Become better than normal
Dave Asprey wants to be better than normal. He wants to help you be better than normal, too. He wants you to be inspired, become a risk-taker, pursues your dreams, and be unpredictable.
To achieve all that, you’ll require energy and resilience. Paradoxically, you’ll also need to be lazy. Yes, that’s right! Your laziness will actually make you stronger.
You’ll discover exactly how that works. You’ll also get a primer on what exactly biohacking is and a few accessible and midlevel hacks to get you started.
Feeling lazy? Then let’s begin – slowly.
A word of caution: Before you make any drastic changes to your diet, exercise routine, or health regimen you should always consult with your physician.
Your body is designed specifically for the perpetuation of the species. To do that, you must survive. So your body’s main objective is not to die and to use as little energy as possible to achieve that. Indeed, Asprey says, every cell in your body is programmed to do as little as possible.
This is part of what he calls your meat operating system, or MeatOS. Just like the operating system of a computer, this runs in the background, keeping you going on autopilot. It’s the code that, among other things, instructs your liver to break down alcohol after a tequila shot, keeps you breathing, and keeps your eyes blinking. It remains invisible unless it’s broken.
Just as you can hack a computer, you can also hack your MeatOS to get the results you want with less effort. This is at the heart of the smarter-not-harder approach. You get to be in charge of your own code rather than the other way around.
The first thing to do is stop looking for quick-fix solutions and play the long game instead. Stop with the 30-day rapid-weight-loss diets and maximum-suck gym workouts. Embrace your inner laziness by finding hacks that give you the best results. But before you consider hacking, you need to establish a good diet to optimize your energy supply.
First, you need to rid your diet of what Asprey calls antinutrients – both natural and man-made chemicals that interfere with the absorption of nutrients and minerals from your food. The number-one culprit, he says, is phytic acid. This is found in many plant-based processed foods, and also in nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, whole grains, soy, and corn – yep, all those things that others say are good for both you and the environment. Reduce your intake. And what about meat? Asprey recommends you avoid factory-farmed chicken, limit your exposure to pork, and cut out meat substitutes. Limit how much fish you eat, too.
Next, make sure you’re getting enough of the fat-soluble vitamins – D, A, K, and E – as most people eating a standard diet fall short of the recommended amounts. Then, do the same with minerals. Calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, sulphur, and iron are the main ones, but you also need trace minerals, too, such as zinc, iodine, cobalt, and copper.
Of course, you also need to eat the right amounts of saturated fats, protein, fibre, and carbohydrates.
Finally, if you want to optimize your diet, use supplements. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles mean you simply won’t get enough of what you need from your diet alone. Supplements include vitamins; herbs and spices; prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics; energy supplements; and minerals.
Ensure you’re getting the quantities you need of all these, and you’ll have set the groundwork.
Choose your target
If you seriously want to improve yourself, you have to know what it is you really want and then set yourself targets. Asprey’s experience shows that most people want some combination of just five qualities: more strength; greater cardiovascular fitness; improved energy level and metabolism; enhanced brain function; reduced stress and easier recovery.
But what about greater longevity, better sexual function, and weight loss? Well, all these are automatically “fixed” when you sort out the other five. And when you improve one of these five foundations, over time, the others also adapt.
A good order for biohacking would be to start with energy, then your brain, followed by strength, stress, and cardio. But your own order will depend on what matters most to you right now, so feel free to change the order to suit you.
In the next sections, let’s dive into some hacks for each of the fundamental qualities people want.
Becoming stronger and improving cardiovascular fitness
Go to the gym, lift some stuff, run away from some stuff, do more of it, drink protein powder afterwards, and get stronger and faster. It works, right? Well, unfortunately not. Fighting your body’s innate laziness isn’t the way to go. So what is?
Your body has sensors called proprioceptors. These movement, action, and location sensors take care of you – they make sure you’re not overexerting yourself. But unfortunately, they also work with your brain to set false limits on your capability. They fool you into thinking you have less strength and energy than you really do. So you need to find a way to outsmart those sensors without harming yourself. Here are a couple of hacks to do that:
First, use weights and cables and Nautilus-style machines. Focus on rapid exhaustion using heavy weights and keeping good form. Take a minimum of ten seconds to lower the weights. Do reps with no breaks until you’re exhausted.
Second, do isometric exercises such as holding your body in a plank. You won’t get rapid gains, but they’re effective in short bursts.
And for something more challenging, use resistance bands. Using these results in faster exhaustion of your muscles. The result? Your muscles grow three times as quickly as when you lift weights.
When it comes to cardio, stop with the treadmill and exercise bikes! They might be better than not doing any exercise, but that’s about all. Instead, start doing varying-intensity interval training. Put simply, bike or run hard for one to two minutes, switch to medium intensity for a few minutes, and then switch down to very, very low intensity. Wait until your heart rate returns to the level it was before you started your workout, and then repeat for four to five rounds.
For something more challenging, try high-intensity interval training. Start by going to a park and walking – slowly, very slowly. Then, sprint at full speed for 30 seconds. Then go back to the slow walking until your heart rate returns to normal. Then, another 30-second sprint. Repeat for around 20 minutes. Use the walking period to meditate. Better still, lie down on the ground instead of slow-walking; your heart won’t have to work so hard to get the blood back from your legs.
Improving your energy level and metabolism
Your energy level comes from converting air and food into electricity. The better you are at that, the more strength you’ll have – and better cardio performance, too.
To achieve higher energy levels, your MeatOS needs to think you are dealing with some kind of hardship. When this happens, your cells increase the rate of mitogenesis, creating new mitochondria, the “powerhouses of your cells,” and mitophagy, which destroys weak and inefficient mitochondria. Let’s see how:
First, you can use vibration hacks. Whole-body vibration oxygenates parts of your body that usually get little oxygen. It also tricks your body into thinking it’s doing more than it actually is. Start with something very simple like vocal vibration. Sit down, take a deep breath, and say “Ohmmmm.” The vibrations make your whole body hum. Rebounding takes this up a notch. A rebounder is a little trampoline that you can jump up and down on moving all the tissues in your body. And moving up a little more, you can use spot vibration – these can have profound effects on your nervous system and can also aid in achieving faster recovery.
Second, controlling your breathing can send powerful signals to your MeatOS that it needs to change how it operates. You can put yourself into a state of controlled hypoxia – where your body doesn’t have enough oxygen, or at least thinks it doesn’t. At its extremes, hypoxia can be fatal. But when it’s controlled, it can increase the efficiency of your metabolism. You can do this simply by holding your breath. This is perfectly safe as your physiology ensures you can’t reach unconsciousness. Holding your breath can promote angiogenesis – new blood vessel formation. Additionally, it can strengthen your mitochondria and improve your blood flow through capillary dilation.
Following these techniques will soon shift “energy” from your waistline into everything else in your life.
Enhance your brain and sensory functions
When a gorilla is first introduced to a mirror – and yes, scientists have done this – it freezes for a moment, thinks, and then realizes that it’s seeing itself. Then, with this new perspective on itself, it might even begin to pick at a leaf stuck between its teeth, using the mirror for guidance.
Why is this relevant? Well, your brain is a little bit like the gorilla. It has little self-awareness because its sensors look outward. It monitors what’s around you and doesn’t think about self-improvement. But if you know how to hack your brain, it will adapt, optimize itself, grow, and evolve. So let’s check a few ways you can do that:
First, you can use home neurofeedback devices. These use electroencephalography, or EEG, to read your brain waves. You can use these to help train your brain to shift into different mental states or to remain calm.
Then, you can use direct nerve hacks, in particular of your vagus nerve which runs from your brain, down your neck, and to your gut. It’s responsible for your fight-or-flight response, among other things. You can buy devices that stimulate your vagus nerve to give you feelings of calm and relaxation, tone down stress and anxiety, reduce migraines and other pain, and also improve sleep.
Sonic feedback is a way of producing targeted sound stimulation, as your ears have a direct pathway to your brain. You can try this for free by finding “binaural beats” on YouTube. This can help your brain become sharper.
You could also benefit from vision exercises. Try this one: Look at a distant horizon at least every morning and evening – preferably every hour throughout the day. Then look back and forth between the horizon and something in front of you – 15 seconds of each, repeated for at least three minutes. This will strengthen your eyes and decrease the chances of vision problems.
Reduce your stress and recover more easily
Reducing stress in your life might need to be your number one goal. If you’re carrying too much stress, it’s a detox that you need, not a workout. So let’s look at some hacks to help you lower your stress levels.
First: sleep. It keeps coming up everywhere, doesn’t it? There’s a reason for that. During sleep your cells receive instructions to repair and regrow, so when you sleep well, that process is enhanced. To help you sleep better, dim your lights at night, use black-out curtains, switch off your devices a full two hours before bed, and increase the warm light on your phone. Don’t eat for at least two hours before bed either. Daily meditation will also help.
Second: sunlight. Sunlight stimulates your production of vitamin D and serotonin, which improves your mood. Go out in the sun late morning or early afternoon to get the best effects. Asprey recommends a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes per day directly on your skin.
Third: herbs. Use ashwagandha, ginseng, and Rhodiola to resist stress. For most people, they’re safe to use on a regular basis. Talk to your doctor first, though, if you’re taking any kind of medication.
Fourth: saunas. These help you recover at a faster rate, and you also get a detox through sweating. Start slowly with five-to-10-minute sessions, building up to having a sauna three times each week for 20 minutes.
So to sum up: slow down, take some sunlight, sleep better, and go to the sauna, and you’ll begin to see some improvements in your stress levels.
So you now know how to hack the fundamentals – strength, cardio, energy, brain, and stress. But if you want to go farther toward being your best self, you also need to rebuild your spirit in order to be in total control of your MeatOS.
It’s essential that you have your energy up and the fundamentals in place before you try spiritual biohacking. Asprey offers three steps for spiritual recovery, by which he means the antidote to being spiritually stressed. Spiritual stress can result from breaking up with your partner, losing your job, or when there’s a bad accident, for example. You’re shaken, and you need to detox. Here’s how:
Step one: kindness and forgiveness. Your MeatOS works to keep you safe. Often this means being selfish, mean, and unkind. To turn that around and create automatic kindness, you have to forgive – and mean it. Forgiving means letting go so that you no longer react. The automatic unkind response is removed from your OS – permanently.
Step two: spiritual reset. Letting go is only the first step. Next, you need something to hold on to – and that something is gratitude and a spiritual reset. Sit with your eyes closed and take a few deep breaths. Think of a memory that triggers you. Remember it exactly as it was and imagine the person or people from the memory sitting opposite you. Tell them out loud what it is they did to you. Feel the hurt and pain. Next, find gratitude: What good came out of the situation? Put yourself in other people’s shoes. What was the situation like for them? Now think about it from both perspectives simultaneously. When you do this, say out loud, “I forgive you.”
Step three: acceptance. For this step, you need a neutral infallible “person.”As Asprey says, this is not an actual living person. You could make it Jesus, Buddha, or even an infallible lightbulb! Ask that person if your forgiveness is complete. A clear yes, and it’s over. If not, go back to the situation and try again. Keep doing this until you have no more reactivity.
When you’re no longer triggered by something, you’ll have more energy and freedom. You’ll feel more attuned to the universe. You won’t need technology or data to confirm this – you’ll simply know.
We’ve covered a few fundamental bio hacks along the way and you’ve seen how “smarter not harder” works to overcome your inherent laziness. But how will you know if you’re improving? By measuring your performance against specific targets.
For example, when it comes to cardio, how is your resting heart rate? For strength, has your one-rep maximum increased? You’ll know whether you have more energy or not simply from how you feel. For your brain, how do you perform in memory and reaction-time tests? And finally, for stress, check your heart rate variability using a home monitor.
And what about those other factors that should be improved? When it comes to sex, ask yourself and your partner! It is, of course, impossible to assess your longevity. but you can get an idea simply by looking in the mirror at how well you’re ageing, or you could get a DNA methylation test to measure your epigenetic age.
Finally, don’t forget to find what works for you and personalize your hacks. Make sure you keep improving continuously. Don’t be satisfied with your new baselines – you’ll always have room for improvement.