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You’ve probably heard of biohacking before or encountered some version of it. Maybe you’ve seen an article or two of Intermittent Fasting or listened to celebrities like Joe Rogan or Tim Ferriss talk about the supplements and nootropics they recommend. Or perhaps you have read about biohackers injecting themselves with gene-editing technologies like CRISPR.
Maybe you have even heard that you don’t need to “eat” your food anymore, thanks to products like Soylent.
These are all types of biohacking, which is a broad term that refers to a lifestyle that is growing increasingly popular outside of Silicon Valley, where it took off. In this post, we will look at essential biohacking supplements and nootropics for summer to help you optimize your health. These recommendations will even assist healthy people achieve improvements in their daily life without the use of any prescription drugs.
Vitamin C Is a Strong Antioxidant
Vitamin C is a safe and highly-effective biohacking supplement. Most people think of citrus fruit as the go-to Vitamin C powerhouse. And that is very true…but there is so much more to the world of Vitamin C. Learn more here.
This vitamin receives a lot of attention and is often the go-to vitamin whenever your loved one wants to help pull you out of a cold – “oh, you just need to get more vitamin c in your diet.”
Let’s talk about all the good things that Vitamin C does in your body.
You also use it to manufacture glutathione, a powerful antioxidant in the body. We have all heard of scurvy…a disease that wreaked havoc on long trans-ocean sailing voyages. While scurvy is quite rare in the modern world, the role of antioxidants is not. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that greatly assists in the eradication of free radicals.
Vitamin C can also enhance the body’s immune system (remember, you need to get more Vitamin C in your diet – thanks mom). It even has anti-inflammatory properties.
It’s difficult to get sufficient vitamin C from your diet alone, which is why many people are deficient. Fruits and vegetables typically have high vitamin C content, but storage and cooking methods often deplete it before ingestion.
A way to know you have a deficiency is if you suffer from chronic infections, bleeding gums when brushing your teeth, or if it takes longer for your injuries to heal. Supplementing with at least 500mg daily is optimal.
Vitamin C Allows Collagen Absorption
Collagen peptide supplementation has become a new hot topic. There are a lot of reasons why a person may want to supplement with collagen. Some of the top reasons are: improved skin health, relief of joint pain, slow or stop bone loss, possible muscle mass increases (in conjunction with exercise and an all around solid diet) and general heart health.
So, what does Vitamin C have to do with collagen and connective tissue formation? Well, your body needs Vitamin C for collagen and connective tissue formation.
Collagen is a very important connective tissue component in your body. To the point where you can now take collagen peptide supplements to help up your intake. It is the most abundant protein in your body.
Collagen is found in your bones, muscles, skin and tendons. So, without enough vitamin c in your diet….no amount of collagen consumption will be enough because it will not be properly absorbed.
Vitamin C Increases Your Iron Absorption
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) enhances the body’s absorption of dietary iron by capturing nonheme iron and storing it in an easily absorbed form in the body. A study showed that taking about 100 mg of vitamin C, along with a meal, can increase iron absorption by 67%.
Iron plays an integral part in cell growth regulation and differentiation. Heme iron is a readily absorbed form of iron, and it’s mostly found in foods like grass-fed red meat, free-range poultry, or fish. On the other hand, the body does not easily absorb nonheme iron (from sources like rice, eggs, fortified cereal, spinach, or soybeans).
Additionally, vitamin C counteracts the effects of dietary tannins and phytates that are known inhibitors of nutrients absorption. It also increases the concentrations of serum iron, ferritin, and hemoglobin. Overall, increased intake of vitamin C through dietary consumption or supplementation is an essential strategy for improving your iron status.
The Power of the Sun Helps You Biohack Your Life
According to the Sunlight Institute, you get only a quarter of your body’s vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) from your diet. The rest comes from the sun. Vitamin D is often called the Sunshine Supplement.
Your body needs Vitamin D. A lack of Vitamin D leads to a lot of “known” issues, including rickets in children and weak bones. However, Vitamin D plays a large role in some other important functions of your body as well. Studies suggested some major areas such as assisting in fighting illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, heart disease and the flu.
In addition to its role in fighting off illness it also is a major player in combating depression. You may have heard the term “SAD” which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. SAD is a disorder that is directly linked to a reduction in Vitamin D. In the fall and winter months, when people absorb less Vitamin D from the sun (due to the cold weather and shorter days) there is an increase in depression.
Finally, one of lesser known benefits of Vitamin D is the role it plays in weight loss. Inadequate Vitamin D can make the best diet and workout plan feel useless in efforts to shed weight.
Vitamin D is one of the most critical biohacking supplements you can take. It acts on more than 1,000 different genes in your body and serves as a substrate for various sex hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and human growth hormone (HGH).
Here at EMH we certainly recommend that you practice safe sun-exposure routines. While you do want to get sufficient Vitamin D, you also have to consider the risks associated with excessive and prolonged sun exposure.
How Do We Get Vitamin D?
How do you hack Vitamin D through a simple home remedy? Well, your skin is the best manufacturer of Vitamin D. It can make Vitamin D from as little sunlight exposure as 15 minutes per day. Here at EMH we believe that the best way you can start your day is with a little sunshine.
If you can get your body outside and in the sun (there is even enough sun on a cloudy day) first thing in the morning, then you will be starting yourself off on the right foot for the day. So, start your day with a quick trip outside. If the weather permits, wear shorts and a t-shirt. Let that sun flow in and allow your body to start generating the Sunshine Supplement.
Can’t you drink milk to get Vitamin D? Yes, there are a lot of great sources of food based Vitamin D, like fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, eggs, etc. However, the body makes much better use of the Vitamin D it makes (from the sun) than what you ingest in your diet.
If you are having a hard time getting enough Vitamin D in your daily routine, you certainly can supplement to help you get to your goals.
These Products and Tips Will Help You Biohack Your Life
As a caution, the saying “when in doubt, go without” applies to all the biohacking supplements discussed below. Just because a product label says, natural remedy or herbal supplements doesn’t mean it can be taken without attention.
Not to put it too bluntly, but “anything in excess is a poison” – Theodore Levitt. Now, don’t be scared by this quote, too much water becomes poison. It is simply used to demonstrate that supplements are meant to supplement.
Additionally, always check product labels for sourcing and quality testing information before buying.
Now, onto the essential biohacking supplements that benefit almost everyone, even healthy individuals – with minimal possible side effects.
Nootropics and smart drugs are excellent biohacking supplements that you can take all year round. They refer to synthetics, natural, or prescription substances that improve brain function by boosting your cognition and memory – think supplements that help in achieving the results of Charlie Munger’s mental models. Some nootropics affect hormones, much like antidepressants do, while others affect the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The goal of nootropics are to help with mental performance, cognitive function and improve memory. A good nootropic boosts brain function and can be thought of a cognitive enhancers.
Some nootropics and smart drugs include:
- Bacopa Monnieri
- Rhodiola Rosea
- Panax Ginseng
- Ginkgo Biloba
- Phenotropil (phenylpiracetam)
Other possible benefits include helping with inflammation, increasing clarity and focus, boosting productivity, and combating fatigue.
One of our favorite nootropic supplements comes from Onnit. It is their memory and focus product called Alpha Brain. It really is the complete package in terms of a go-to nootropic.
Magnesium has whole-body benefits with over 300 enzymatic processes, including ATP (energy) production, using the mineral. It is also critical for proper transcription of RNA and DNA. Symptoms of its deficiency are severe and include heart arrhythmias, tachycardia, nausea, muscle cramps, metabolic syndrome, and migraines.
Health experts also associate conditions like diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disorders, anxiety disorders, and PMS to magnesium deficiency.
Almost all Americans have some level of magnesium deficiency. Factors like poor farming practices and soil depletion make it virtually impossible to get enough of the mineral from your diet alone. Hence, everyone could use a magnesium supplement boost of about 200 to 800mg per day, preferably before bedtime.
One of our favorite magnesium products comes from Thorne. It is their Magnesium CitraMate product.
3. Vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is fat-soluble and is involved in calcium metabolism. It promotes bones and heart health by reducing calcification and decreased vascular function caused by the deposit of excess calcium in arteries. You can find dietary vitamin K2 in grass-fed animal products. Vitamin K2 has two subsets, namely MK-4 and MK-7, and you need at least 2,000 mcg and 100mcg respectively per day.
Thorne also has one of our favorite Vitamin K2 products. You can find that product here.
Iodine is a crucial mineral for thyroid and brain function, metabolism, and immunity. Its deficiency is widespread, so it’s best to supplement it. Physically active people are at a higher risk for deficiency because they lose iodine through sweat. Although iodine is present in seafood, you can only get enough of it if you consume it with every meal.
Thorne is going to come in with another EMH favorite product here – their Iodine and Tyrosine product.
5. Essential Fatty Acids
Small doses of fish oil reduce inflammation, enhance muscle growth, and improve brain function. However, low quality and high doses add more problems than they solve. Therefore, if you cannot find an excellent fish oil supplement (one that is not oxidized, contaminated, or highly-potent), it’s best to avoid it altogether.
However, you can choose to combine fish oil with krill oil. The latter is more stable, and it is phosphorylated (it a more natural form for your brain to use). It also has astaxanthin, which is a potent antioxidant.
6. Vitamin A
Vitamin A supplements are essential for vegans, vegetarians, or people who don’t eat organ meats like beef liver or kidney. Indeed, Vitamin A is a crucial co-factor for numerous metabolic reactions and other bodily functions. Plants do not have vitamin A; instead, they have beta-carotene that the body poorly converts into vitamin A, which is why vegans and vegetarians need to supplement it.
L-Tyrosine refers to an amino acid that boosts cognition, mood, mental stress response, and healthy glandular function. Once ingested, it quickly increases your dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. It’s also one of the building blocks of the thyroid hormone.
The L-Tyrosine that your body makes quickly depletes when you become stressed, which is increasingly quite often with modern living, so you may need to supplement, especially during summer. Ingest between 500 and 2,000mg per day.
Probiotics refer to helpful live bacteria and yeasts that help keep your gut healthy. You can consume probiotics from foods like yogurt, or in biohacking supplements.
Over to You
Biohacking supplementation is encouraged for everyone, but how much to take depends on your lifestyle and diet. If you are not sure where or how to start, talk to a functional medicine or naturopathic doctor to find an individualized plan that works best for you.
Visit Eat. Move. Hack (EMH) to learn more about biohacking supplements and nootropics to boost your dietary requirements.
For a more in-depth science-based approach to supplementation, check out Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s supplement list or any of our other posts about this topic.
Get out and enjoy the sun. Have a healthy, fun summer!