when you have extra energy due to higher testosterone levels) and transition to restorative practices during your luteal phase (think: pilates, yoga, stretching, infrared saunas).
- Include health solutions grounded in nature—like walking barefoot, eating healthy, tuning into hormonal clocks, and soaking up direct sun exposure.
HigherDOSE offers a suite of wellness-tech devices that harness the most healing technologies available—from infrared’s healing heat to PEMF’s grounding technology to red light’s rejuvenating rays—and while they are particularly well suited for a woman’s body, I can tell you (as a certified manly man) that the benefits are universal.
As I look to end the year moving forward with my broader vision for my life and my company—expect big shifts in 2022—this reminder about bio-individuality and self-listening is perfectly timed and I also appreciate an ever-widening understanding of the distinct considerations for my female clients, my wife Jessa, and the rest of you wonderful women in my life and in my audience.
Now I want to hear from you (men and women both). Do you have questions for me or for Lauren and Katie over at HigherDOSE? Leave your comments below and we'll reply.