Kayla Osterhoff, BSc, MPH, PhD Student

10 best biohacks to boost your performance and launch you into the New Year with more energy, focus and stamina!

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10 best biohacks to boost your performance and launch you into the New Year with more energy, focus and stamina!

What exactly is a biohack?

A biohack is anything that you do to change your internal or external environment to control your biology for specific desired outcomes. In other words, it’s something that you do that affects your biology and creates a positive change.

For instance, a very simple example of this is using caffeine to feel more awake:

Pre caffeine: you feel tired or lethargic

Post caffeine: you are more alert and energized

In this case, you put something into your body that changed your internal environment and had a positive effect on your biology.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to biohacking and it can be hard to know where to start. So, to simplify things, I’ve gathered 10 highly impactful and simple biohacks that you can start right away to boost your performance - mentally and physically – and get a head start on your 2019 New Year resolutions!

1. Find Your Zen

Meditation is a mind-body practice used to experience calm and physical relaxation, improve psychological well-being, cope with illness, and enhance overall health. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system and slows the heart rate, breathing rate, lowers blood pressure, reduces sweating, and soothes the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight functions. It also increases mindfulness, positive feelings, positive thinking, connectivity, decreases stress, and improves sleep.

There are many ways to meditate: breathing, guided thought journeys, quiet reflection, singing, chanting, mantras, prayer... all with the goal of altering the physical state through the mind. The more these techniques are practiced and mastered, the faster you can reach the desired altered state and experience the health benefits.

2. Get Grounded

Everything (even us) is made of atoms and has a net positive, negative, or neutral charge. When your body’s overall charge is off, the chemical reactions that depend on it get disturbed.  Grounding means discharging built-up static electricity either directly into the earth “earthing” by standing bare foot on it, or through a conductor and into the ground.

The idea is that our bodies develop a positive charge throughout the day that can be slowly dispelled when we touch the earth or a grounding mat. When our bodies build up a positive charge over time, it depletes our energy, and promotes inflammation and disease. Grounding brings the body back to a neutral charge, which has the opposite effect. Grounding is great to improve energy, sleep and is also great for jet lag!

3. Move Your Body

Exercise, when done in a regular and varied manner, is very powerful for improving fitness, health and wellness. For the purpose of biohacking, I define exercise as not just movement of the body, but intentional movement to create change in the body - and hopefully work up a sweat!

Exercise has the power to increase your energy, focus, mood, metabolism, detoxification, and ability to perform mentally and physically. The biological changes made by exercise include cardiovascular, skeletal, muscle, and metabolic adaptations that create a stronger and more resilient body. Exercise also improves cognitive function and creates a stronger mind!

4. Get more ZZZZs by Counting Them

In our modern “hustle first, rest later… or never” world it can be difficult and even shameful to get a full night of sleep, but if we do, our biology will thank us and our hustle will actually become more efficient. Sleep is an important component of our overall wellness - affecting almost every biological processes. It’s when the body and mind rest, replenish and heal from all of the stimulation and damage caused during the day.

Collecting your own health data is a powerful way to analyze and optimize your efforts, including sleep. Bringing awareness to your sleeping patterns helps you understand your habits and resulting health status. If we understand how long and how well we sleep, we can work to optimize our sleep by testing how different interventions affect our sleep. For instance, I use my Biostrao to test and optimize my sleep biohacks, like melatonin, sleepy tea, sleep induction mat, meditation, blue light blocking, essential oil baths, etc. It’s also important to use a reliable warable like Biostrap, which tracks not only sleep, but also pulse, HRV, respiration, O2 saturation, movement and calories burned. Using health data to inform practice saves time, money and effort.

5. Let the Sunshine In

Natural sun light helps the body produce and absorb beneficial vitamins, restore your natural circadian rhythm, boost your mood, and balance hormones. To reap these benefits it typically takes direct, unfiltered sunlight exposure on bare skin for 10-20 minutes a day. Now, that being said, of course take precaution against sun damage and listen to your body and how it feels, but in general 10-20 minutes is a good time frame to avoid skin damage but still get the full benefits of the sun. After your 10-20 minutes, bundle up or slather on that sunscreen!

Sunshine is a great source of vitamin D, and actually the only way to produce vitamin D sulfate, so even supplementation with D should be accompanied by sunshine. Sunshine also produces cholesterol sulfate from cholesterol, which your body uses as a precursor to all of your sex hormones. It contributes to testosterone balance, which is an important hormone for muscle tone and body composition, your confidence, and your sex drive. It also helps you relax and de-stress through the release of endorphins and dopamine (the feel-good stuff). This also improves mood, energy and motivation!

6. Eat Fat

Fat is a major source of energy for both the body and brain - needed to absorb vitamins and minerals, build cell membranes and sheaths surrounding nerves, blood clotting, and muscle movement. Our brains alone, are about 60% fat - why low-fat diets cause fatigue and brain fog. We also need fat to balance hormones - cholesterol being the basis for all sex hormones. So, you need cholesterol, however, you should not pair with high carb because carbs cause oxidation, creating arterial plaque.

Not all fats are made equal, meaning some fats that beneficial to our overall health and human performance, and some are harmful and contribute to disease. A couple of things to note: 1) not all fats should be heated. I generally only cook with refined coconut oil, ghee and avocado oil, which have higher smoke points. I use other oils, like olive, in dressings and just to pour over my food. 2) some fats are extremely harmful and should be completely avoided, like corn and general vegetable oils, margarine, and artificial trans fats. If nothing else, NEVER eat trans fats - a byproduct of hydrogenation - they have no health benefits and there is no safe level to consume. Examples of high quality fats to get plenty of are; grass-fed ghee, organic grass-fed butter, coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, grass-fed meat fats, cocoa butter, some nut butters, and unheated olive oil.

7. Adapt with Adaptogens

Our modern lives leave us feeling exhausted, inflamed, irritable, hangry, and emotionally spent—all of which cause hormonal problems like adrenal fatigue, low sex drive, and thyroid issues. Adaptogens help to counteract these effects.

Adaptogens are specific plants/herbs that support your adrenals, help balance hormones to and help to manage daily stress response. They get their name because they adapt to what your body needs and have the ability to support your sympathetic nervous system and regulate your adrenals up or down depending on what your body needs in that moment.  Some of the better known adaptogens and my personal go-tos for hormone balance are Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, and Maca.

8. Change When You Eat

The basic concept of this powerful biohack is to eat all of daily food in a shortened period (~8 hours) and fast the rest of the time (~16 hrs). Everyone may have a specific approach to IF that works best for their biology, but for me I like to supplement my fasted state with fat coffee to combat hunger and fatigue. In general I finish my last meal of the day by 8 pm, then I have a fat coffee in the morning, and I eat my first meal at around 2 pm.

IF is a powerful tool that can help upgrade your performance in many ways, including boosting weight loss by draining your glucose reserves (body’s main energy source), which causes you to switch to burning fat for fuel - ketosis. This is why it’s ok to supplement the fast with fat, but not carbs or protein. IF has also been proven to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduce insulin resistance. It also accelerates autophagy in your neurons - the process of cleaning out damaged cells and generating new ones. This helps your body defend itself naturally against disease.

9. Smell Good Smells

Aromatherapy refers to the inhalation and topical application of true essential oils from aromatic plants to restore or enhance health and well-being. Essential oils are volatile plant metabolites extracted from aromatic plant material. Essential oils are made up of terpenes, esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols, and oxides - each plant containing varying amounts to defend from infestations, modulate immune function, and stimulate various molecular pathways.

One use of aromatherapy is to strengthen the self-healing processes by preventative methods and indirect stimulation of the immune system. Odor can stimulate changes in physiology directly and through psychological and memory-based associations with the smell. Smells can change heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and regional cerebral blood flow. The psychological associations with odor can impact mood, stress, and emotions.

10. Block Pesky EMFs

All of our beloved devices and technology that we rely on daily, expose us harmful EMFs electromagnetic frequencies - BUT there’s good news, you can take some simple steps to reduce your exposure.

First off, what is EMF? There are two levels: low frequency EMF is non-ionizing radiation - microwaves, computers, visible light, smart meters, WiFi, cell phones, Bluetooth, power lines... and there is high frequency EMF ionizing radiation - UV light, X-Rays, and Gamma rays. Exposure to man-made EMFs can interfere with the electromagnetic systems inside of our bodies - the brain, heart, and mitochondria are particularly sensitive to EMF. Both the World Health Organization and The International Agency for Research on Cancer have warned us about the risks of low EMF exposure and have actually categorized it as a possible carcinogen, but the harmful effects of EMF radiation are not limited to cancer, they also include insomnia, anxiety, depression, brain fog, and hormone imbalance.

We can’t avoid all man-made EMF, but we can take steps to reduce our exposure at home and when we sleep - which is when our bodies are more vulnerable. We can keep appliances and devices off, or on airplane mode as much as possible, hardwire internet and turn off WiFi at night, limit wireless and Bluetooth connections, check for proper electrical wiring, keep electronic devices away from your body, sleep away from circuit breakers and large appliances. Some ways to reverse EMF effects include grounding Himalayan pink salt lamps, and eating high-antioxidant foods.

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