What Is Biohacking And How Does It Work?

Medically Reviewed

Dr. Jill Stocker is traditionally trained in family medicine with advanced certification in age management medicine and hormone optimization.
Jill E. Stocker, D.O., P.C. Age Management Medicine / Hormone Optimization / Trauma Informed and Psychedelic Medicine
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Biohacking is a term used to describe various tips and tricks for enhancing the body’s ability to function at peak performance—and maybe even extend one’s lifespan. While certain modalities of biohacking may seem extreme, forms like meditation and intermittent fasting are fairly commonplace and time tested, with extensive research supporting their use. What’s new, however, is the movement behind this overall quest for better biological function.

Read on to learn about biohacking and potential ways to use its principles to elevate one’s health.

What Is Biohacking?

Biohacking is the practice of employing methods drawn from fields like biology, genetics, neuroscience and nutrition to enhance physical or mental performance, improve overall health and well-being, or achieve a specific health outcome (like weight loss), according to Brea Lofton, a registered dietitian and nutritionist for health and wellness company Lumen. Sometimes biohacking is also called do-it-yourself (DIY) biology.

A Brief History of Biohacking

“[Biohacking] is a global movement based on the idea that you can change the environment around you and inside of you so you have full control of your own biology,” says Dave Asprey, author of Smarter, Not Harder: The Biohacker’s Guide to Getting the Body and Mind You Want. For most people, “control” means a desire to be better, not just okay, he shared during the 2023 national Biohacking Conference in Orlando, Florida.

In Asprey’s case, he was once seriously overweight and struggling with brain fog and chronic fatigue while working in Silicon Valley. His journey with what’s now called biohacking began when he decided to apply the principles of being a computer tech-hacker to his own personal biology instead.

“Hackers look at something they want to [access], and they don’t know what it is, but they start poking at it until they get the behavior they want, and then they gain control of the system by changing the way they get in,” he explains.

Asprey regularly shares how his hacking philosophy led him to extensive personal experimentation, including taking dozens of daily supplements and injecting his own bone marrow-harvested stem cells into various joints in his body. Healthy and full of energy, he now says he plans to live to 180 years old.

Asprey and a group of mostly affluent men like ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (another prominent biohacker) are largely responsible for pushing the biohacking term into pop culture prominence. But for people who aren’t as invested (or as financially wealthy) as the small subset of initial “billionaire biohackers,” the idea boils down to not leaving the status of your health to luck, chance or genetics. Instead, biohacking is the art and science of shifting one’s physiology and nervous system to function optimally, intelligently and efficiently.

Types of Biohacking

Almost any tactic could be considered biohacking if an individual employs it with the goal of enhancing their biology in some way. Therefore, the categories and possibilities for biohacking are vast and almost overwhelming.

But according to Kien Vuu, M.D., author of Thrive State: Your Blueprint for Optimal Health, Longevity, and Peak Performance, most types of biohacking generally fall into one of the following categories below.


This category of biohacking focuses on making positive health and behavior choices, as well as embracing ways of life that activate the biology of performance and longevity. Lifestyle is probably the most accessible way most people can start experiencing biohacking, as it includes factors like dietary shifts, breathwork, meditation and exercise, according to Dr. V.


Molecular biohacking involves the use of natural and synthetic molecules that can help shift one’s biology. Taking supplements would fall into this biohacking category.

“Molecular biohacking incorporates a small particle that has some kind of biological effect,” says Dr. V. “It’s your vitamins, it’s your minerals, it’s peptides (small protein fragments).”


Biologics are cellular or biological products that are meant to improve or enhance biology. “Biologics function like some sort of human cellular material,” explains Dr. V. “They could be cells, or they could be small little information packets like exosomes, which are basically biological bundles of DNA, mRNA proteins and growth factors.”

Biologics typically need to be ingested, injected (such as stem cells) or delivered intravenously (i.e. by IV transfusion). Some biologics require a prescription from a health care provider, such as medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while others don’t, such as non-medical IV therapies offered in independent boutiques nationwide.


Biohacks in this category include devices like wearables (such as smartwatches) and diagnostics (such as blood sugar monitors). In such cases, biohacking uses technology to gather data about the body and its functioning so an individual can use that information to adjust their health as they strive for improved performance.

Technology biohacks also include the use of advanced machines like hyperbaric chambers or electromagnetic stimulators to try and stimulate more rapid physiological changes or healing.

Is Biohacking Safe?

Biohacking is fighting a bad reputation in some circles because it’s occasionally practiced “ahead of the science,” meaning people test hacks on themselves before they’re proven to work in a controlled clinical research setting. In fact, a 2020 article in Science expressed concern at the lack of scientific oversight of many genetic biohacking and other DIY science procedures currently surfacing on the consumer market[1].

However, when approached with safety in mind and used incrementally, biohacking can be safe for most people. “It’s crucial to approach biohacking with caution, relying on evidence-based information and consulting with health care professionals when necessary,” says Lofton.

Current Examples of Biohacking

Below are some common areas people often wish to biohack and a few trending examples of how to approach each concern.

Age Biohacking

Many people become interested in biohacking as they start to advance in years. According to Asprey, one of the top biohacker demographics includes people between the ages of 35 and 50 because individuals in this life stage suddenly start noticing signs of aging.

Cellular senescence is one of the main concepts at play in age biohacking. As cells in the body are damaged by injury, stress or disease, they are removed by a natural process called apoptosis. But as the body ages, it becomes less efficient at clearing these senescent cells. Their accumulation may lead to inflammation that can damage other nearby cells, accelerating the aging process and the onset of disease.

Accordingly, many people in the age-related biohacking arena focus on cellular health and regeneration. They believe that if the production of senescent (damaged) cells can be stopped, or even reversed, then the aesthetic and physical changes that come with aging can as well.

Age-related biohacking examples include:

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Energy Biohacking

Biohacking for energy is one of the top areas explored, according to Asprey. What’s more, biohacks for sleep are often part of this category, because a person often can’t be energetic if they’re not well rested. Most U.S. adults fall behind here, with over one-third of adults included in the National Sleep Foundation’s 2020 Sleep in America Poll saying they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep[2].

This category can also include stress relief, as chronic stress can be very draining on a person’s overall energy.

Energy-related biohacking examples include:

  • The use of sleep tracking devices
  • The wearing of blue light-blocking glasses
  • Light therapy for circadian rhythm regulation
  • The use of meditation apps for sleep support, stress relief or both
  • The consumption of supplements like vitamin B12 and magnesium
  • Timed caffeine ingestion

Diet and Nutrition Biohacking

Whether a person is seeking weight loss, metabolic efficiency or better digestion, biohacking and food go hand in hand because controlling what, how and when one eats is a biohack most people can readily understand.

Biohacking often involves customizing one’s diet to optimize cellular nutrition. “Consuming a nutrient-dense diet rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids can provide the building blocks for healthy cells,” says Lofton. “Specific dietary approaches like ketogenic diets or fasting regimens may also affect cellular metabolism and energy production.”

Cellular nutrition aside, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for metabolic health and longevity, explains Lofton. Excess body weight, especially visceral fat (fat around organs) can contribute to metabolic imbalance, insulin resistance and chronic disease.

“By optimizing metabolic function through healthy lifestyle choices, individuals can enhance their physical performance, support cellular health and potentially increase their lifespan,” says Lofton.

Diet- and nutrition-related biohacking examples include:

Physical Health Biohacking

Athletes—including professionals or weekend warriors—are often looking to gain a competitive edge in their training, performance and recovery, which makes biohacking very common among the athletically inclined.

What many people don’t realize is that exercise itself is a biohack. “Regular exercise has numerous benefits at the cellular level,” says Lofton. “It promotes mitochondrial biogenesis (the creation of new mitochondria), improves cellular energy metabolism, enhances insulin sensitivity and stimulates the release of growth factors that support cellular repair and regeneration.”

A recent study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found participating in a single high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout can also boost brain neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire or modify its neural connections) within 20 minutes of the session[3].

That being said, people looking to boost athletic performance or accelerate recovery (from workouts or injuries) can choose from a wide range of high-tech biohack modalities. Physical health-related biohacking examples include:

  • Cold plunging practices and the use of ice baths
  • The use of heat therapy and saunas
  • The use of smartwatches and other training feedback tools
  • Whole body vibration therapy
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields (PEMFs) therapy
  • Red light therapy (for healing and recovery)
  • The consumption of athletic supplements like creatine and amino acids
  • The consumption of electrolytes and energy drinks

Brain Biohacking

“The most powerful pharmacy is between your ears,” says Patrick K. Porter, Ph.D., the founder of brain-training platform BrainTap. “If you manage your brain, then the rest of your health follows. Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Thanks to mirror neurons, the brain “matches” its surrounding environment, says Dr. Porter. The function of these neurons can partially explain why a person generally feels differently at a spa than they do at a rave. The brain affects a person’s emotions, physiological processes, hormones, memory, focus, ability to learn and process information, and more.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a term often discussed in brain biohacking because this specialized protein promotes neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) and neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to create new neural pathways). A number of scientists refer to it as “[like] Miracle-Gro for your brain.”

Higher levels of BDNF are associated with better overall cognitive function and memory and may even offer neuroprotective effects, according to Dr. Porter. Accordingly, many brain biohacks are intended to increase a person’s BDNF levels, but the main premise of brain biohacking is that one must care for and regularly train their brain.

“You have to become your own software engineer for your own mind,” says Dr. Porter.

Brain-related biohacking examples include:

The Bottom Line on Biohacking

“Biohacking is a powerful concept that equips individuals with diverse tools and strategies, enabling them to take charge of their health like a CEO steering a successful company,” says Dr. V.

However, one must do their research, evaluate the safety of the biohacks they’re considering and keep their biohacking efforts in check, as too much of anything may not be a good thing.

“Biohacking can be a double-edged sword,” adds Dr. V. “While it offers tools to enhance health, an over-reliance on external products, services or technology can overshadow the most powerful medicine of all—the innate healing potential within you.”

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