Biohacking – Part1

Biohacking Blog

Biohacking - how to become the "BEST" you!

PART 1 

(20 minute read)

It is no secret that I have very ambitious goals when it comes to my life expectancy. At the very least I want to live to the year 2100. I am part of a growing community of people referred to as “Immortalist”. For me the best case scenario would be to achieve what renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil calls “Longevity Escape Velocity”. This simply means that as your rate of ageing will be slower than your rate of getting older resulting on a gap between your biological and chronological ages. Some might call that crazy…to me, it makes perfect sense and is a lifelong calling. Biohacking is not something new. Human beings have been fascinated by the concept of living longer and being healthier for centuries. Alchemists and explorers alike have traveled to the ends of the earth in search of the “fountain of youth”. Recently though, we starting using the scientific term “Biohacking” to describe a process initially (and rather clumsily) referred to as “performance enhancement” or “biological optimisation”. 

Biohacking is a very broad concept and is not just for those wanting to achieve longevity. There are people who simply want to live healthier for longer and be the best versions of themselves for as long as they can. These folks get tremendous results from focussed biohacking techniques. On the one side of the continuum biohacking ranges from people that drink bulletproof coffee and use blue-light blocking glasses, to those that have chips implanted in their body and use at-home DNA analysis kits on the other. We are fortunate that we live in an age where, thanks to technology, research and advancements, we have access to a myriad of tools that we can use to our advantage to “hack our biologies”. If you are into extending your healthy lifespan, have specific aspects of your physicality that you want to address or are keen to upgrade yourself (to get to age 100+) read on….

Below are my top biohacking tips.

In an attempt to keep this post evergreen I will come back often and keep the information updated as I continue on my own biohacking journey and test new innovations and discoveries on myself – so, do come back from time to time and look at what I am up to.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

    1. Sleep has been marked as one of the 4 most important pillars that influence our life expectancy (the other 3 are exercise, diet and mindset). It has been said that sleep amplifies what happens in your “awake” life. So, it goes without saying that making sure your sleep strategy is finely tuned is a must-have bio-hack.
    2. The way you set up your sleep environment (bedroom) is of utmost importance. You may want to go as far as to investigate Feng Shui principles when you lay out your bedroom. For a long time these eastern philosophies have been dismissed as folk-lore, but in recent times we have started realising that there is much more wisdom in these modalities that date back thousands of years. Aspects like orientation, plants, colour, texture, light, pictures, sound, temperature and many more have a direct influence on our sleep patterns, Circadian rhythms and ability to get the full slew of benefits that sleep provide.
    3. It is very important (if not of utmost importance) to block “Blue Light” out completely from the moment the sun goes down. Devices like smartphones, tablets, flatscreens, computers and laptops emit a blue light at 450Nm and in addition to Blue light being linked to sleep issues Blue light from electronics is also linked to problems like blurry vision, eyestrain, dry eye, macular degeneration and cataracts. Blue light inhibits the production of Melatonin which have been linked to sleep. Melatonin is a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland at night, and has long been associated with control of the “sleep–wake” cycle. If you are unable to avoid Blue light emitting devices after sun-down you may want to invest in a quality pair of “Blue-light-blocking” glasses. These glasses block out the 450Nm Blue light wave length but still allow the other wave lengths through. You can add these to your current prescription or just wear them as you would glasses or sunglasses – but at night. On import we recommend Felix Gray or Carl Zeiss at your local optometrist.
    4. Another Sleep hack we can highly recommend is exploring the ever-evolving world of “Sleep trackers”. In the section below we delve deeper into the world of wearables and look at the Aura ring. The Aura ring is currently the market lead as far as wearables that measure a range of biological functions (including sleep patterns) go. There are however a range of apps and other wearables (smart watches) available that give you insight into your light sleep, deep sleep, REM and Circadian rhythms. We like “Sleep”, “Pillow” and “Fitbit” which is available on both iOS and Android. There is an adage that says: “You can only manage what you measure” and being able to understand your sleep patterns gives you insight into where you may need to make adjustments to get the full benefit of your sleep time. Speaking of sleep time…the general consensus is that getting anywhere between 7 and 9 hours is optimal with researchers leaning more to 9 rather than 7. Obviously this depends on lifestyle, work and family constraints. If we look at our ancestors we can easily see how they slept from sundown to sunrise which supports the philosophy of sleeping longer rather than not.
    5. Wether you know it or not noise can be one of the biggest disrupters to our sleep as it subconsciously directly influences your ability to stay in REM longer or naturally awaken from deep sleep without being jolted back into reality. If you have the financial means and are able to rethink where you live in relation to highways, motorways, emergency vehicle routes, flight paths, schools, nightlife, etc then making noise (or the lack thereof) part of your decision making model when you purchase a property is highly advisable. If you are unable to make such a radical change then there are some hacks that you can use to improve the quality of your sleep. If done correctly double glazing certain windows in your house cannot just improve the IAQ (Indoor Air Quality), it can also reduce noise by as much as 100%. Obviously there are some architectural and construction considerations to keep in mind, but this could be a quick fix and effective hack to sort out noise if it is of great concern. A more aesthetic solution may be thick, full height curtains with block-out lining. Nine out of ten times this is the cheapest, easiest and most effective way to reduce noise considerably (although not completely). We love “NIOSH SLM” which is a noise tracking App available in iOS and Android that measure sound in decibels. You can run it all night and watch the recording the next morning and it will give you a reading of your noise levels during sleep. It is also great to travel with as you can measure the noise (or sound) level in your hotel, room, AirB&B, etc.
    6. Until recently very little was know about the influence of Temperature on sleep quality, but thanks to researchers like Todd and Tara Youngblood who invented the  “Chillipad” and “Ooler” we now know a lot more about how temperature influences both sleep time and sleep quality. Normal average human resting body temperature is between 36,5deg Celsius and 37,5deg Celsius. Research from the Youngblood’s and researchers at Harvard suggest that the optimal sleeping temperature to achieve a sufficient amount of REM sleep and deep sleep is somewhere around 30deg Celsius. To achieve this you need to have some device that can keep your ambient or bed temperature at around 23deg Celsius for the greatest part of your sleep cycle. Most homes these days have some sort of fixed HVAC or mobile AC system. The problem with these solutions is cost. Running them for extended periods of time can become quite costly and in a bedroom environment they tend to make a noise which goes against what we are trying to achieve. So, the Chillipad does make a lot of sense. It has been said that sleeping naked improves longevity since the lack of restraint and the removal of the additional layer of clothing reduces the bodies temperature even more, but I will leave that up to personal preference.
    7. I am sure that this audience does not need to be reminded but it does warrant repeating. I cannot emphasise  the benefits of a quality hard mattress, memory foam cushion and quality cotton bedding enough. The more comfortable you are in your cocoon the more you will improve the quality of your sleep.
  1. Exercise is the second pillar and one of my favourite topics. I am not a personal trainer or a health coach, but by testing, retesting, tweaking, adding, subtracting, researching, talking to experts, listening to podcast, watching YouTube movies, etc I have been able to listen to, understand and respond to what works best for my body. Yes, I lost 10’s of kilograms from when I initially started on my health and longevity journey and today at 47 I am fitter and feel better than ever, but to me the true test of an exercise regime lies in its ability to be sustained over a lifetime. Short term exercise programs (and crash diets) are a fad and has no longevity. Below follow a few tips, trick but mostly hacks on how you can achieve great fitness results with very little effort while at the same time priming your body for living well beyond 100.
    • Let’s 1st deal with the White Elephant – Running. The problem with running is that it literally reduces your life expectancy. Running is incredibly hard on your body as each stride shakes your insides and sends jolts through every joint from your neck to your ankles. It has also been shown that long distance runners have very little functional muscle mass as their bodies are optimised to cut through air with the least amount of resistance and very little else in terms of “bulk”. From a cardio vascular standpoint new evidence are emerging that supports the hypothesis that you can burn more calories doing weighted (or Callisthenics) exercises than typical aerobic excercises with the added benefit of muscle gains. Walking on the other hand holds a myriad of health benefits – both physical and psychological. Interestingly enough if there is one thing ALL life extensions scientists, researchers and experts agree on it is walking. Everyone agrees that +/-30minutes a day of walking at a moderate to fast pace should be an arrow in the quiver of everyone hoping to live past 100. Below are some of the benefits of walking:
      • An often quoted study showed that the average Britain only goes outside for two and a half hours a week so the first and obvious benefit of walking is that you get to go outside and move away from your largely sedentary lifestyle where you sit in boardrooms, at desks, in restaurants, on couches, at kitchen counters, in busses, taxis and ride share Ubers. 
      • Walking gets you to move. Our ancient ancestors (and even the not so ancient ones) moved a lot and mostly on foot. So, walking is a wonderful way to get your body to move, to pump some blood, to break a sweat, to straighten your spine and feel what it feels like to achieve a physical goal.
      • If done early in the morning, the way I do it, walking is a wonderful way to absorb Vitamin D. If you live at the coast or can walk on a beach you can even take your shirt off (if you are a guy) and increase the surface area able to absorb the sun’s rays. 2 additional benefits of walking in the early morning is 1) that the UV factor is not high so the potential damage to your skin is reduced dramatically and my favourite: 2) you can sky-gaze. I’m not saying you should look into the sun – not at all – I am saying: “LOOK UP” – we have become so used to looking down at phones, traffic, computers, notepads, pedestrians, etc that we have forgotten how much Beaty and splendour is up in the sky. Studies have also shown that the light from the early morning sun that hits the back of your eye can increase Serotonin (the feel good hormone). 
      • Walking is social. One of the greatest epidemics of our time is isolation. Nine out of 10 retired widowed people have listed isolation as their single biggest depressor with television and pets as their #1 companions. So, get out and talk to your fellow walkers, join a walking club, greet passers-by, strike up a conversation with a stranger and enjoy being able to connect with people away from the office and outside your immediate circle of friends.
      • Walking burns calories. An average 30minute  +/-7Km/h (4Mp/h) walk can burn +/-300 Calories. If you only walk 5 days a week you can burn 6,000 Calories a month. That offsets roughly 3 days of eating which also hold incredible health benefits.
      • 2 Anti-ageing Podcasters I hold in high regard recently came out and noted the benefits of “Walking speed” “Balance” and “Grip strength” as indicators of life expectancy. The theory goes that the longer your strides and the faster your pace, the greater your chances of exceeding the average age at death of your generation. The same goes for grip strength and how long you can balance. With the floor being the biggest enemy of the typical older person you are going to want to invest in your stride, pace, balance and grip. I love walking on the kerb and enjoy seeing how far I can walk without loosing my balance.
      • So, go out, buy yourself a decent pair of walking shoes and start walking…
    • I think Gym’s are fantastic places. They get you out the house, they are social, they give you access to all kinds of equipment, they have pools, you can use their saunas, they have all sorts of classes, these days they all have WiFi and some sort of coffee-shop or cowork setup where you can get some work done and some of them have got the most fantastic views – but I am just not a Gym person. I walk or hike from home in my neighbourhood, up a mountain, onto the beach or wherever I may find myself  and when I am done I spend 30 minutes doing Callisthenics. I have a few key pieces of equipment that I use to do Callisthenics with and that is really all you need. For those of you new to the concept here is a link that explains Callisthenics. I have found that by splitting my muscles into 5 groups to match the 5 days of the work-week I am able to effectively target each muscle group once a week by doing 3 sets of 3 different exercises doing 12 reps for each exercise and maintain 41+% muscle mass. That gives you 9 exercises and you can be done in 15 minutes. My wife likes to rebound so in-between each set of exercises (and for the sake of my Lymphatic system) I like to jump – I do about 100 jumps in-between each exercise which gives me an additional 200 – 250 calories burned. My intention is not to sell you on my exercise regime here. The point I am driving at (by way off example) is that if you want to live to 100+ (or more) you need to find a way to stay fit and build muscle in a way that is not taxing on your body the way weight lifters or long distance athletes tax theirs. If we quickly go back to our ancestors, especially the folks in the Blue zones you will find that they live long and healthy lives – often past 100 – yet they never saw the inside of a gym. They walk to work, they work in the fields, they tend their own gardens, they herd their own cattle, they walk for days hunting Deer and Bison. There is a lot we can take away form them. Walk to gym – now there is a thought…
    • One of my mentors is a Chinese Medicine Doctor in Los Angeles and an avid Chi Gung practitioner. I have heard from him (and MANY others) about the health benefits for body, spirit and mind of Chi Gung. Sadly I have not yet found myself in a place where I can learn from a Chi Gung master or practice Chi Gung myself. As a result one of my bucket list items is learning to do Chi Gung. As mentioned earlier there is a lot we can learn from ancient Eastern traditions and Chi Gung is no different. In almost all of the longest living Easter cultures Chi Gung is practiced on a daily basis by young and old with the oldest members of the community able to keep up with the young ones. If you are not familiar with Chi Gung you can learn more HERE. Qigong, qi gong, chi kung, or chi gung is a millennia-old system of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality, and martial-arts training.
  2. Diet / Water / Alcohol is the 3rd pillar around which the notion of a Centenarian lifestyle is built. Researchers say you can go a lifetime without alcohol, 40 days without food and 7 days without water – but that does not mean that you should. So much has been said and written about diets. With the Paleo diet, Keto diet, Carnivore diet, Mediterranean diet, Calorie restriction diet, Low carb diet, Fasting diet, etc, etc, etc out there billions are being spent (and made) on losing fat and building muscle. I am here to tell you that there are just 3 rules to follow when wanting to eat in a way that could promote longevity and extend your life:
    1. Do not eat processed food. My 1 daughter likes to say that if it did not have roots, feet or fins you should not eat it. She is right.  The easiest way to remember to eat is to eat nothing processed, preserved, with additives, colorants and to eat close to the source. Another way of putting it is that if it came in a box, bag, can or wrapper you should not eat it. Note that I did not say “bottles”, wine come in bottles and wine is an essential part of any happy long life.
    2. The second tip is moderation. If you eat clean, whole, organic, naturally grown and responsibly sourced food there is nothing that says you cannot eat it all. That includes alcohol. As long as you do it with moderation. Remember calories in = calories out. If you eat more than you burn you are in excess and if you et less than you burn you are in a deficit – EASY!
    3. And the last tip is that you must supplement. Not even the cleanest, 5 Michelin star prepared diet contains all the macro or micro nutrients you need to be healthy, live long and look good. There are a range of supplements available from Vitalge and a long list of other Nutraceutical companies. Whatever you choose to supplement with remember what I said earlier – you can only manage what you measure – so get yourself tested and make sure you know where your levels are and supplement as necessary or advised by your healthcare professional (not sick care professional).
  3. Mindset is the 4th and last of the primary 4 pillars that make up a life extension strategy. You have heard the adage: “A positive mind breeds positive results.” Negativity is like an infectious disease and here at Vitalge we avoid negative people, negative thoughts, negative situations and AT ALL COSTS negative news. I have come across a number of peer reviews papers that point out how negative people literally have a sick and short life expectancy as compared to positive people. Positive people are more productive, are more engaging, are more fun to be around, spend more time looking after themselves and tend to be the people that are involved in things like Greenpeace, campaigning for animal rights, getting involved in community activities and are involved in researching sustainable or new technologies. These are the people I certainly want to be around in 100 or 200 years when these topics start becoming massively relevant.
    • Research coming out of the UK and USA are starting to show conclusively that the concept of “Lifelong Learning”  is becoming more and more important for individuals keen on retaining their cognitive function and social skills as they approach 100 and beyond. Humans have this horrible habit of becoming lazy as we/they age. We start taking shortcuts – so to speak. Think of your own life; as a child you climb trees, ride bike, jump over walls, ask questions, learn to drive, learn to do math and science and we learn about our world in geography and history, we go out, we meet new people, we go on holiday, we travel, we learn new languages, we join a gym, we work out, etc, etc. Then as we go to university we travel less and we specialise in one career, we may do some sport, but are not as adventurous as we used to be. Then we get married and have kids and start “playing it safe”. We stop being adventurous, we take the same route to work, we follow a schedule, we may become more recognised professionally, but we also become more focussed and niched. Then by the time we retire our lives are not as varied as it used to be, we drag ourselves down supermarket allies and sit in front of Netflix eating microwave dinners. Now, imagine you were able to retain that inquisitive mindset. Imagine you were as hungry for new experiences at 90 as you were at 10. Imagine learning a new language at 80 and joining a gym at 70. Imagine learning to play a musical instrument at 60. Imagine driving a different route to work each day…all these activities that we forsake in the interest of becoming productive and efficient make our brains lazy when instead we should be creating new neural pathways so that we have the reserve cognition left to fall back on when our brains do start to atrophy.
    • One of my biggest saving graces in recent years have been “Meditation”. I have now been a daily meditator for almost 3 years and it has literally changed my life. Being able to meditate and allowing myself enough time to “get it” and then get better at it has made my mind, focus and concentration so much more heightened. The body of knowledge that exist in support of meditation as a mechanism to still the mind and become at peace with yourself is astounding. The MRI studies that are being done on the brains of meditators vs. non-meditators are showing that people who meditate are able to access a part of their brains that non-meditators cannot. Similarly during meditation part so the brain that are normally active are “turned off” – examples are the the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala, which appears to shrink, the frontal parietal lobes slow down or even go off-line and the Thalamus slows down to a trickle. This is all good because through meditation you are able to focus more, be less anxious, be more creative, show more compassion, improve your memory, reduce your stress levels (and manage your stress response) and build more grey matter which can lead to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability and heightened focus and mental resilience during daily life.
    • The longest study that has ever been done with Harvard University studying human happiness which now spans 80 years studying 724 people have shown that; not money, not career, not achievements, not wealth, not fame, not cars, not clothes, not nett worth but…”Human Relationships” are the single biggest indicator of human happiness. Good relationships keep us happier and great relationships keep us healthier for longer. Period. This finding is supported by almost each and every one of the centenarians who live in what Dan Buettner calls the “Blue Zones”. Centenarians from Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, Calif.; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica are all happy people who tend their gardens till late in the day and then sit down with friends and family to enjoy life. 

Below are a few bonus hacks that have been getting a lot of attention of late that I will be investigating and (as mentioned) be giving feedback on here.

  1. Eating raw
  2. Nitric Oxide
  3.  Shower
    • VitC shower
    • Shower filter
  4. Microwaves
  5. Blue light blocking devices
  6. EMF blocking equipment
  7.  Supplements
    • Nootropics
    • Creatine (Sleep, Mind, Muscle)
    • VitaminD
    • Whey Isolate
    • Collagen Peptides
  8.  Wearbles
    • Heart rate monitor
    • Aura ring
    • Blood glucose monitor 
    • Inside tracker
  9. Apps
    • Whoop
    • Yazio
    • Pacer
    • SASSI
    • Headspace
    • Calm
  10. Red Light therapy 
  11. Standing desk/ergonomic chair
  12. Blood tests
  13. DNA tests
  14. Telemore tests
  15.  Gym
    • X Bar3
    • Rebounding
  16.  Sauna
    • Red Light & NIR Light sauna