How to Begin Biohacking for Improved Performance
Who doesn’t want more from life? We could all use a little more energy, a little more excitement, and the list goes on. Last week, I introduced you to the concept of biohacking – understanding what works for your body and then doing more of it. We asked ourselves these questions:
- Am I happy with my energy level throughout the day?
- How many days a week do I grab a little extra coffee to get me through a lull?
- Do I often wake up to the alarm, or am I up before the alarm goes off?
- Do I find it hard to concentrate during the day?
- Do I feel like I could be getting more from my mind or my body?
There are many different aspects that affect the way your energy and spirit. We’re going to tackle a couple of the first few that you have TOTAL control over and can give you an introduction to biohacking. First, let’s start with exercise:
In January, I decided to make exercise my first biohacking priority. It was the thing that I was most familiar with, and I set out to find how much I needed in order to get a bump in my energy levels. I have never been a run-in-the-morning kind of person, but work demands have squeezed my lunchtime workouts while the Florida heat has made it impossible to run at lunch without sweating bullets at my desk afterward. I knew that I probably had to exercise 4-5 days a week in order to have the energy benefits all week, so I had to force myself to become a morning workout guy. I set out 2016 with a goal of running 5 days a week and have succeeded almost every week so far. That way, I had a little buffer to allow for a late night or two. I use the Endomondo app to track my exercise, and it syncs well with my Fitbit app.
It took me a little bit to get used to it, but it has done wonders for me with the other changes that I’ve made. My energy levels are way up from where they had been. My first experiment in biohacking worked exactly as I had hoped – I figured out how much exercise I need on a weekly basis in order to keep my energy levels high all week.
If you have a Fitbit or similar device, you’ve already started biohacking. But are you just using it to look at how many steps you’re taking, or are you using it to change your behavior? The primary key to biohacking is gathering information so you can change your behaviors in order to get what you want. The Fitbit app is great for tracking activity and exercise, but that’s not all it does! Its sleep tracking feature is becoming more and more sophisticated.
Your sleep is just as important to your daily performance as your exercise is. I started getting into managing my sleep by using the Fitbit app. It does a great job of tracking movement at night to see how long you actually slept, as well as how often you were restless or awake. I used this for a few weeks and experimented with how much sleep I needed. Was it 6 hours? Was it 8? Every day, I asked evaluated my energy and how I felt. My number was obvious within a couple of weeks – I need about 7 hours of sleep a night. There were times (like when I was writing Child-Like Leadership) that I was consistently getting as little as 5 hours of sleep. I knew that 5 wasn’t enough. With 7 hours, I feel awake and energized when the alarm went off, and I even started waking up just before the alarm.
A few months ago, I wanted to take my sleep-hacking to another level. I downloaded the app Sleep Cycle and have been very pleased with the results.
The app uses the microphone on your phone to monitor the quality of your sleep and allows you to use variables to create reports on what impacts your sleep quality. For example, I’ve learned that eating late decreases my sleep quality by 7% and being on the road for work decreases it by 9%! Armed with that kind of data, I can then make changes so I can feel better in the morning. If I have a presentation to give early the next day, I will make sure I eat early to improve the chances of getting a good night’s rest. You can track any variable that you would like to (I track about 10).
One thing that has always been an energy suck is the alarm going off while I’m in a deep sleep. It’s hard to wake and get moving when you were in the deepest parts of your sleep cycle. The other cool thing about the Sleep Cycle app is that it will wake you up to a half hour early when it senses that you’re at the lightest sleep stage. That way, you’re not going to dive back into deep sleep right before the alarm. You’re up at your body’s optimal time to wake. This can create a BIG boost to start the day (that is, if you’re getting enough sleep to begin with!).
So Much More
There is so much more to biohacking, but these two are part of what I consider the Big 3 of biohacking – exercise, sleep, and eating. We’ll cover the diet aspect next week.
I’m only at the beginning of my biohacking journey, and I have a long way to go before I can be an expert. If you’re interested in learning more from the biohacking gurus, I would suggest that you look to Dave Asprey and Tim Ferriss. They can be pretty advanced at times, but there’s a ton of good stuff in their blogs and podcasts.
Until next week, happy biohacking!