If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news, you know that once again the Silicon Valley founder types are inspiring disproportionate awe. Not for any new technology, however, but for their attempts to optimize their mental and physical performance. From Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Evernote’s Phil Libin eating no food on weekends, to venture capitalist Peter Thiel transfusing youthful blood into his aging veins, many of their approaches are esoteric at best and ill-advised at worst.
If you’ve been keeping the other eye on Twitter, you’ve seen these same founder types getting mercilessly dragged for said habits. Between the withering sarcasm and the aghast finger-wagging, it was definitely worth a sit-down, popcorn-munching scroll sesh.
Biohacking, as these practices are known, seems to always occasion praise and censure in equal measure. On one hand, who wouldn’t want to try a weird pill or a controversial regimen if it really made them harder, better, faster, stronger? And if you’re into technology toys, biohacking offers a plethora of gadgets to geek out about. (As long as you can afford them, that is.)
On the other hand, it’s a little bit insufferable to hear the ultra-rich mansplaining about their new miracle habit that for some people represents financial and social disadvantage, or even life-threatening illness.
To get a better handle on biohacking, we consulted Luke Storey, a Los Angeles-based biohacker with a refreshingly grounded and holistic take on the practice. Keep reading for his tips on why biohacking can be beneficial if it’s approached in the right way, along with some surprisingly accessible ways to begin optimizing your own performance.
Interview with Biohacker Luke Storey
The Manual: How did you come to biohacking?
Luke Storey: I experienced a lot of trauma as a kid, and had a lot of anxiety and suffering that I dealt with at first with a lot of illicit drugs. It worked pretty well for a while! But eventually, the side effects started to outweigh the benefits.
I realized that the problem was more than that I drank too much and took too many drugs. There was a spiritual disconnection; there were mental and emotional issues I had to work out in order to thrive and feel good. Once I started finding answers on the spiritual level, I started to realize how physically malnourished I was — how many toxins I’d been putting in my body.
“Hurt people hurt people” is one of my favorite sayings when I need to find compassion for someone. By the same token, healed people heal people. I’ve overcome so many perplexing problems in myself, that I’m now driven to give others a sense of authority over their own life experience, to help them find the tools and resources that have been useful to me, and help them avoid the ones I’ve found to be irrelevant.
TM: There are a lot of performance optimization gurus out there—what sets your approach to biohacking apart is the spiritual component you include. What’s important about that, especially for guys?
LS: Here’s the thing: supplements, no matter how effective they are, aren’t going to heal your trauma. (And if you’re a human being, it’s 99.9% certain you’ve experienced some trauma in your life.)
I think many of the guys that end up wanting to work on themselves — get fit, get really athletic, take the right supplements, the physical end of biohacking — are often really just trying to arrive at the goal of feeling fulfilled, to have purpose and meaning in their life. But you won’t find that fulfillment on the physical plane. I know this because I’ve tried, and failed. Men need the balance of learning how to process the metaphysical side of life. That’s not something boys are typically encouraged to explore.
I’m not an advocate for sitting and meditating all day without being physically active, or having a spiritual life while eating GMOs and aspartame. You can’t pray your way out of a toxic environment. At the same time, you can only get so far by losing weight, or getting a six-pack, or having clean blood work. One without the other isn’t the full solution.
The psychology recovery piece is also very important for men, especially since men are in a new frontier, being asked to step up culturally in ways we haven’t before. It’s not enough to be just a good provider; we’re being asked to have more empathy, to be more thoughtful stewards of the environment and of women and children than ever before. In order for us to fulfill that, we first have to be fulfilled, to have a sense of purpose and connection within our own hearts so there’s something left over to give to society.
TM: What are some of the more common, everyday methods of biohacking?
LS: People who are interested in biohacking assume it has to involve a crazy device or expensive supplement, but I believe what really moves the needle is connecting to nature.
There’s an ancient Ayurvedic practice called sungazing, which to me is the most powerful biohack in the world. The morning and evening sun contains an abundance of red light, and that red light is what regulates your circadian rhythm, which in turn regulates your hormones and neurotransmitters, including the production of dopamine. Dopamine deficiency is at the root of all compulsive, addictive, and self-destructive behavior. So the very first thing I recommend to someone is watching the sun rise and watching the sun set as often as possible, and getting your naked body in the sun as long as you can stand without burning. Sunlight is the ultimate healing force.
Another one is high temperature exposure. We’ve been hunter-gatherer nomadic peoples for millennia — it’s only in the last few years that we’ve transformed our living environments to a permanent 70 degrees. I’m a huge advocate for saunas and ice baths. I learned those practices in Colorado as a kid — going to a hot spring, then jumping in a cold river. The science behind hot and cold exposure is very solid — it has a lot to do with building a resilient physical body and mind, not being ruled by your fight or flight responses throughout the day. If you can get in a 30-degree ice bath and sit in their calmly for 10 minutes, getting a letter from the IRS or having a fight with your girlfriend isn’t going to send you into an emotional tailspin, because you’ve learned how to withstand stress in a healthy way.
And then a third one would be breath work. That’s just getting the body oxygenated as often as you can. Any form of breath work is more powerful than any supplement you can take (though I take a zillion supplements).
TM: What are some more “out there” methods of biohacking?
LS: Well, right now, I’m driving on the freeway and I’ve got a molecular hydrogen inhaler that I’m huffing as I drive. It’s a $7,000 machine that creates hydrogen gas that fights inflammation. (Much to the chagrin of my girlfriend who just went on a road trip with me for the first time.)
Another device I like is the Biocharger. It’s a $14,000, bells-and-whistles kind of device that charges your cells electrically using a magnetic field and a Tesla coil. It emits an insane amount of power and you sit in front of it and it literally charges your cells electrically, facilitating healing and giving you a shitload of energy. I learned that Tony Robbins has a Biocharger in every one of his houses around the world — that’s what he relies on to perform the way he does.
TM: What’s one biohack that could make an instant difference for everybody?
LS: Everyone should be working to optimize their sleep, putting that at the forefront of their health regimen. For men that are very proactive and into performance optimization, sleep is not a sexy biohack because it’s so passive. For those people, it often helps to start “game-ifying” their quality of sleep. The best way I’ve found to do that is wear something at night called an Oura ring. It tells you not only how long you slept, but the different stages of sleep you had during the night. It tells you what worked and what didn’t, and you can build a competitive relationship with your own sleep habits and put some energy into improving that. There are lots of things you can do to improve sleep, and it’s a lot easier to care when you care about your score.
TM: With summer right around the corner, we’re beginning to get our travel plans in gear. And nothing kills the joy of travel like jet lag. Any biohacks we can use to get around the dreaded travel hangover?
LS: Travel is my kryptonite. I’m actually working on a course called “Biohack My Travel — The Jet Lag Solution” that will contain all my tips and tricks. But I’ll give you a few of them now.
The first tip is to electrically ground yourself before and after travel. Get barefoot on some grass or dirt, or get yourself in a body of water, as quickly as possible on both sides of the trip. Even just getting in a cold shower is good — if you’re in a shower with metal pipes, that water is grounding you.
Breath work before and after travel will oxygenate your body quickly and powerfully. If you are willing to be a nut on the airplane, you can do a little breath work while you’re in your seat. I’ve tested my blood oxygen levels while on a plane, and you can bring them up to a healthy level even with just five minutes of deep breathing.
A third thing is mastering blue light exposure at night. This is something to do at home, too, but especially when you travel. One of the things most disruptive to your brain and body is changing time zones and being out of sync with the sun, especially combined with blue light exposure from TV, computer, phone, lighting in a store, car headlights, etc. Getting around that takes a combination of wearing blue -eyewear, and also watching the sunrise and sunset before and after your trips so your body knows what time zone it’s in based on aligning with the sun.
The Manual: Thanks Luke! Happy hacking!
Listen to Luke’s podcast The Life Stylist for more biohacking tips, as well as interviews with experts on how to fine-tune your well-being. Video content as well as the waitlist for Luke’s upcoming course can be found at his official website.
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