Many people have asked me this question when I describe myself as a biohacker. For those of you who hate reading, here’s the (shortened) definition from the dictionary:
biohacker \ ˈbī-ō-ˌha-kər \ noun, plural biohackers. Somebody who uses science and technology to make his or her body function better and more efficiently.
Now for those of you who don’t mind reading and would like a deeper understanding of the term, I’ll explain it further here.
I’ve been a biohacker for decades now, in fact, ever since 1987 when I began devouring the research on human performance, exercise science, nutrition science, and brain science while earning my degree in Exercise Science from Seattle Pacific University.
Pictured here is my 33-page senior college research paper, which was a requirement to finish my degree. This was back when we used dot matrix printers, and my “laptop” computer was the size of a carry-on bag.
The report was a “biohack” on the subject of eccentric muscle contractions, which my professor claimed were less beneficial than concentric muscle contractions. When I heard him say this, I said to myself, “Self – my gut says that’s not true.” So I went to the library to find out.
You see, back then, the internet didn’t exist. We had to use real books inside a real library and find the journals that were being published at the time, of which there were only about a dozen in the fields of exercise science and human performance. At first, I thought our library at SPU was just lame, so I went to the Seattle library, only to find the same thing.
I went back to my professor and asked him what was up with the lack of journals available and he told me that’s all there were at the time because our field was so new. Then he said something that really got me pumped. He looked me in the eye with an electric intensity and said, “This is why our field is so exciting – because we’re all pioneers!”
This was what inspired me to find a new way to do exercise. To completely redesign it from the way we know it. Not just to do something new, but to give the world an upgrade. And it really needed it because everyone was still doing traditional training (sets and reps), which was invented back in 1891.
This is what us biohackers do. We research and experiment on new and better ways to get fitter and healthier. I started this with my friends in the weight room. I was doing Crossfit type stuff (aka traditional training), for about 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, getting injured every few months (or less) and trying to fight through frequent pesky plateaus. I got burned out on all the time and energy it required, in exchange for injuries and flat results, so I started trying new stuff based on what I was learning in my classes.
We had a blast experimenting with new ways to do things. Some ideas worked better and some didn’t, but doing new stuff was fun, so we kept on, despite the judging eyes and condescending chuckles from others in the weight room. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were biohacking – before the term existed.
Now we have the technology to help us make even faster progress and the internet to scour through hundreds of research journals, so the speed of information and the amount we can access is truly astonishing. This is what makes “biohacking” and “thing” now, even to the extent of being included in the dictionary.
I recently attended Dave Asprey’s biohacker convention in Beverly Hills and it was a dream come true. So many gizmos and gadgets and so little time! So much information and data and such a small brain! My mind exploded several times when I was there, but it felt amazing.
Dave’s CEO of his labs division, called Upgrade Labs, was a member at my X Gym before he moved to California, so it was great to see him there. Martin calls me the “OG” (Original Gangster) of biohacking.
Dave and Martin have far surpassed me on the biohacking front now. In fact, the edited definition I used at the top of this post for those who don’t like reading was shortened as much as possible for their benefit. If you look it up for yourself in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you will find the full version to read like this:
biohacker \ ˈbī-ō-ˌha-kər \ noun, plural biohackers