Biohacking: The quest to live forever has dangerous pitfalls

gettyimages-1230547489Cyborg artist and transpecies activist Manel De Aguas has implanted "Weather Fins" at each side of his head, which allow him to sense atmospheric pressure, humidity and temperature. Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

We could all stand to hack our lives a bit. Most of us should eat more vegetables, get more sleep and untether ourselves from our electronics. These basic principles of healthy living hold the power to unlock energy, productivity and happiness. For most people, that's more than good enough. 

For others -- for biohackers -- nothing is good enough. Biohackers see life as an endless pursuit of getting better, stronger, healthier, more powerful. And the things they'll do to themselves to reach that level of unparalleled performance? They can get quite bizarre. 

What is biohacking? 

The definition of biohacking depends on who you ask. If you ask Dave Asprey, founder of the ever-popular keto drink Bulletproof Coffee, biohacking is the art and science of gaining complete control over your mind and body. 

Asprey is just one example of the many biohackers who engage in all sorts of futuristic attempts at optimizing the human body. Asprey in particular does this to fulfill his widely publicized quest of living to 180 years old. He's known to regularly undergo stem-cell infusions, take infrared baths and take dozens of supplements each day. 

The practice of biohacking includes various techniques and experiments aimed at enhancing oneself both physically and mentally. It's about creating an environment -- internally and externally -- conducive to peak performance. 

Biohacking, in short, is the pursuit of becoming superhuman. 

Types of biohacking

gettyimages-1093941786gettyimages-1093941786Sometimes biohacking is about physical performance; sometimes it's about mental performance. And sometimes it's just weird. skynesher/Getty Images

There isn't just one way to biohack yourself. Biohacking involves all aspects of human living, including nutrition, exercise, sleep and mental health. In extreme cases -- what some would call "true biohacking" -- it's about more than basic healthy living. 

Unrelenting biohackers undergo medical procedures, implant chips into their bodies, engage in neurofeedback to regulate their brain waves and more. Inspired by biotechnology and transhumanism, these people intend to blur the line between humanity and technology.  

Whether moderate or radical, biohacking generally falls into these three categories:


This type of biohacking involves nutritionally manipulating your body. It's essentially dieting on steroids. Nutrigenomic biohackers make all of their nutritional decisions based on how the food or drink will affect their performance, physically or mentally. 

DIY biology

Also called biopunk, the DIY biology crusade consists of people who conduct biological experiments on themselves or in their environments. A DIY biologist might scrape their own cells and study them at home or, on the more extreme side, perform their own fecal transplants or inject CRISPR DNA into their body

Grinder biohacking

The most extreme form of biohacking, grinder biohacking posits humans as machines and fixates on using technology to push the limits of the human body. Grinder biohackers are known to implant computer chips, magnets, RFID tags, data transmitters and other devices into their bodies, all in an attempt to make life easier and more seamless.

Read moreMeet the people hacking their bodies for better sex

Is biohacking safe?

Biohacking can be a slippery slope. Some types of biohacking, like using the concept of nutrigenomics to guide your eating habits, are generally safe. Other types, including most grinder biohacking practices, are not safe for most people, especially those attempting medical procedures or implantations without the help of a qualified professional. 

Safer ways to biohack yourself right now

gettyimages-1250989037gettyimages-1250989037For most people, biohacking is as simple as improving their fitness and nutrition habits. Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Biohacking is really just about feeling better and performing better. You don't need microchips or stem cell infusions to do that. Most people stand to improve their day-to-day habits, so if you're interested in biohacking, forget all those higher-order practices and focus on the basics. 

1. Get blood and hormone panels

Without data, biohacking wouldn't exist. You can't know what to change if you don't know where to start. Getting a blood and hormone panel will help you identify nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances and other health problems you may be unknowingly dealing with. 

With that type of data under your belt, you can make smarter health decisions and work through common but often unexplained symptoms like fatigue, mood swings and gastrointestinal distress. To take it one step further, you could also get an at-home DNA test to learn about health implications specific to your genes. 

2. Change the way you eat

gettyimages-1223823971gettyimages-1223823971Tracking what you eat and removing foods from your diet that cause health issues is a safer form of biohacking. Marko Geber/Getty Images

Experiment with what you eat and when you eat to find out how your body responds to certain foods, meal size and meal timing. An elimination diet is a good place to start. By removing foods from your diet and adding them back in one by one, you'll uncover intolerances and sensitivities. 

Many biohackers use intermittent fasting to promote optimal performance, including Twitter's Jack Dorsey, who reportedly only eats one meal a day. Other biohackers swear by keto, paleo or vegan diets.

3. Track and prioritize sleep

Sleep is vital to physical and mental performance, yet it's often left out of conversations about fitness, health and recovery. Improved sleep hygiene undoubtedly leads to enhanced performance in every aspect of your day. 

Try painting your bedroom a calmer color, establishing a consistent bedtime routine, wearing noise-blocking sleep headphones, using a weighted blanket, investing in a better mattress, lowering the temperature in your home and wearing blue-light blocking glasses at night. Supplementing with melatonin may also help. 

4. Experiment with exercise

gettyimages-1220401995gettyimages-1220401995 Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Indisputably, exercise affects your health status, thus your performance as a human. Physical activity is one of the most basic aspects of healthy living, and if you don't exercise on a regular basis, that's a darn good way to start biohacking yourself. 

Exercise leads to all sorts of favorable physiological changes in your body and brain, but the key to reaping those benefits is discovering what type of exercise (and how much) your body thrives on. Too little exercise won't lead to drastic changes; too much exercise can actually make things worse.

Start small if you don't already exercise. Try going for a walk two or three times a week and increase your frequency from there. If you do have a fitness routine already, try different types of exercise and mess around with the frequency, duration and intensity of your workouts to find the best combination for you. 

5. Retrain your brain 

Human performance isn't all about physical capacity. On the contrary, a big part of obtaining optimal performance -- whatever that means to you -- is training your mind. High performers manage their stress well, understand their emotions and exhibit resilience in the face of challenges. 

Training your brain to think in new or different ways isn't easy, but you can start with simple practices such as meditation, journaling, reading books, learning new skills and talking to people who have different opinions (and actually trying to understand their perspective).

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.