I grew old when I was a teenager.
Doctors diagnosed arthritis in my knees when I was 14. I was tired all the time. I was grumpy and snapped at people I cared about more than you’re supposed to when you’re teen. I kept getting fatter until I hit 300 pounds in my early 20’s, no matter how much I worked out, or how much low-fat low-calorie crap I ate.
After 18 months of working out for 90 minutes a day, six days a week, I still weighed 300 pounds, and I felt old. Lab tests showed I was at high risk for stroke and heart attack, and my brain function was declining before I was 30. My blood sugar was high enough to qualify as "pre-diabetic” and my libido was shot.
No matter what birthday you last celebrated, when you feel that old, you have two choices. You can accept it as the way it’s going to be, or you can look for a way out. As a Silicon Valley computer hacker, I made the decision to do with my body and brain what I did every day with internet security problems. Come hell or high water, I was going to hack my way out of that existence, no matter what it took. I knew there was a better way.
Now, the word “biohacking” is in Miriam Webster’s dictionary, and my name is in the definition. My new book Super Human explains what you can do today to live way longer than mother nature wants you to, based on twenty years of running an anti-aging nonprofit and interviewing hundreds of experts. The only hitch is that if you do these things, you’ll have to deal with the side effects - feeling younger, more libido, and a better brain.
Here are five non-negotiables when it comes to living a vibrant and powerful life for decades more than you think.
Master your metabolism
When your body only knows how to burn sugar for energy, you have to eat every few hours to feel okay. The typical scenario: you have breakfast, then by mid-morning, you’re looking for a snack when you could be doing your thing, kicking ass instead. It’s insanely inconvenient.
What’s worse is that if you can’t reload your blood sugar the minute your body wants it, you feel hungry, distracted, and cranky. When you want to accomplish things and live your life, having to look for food 20 times a day gets in the way.
When you are young, your metabolism is flexible. It can burn fat for energy, it can burn sugar, and it works just fine if you skip a meal or two. To get that energy back, to live longer, and to power your libido, force your metabolism to be flexible.
To be in charge of your metabolism, every now and then, use a low-inflammation, ketogenic diet I recommend The Bulletproof Diet, which has helped people lose more than 1 million pounds. Just have some carbs every now and then, because the “dirty” keto diet of unending pork rinds also stops metabolic flexibility.
And some days, skip breakfast entirely. Instead, have either black coffee, or Bulletproof Coffee (zero carbs, zero protein, but with butter and Brain Octane oil) to force your body to burn fat for energy instead of sugar.
If you get your metabolism under control, everything in life is easier. I promise. Plus, that mental muffin top goes away.
Turn your bedroom into a sleep cave
There’s a chapter in my new antiaging book called Sleep or Die. No wishy-washy language there -- sleep is that critical. One night of bad sleep can cut your body’s ability to manage your blood sugar by 40%.
There are a lot of things that affect your sleep quality -- diet, activity levels, medications, hormones, stress, your work schedule … the blog articles on sleep hacking I’ve written are enough by themselves to be a book series! The good news is that you don’t have to adjust all of those things - just do the things that provide the most benefits and don’t worry about the rest. Here they are:
Set up your sleep environment so that there’s no light coming in at all. Get blackout curtains, unplug anything with a backlight, and tape over even the smallest dots of light from things like chargers. Tape down curtains if you have to, to get rid of any slivers of light from the edges of your windows.
The result is that if you measure your sleep (I use the Oura ring), you’ll notice that you get more deep sleep and have more dreams. Young people have more of those, and they decline as you age...unless you fix your curtains.
There are tons of studies that show that even small amounts of light tell your brain that it’s day which disrupts your sleep. I doubled my deep sleep using special sleep glasses that block more than just blue light, called TrueDark. (disclosure: I filed the patents for TrueDark and founded it)
Your brain likes to sleep in a cool room too, so dial back your thermostat and see how your alertness changes the next day.
Better sleep (not necessarily more sleep) meaningfully raises testosterone and growth hormone too!
Keep tabs on your hormones
Hormones are the boss of you in a lot of ways. When testosterone, for example, goes down, your motivation, your mood, your muscle tone, and your sex life all go down with it. Ladies, this applies to you, too -- when your naturally lower levels of testosterone tank, look for jiggly arms and zero sex drive.
It doesn’t stop at sex hormones. Hormones that control stress, metabolism, energy production (thyroid) … they all clue you in on what you can do to improve how you show up in the world.
When I was 26, lab tests showed I had lower testosterone, and more estrogen, than my mom. (Thanks, obesity.) Words can’t explain how bad you feel, and how poorly your brain works when testosterone drops.
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, get your baseline hormone levels tested and get a copy of those results for yourself. That way, when you cross into your 40s and beyond, you can get your hormones tested regularly to see when they start a slow creeping decline into love handles and feeling crappy.
You can get sex hormones tested when you’re 70, and your results will tell you that you have testosterone levels that are “normal” for a 70-year-old. Screw that. If you want to feel like you felt in your 30s, you want to have the hormone profile of a 30-year-old. That’s where your baselines come in.
If you’re already past that point, you can tell your doctor that you don’t want normal hormones for your age. Tell your doctor that you want your hormones to be like they were when you were 30 so that you can feel your best and be resistant to debilitating diseases. Don’t take no for an answer.
If you want to have a satisfying love life, muscle mass, and functioning brain when you’re 60, or even 100 - you’d better take control of your hormones. The alternative is the movie “Grumpy Old Men,” the most perfect portrayal of what low testosterone does to your personality.
Hack your junk and get some sunshine
One thing that fails as you age is your reproductive organs. After age 40, mother nature thinks you don’t need them anymore, and diverts resources away from them. For men, it means that even if you can still get it up, it’s not the same. For women, thinning tissues, less lubrication, and less drive and well-known parts of aging.
Those unpleasant parts of aging are now optional.
As the father of biohacking, it’s my job to try everything that improves human performance...including in the bedroom. There are things both men and women can do that can restore - and even upgrade - our most sensitive parts.
They range from supplements that actually work (arginine, DHEA, and many more) to sonic shockwave treatments I write about that permanently and unexpectedly increased my size, and affordable anti-aging treatments that restored my wife’s vagina to the state it was when she was 25...including the toe-curling. That’s at age 50, after having two kids.
We’re in a new era when you don’t have to expect a boring or dysfunctional sex life as you age, and if you have one, we know how to hack it. After all, who wants to live more than 100 years old if you can’t get it up?
Speaking of getting it up, 20 minutes of sunshine in the morning on your naked skin will improve your sleep and raise the energizing neurotransmitter dopamine. If you expose your balls to the sun, studies show it raises your testosterone, too. (Careful where you try this one).
Change your whole world view with gratitude
The single biggest thing that is going to keep you radiating energy for decades longer than you expect is having a reason for living. Gratitude is the key.
Back when my kids were little, I started a bedtime ritual with them where we sit together and share three things we’re grateful for. Everyone in the family takes a turn. The whole process only takes 10 minutes, but the benefits worm their way into every part of your life.
Gratitude literally rewires your brain and makes it younger. At the 40 Years of Zen neuroscience brain training facility in Seattle, five days of intense gratitude training guided by computers routinely restores attendees’ brain waves so they look more like young brain waves. It is quantifiable and measurable and lasts.
You don’t have to hook computers up to your brain to benefit - find excuses throughout your day to be grateful. It doesn’t matter what you’re grateful for, just remind yourself, and it can make you younger.
If you try a few of the things you just read, you’ll find yourself grateful for your newfound energy, for the incredible restorative sleep you got in only 7 hours, and for the fact that you woke up with a kickstand.
If fact, life is so good, maybe it’s worth starting the work that can help you age backward like a Super Human!