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  • Brian Bender, PhD

Biohacking Diet for Optimal Nutritional Health

For those looking to personalize and optimize their nutritional health, biohacking diet, or biohacking nutrition, are popular go-to strategies.

But what does biohacking diet and nutrition mean? And how do you start?

Biohacking Diet

Biohacking your diet starts with a few core tenants.

1. Data is King

As the old saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

This holds true when biohacking diet from the perspectives of before, during, and after any dietary changes.

What data should be recorded?

As much as you can collect!

Here are some of the important things to monitor.

Dietary Intake Data

When you start biohacking your diet for optimal nutritional health, you can’t obtain the best results without good data. And part of that data is regarding what foods, and by extension, what nutrients, you are putting into your body.

Collecting this data before you make any changes to your diet will allow you to identify your eating patterns and gauge your intake of various macro and micronutrients.

This process will give you a baseline - a starting point for each nutrient you begin tracking.

You are likely to find out you eat several essential micronutrients in pitiful amounts, as most on a Western diet do today.

This data is essential to collect accurately before, during, and after any dietary changes in order to properly compare latter results and make meaningful conclusions about your nutritional health.

Metabolic Data

When biohacking diet for optimal nutritional health and performance, your metabolism can’t be ignored.

This personal, metabolic data comes in many shapes and forms.

Your resting metabolic rate and your respiratory quotient can be measured at the same time in order to help frame characteristics about your body’s baseline energy burn.

These numbers can help you adjust total caloric intake needs and frame elements of your macronutrient-specific caloric expenditure.

But in addition to total caloric burn, biohacking nutrition warrants a deeper look into how you body uses the nutrients you consume.

There are several different testing procedures that exist for several metabolites (with others awaiting discovery).

These testing procedures look for biomarkers – any biologically relevant marker of some specific, physiological trait.

For example, many proteins and small molecules in urine correlate to your body’s metabolism of both macro and micronutrients.

Similarly, blood, sweat, saliva, and feces all contain other molecules that correlate to other metabolic processes and markers of nutritional health and wellbeing.

This data will help you understand how your body is using the nutrients you are consuming to better tailor and optimize your needs for peak health.

Physiological Response

Biohacking diet requires an end-goal. Thus, in addition to tracking dietary intake and metabolic response, it’s important to track other nutritional health outcomes and aspects of wellbeing.

For example, it can be important to track mood and energy levels pre- and post-dietary changes. This can be challenging, as there are not well-established, objective ways of measuring this.

One technique is to keep running logs, preferentially taken at times randomly assigned by an app or tool (that is, anything other than you), over an extended period of time. And “an extended period of time” should be over several months.

One reason for the long time scale is to increase the data set to provide what may hopefully provide statistically significant changes.

Another reason for a long time scale is to try to continue past any possible (and probable) placebo effects. If would be quite difficult to run a blinded study on yourself (you, of course, know what you are choosing to eat), and placebo effects are an inevitable consequence of any clinical trial. Even, a personal trial of n=1.

Therefore, doing your best to outlast any placebo affect and randomizing data as much as possible will help you identify what is real and what is not.

Other, objective data can be useful too. For example, checking nutritional status, weight, waist circumference, or any other quantitative outcome can help direct you to the most optimal path towards achieving your nutritional goals.

2. Personalization Can Lead to Optimization

Our unique physiology means a better understanding of your own body’s needs and responses to dietary intake can lead to optimized nutritional health.

Nutrigenomics is one manifestation of biohacking nutrition.

This refers to the sequencing of your genes known to relate to nutritional health. Although this field is new and many claims are not backed by consistent, meaningful science, there is data accumulating on the ability to identify some genes related to certain metabolic processes like caffeine metabolism and protein metabolism.

Your genetic profiling may provide insight into the ways your body may metabolize specific nutrients and allow you to plan accordingly.

Are all nutrigenomic testing services accurate and legit?

Experts in the fields of genetics say, not yet. While some information can provide some insights, many claims are born out of speculation and should be taken with a grain of salt.

In addition to nutrigenomics for personalization, simply measuring metabolic byproducts and personal physiological responses to various nutrients can lead to optimization, as well.

For example, some wear blood glucose monitors to measure their own blood glucose response after eating different foods.

Others wear devices that can measure electrolyte balances from sweat, particularly during bouts of exercise.

Others perform urine, blood, and saliva testing to routinely monitor physiology. And, if data on dietary intake has been recorded with enough accuracy, you can develop an understanding of your body’s needs.

These needs also take into account your physical activity schedules, which also should be tracked and integrated into the analysis.

Ultimately, your personal response to food, your genetics, your environment, and your lifestyle all contribute to your unique profile. Biohacking diet is simply a means of understanding and tracking this unique profile in order to optimize your nutritional health.

3. Self-Experimentation

In addition to Data is King, an equally important philosophy when biohacking diet is associated with self-experimentation.

Biohacking nutrition requires you to try new dieting practices, measure the data, and assess the results against stated criteria.

The ethos of biohacking one’s diet eschews the notion that you can just tell. It is far better to collect empirical data to justify your body’s needs and path towards optimizing your nutritional health.

During self-experimentation, it is important for biohackers to study the safety of their new experiment. Some go into uncharted territories and choose extremely risky paths that result in poorer health. Or worse, it is quite possible to inflict permanent damage if not done properly.

Nevertheless, others have found ways to efficiently optimize their diet and nutrition by hacking their health.

Ever tried biohacking diet and nutrition?


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