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How to Biohack WITHOUT Nootropics?

By Jonathan Roseland  Connect    

I have Biohackers who contact me on nearly a daily basis complaining that their countries make it difficult or impossible for them to get quality, pharma grade Nootropics.

Biohacking without nootropics

Americans who have never lived abroad have no idea how lucky they are that they can Google search any supplement they want, identify a high quality source of it, digitally swipe their credit cards and in 5-7 days it will reliably arrive at their doorstop.

In other countries they have a confusing mess of regulations and laws about what supplements are allowed:

  • You never really know if you're allowed to import a supplement until you do.
  • About a 3rd of the time it will get lost in shipping. The shipping firm almost always charges you some (surprise!) extra fees.
  • Anything health related is more likely to get stuck in customs, sometimes they will release it, sometimes not.
  • There's a 20% - 30% VAT tax.

Recently I ordered some things shipped to Sofia, Bulgaria and after waiting 2 weeks on shipping it was a royal pain in the ass to pick them up at the airport. You have to give power of attorney to a Bulgarian firm to fill out the paperwork to release your packages. It doubled the cost of the items and took at least half a day.

<rant>
I lived for 2 years in Europe and 2 years in Latin America, in that time I've had so many debates with young Europeans, Canadians and Australians that mocked my American libertarianism. I was so backwards because...
I believe that people need to take care of themselves, it's not the job of government to take care of people who make bad decisions.
I don't trust the government to defend me and my family. I value the right to defend myself.
Europeans are so much more evolved than Americans because they have
Free healthcare
Free college
Paid maternity leave
2 months of paid vacation yearly
The unwitting young socialists I've debated think they are free, but because they value security, comfort and hedonism over philosophically robust freedom their countries are sliding further and further into communism. The totalitarian fist constricting freedom is manifesting as these arbitrary restrictions on supplements.
In a way, it's fair that these cultures that traded freedom for security are now less secure and less free.
In any city in Europe, you are literally always within a stone's throw of someplace selling cigarettes and booze, but good forbid that they allow people to import and consume the health supplements they want!
</rant>

Anyways...

Here are 11 Biohacks that are available to you virtually everywhere.

Brain Training (Dual N-Back)


From a rain forest hut in Costa Rica to the forlorn hills of Moldova, I've brain trained with Dual N-Back. For me it has marked short term and long term effects.
Within about 20 days of usage you'll experience a positive effect on your emotional reactivity, focus ability and short term memory.

Perhaps thanks to the mainstream media, brain training has caught a bad rap in recent years, many people who have NOT tried it think it's total waste of time.

However, anybody who's actually looked at the science will conclude that brain training is worthwhile.
Looking at the science means actually reading papers in the science journals or on PubMed NOT merely consuming an opinion of the science by a journalist, a blogger or a podcaster. Looking at the science in regard to Dual N-Back you'll find that there have been a couple studies published that expressed very mild skepticism or failed to demonstrate significant effect BUT there have been more studies that did demonstrate transfer effects to general intelligence.
The balance of the weight of the science is on the side of it being beneficial and you can find a lot more veteran Biohackers online talking about it's very real effect on focus, mood and short term memory than those who found it unremarkable.

Meditation


This is a long term Biohack for a limitless mind. If you start meditating today (which you really should if you aren't) it won't change your level of focus, happiness and productivity much tomorrow but if you can stick with it for a year or two it has a profound transformational effect on your mind.

It requires very little; you should ideally do it in a quiet room but a bus or park bench work just fine as well.
There's a couple of tools like Headspace or Insight timer that you can download on your smartphone that are free or cost very little.

Quality Coffee+Green Tea


You may have heard mixed things about coffee. The truth is that high quality coffee, consumed in reasonable amounts can be a highly effective Nootropic, especially when taken alongside an L-Theanine source like green tea.

Obviously if you have the option of buying mycotoxin free, organic coffee fresh from the farmer who produced it that is preferable, but often you don't. In those cases follow this rule of thumb:
Good coffee should be palatable drunk straight black without anything added.

If the coffee has that strong bitter taste that we classically associate with coffee and needs to be mixed with milk or cream to taste pleasant, that's a good sign that it's not really healthy coffee. If it has a slight bitter taste that is still pleasant, it's likely fine.

You'll also know by how anxiety prone it makes you after multiple cups. For me, if I drink 2-3 cups of coffee and notice myself getting irate with little things, that's also a sign that it's not good stuff. Actual healthy coffee consumed in reasonable doses should wake you up, make you alert and motivated but not anxious and overstimulated.

In almost any city in the world you can find an organic or vegan food grocery store that sells high quality coffee or go to a hipster cafe and you'll likely find some tattooed baristas who are real connoisseurs of 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine (the chemical name of caffeine).

Caffeine and L-Theanine is regarded as one of the most efficacious Nootropic combinations. A 2010 Dutch human study, The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness, suggested consuming Caffeine and L-Theanine in approximately a 2:1 ratio. From it's abstract:
"The combination of moderate levels of L-theanine and caffeine significantly improved accuracy during task switching and self-reported alertness... and reduced self-reported tiredness... There were no significant effects on other cognitive tasks, such as visual search, choice reaction times, or mental rotation. The present results suggest that 97 mg of L-theanine in combination with 40 mg of caffeine helps to focus attention during a demanding cognitive task."
This stack is one of my favorites and I consistently start my mornings like this.

  • The Umami taste of the green tea actually takes improves the bitter taste of the coffee.
  • Green tea has a subtle anxiolytic effect that is synergistic with the coffee.
  • Green tea is something of a creativity stimulator, so the two together are a great writing stack (if I want to take this to the next level I will add some supplemental liquid Nicotine)

The two together make me clear headed and motivated.

Diet Hacking

Diet Hacking
Often new Biohackers put the cart before the horse by ordering a bunch of fancy supplements or technology before optimizing their diets. We, profoundly, are what we eat. If your diet regularly includes...

  • A lot of sugary junk foods.
  • None-organic meat or animal products - Not consuming meat is a whole lot better than consuming factory farmed, grain feed, hormonally treated animals. I'm not a vegetarian but I avoid eating a lot of meat unless it's from a pretty credible source.
  • GMO foods; avoid regularly eating cheap food from big box grocery stores or fast food restaurants and try to purchase your food from local farmers or organic sources. Once after 2 months of eating fresh bananas in Costa Rica I returned to the United States and ate a banana at my mom's house from Wall Mart and I could really taste the difference.
  • Simple carbohydrates and wheat products - I only eat bread about once a week.
  • Starchy foods - thinking of my misguided Irish ex-roommate who thought that potatoes are healthy.
  • A lot of dairy products - thinking of my misguided American ex-roommate who thought that drinking a tall glass of milk every morning was healthy.

...you are seriously holding yourself back as a Biohacker; you're really limiting the benefits that you'll get from other Biohacking strategies and tools you employ.

Coconuts are my number one diet hack because they are economic, simple, social, nutritious, delicious, and fun:

You can replace one of your meals a day with a coconut that is going to cost you about one dollar. I've eaten thousands of coconuts over the years while living in Latin America - South America - North America and Europe. Interestingly coconuts cost about the same all over the world, you would think the price of coconuts would vary significantly as you got further away from the tropics but even in Eastern Europe, during the winter time I could easily find coconuts for about a dollar. I always try to buy my coconuts from the fancy, organic grocery store in town, since I assume they are a higher quality supply and they still always cost just about a dollar. Nobody reading this can use the excuse; that they can't afford to eat healthy!

Coconuts consist of very dense fat; now you probably remember from your nutrition education that there is good fat and there is bad fat, coconut meat is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids, which is the good kind. You body doesn't store it as fat, your body burns it immediately for energy and it doesn't raise your cholesterol. From a 2015 paper specifically on dietary coconut:
"[medium-chain fatty acids] are unique in that they are easily absorbed and metabolised by the liver, and can be converted to ketones. Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source in the brain, and may be beneficial to people developing or already with memory impairment, as in Alzheimer's disease..."
The Abstract of the paper goes on to clarify that coconut will definitely not make you fat:
"Coconut is classified as a highly nutritious 'functional food'. It is rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals; however, notably, evidence is mounting to support the concept that coconut may be beneficial in the treatment of obesity..."

Stand Up

A Biohack for more energy and mobility available to us nearly everywhere is not spending all our time sitting.

If you like me have a job or lifestyle that involves spending many hours a day staring at glowing screens there is a tremendous tendency to a sedentary lifestyle. If you instead spend 6-8 hours standing up you'll find that...

  • You are better able to maintain your energy and motivation throughout the day.
  • Your breathing significantly improves; you'll breath more deeply.
  • At the end of the day you'll have less tension in your chest and solar plexus.

Your first day spent standing up you'll feel a little tired and your knees may ache a little bit but, as long as you are wearing good, comfortable shoes after a few days you'll notice it makes you feel a whole lot better.

As you can imagine it has a real positive effect on long term health. From Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior a 2012 paper
Even when adults meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise metabolic health. TV time and objective-measurement studies show deleterious associations, and breaking up sedentary time is beneficial. Sitting time, TV time, and time sitting in automobiles increase premature mortality risk...
The point it makes is that exercise does not does not offset the negative effect of spending many hours a day uninterrupted sitting.

No Fap (or Tantric Semen Retention)


Here's a potent medium term Biohack for men. You abstain from masturbating or having an orgasm for an extended period; between 2 weeks to several months and consistently your mood, motivation, productivity and mental sharpness will improve, quiet drastically for some guys.

Quiet clearly, abstaining from orgasming is something that single guys have very individual volition over but married guys or guys with a very regular sex life are orgasming with their partners probably several times a week.
The solution for them is Tantric Semen Retention; there are 9 different techniques that come out of Taoism for preventing ejaculation and instead having a full body orgasm.

Science has demonstrated quiet clearly that orgasming alone lowers your testosterone deleteriously whereas orgasming with a partner has a positive effect on your testosterone because sex with a partner is a competitive activity.
[video]
I hypothesize that because hominids have been masturbating for a long time, evolution gives the gift of more testosterone to males who are having sex with partners to increase their capacity to provide for offspring and penalizes males orgasming alone.
Or perhaps it's just that the long term boost in testosterone from having sex with a partner outweighs the short term drain in testosterone from having an orgasms.

Either way it really is a powerful medium term Biohack for energy, motivation and mood. Try it for 2 weeks and you'll feel like a new man!

Cold Showers

While you don't have to ice your gonads like competitive Russian power lifters do cold showers are a lifehack practiced consistently by high performers. The science is a little unclear as to whether it actually increases testosterone but the effects that numerous Biohackers report are analogous raised testosterone.

  • It improves mood and anxiety.
  • It helps with weight loss.
  • It increases libido.

Start by just doing 30 seconds of cold water at the end of a normal shower and eventually you'll work your way up to doing whole cold showers.
The up tick in testosterone benefits ladies as well, they won't grow beards or big muscles, but it will improve their mood and energy levels.
A side benefit is that you shower a whole lot quicker, you really won't waste time lingering in the shower.

Breathing Techniques


Our default breathing is quiet bad, especially if you spend all day sitting or relatively sedentary, you are probably a chronic shallow breather. As you can see this is a fairly complex system of breathing with steps within steps. I don't recommend you start by trying to implement everything. At first you'll find that like a lot of mindfulness practices, the first few times you do this you will be bad at it and find it quiet boring. You'll want to first get to a level of conscious competence with these 4 stages of breathing.

It's not a lot of fun practicing breathing, if you're finding it difficult devoting 10-15 minutes daily to merely practicing breathing I'd suggest devoting every other meditation session for the next two weeks to doing these breath exercises; that will get you over the hump of conscious effort and help you to habituate these breathing methods into your normal mindfulness practice. I recommend adding the Breathing Exercise habit on Coach.me, which will prompt you to checkin daily to practicing.

Sleep Hacking

Sleep really matters for Biohackers and peak performers. Luckily there's a lot you can do to hack your sleep with out purchasing pricey supplements, Biohacking tech or a really fancy mattress.

Sleep Cycle App
[video]
This is one of the few apps I've actually paid for because it really does improve your sleep. It's a smart alarm clock that wakes you up at the optimal time.

Apple Cider Vinegar Tea
Instead of taking sleep medication or Melatonin nightly try this sleep cocktail that Tim Ferriss recommends.
My go-to tranquilizer beverage is simple: 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg brand) and 1 tablespoon honey,
(p. 140)

Low Light Before Bed
If you want to significantly improve your sleep avoid bright lights for about an hour before bed.

  • Don't stare at a bright glowing screen
  • Leave the light off in the bathroom while you shower or brush your teeth
  • Install a dimmer app on your phone

If for whatever reason you can't do this, you'll definitely want to do the next lifehack...

Orange Sunglasses Before Bed
If you are going to be exposed to persistent bright or blue light before bed orange tinted sunglasses will block most of the spectrum of the light that disrupts your sleep. As you can see, there's a lot of stylish orange sunglasses which you can likely find in sunglasses store near you.

Piracetam or Modafinil

These are Nootropics that you can reasonable expect to find in a pharmacy near you in any city in the world. They are synthetically created smart drugs, so while you ideally want to buy verified pharma grade Nootropics, the synthesis standards of these two are pretty universal. If you really need cognitive enhancement and can't afford to wait a week on shipping it's a relatively safe bet to pickup whatever the brand of Piracetam or Modafinil is offered at your local pharmacy.
While they are both cognitive enhancers Biohackers use them for different purposes:
Piracetam is more of a drug for long term memory and verbal intelligence. It's a social smart drug.
Modafinil is for alertness, wakefulness and focusing on complex logical tasks.
You can get a whole lot better price by ordering them online but sometimes when you really need enhanced mind power ASAP you just need to shop locally.

If there is some other Biohacks you can think of that don't require shipping things vast distances and dealing with import regulations, let me know in the comments!

Also, if there is other Nootropics that you are well acquainted with and you have found their quality is pretty universal (even from supplement or vitamin shops) let me know!

Finally...

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