Ever taken melatonin to soothe a restless night? Or maybe searched online for a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout to burn off extra calories? These health trends coalesce into a greater, more complicated science known as “biohacking.” And its payoff is why people adopt health trends like kombucha or essential oils into their lifestyle.
Biohacking, a broad, wormhole topic, refers to DIY biology, using small behavioral or lifestyle changes to improve your body and mind. Jennifer Bleiweis, a registered dietitian nutritionist of Real Foods RD, said people use biohacking to target different health goals like sleep, stress reduction, mindfulness, professional growth and prevention.
“Once we [have] our goal, we ask, ‘What are we going to add to our lifestyle or to our nutrition practice that’s going to enhance our physical wellbeing?’” she said.
Amateur athletes often experiment with biohacks, trying new supplements and regimens to reach their peak physical performance, she said. But with today’s health trends, normal people adopt different biohacking routines to optimize their wellbeing without even knowing it. Here are some simple practices you may not realize are biohackers:
- Meditation is a casual activity that relaxes your mind and betters your focus.
- Yoga is a mindfulness practice. Just say, “Namaste.”
- Blue-light glasses are a new trend said to block out light from electronic screens, which often interferes with people’s circadian rhythm.
- Melatonin, a sleep supplement, is commonly used for insomnia.
- Essential oil diffusers let you take in different scents like lavender that relieve stress.
- Noise machines make for a seamless transition into a peaceful sleep.
- HIIT workouts burn extra fat, using a targeting effect.
- Fasting intermittently, with a nutritionist’s or doctor’s guidance, can help with overeating and offer a more- balanced eating schedule.
- Fermented foods like kombucha support gut health.
- Collagen is the latest health trend, often consumed in the form of protein powders.
- Omega-3 supplements have a neurological effect said to help with depression and anxiety
- Theanine supplements support mental health. It’s an amino acid often found in tea.
It’s not a quick fix, Bleiweis said. Avoid the mindset of “if I do this all at once, I can fix everything.” Biohacking can be marketed as the promise of a quick weight loss or better mental health. There’s emerging research, but no definite bottom line that outlines the set outcome for different supplements or practices, she said.
Some people’s belief in biohacking goes beyond these mild strategies. Hiring biohacking doctors, starting red light therapy and self-injecting DNA, purist biohackers hyper fixate on obscure technologies that border on dangerous to fix the body. Like any fad that tries to sell shortcuts to health, it can become an unhealthy obsession, wasting a lot of time and money.
“Pick one area where [you] want to improve,” Bleiweis suggested. “It’s going to filter into these other areas of your health.”
For example, if you want to improve your sleep, make it a habit to stay off your electronics before bedtime and turn in early. Because you targeted this one health goal, others start to fall in line. You’ll feel refreshed in the morning and more willing to work out, hitting your exercise goal. With supplements, start slow. Try one at a time, and test at a low dosage.
If you’re interested in these biohacking methods, consult your doctor or nutritionist to figure out a health plan that works for you.