First things first. Biohacking is a general term for using tips and tricks to alter/improve your biology to become your best and most efficient self.
This may sound a little like something from The Matrix but it’s growing in popularity and is showing some great benefits for people but other views need to be considered too.
How do I do it?
In order to biohack your biology most effectively, you’d be best getting a genetic/DNA test done that allows you to examine your genes and what your predisposed to but also if possible (as it’s not widely available yet) a microbiome analysis to see what your gut bacteria (and oral bacteria too) consist of and what this profile indicates in terms of your health.
For example, some DNA tests look at things like your caffeine metabolism, which indicates how well your body processes caffeine and can give you an indication as to whether it’s beneficial for you (helps you work out harder and therefore burn more calories) or would more likely have a negative impact (makes you jittery and less able to sleep). This could be helpful for people who for example, have anxiety issues and discover that they don’t react well to caffeine; hence reducing their intake may help reduce anxiety levels as they don’t feel as on edge.
Another example I have heard that has helped individuals is that some people don’t process alcohol as efficiently as others and therefore would need to monitor their consumption more closely. Knowing this allows you to take action against it for the times when you really want to partake in the celebrations and enjoy a drink, therefore taking something such as Milk thistle which is a great liver supporter, can help.
Knowing your genes and microbiome profile could also help people understand which diet would suit them best as some people may not process carbs as well as others and therefore a lower carb, higher protein/fat diet would work best for person A whereas person B has microbes and genes that can handle that plate of pasta just fine. This is where new information is beginning to explain why so many people often do better on one diet than another and react very differently to certain foods/diets than their friend.
So basically, knowing what your body struggles with can give you the information to improve your life, however, there are also some practical issues to consider and some potential downsides as well.
It’s one thing to know how your body will react to e.g. alcohol but it’s another to actually follow the steps for improvement. Many people already know their daily alcohol limits (x units per day) but most people still knowingly go over it, this becomes even harder in social situations where there may be pressure to throw caution to the wind.
If you knew that your body didn’t deal well with more than a small portion of carbs at a time would you still choose the lower carb option from the menu or would you order what you craved instead? Maybe it varies depending on your will power that day and how well you’ve stuck to your nutrition plan the rest of the week?
Would you want to know what your genes held for you or would you be happier remaining ignorant? A great example are people who have a history of heart disease in the family, would they really want to know that they’ve a gene that makes them predisposed to heart issues so that they could take steps to avoid/minimise this or would this just cause more anxiety which ironically, could negatively impact heart health anyway, or would they be better off not knowing?
How cost effective would these tests be and how often would they be required? The guts microbiome can change rapidly after serious illness/infection therefore would need to be retested to see if any major changes have occurred that could now have significant impact.
Life improvements and easy hacks
Below is a quick summary of the hacks and uses I’ve heard people already using this type of information for that has helped improved their life:
+Weight/gut issues-using fermented food and prebiotic fibres for gut health & diversity
+Know how to achieve fitness goals quicker e.g. possessing genes that respond better to resistance/weight training than cardio
+Provides more encouragement if you can’t yet see physical results but you can on cellular level e.g. positive changes to hormone levels or inflammatory markers
+Increasing insulin response to big meals by doing 1-2 minutes intense exercise beforehand
+Improving nutrient absorption/intake by consuming a specific food 1-2 times a month e.g. red meat for iron or B12 intake rather than a totally plant based diet
In summary, there are a lot advantages that biohacking can provide but making it practical for everyone to use on a regular basis comes with a lot of issues that need to be worked out first.
If you want to make self-improvements now without spending a fortune on DNA tests then simply start investing in your health such as eating more nutritiously, taking steps to increase your sleep and reduce stress and perform a variety of exercises to keep your body strong and not stuck in a rut.
Furthermore, If you’d like to improve your memory or brain health I’d recommend checking out the podcasts by Jim Kwik or if it’s gut health/diet you’re interested in, then I can’t recommend enough “The Diet Myth” by Tim Spector.
I’d really like to hear thoughts or experiences anyone has had with these issues or maybe you’ve had a test done already and found the results particularly insightful, if so, drop me a comment below, I’m very intrigued to hear thoughts on this topic.
I wanted to share my favourite savoury snacks as I’ve recently come across quite a few which I really like and find helpful to have tucked away in a cupboard or bag (or desk drawer for anyone who has one) for when the munchies hit but you don’t want anything sweet or to open a tub of boiled eggs and risk stinking out the office or bus.
The problem I always came across in the past was that the only option I could really find was a fruit & nut bar, nothing wrong with them but for tooth friendly reasons sometimes I didn’t want something sweet but something savoury, so here’s my top picks.
Baked pea crisps
Price: £1 for a bag of 5
I love these, they’re a great option made from peas, high fibre and source of protein and just with a pinch of salt and very affordable too!
Emily’s veg crisps
Where: Boots or Holland & Barrett
Price: £1.35-£1.39 for veg crisps £1.20 for sweet potato bag
In the mixed veg, the beetroot is my favourite crisp, plus they use responsibly sourced palm oil instead of standard sunflower oil which isn’t stable under high cooking temps so they’ve an edge over other brands in my opinion and a bag is 1/5 day. I’ve also recently come across their new product of sweet potato chips which include the purple variety too which is great as they’re even higher in anthocyanins than the orange versions & it’s these compounds which are often linked to a lot of health benefits.
I’d prefer them to be less crunchy but for anyone with good gnashers you’ll be fine.
So much of the time when it comes to food we’re hearing about the negative side of it.
This can really make you feel like it’s not worth trying to eat well, so I thought I’d try to help change that by sharing my own outlook on food and how I’ve developed what I like to call “positive nutrition”.
1-Look at the basic nutrition
Teach yourself very basic nutrition so that you can view how a food can benefit you. This will help reinforce a better relationship with your food and help you realise the importance of what the food you’re going to eat can do for you. A simple example is to learn that all vitamins except B and C are fat soluble, so eating a little fat with certain foods will help you absorb more nutrients, so it’s more than ok to go ahead and have some hummus with those carrot sticks!
Often in fitness you hear about trainers telling their clients to find their “why?”.
This means, find the reason why you started/wanted to get fitter because this will be what powers you through those last few difficult reps or will be what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and do a workout even when you don’t want to.
I think this is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard and I wanted to turn it to food as well and share my whys with people in the hope that it inspires others to choose a homemade, more nutritious option over the easier, heavily processed version.
Firstly, let me explain that my biggest why is because when I don’t eat well I feel like crap and tend to suffer for it due to digestive and stomach issues. I’d also like to get stronger and put on some muscle which leads most people to believe that as long as I’m getting the calories to do so, that I should just eat whatever I want, however I don’t do this because:
Any food or drink when consumed in excess can lead to detrimental effects but these are a few which I feel can be easily overdone without even realising it, after all, if some is good, then more is better, right?
Not necessarily, so I felt it would be a good post to help explain why you should try to monitor your intake of these foods, meaning you can still enjoy them and their benefits without suffering unwanted effects.
Please don’t let this put you off food or make you feel it’s too hard to be healthy, it is meant to empower you, not discourage you.
Brazil nuts: selenium is a powerful antioxidant and is great for your thyroid and immune system but too much can result in brittle nails/hair, nausea and more severe symptoms.
Brazil nuts are the most dense source of selenium so 1 or 2 a day depending on your weight & gender will provide more than the RDI for selenium so there really is no need to go over board and remember that you can also get selenium from other foods too (meat, seafood, dairy). Therefore if you feel you haven’t consumed enough from your diet over the past few days then popping a brazil into your smoothie or yogurt is great for rectifying this, just don’t go regularly eating a whole bag of chocolate covered brazil nuts!
Seafood: Depending on where it’s from and how it’s sourced certain fish e.g. farmed salmon, most tuna and the big predators such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel etc usually contain high levels of mercury so eating these kinds isn’t recommended. Instead, stick to 1 or 2 portions of fish a week, with at least 1 portion being oily and opt for wild caught Alaskan salmon (or check with the fish monger about their mercury/growing conditions), sardines, hake, cod, small Atlantic mackerel (not king mackerel) and you can occasionally have skipjack tuna.
For good infographics, see here.
There are other choices, so do some research to find ones that are accessible to you and with the lowest levels.
This information is especially important for kids/petite women/those trying to get pregnant.
So it comes to that time of year again when everyone is trying to get that bikini body for their holidays. I still see lots of people, especially women, reaching for all sorts of expensive potions and processed shakes to achieve this, but let’s keep in mind that these are short term fixes (if they even work at all!) and usually involve some sort of laxative effect….fun.
So why not try a real food, nutritious way of starting your day combined with a good exercise plan for the time leading up to your holidays and actually properly care for and nourish your body this year? Go on, your body deserves it.
I designed this smoothie based on foods that have beneficial effects on metabolism and exercise performance (see below for more details) meaning it’s great to have first thing in the morning and best combined with some exercise. Don’t forget to fill the rest of your day with wholesome nutritious meals as well, try my avocado pesto, green omelette, chilli Pb stirfry or rainbow summer squash salad.