A Working Professional’s Guide to Biohacking

Achieving optimal performance at work is hard. You may have a lot of responsibilities and you might not always be in control of your schedule. You wake up early, work until late night. You have to travel, attend business meetings, set up dinners with your clients… You must make everyone around you pleased and reassured.

Your priority is to perform at your best, but what if you could optimize your overall wellness to improve productivity and optimize work performance?

Many Silicon Valley CEOs track their calories, ketones, sleep, stress and hormone levels to optimize their overall wellness and call this approach “biohacking” —or making lifestyle changes in order to “hack” the body’s biology. Biohacking matters for your wellness.

Similarly, Tim Ferriss, the author of The Four Hour Workweek, is one of the most prolific and influential enthusiasts of quantified self-approaches to performance improvement. His book is full of biohacks, including diet and sleep tracking, blood testing, in addition to DEXA scans for body composition. These data points help him understand how he feels, examine his surroundings and invest in improving his body and mind.

As a working professional, your wellness, both physical and emotional, is crucially important if you want to be successful at what you do. According to research on the influence of workforce health on business outcomes, being in good shape affects your productivity and performance, mood and creativity, leadership skills and relationships with others, together with your overall health (1) (2). Therefore, in the big picture, if you want to master your professional life, you have to master your wellness first.

While today’s work conditions could get very challenging and overwhelming, they also give you many opportunities to manage your wellness. On the one hand, there are usual ways to control wellness such as adding a morning workout into your routine, avoiding stress, going to bed early, or having a more balanced diet. These are the things you read, hear and talk about when you look for suggestions and help. And yes, they are general, subjective and purely qualitative (i.e. sleep better, eat better, etc.). However, as the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

The good news is that, you can easily use technology to “quantify” and personalize your wellness. “Self-tracking” technologies can help you track and collect data on different aspects of your wellness, such as food intake, exercise, sleep, stress, metabolism, body fat percentage, bone health, aerobic capacity and blood pressure, in order to optimize your wellness. This data-driven approach is what some high-profile Silicon Valley and New York CEOs embrace. If you are wondering why you should “biohack” as well, here is the answer:

When you think about it, your body is different from everyone else's. Your organs —heart, lungs, liver, intestines etc.— and how they work, your body composition —fat, water and skeletal masses—, your genetic and health risk factors, your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and thyroid levels are all unique to you. Moreover, you have an individualized diet, exercise routine, sleep habits and stress levels. You have your own holiday feasts or weekend getaways. You may be drinking or smoking. You may be using supplements, vitamins, prescribed or non-prescribed medications. It is very hard to find an optimal, one-size-fits-all path that works for you and for everyone else, since every single detail about your body, along with the lifestyle choices you make, affect your body uniquely. Therefore, adopting a more personalized and quantitative approach to wellness works best, if you want to get your body, mind and professional life in shape. But, what is the best way to go about it?

Did you know that you could personalize your wellness through numbers? Many physiological aspects of your body have a value that can be measured and optimized: weight, body fat percentage, metabolic rate, blood test results, hormone levels, etc. These body measurements and calculations can be referred to as “biometrics” or “biomarkers.” If you know your own numbers, you could manage them more easily and accurately, make smarter decisions, and therefore, master biohacking.

Here are the ways in which you could collect your wellness data in order to optimize your overall wellbeing and work performance:

1. Measuring Weight and Body-Fat Percentage:

Excess pounds in the form of fat, not only increase your weight but also increase your risk of suffering from a health condition. According to Harvard Health, obese and overweight people with high body fat are more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, cancer and depression. High visceral fat is of particular concern. Visceral fat lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs. It is a key player in a variety of health problems —much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp (or "pinch") with your hand (3) (4) (5).

You could find out your accurate body fat percentage with a DEXA Scan and a BOD POD test. While the BOD POD can be the fastest body fat assessment, the DEXA Scan can provide you with additional data such as body fat distribution, visceral adipose tissue, muscle symmetry and bone health.

2. Measuring the Resting Metabolic Rate:

The Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR is the minimum number of calories you need to perform basic functions, such as maintaining heart rate and body heat, breathing and keeping up brain activity. The RMR test measures the number of calories you burn at rest, doing nothing more than sitting all day.

The Resting Metabolic Rate test helps you develop a more efficient diet and exercise plan. If you know your Resting Metabolic Rate, you can calculate the number of calories you need on a daily basis (Total Energy Expenditure). When you get the right number of calories, you not only manage your weight better, instead of guessing, but you also feel more energized during the day; your brain activity and productivity increase (6).

3. Dietary Analysis

Since your body is different than anyone else’s, your daily recommended food and nutrient intake should be personalized. Some foods cannot be processed by your digestive system. You might be deficient when it comes to certain nutrients. Some foods can make you sick. You might have allergies or intolerances, just like you have food preferences.

A detailed analysis of your diet  can help you examine your current food choices and understand what changes to make. For instance, a food log analysis, coupled with a detailed overview of your lifestyle, history and goals, can be used to compare your current nutrition profile with clinical guidelines for a balanced diet. This can help you personalize your diet based on your unique health profile, lifestyle and goals.

There is always going to be a distraction, another responsibility, something unexpected that can affect your wellbeing negatively. However, if you know your body well, you understand what it needs and can manage it in a more data-driven, scientific manner.

You owe it your body to stick to biometrics and data, rather than fads.

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