biohacking to optimize performance


You might have heard of it — it might be a totally new concept. Either way, I’m getting a lot of questions about this term since I dropped it on a podcast I was recently interviewed on. (catch that episode here).

Sure, it sounds a lot like something from a 20th century space dystopia film but rest assured it’s really quite simple. In essence, biohacking is viewing the body as a system and then tweaking that whole system for optimum wellness. It’s the process of making changes to your lifestyle in order to “hack” your body’s biology and feel your best. 

I was led to biohacking through my practices in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which views the body holistically, as a series of interconnected, nested systems. I was also introduced to the most well-known proponent of this concept, Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey {biohacker + nootropic legend}. In his guide to biohacking, he says, “the main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology.”

Having studied design-thinking and systems engineering during my undergrad years at Dartmouth, my curiosity was piqued. Since then, I’ve been working on my personal system with various different iterations of what I call “real life science experiments”.

In the first weeks of my holistic health coach training (with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition — highly recommend!), I committed to testing the water on a lot of the health fads that would inevitably surface in conversations with clients. I didn’t want to just regurgitate the buzz that I’ve “heard,” I wanted to have real, pressure-tested experiences that I could share. I love the idea that our bodies respond intuitively and synergistically to inputs with outputs. A diet high in fat produces ketones. Movement produces endorphins. Acute stress produces cortisol. We are a case study in cause and effect — and it’s fascinating. This means we have much more control on our experience in our bodies and minds than we may think we do.

Biohackers believe making constant tweaks to inputs (like, really fine tuning food, sleep, supplements, exercise, etc.) can lead to immediate, measurable changes in the outputs (energy, mood, cognitive performance, etc.). These guys generally don’t wait around for a peer-reviewed meta-analysis of a new therapy or approach…they simply try it, see what happens, and make decisions from there. In true biohacker spirit, I embarked on an exploratory adventure that is still underway today. Some examples?

I cut out alcohol completely “just to see what happened” and found such staggering improvements in my cognitive and physical performance that I haven’t had even a sip 18+ months later. Removing this ‘input’ also had a profound effect on my social life and entrepreneurial ventures, but that’s a story for another day.

I went “VETO” (my cleverly vegan-adapted keto diet) for a month to see what the hype was all about. ILL ADVISED. Keto doesn’t really work sustainably when you are ethically plant-based. *cue footage of me eating 4 avocados a day and spooning olive oil in my mouth to get enough calories from healthy-fat foods to satisfy my ideal macros* Even still, I had more energy than I’ve ever felt, waking up wired at 5am hours before my alarm clock. This was valuable data in my biohacking pursuit.

After reading The Plant Paradox, I bought a pressure-cooker, avoided nightshades, and joined the bandwagon of health aficionados cursing lectins. After reading The Bulletproof Diet, I loaded up on Brain Octane Oil and started crafting expert fat-fuel lattes every morning for breakfast. The list goes on.

I fell into biohacking and started to see just how drastically I could alter my day-to-day when I was intentional about my habits and lifestyle choices.

Our bodies are like machines that can be optimized for performance. The coolest part is that this isn’t purely vanity {working towards the best outward appearance in the skin you’re in} but also for cognitive performance, productivity, and even spiritual elements like intuition, mood management, and creativity.

But enough of my story, you’re probably wondering now how you can start your biohacking adventure, right?

Below, I’m going to share some of my go-to hacks for increasing cognitive function, reducing stress, losing fat, increasing productivity and more. While these ideas are a great place to start, the whole point of this concept is that it’s highly personal. It’s up to you to collect the “data” and see what really works for you. Many of us don’t even realize how epic we are meant to feel! Our natural state of human being is vibrant, thriving health…not the dis-ease we’ve become too-well acquainted with in modern society.

So, without further ado, your guide to feeling AMAZING in your body. Note: this is an on-going list, so expect semi-frequent additions.


Nutrigenomics is simply the study of nutritionally manipulating the activity of your body. As an integrative nutritionist and someone who believes food is the baseline medicine, this is where I always start.

  • Eat More Healthy Fats: Your brain is mostly made up of saturated fats and cholesterol, which is why people supplement with DHA and EPA (both fatty acids) to support brain health (like this EOmega Omega-3 + essential oil supplement). Your mind uses fat to recover and repair itself, resulting in improved memory, increased cognitive skills, and better moods. A high-fat diet (up to 70% of daily calories) supports a peak, thriving body and mind.

  • Going Anti-Inflammatory: I’ve written about tackling inflammation before and I talk about it all the time because it’s critical. When we take a systems-based approach to disease, we see that many symptoms have the same root cause: inflammatory responses in the body. Often resulting from lifestyle factors like diet, stress (hello spiked cortisol levels), and a lack of exercise, chronic inflammation results when the immune system releases chemicals meant to combat injury and bacterial and virus infections, even when there are no actual foreign invaders to fight off. We have to remember that everything our body does is in our best interest for survival, so when it’s making us ill (auto-immune) it’s usually just confused + disoriented. So we need to re-wire the signaling by making some necessary hacks. The anti-inflammatory diet is an eating plan designed to prevent or reduce the low-grade chronic inflammation that a key risk factor in a host of health problems and several major diseases (think neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, heart disease, IBS-esque problems…the works!). The typical anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. See a trend here?

  • Eat for Your Gut: I could give an entire lecture about the importance of gut-health {and i’m actually midway through an advanced degree specifically on the gut microbiome} but I’ll keep it short and sweet, for now. Scientists call the gut the “second brain” for a reason: it’s the HQ for most of the activity that goes on in the body, from our metabolism to our mental health {did you know 90% of our serotonin, the neurotransmitter closely linked to our happiness, is produced in the gut?}. You can think of the microbiome as an entire ecosystem of bacteria cells, all fighting for survival. In our bodies, bacteria DNA outnumber human-cell DNA 10:1 — yep, there are 39 trillion bacterial cells in the body. Let that one sink in. When we eat probiotic-rich foods (think fermented: kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh) we boost the healthy bacteria in the gut and starve off the bad bacteria, which make us ill, sugar-craving, and bloated (among many other things). In fact, bad bacteria literally send signals to the brain through the Vagus Nerve saying “eat the sugar” “crave the processed food” simply because that’s how they survive — it’s our job as biohackers to starve them off and eat intelligently. A healthy gut (_input) will result in improved performance, from mental clarity to clear skin (output_).

    A great supplement would be a pre-and-probiotic. I use this one. Also, massively up your water-drinking (half your body eight in ounces daily) and your fibre intake (at least 30g per day) — this keeps the whole system running smoothly! A drop of citrus essential oil can make this hydration burden a little more zesty + boost the healing effects {just make sure you’re ingesting a super-high quality essential oil, like this one}.

  • Consider Intermittent Fasting (IF): You’ve likely heard of this by now because the concept definitely had it’s spotlight moment over the past few months. Many biohackers are of the mindset that it’s less about what you eat, and more about when you eat it. See, our body has two stages of processing the food we eat: digestion and absorption, which happen consecutively. We don’t actually absorb all of the phytonutrients and minerals from our food until digestion is completed. But here’s the problem: we spend all day eating and never give our gut the chance to get to that absorption phase before we load it with more food to start back up the digestion phase. Make sense? Thats’s why IF-ers recommend eating in specified windows and fasting long enough to let our body fully process the goodness we’re giving it!


You’ve just read a lot of words and you’re not quite at your biohacking prime yet, so I’d understand if you need a break minute. Perhaps you’d be into learning about Biohacking Emotions with Aromatherapy in video form? Lucky for you we did a Facebook Live all about this very topic a few months ago. You can check that out here.

  • Meditation: Yep, the article you read that told you to meditate for 5 minutes a day was on to something. Meditating literally changes the neural patterning of the brain, putting us in an a completely altered brain state — some might call it “flow state.” In meditation, your theta brain waves takeover, which are associated with a positive mental state + creativity. They improve your problem-solving skills and increase your memory, keeping you calm and balanced. Sounds like we just bio-hacked our brain by doing…nothing. Pretty sweet. Check out the biohacker’s guide to meditation for more strategy.

  • Gratitude + Forgiveness: Taking a few minutes a day to do a gratitude and forgiveness exercise can be unbelievably beneficial. In fact, it may just be the most powerful biohack ever. According to research, anger/stress/guilt/shame {all of those low-vibration emotional states} cannot cognitively coexist with a state of gratitude. This will increase happiness, boost stress recovery, and increase efficiency at work. In studies, gratitude exercises are shown to increase decision-making abilities and encourage productivity.

  • Using Scent to Anchor in Emotions or Switch States: We cover this in our Facebook Live so definitely check that out if this piques your interest. My best friend {a biohacker, aromatherapist, + neuroscientist + co-host of the video} always says ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’ meaning we can create neural links over time. We can begin to associate certain smells, for example, with certain emotional states. The olfactory system is directly linked to the limbic brain, where we process long term memory, emotion, and even trauma. That’s the basis for aromatherapy: we can use scent to switch emotional states. We can also use it to re-wire our brains to heal from deep-rooted trauma or low-self image.

  • Nootropics + Supplements: I won’t dive too deep into this, but Bulletproof writes a lot about certain “smart drugs” and cognitive enhancers that may improve cognitive function, particularly executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in healthy individuals. I personally steer clear of the chemicals but definitely depend on vitamins + supplements for my cognitive performance. In particular, I use Mito2Max to boost mitochondrial function (which is where we generate ATP energy as fuel). In my view, boosting the endogenous production of hormones and neurotransmitters is more efficient than taking an external (exogenous) alternative. Why not focus on supporting the body in what it’s already doing rather than replace it with a synthetic derivative?


I’m predicting it now: quality sleep is going to get a lot of attention in 2019. Not necessarily length of time sleeping, but the efficiency of that rest. Again, we are biohackers! We are all about maximum optimization.

  • Committing to That 8 Hour Mark: Research shows that eight hours of quality sleep can increase your ability to tackle complex problems by 50%. When you sleep, it gives your brain a chance to repair the neurons that you exhaust during the day while you’re active. It also gives your brain time to exercise the connections between your neurons. In fact, a recurrent lack of sleep may cause loss of brain cells – the last thing you want when you’re trying to be a true biohacker. Don’t have 8 hours? You’ll want to be sure the few you do get are quality. I use essential oils in a diffuser to help me wind down, fall asleep, and stay asleep. {this diffuser rocks because it runs for 10 hours, through the night. paired with Serenity essential oil? a match made in heaven.}

  • Blue Light + Circadian Rhythms: Do what you can to help your body out on this one — invest $20 in blue-light-blocking glasses {I use these}, install F.lux on your computer {changes the light from your computer screen to adjust for the time of day}, and try to avoid using devices for 90 minutes before bed. On that note, sleep with your phone out of your bedroom — we really need to learn how to detach, people.

  • Adequate Sun Exposure: Did you know that people whose offices have windows get better sleep than those who work in windowless workspaces?  That’s because getting enough sun exposure every day keeps your body’s clock – or circadian rhythm – on point.  Sunlight tells your body to postpone making melatonin – the hormone that makes you tired and helps you sleep.  So it’s a great idea to get some sun in the morning if you can and take your vitamin D supplements (dōTERRA’s LLV is a great, bio-available, broad-spectrum option}. A lifestyle that matches up with your natural circadian rhythm will have you alert + energized all day, but perfectly ready to get some quality zzz’s at night.

  • Ritual + Signaling: Our human brains are wired for routine. We talked about scent association for emotional state above — the same goes for winding down. Creating a calming, evening ritual that is consistent over time will signal to our brains that it’s time for rest, which will get us in that healing REM sleep more efficiently. Use relaxing scents, tunes, or stretches — whatever works for you, just be consistent with it!

Phew — there’s a lot of ideas to get you started, young biohacker padawan. May the force be with you on your journey to becoming a biohacking Jedi. 🚀 

Regan Plekenpol