The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. -Confucius
Our efforts to optimize our biology can be greatly assisted by key technologies. This page is a list of tools that I have personally found to be useful in my biohacking.
Jawbone UP – A bracelet that logs steps taken, sleep (in some sense), and integrates with a nutrition-tracking platform. But it really shines as being the only device that I’m aware of that has an INactivity monitor. You set a timer to be monitoring you for certain periods of the week (e.g. 9-5 M-F) and when it senses that you haven’t been active for the amount of time that you specified, it will vibrate. I find this to be a very valuable reminder to take breaks from sitting, which is a good idea due to the risks we see in epidemiological studies of inactivity (we also know likely mechanisms). This intervention trial reveals direct evidence that walking for as little as 100s every 30m can substantially improve postprandial glycemia and insulinemia in healthy, normal-weight adults.
Heatpad – I used this on my lower back when I had some back pain, and my back got better over time. I can’t claim causation, but since heat brings blood, which facilitates repair of tissue, it’s plausible.
emWave2 – A biofeedback device that monitors your heart rate variability (HRV) and gives you feedback via a tone. You can see visual feedback also if you hook it up to a computer. This is a great tool for training yourself on how to destress efficiently. I often use this while I meditate in the morning.
Note: There is a new, cheaper, device called Inner Balance that connects directly to iOS devices (iPhone, iPad etc). I haven’t tested it, but if I were purchasing now I would buy this device.
BrainWorkshop – This is a very nice, free implementation of dual-n-back (DNB) training. DNB is one of the few forms of mental training that has several well conducted trials supporting it as a booster of general IQ, particularly through enhancing working memory (kind of like your brain’s RAM). For details on the research I recommend reading Gwern’s FAQ.
Modafinil [also known as Provigil in the US] – This is a smart drug that is pretty mild (e.g. milder than adderall or ritalin, comparable or milder than caffeine IMO), but surprisingly effective at specifically banishing drowsiness. I also notice it puts me in can-do mode, and I have no problem tackling tasks that I might otherwise put off for awhile. I prefer this to caffeine, and some prefer stacking the two. It’s illegal to buy this without a prescription in many countries in the world, but that doesn’t stop many from doing so via online merchants. Caveat emptor.
The Perfect Health Diet, by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. Health is the foundation of happiness and performance, and good nutrition is the foundation of health. There’s a ton of biased, group-think out there about nutrition. This book will give you a modern education in the subject based off of the science. I highly recommend not just reading it, but learning it.
Blue-shielding sunglasses [This model fits over most glasses] – These are for wearing a few hours before you aim to go to sleep. Light at night, particularly blue light, seriously disrupts the melatonin production which would otherwise naturally occur. Melatonin is not just an important sleep hormone, but its disruption has been implicated in obesity and cardiovascular disease as well. It’s been shown in randomized controlled trials that melatonin disruption can be nearly completely avoided by shielding yourself from blue light a few hours before bed, and furthermore that this translates into the more meaningful objective of better sleep quality.
Circadian screen adjustment apps – f.lux (Windows, Mac, Linux, Ipad/Iphone (must jailbreak)), Twilight (Android), Redshift (Linux), some others. These apps automatically adapt the colors and/or brightness of your various screens, optimizing the light emission for nighttime. As mentioned above, cessation of blue light is important for allowing your body to produce melatonin.
Zeo sleep monitor – It is the king of commercial sleep monitoring devices, as it’s currently the only one that is an EEG device, and thus able to discriminate between REM (phase 5) and deep (phases 3-4) sleep. This makes it an awesome tool for sleep hacking experiments.
Note: Zeo is now out of business. If you purchase this product, you should make sure that you can secure some replacement sensors at the same time, as they should be replaced every 3 months and will likely be nonexistent in the near future. Here’s a DIY guide to making replacement electrode-headbands. I have NOT tested this yet.
Talking20 – The ability to test your bloodwork is a must for anyone serious about long-term health. Talking20 offers a wide array of blood work. They are able to give incredibly low prices because you take your blood yourself, at home (just a prick, not a needle), and mail it in to have it evaluated. This saves you both time and money. I’m a subscriber to their Gold Card service, which delivers every test in their arsenal everytime I mail in some blood samples.
23andMe – They will sequence a bunch of SNPs (single nuecleotide polymorphisms), giving you important genetic information and interpretations for an affordable price. How useful it will be is hard to predict in advance. It may reveal genetic predispositions towards certain conditions, such as hemochromatosis, which would dictate important lifestyle modifications having a major impact on health and longevity. You’ll also get to learn something about where your ancestors came from.
Withings Smart Blood Pressure Monitor (iOS devices only) – There’s nothing glamorous or sexy about taking your blood pressure on a regular basis. But it’s an intelligent thing to do. High blood pressure is named by the WHO as the leading mortality risk factor in the world. It also happens to be needless and preventable, usually through diet and lifestyle modification if caught early. By the time you go to the doctor and have a high reading, who knows how long it’s already been high for? Blood pressure can also vary quite a bit depending on when it’s taken, so it’s more logical to measure periodically on your own at home, especially since it’s inexpensive to do so. I usually do it once a week.
Freestyle Lite Glucometer – Similarly to blood pressure, you should check in every now and then with your blood glucose levels and clearance. Some important benchmarks are 12hr fasted blood glucose, and values taken every 30m or so for 2 hours postprandial (after eating a typical meal).
rTracker – An iphone app for manual tracking of just about anything. This is the one that I use. Unfortunately, I’m unaware of anything on par for Android. The best option there that I know of is KeepTrack Pro, but it is inferior in most respects.
What are your favorite biohacking tools? Leave a comment and let us know. . .
Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that if you purchase through them then you help support Biohack Yourself. You will always get the same or lower price as compared to the retailer’s default price.