Biohacking is the attempt to manipulate your brain and body in order to optimize performance, outside the realm of traditional medicine: cryotherapy, infrared sauna, intermittent fasting, broccoli sprouts smoothies and alike.
Science shows there is no salvation to be found, physically or spiritually, in abstaining from milk, gluten, fat, sugar or food for notorious 16 hours And yet, the fact that gluten-free foodstuffs is now a $10.5 billion dollar industry, and the juice cleanse business is worth of $5 billion, suggests that a good many of us can’t help but indulge in a little magical thinking when it comes to our diets. We humans do love a good ritual! We also love to distinguish ourselves from icky regular people who can’t see the truth. Detoxes, the distinction between “clean” and “unclean” foods, contradictory diets that promise to cure or protect against disease, unproven supplement regimens – this all makes us feel superior and brings us a bit closer to immortality
is on the rise…with INTERMITTENT FASTING at the forefront. Yes, there is some research showing that time restricted eating marginally helps with health and longevity. Yes, some real (no jokes!) scientists like Rhonda Patrick advocate intermittent fasting, cryotherapy, sauna and other more or less ‘scientific’ biowacking.
But don’t forget: ‘real’ doctors, researchers and simply well-educated best-selling journalists are not necessarilly selling something on their websites: services (programs, consultations, webinars) or goods (cryosaunas, books on biohaking, supplements)…YET!
They are building their brands, they aspire to be the next Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola and alike. And then they will be able to sell anything at a premium price after they gain popularity and trust.
Coming back to Rhonda Patrick
Her bio is more or less spotless – real scientist (although not too far in her career yet but has some good publications… in the field different to what she broadcasts about, ha!), clever woman with a good memory, she cites well-designed research papers. Most of the time
However, as any celebrity nutritionist (and she is not even a nutritionist, but a bio-medical scientist which is different to working with real people and undersanding fitness from multidisciplanry perspective), she is into cherry-picking. She selects the studies that confirm what she ‘sells’.
And ignores those quality reserch findings that state the opposite.
Also, she is mindblowingly wrong with her practical implications.
For example, she cites many very very good reasearch publications about the harm of EXCESSIVE added sugar consumption. ‘Excessive’ means bad Western diet: eating donuts everyday and drinking sweet sodas. True, excessive added sugar consumption is quite deadly. The problem is that she calls to QUIT added sugar completely. Physically, quitting sugar is good for you. Emotionally this can cause a distress. Feeling bad everytime you eat a tiny candy, avoiding birthday cake for your birthday and maniacally purchasing all the ‘no added sugar’ desserts at premium price. Silly.
The fact the excessive sugar is very very bad for you does not mean you need to cut it OUT. It means you need to cut it DOWN.
The science is inconclusive on this topic. What is obvious, it is not a miracle cure or salvation.
Latest meta-analysis (when a researcher seats, reviews all the best studies done on the topic so far and concludes on current situation) shows that calorie deficit, rather than time-restricted eating, benefits your health. Time restricted eating is only a method of achieving calorie deficit.
Of course, this may change in 5 years, as this often happens in nutrition science. Maybe it will one day be proven 100% that IF is more beneficial than calorie deficit without fasting. But it will never become a magical cure!
Before playing with intermittent fasting and other biohacking tricks, make sure:
- you have extra time for it
- you have extra cash for it
- you moved out of polluted area
- you sleep enough
- you spend time in nature
- you are moving your body (non-sedentary lifestyle)
- you eat good food and do not overeat and eat a lot of vegetables including cruciferous ones
- you have a sense of life purpose
- you connect with people
- you do not have financial stress and generally well-off
- you do not have much other stresses: at work and in the family
- you are not inclined to eating disorders
So if you tick all the boxes, intermittent fasting, sauna, cryosauna, green tea and alike are biohacking and may give you that sought-after 1-2% of extra health bonus.
If you are trying to biohack while living in central London and dying at stressful job eating burgers, feeling lonely, not moving much and having Boris as a PM – biohacking will only cause more distress.
PS. I am not even talking about soylent, bullet-proof coffee, infrared light bath, fasted cardio and alike.
PPS. I’ll go make frozen broccolli sprouts smoothie cause I ticked almost all boxes. Because sulforaphane. Oh, shit, I do not have any!
Fat loss expert, elite group fitness instructor and personal trainer based in Sheffield.