How To Biohack Your Brain

It’s not as easy as it is in the movies, but it is possible.

Ever since the movie Limitless came out (you know, the one with Bradley Cooper?), everyone has been scrambling to find a similar nootropic. Nootropics, aka “smart drugs,” aren’t fictional (although the one taken by Cooper in the movie is). There are quite a few that are easily obtainable and provide some cognitive help. (Caffeine and nicotine are 2 of them.) None, though, are as strong as what Cooper’s character took to become basically superhuman.

However, what’s interesting is that the drug he took in the movie, “NZT 48,” is actually based on a real nootropic. That drug is called Modafinil and was originally developed to help people in the military. In fact, it was tested on fighter pilots to see if it could help them to fight fatigue during long missions. It did but, again, not nearly to the exaggerated state shown in the obviously Hollywood-enhanced depiction. 

Of course, that’s enough to have many people asking if biohacking their brains is actually possible. Biohacking, as we all know, is biological experimentation to improve or enhance your biology. That includes your brain, body, muscles, sex drive, memory, concentration, etc. 

There are certainly many diets around today that are, more or less, based on biohacking. That includes the Bulletproof Diet, the Keto Diet, and even the Carnivore Diet. (Huge chunks of meat and pretty much nothing else? No thanks.) All of these diets have brain benefits, to a point. Still, they aren’t specifically made for making your brain better and your cognitive powers stronger. To help you with that, the biohacks below will be a great start.

Brain Biohack 1 – Intermittent Fasting

As most people know, fasting is when you don’t eat for a specific amount of time. (It’s very popular in some religions including Judaism, although it isn’t practiced very often.) Intermittent fasting is similar, although on a smaller, shorter time-scale. For example, some people limit their fasting to 14 or 16 hours a day, including the time that they’re sleeping. That means they have between 6 and 10 hours a day to eat, during which their normal eating habits are usually followed. 

What intermittent fasting does is cause your cells to go into something called autophagy. This ‘self-eating’ process promotes a sort of ‘self-cleaning’ in your body while also making new cells and recycling damaged cells. Even better, autophagy controls inflammation very well, helping to reduce your chance of disease and improve your immunity.

What’s most important about intermittent fasting is that it increases your brain’s natural growth factors. This helps the growth of neurons, making your brain stronger. In fact, in the magazine Nature Reviews Neuroscience, they wrote a recent paper that talked about how intermittent fasting is helpful for the brain, to whit “metabolic switching impacts multiple signaling pathways that promote neural plasticity and resistance of the brain to injury and disease.” 

The good news about intermittent fasting, besides helping your brain, is that it isn’t as “hardcore” as people seem to think. You don’t have to significantly restrict your calories or eat only a certain type of food. Basically, you don’t eat for a certain amount of hours per day. This tells your body to do what it was designed to do back when food could sometimes be scarce. Here’s a quick guide you can follow if you want to give intermittent fasting a try.

  1. Intermittently fast two or three times a week. If you stop eating at 8 PM, you can eat again at 12 noon the next day. That’s 16 hours.
  2. Avoid eating breakfast almost every day. (Yes, some say that it’s the most important meal of the day but, frankly, there’s no scientific evidence supporting that.)
  3. Stick to light salads for lunch with non-or low-fat dressing.
  4. Try you’re very best to avoid late-night snacks of any kind. (It’s not always easy, we know.)
  5. Drink plenty of water all day long.

Brain Biohack 2 – Nootropics

This is where most people get really excited when it comes to biohacking their brain, mostly because it’s the easiest method. (Or at least Hollywood would have you believe that.) Yes, some nootropics can improve your cognitive functions, including creativity, memory, concentration, and attention. However, some are also quite destructive, including caffeine and nicotine and some prescription nootropics.

Below are a few of the most common smart drugs available today. Many of them do offer cognitive benefits, although, again, some do have side effects. They include:

Modafinil / Armodafinil

This is the smart drug that was used as the basis for Limitless, as we mentioned earlier. Armodafinil is a newer version of the pharmaceutical, and both are extremely popular among executives, especially on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Most take them in very low doses to minimize the side effects. That includes depleting your brain of choline, which is incredibly important. (Eggs have tons of this brain-building stuff.)

Caffeine

One of the most well-known nootropics globally, everyone knows that drinking caffeine will “wake you up” and help you concentrate and stay focused. (How do you think we made it through college?) Caffeine can help you be more alert and energetic, especially in the morning. Scientists believe that the reason why is that caffeine blocks adenosine, a neurotransmitter. When it does, your brain becomes more ‘excitable.’ Of course, caffeine also has some side-effects, especially the ‘crash’ many feel an hour or 3 after drinking it.

L-Theanine

An amino acid found in Green tea, L-theanine has been shown to improve cognitive function, increase concentration, and significantly reduce mental fatigue. It also has been shown to significantly increase levels of GABA, the mood-regulating hormone. Many biohackers drink coffee enhanced with L-theanine to get a double dose of concentration, enhanced drive, and focus. 

Nicotine

Everyone knows (or at least should know by now) that nicotine is extremely bad for your health. According to recent research, however, it turns out that nicotine, when independent of tobacco, may protect the brain and ward off diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In one study, people given high nicotine concentrations ate less, gained less weight, and had more new receptors built in their brain. The biggest problem, though, is how incredibly addictive nicotine happens to be. Also, when smoking cigarettes, the carcinogens and smoke definitely outweigh any cognitive benefits it might deliver. 

Brain Biohack 3 – Cold Therapy

If you ask 100 people, 98 will say that they definitely do not like the cold. (The 2 that do are from Siberia.) That’s a shame because, more and more, scientists are finding that cold therapy is excellent for your health. That includes your body and brain. Indeed, cold therapy can reduce depression, keep you calm and increase your concentration, without any side effects normally found with prescription medications.

That’s because cold therapy activates the sympathetic nervous system, releasing beta-endorphins and noradrenaline. Norepinephrine is also released, a hormone that makes you feel happy and content. 

Even more than that, cold therapy sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses to the brain. That’s because your skin has a very high density of cold receptors. When this happens, it produces an anti-depressive effect. In scientific terms, cold therapy stimulates the dopaminergic transmission that’s involved in regulating emotions. 

One recent study shows that cold therapy was even better than the anxiety medication Paxil. In a 21 day study, one group was given Paxil, and the other was recommended to use cold therapy. At the end of the study, the cold therapy group had more improved anxiety scores and, even better, no side effects. 

Using coal therapy is as easy as simply taking a cold shower in the morning. You can also fill up your bathtub with water and ice and immerse yourself for 15 to 20 minutes. It’s a bit more hard-core, but the results can be simply amazing. Better concentration, lower amounts of anxiety, and much less inflammation throughout your entire body. Cold therapy is believed to reduce the effects of aging and increase your concentration. Also, because it reduces inflammation significantly, it reduces your chance of inflammation-based brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Brain Biohack 4 – Music Therapy

Many people use music, specifically low pitched sounds, to lower their blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve concentration. This is due to the “Mozart effect” and can help you improve your focus and concentration. (One study showed that classical music improved student performance by upwards of 12%.)  

Using music to improve your brain is as simple as putting on classical music or listening to binaural beats. These are beats in the frequency between 8 and 13 Hz and are believed to promote relaxation, positivity, and help decrease anxiety. They’ve also been linked to an increase in concentration and alertness as well as improved memory and a better ability to problem solve.

In Conclusion

Yes, it would be nice if we could all take the same drug that Bradley Cooper took and become super-smart. The truth is, something similar may be coming very shortly. Until then, the biohacks that we’ve talked about above will definitely help your brain stay strong-ish. We recommend using a combination of everything on the list and seeing what works best. 

Did you enjoy this article? If you did, please let us know. If you have any comments, you can leave them in the space below also. Plus, if you have any interesting anecdotes about brain biohacking, please consider sharing them with us. We’ll share the best with the rest of our readers. Thanks!

Leave a Comment