The following is a guest article penned by Dr. Olli Sovijärvi, one of the guests on my recent, very popular podcast episode “Mind-Blowing Biohacks You’ve Never Heard Of, Deep Sleep Enhancement Tricks, Upgrading Your Immune System For Travel, Minimalist Time-Hacked Workouts & Much More!” I reached out to Olli after the podcast about providing more of the nitty-gritty details of some of his more effective and unique health and performance biohacks, and boy-oh-boy, did he deliver. What you are about to read is a collection of biohacks for mental recovery, time-efficient workouts, enhanced immunity, faster recovery, and more.
By the way, that’s Olli in the featured image for this article, performing double kettlebell front squats on a powerplate, combined with infrared and red light therapy – the dude obviously practices what he preaches!
Want even more biohacking goodies from my brilliant friends in Finland? Then check out their brand new 544-page “Biohacker’s Handbook”—an absolutely stellar read jam-packed with tips, tricks, and hacks I’d never before seen. It has now been released in the English language and is the ultimate addition to any health, fitness, and nutrition enthusiast’s coffee table or bookshelf (if you’re in the US, you can pre-order here and use 10% code: BEN to save).
Enjoy Olli’s unique perspective on biohacking, and feel free to leave your questions, comments, and feedback in the comments section below.
Medical disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It’s not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice. This article is for informational purposes only.
Stack #1: Optimal Mental Recovery
In the Biohacker Center office, this stack is everybody’s favorite.
If you have only 20 minutes at hand and you’d like to have a full-on recovery on your autonomic nervous system and cognitive processes, this is one of the best combos out there.
We have a Neurosonic divan/couch, which produces whole body low-level vibration. Neurosonic technology is based on sensory tissue stimulation with very low-frequency vibration. The built-in element transmits the vibration, focusing the stimulation on certain body parts or the whole body simultaneously. As the vibration advances all the way into the deepest tissues, this natural mechanism affects the body and the mind via the autonomic nervous system, offering a relaxing, restorative or activating moment. In preliminary studies, it has been shown to increase metabolism, blood circulation, fluid circulation, as well as slow down the nervous system activity. According to the developer of Neurosonic, there is a major and methodologically high-quality study being conducted at the University of Oulu. They are planning to release it later this year (2019).
While laying on Neurosonic divan there is hanging one giant photobiomodulation device that combines red and near-infrared light. At the cellular level, visible red and near-infrared light energy are absorbed by mitochondria, which perform the function of producing cellular energy (ATP) via cytochrome C oxidase. Photobiomodulation has been used in many kinds of situations and health problems to promote healing of the target tissue(s). This device gives almost whole body stimulus without forgetting brain photobiomodulation: by targeting delivery of light energy to the brain, it is associated with increased cerebral blood flow, oxygen availability and consumption, ATP production, and improved mitochondrial activity.
On top of Neurosonic divan lies a PEMF device called BEMER pro set. Over the past two decades, PEMF systems for treating the whole body have been developed, which can improve, for example, microcirculation and, consequently, metabolism. Based on a meta-analysis published in 2009, PEMF therapy can relieve pain and improve performance in people with knee arthritis. Some people also use devices as stress relieving therapies.
On top of BEMER device is yet another tool: an old school Swedish spike-mat (a more hardcore version of a regular acupressure mat) with nearly 10mm long (rubber) spikes separated by 8 mm from each other. This mimics the traditional Indian spike mat and its effects on the body. It has been shown to improve blood circulation in the skin, lower possible pain and increase the release of endorphins and oxytocin which helps to relax and calm down. I have been using this kind of mat for well over 12 years now, and it was actually one of the first biohacking tools in my regime for better relaxation.
PEMF therapy may speed up the recovery of stress and, inter alia, increase the activity of the vagus nerve and increase heart rate variability (HRV). According to a 4-year study conducted by NASA, PEMF therapy helps especially in the regeneration of neural stem cells.
Now that we have all the stimulative technology put in place, for optimal mental recovery it is crucial to block off all external noise with noise-cancelling headphones while simultaneously using either binaural beats applications (such as Sleepstream 2) or a meditation app (such as Calm or Headspace) to really tone down activation of the busy mind (beta waves) and get more into relaxed and meditative state (alpha and theta waves). Binaural beats (or Auditory Beat Stimulation, ABS) are a way of inducing different states in the brain. EEG measures have shown that different binaural frequencies help to create specific patterns like delta (0.5~3.5 Hz / deep sleep), theta (4~7 Hz / REM sleep & meditation), alpha (8~15 Hz / relaxation & meditation), beta (16~31 Hz / concentration & alertness) and gamma (32~100 Hz / attentive focus & TM meditation). A few small studies (here, and here) have been conducted on using binaural beats in different situations. The results are encouraging in terms of decreasing anxiety and helping to relax and drift off to a short power nap.
Add in there supplements, such as fermented reishi and lion’s mane, while infusing the room with gentle essential oil of lavender (as shown in this study) to really improve relaxation and lower stress levels.
Stack #2: Optimal Business Man’s Workout
This one is an excellent multi-faceted workout if you have very little time, but you’d like to make the most out of your session.
This has also been quite popular at the Biohacker Center office providing immense results to everyone pushing through it. All you need is 10 minutes of your time and the goal to suffer a little.
The workout is done on a vibration plate using the whole-body vibration (WBV) training method, which is a neuromuscular method based on the tonic vibration reflex. Vibration training boosts lymphatic and peripheral circulation and improves proprioception (the sense of position and motion). According to a comprehensive meta-analysis study (2015), vibration training improves general neuromuscular performance.
Next integrative method is Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), which involves using electrodes to deliver electrical impulses directly to muscle tissue. Similar to resistance training, NMES appears to cause muscle deterioration followed by an anabolic (muscle repairing) phase. Training should be initialized in a slow and incremental manner to minimize adverse effects and excessive muscle fatigue. Use the devices specific set-ups and guidelines for best results. Bruce Lee was known for his incredible speed, which is partly due to his experiments with NMES training already back in the 1960s and 70s.
Note from Ben: You can click here to check out my podcast on the powerful “NEUBIE” Russian e-stim device I use for this.
Third, the actual workout is done with a variable resistance training device called the X3 bar. In every workout, there are four movements. Each movement consists of one set completed to total exhaustion (15~40 repetitions) in every range of motion (e.g. deadlift, bent-over row, bicep curls and calf raises). The resistance gets heavier in the stronger ranges of motion (e.g. deadlift upright position) with the resistance bands, hence the term “variable resistance”. It has been shown to be an effective method of overloading the muscles providing significant increases in strength, muscle mass, and anabolic hormones.
Performing sets to complete failure with reps approaching 40 rep range is excruciating, it accumulates a lot of lactic acid and makes one breath heavy. To even boost this further one can use an elevation training mask to create a somewhat hypoxic environment to simulate altitude training. Although the beneficial effects of elevation training mask are more due to extra respiratory training, rather than from potential altitude stimulation.
To boost performance, we use a special biohacker’s chocolate (use code: BEN to save 10%) which consists of very high-quality raw chocolate, 3 grams of cordyceps, one gram of supermaca and 1.5 grams of beetroot juice powder.
Supermaca has been shown to increase drive and performance. It includes standardized extracts of black, red and yellow maca, all having different qualities. Supermaca has almost 20 times the amount of glucosinolates compared to other maca products.
- Eat one Biohacker’s exercise chocolate 30 mins before the workout for maximal benefits
- Set vibration plate to 30~35 Hz for maximal benefits
- Use NMES on desired target muscle group (e.g. quadriceps)
- Put on elevation training mask
- Perform one set of X3 bar to complete exhaustion in every range of motion (e.g. deadlift)
- Do a total of 4 sets with different movements and different NMES stimulus locations
Notice: You will get immense benefits and a great physiological response by incorporating WBV with variable resistance training without the use of NMES and or elevation training mask. You should be very careful when applying the whole stack and have “green light” from your doctor.
Stack #3: Optimal Immunity Protocol
This stack combines Hericium mushroom species (lion’s mane), other medicinal mushrooms, niacin (nicotinic acid or 3-pyridine carboxylic acid, also known as vitamin B3), infrared light and heat alteration to uniquely aid in repairing and improving neurologic functioning and neurogenesis, reducing inflammation, preventing disease and improving cardiac functioning and overall circulation.
This stack is partially based on Paul Stamets mycological research and pending patent.
According to Paul Stamets, his “stack” can benefit those suffering from age-related neuropathologies such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis as well as trauma from accidents, exposure to neurotoxins, heavy metals, prions, amyloid plaque formation, demyelination, neurotoxic viruses, stress and numerous other agents causing neuropathies. Additional benefits are conferred also in healthy humans, including increased cognitive function in anyone from increased memory and intelligence to better motor skills, neuroplasticity, longevity, and mental health.
Proceed with the following order:
– First, take the supplement stack consisting of:
- Hericium mushroom (lion’s mane) extract 100~200 mg
- According to studies, lion’s mane contains two brain cell growth stimulating substances (erinacines and hericenones). It has been shown to stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor (BDNF) in the brain.
- According to studies conducted on humans, it enhances cognitive functions especially in individuals with a mild deterioration of cognitive skills and it may reduce depression and anxiety.
- Other medicinal mushroom species, particularly species of Cordyceps (cordycepin), Ganoderma (Reishi), Inonotus (Chaga), and other medicinal mushrooms can be included for their synergistic effects.
- Optional plants for neurogenesis
- Anti-inflammatory Spices
- Vanillic acid (vanilla), trans-cinnamic acid (cinnamon), or other antiviral, anti-inflammatory polyphenols to reverse neuropathies. Additional plants with anti-inflammatory properties such as Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), Oregano (Origanum vulgare, Origanum onites), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, Rosmarinus eriocalyx, species in the genus Rosmarinus), Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) and Lavender (Lavandula spica and related species in the genus Lavandula).
- Choose 2~3 that you find easily attainable
- Niacin (nicotinic acid) 50~100 mg
- Niacin is known to be a neural anti-inflammatory, and, in itself, has been implicated in improving neural functioning. As niacin activates nerve endings, the addition of niacin contributes an added benefit by enhancing the neurogenic effects of erinacines and hericenones in lion’s mane by helping these nootropics cross the blood-brain barrier and migrate throughout the nervous system to its endpoints.
- Niacin is also a vasodilator improving blood flow in the brain by relaxing constricted blood vessels. This unique combination not only rebuilds myelin upon the axons, but it also activates new astrocyte/astroglial cells and neuronal nodes of crossings such as the synaptic regions, particularly in the hippocampus.
- A 100 mg dose or higher may give you what’s referred to as a “niacin flush,” courtesy of the vasodilation caused by the niacin. Typically, this redness of the skin and tingling sensation will last for about 30 minutes. Taking a cold shower or cryotherapy can help ameliorate any discomfort you may experience from the niacin flush. This is why we combine this protocol with cold immersion either in a cold shower or cold lake/sea.
- Niacin causes a “Rebound Lipolysis” first described when studied in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia – this vitamin first tries to prevent lipolysis (for about 2 hours) and then it rebounds and leads to massive fat cell release of triglycerides and at the same time release of heavy metals from fat cells. This is the reason why we also combine the protocol with an infrared sauna and sweating to expel the neurotoxins.
– After 20 minutes of taking the stack above, go to the infrared sauna for 20~30 minutes:
Infrared saunas use infrared radiation which heats body tissues directly instead of air. The frequency of the radiation emitted by infrared saunas is 3~12 μm which falls under what is called far-infrared (FIR). Far-infrared has been found to have tissue-level effects particularly on the mitochondria respiratory chain in the cell energy production process and the blood supply of tissues by dilating blood vessels and improving circulation.
Because an infrared sauna instead relies upon light, it can heat your body directly without significantly warming the air around you, and the light waves from the infrared sauna penetrate deep into your body for a heating effect that allows more activation of your sweat glands compared to the traditional Finnish sauna. In an infrared sauna, only 20 percent of the energy from the light is used to heat the air, leaving the rest of the energy to heat the body. So an infrared sauna doesn’t feel as hot as a dry sauna, but you sweat as much or even more especially if you stay there for longer than 30 minutes.
In Western countries, infrared saunas are usually heated to approximately 40~50 ˚C (104~122 ˚F) at which point sweating begins in 15~20 minutes.
Health benefits of the infrared sauna are for example as follows:
Toxic heavy metals are ubiquitous in our air, water, food, and the physical environment, as well as in many consumer products. Arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury may be excreted in appreciable quantities through the skin through sweating, and rates of excretion were reported to match or even exceed urinary excretion in a 24-hour period.
An infrared sauna also has other benefits for the skin. When your body begins to produce sweat via the type deep sweating you experience in an infrared sauna, the rate at which dead skin cells are replaced is also increased. At the same time, heavy sweating helps to remove bacteria out of the epidermal layer of the skin and the sweat ducts. This cleansing of the pores also causes increased capillary circulation, which can give the skin a softer-looking, younger appearance.
– After sweating an appropriate time in the infrared sauna, take a cold shower or cold water plunge for 2~5 minutes:
Rapid temperature changes have several health benefits. Cold immersion and the heat generation induced by (cold thermogenesis) it may boost metabolism and circulation and activate brown adipose tissue (BAT) found in the back of the neck and the upper back.
The purpose of the brown adipose tissue is to quickly generate heat. To do this, the brown adipose tissue burns conventional white adipose tissue. The activation of brown adipose tissue also increases the use of glucose in the energy metabolism of cells. Regular exposure to cold may increase the amount of brown adipose tissue and thus further boost these processes. Therefore, cold thermogenesis may help in weight management, reduce the tendency to feel cold and improve cold tolerance.
It is possible to practice cold thermogenesis using an ice vest (use code: BEN10CFB to save 10%), a cold shower or a cold pool for up to 20 minutes at a time or until the surface temperature of the body reaches 10°C (50°F). Take precautions to protect yourself from frostbite and cover your head, fingers, and toes if necessary. Cold thermogenesis that results in shivering and shaking may also increase muscle growth by stimulating the secretion of irisin.
The easiest way to implement cold immersion after an infrared sauna session is to take a cold shower for 2~5 minutes. Increase the amount of time spent in the shower incrementally. Preferably, whenever possible, take a cold water plunge in a river, a lake or a sea. The feeling of going into natural water is unimaginably great, especially afterward. You will also get a nice rush of endorphins, a blood sugar balancing effect, and parasympathetic activating effect as well as a great dump of dopamine and noradrenaline. The cold water also closes skin pores after very intensive sweating (infrared sauna).
Note from Ben: I have effectively used the protocol above quite often, and it is very powerful. I’d be careful if you are in any kind of detoxification protocol as there is potential for an unpleasant Herxheimer reaction if you’re not used to this protocol. I use the Clearlight sauna for this.
Stack #4: Optimal Active Recovery
Man has been a part of nature since the birth of the species. Unfortunately, many are alienated from nature through urbanization and technological development.
In 1984, American psychologist Craig Brod created the term techno-stress, which he referred to in technology and computer stress in humans.
This stack is all about nature connection and combining multiple ways to actively recover from physical and mental stress. One of the best ways to detach yourself from “city life” is to go into nature for a walk (preferably into the woods). Nature immersion (incl. sounds of nature) has been shown to be one of the best ways to lower stress, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and balance your immune system. Whenever possible, you’d also want to take a short dip into the natural waters for even better connection and grounding effect.
In 2016, a wide-ranging review of 52 research studies on nature and forest-related physiological effects was published in Japan.
The effects were as follows:
- Lower saliva cortisol levels
- Lower heart rate
- Decreased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate variability (HRV)
- Balancing of the autonomic nervous system
When in nature, natural movement is the way to move and actively recover your body. Natural movement refers to inherent types of human movement in various environments. However, many modern-day knowledge workers are alienated from nature and mostly spend their time sitting in front of a computer or lying on a couch. Many others torment themselves at the gym using all kinds of machines yet are unable to climb a tree or lift a heavy rock off the ground. Navigating uneven terrain may also be difficult for inexperienced modern individuals. Do this with a child, and you can learn a lot – or rather, remember what you could do as a child!
Barefoot walking and standing, (i.e. grounding or earthing), has been observed in preliminary studies to reduce inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, improve blood circulation, and lower stress levels, among other things. Staying longer in the woods and overnight under the sky, for example, can further alleviate the stress experienced and reduce the body’s inflammation.
When in the forest, it is a perfect place to sit down, create an open fire and sip some herbal tonics such as medicinal mushroom drinks from chaga and forest herbs. When hungry, create a wild herb salad from wild herbs that you recently picked up from the local environment and mix it all up with your self-made vinaigrette (sea buckthorn, olive oil, sprouted hemp seed oil, wild honey, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, pepper, and mustard). Wild herbs on your backyard are more nutritious (and free) than anything you find on the store: e.g. dandelion, stinging nettle & watercress. If you really want to take this to the next level, you should attend the Upgraded Dinner before the Biohacker Summit and cook wild herbs yourself with wild chef Sami Tallberg.
When in the forest, you are not only enjoying the sounds and touch of the forest but also microdosing it. This means that you are inhaling and taking in beneficial bacterial strains (such as Mycobacterium vaccae), pollen, spores, and various bitter compounds that will have an immensely positive effect on your whole system.
Stack #5: Tracking Recovery
The changes in the body caused by exercise only become beneficial with sufficient recovery time. Excess physical (and mental) stress and insufficient recovery time can easily lead to overreaching. On the other hand, if the objective is to develop various physiological properties, temporary overreaching is necessary as long as it is paired with sufficient recovery time.
Recovery assessment is therefore important, particularly when it comes to individuals with training goals.
Most important objective tools for monitoring recovery:
- Heart rate variability (HRV)
- Average rMSSD during the night (most used HRV metrics)
- HF power
- LF power
- VLF power
- ULF power
- Resting heart rate
- Distinct increases in the resting heart rate are indicative of impaired recovery speed
- Heart rate recovery after exercise – X percent in Z minutes
- Heart rate lowering speed during sleep
- Average resting heart rate during sleep
- Sleep quantity and quality
- Orthostatic test (variation in blood pressure in different positions)
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a normal physiological phenomenon. Heart rate is not constant. The interval between heart beats varies based on factors such as breathing (respiratory sinus arrhythmia). On the inhalation, the frequency is usually slightly higher (sympathetic reflex) while on exhalation (parasympathetic reflex) it is lower. The range of HRV is a good indicator of the functional state and dynamics of the autonomic nervous system, as well as heart-brain interactions.
HRV increases when the body is in recovery or the individual is relaxing. Conversely, it decreases when the body is under strain (such as under stress). HRV can change significantly depending on the situation. HRV variability peaks in young adults (15~39 years of age) and begins to taper off as we get older.
For more on HRV, Ben has many articles and podcasts on the subject, including:
- Everything You Need To Know About Heart Rate Variability Testing
- A Deep Dive Into HRV: The Myths & Truths of Heart Rate Variability Testing
- HRV: The Single, Next Big Trend In Biohacking And Self-Quantification And How To Use It.
- The Best Way To Know How Stress, Supplements, Sleep, Sex & More Affects Your Nervous System: The Latest News About Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Training
We recommend using the Oura ring for nighttime HRV, resting heart rate and heart rate lowering speed. For daytime recovery and HRV assessment, you can use Oura’s Moment feature, which tracks a period of relaxation/meditation (HRV and heart rate provided during the session) or if you want continuous stress/HRV data an even better device is Garmin’s Vivomove HR watch. Its data is based on continuous pulse measurement and Firstbeat technologies algorithm. Of course, you can also take very accurate 3-day measurement with an actual Firstbeat device, but it’s not suitable for constant usage.
Note from Ben: I use the Oura ring for nighttime HRV measurements and just began to use the new Moment feature on it, and then for real-time measurement, I use the Naturebeat app combined with the Viiiva HR monitor chest strap.
Other metrics you should track for an optimal state of recovery and energy balance:
- Morning saliva cortisol and 24-hour saliva cortisol tests (continuous measurements are not readily available)
- State of ketosis with breath analyzer (analyzing acetone from breath – such as Ketonix)
- Continuous blood glucose monitoring system (such as Dexcom G6 or Freestyle Libre)
- Peripheric pulse oxygen levels with iHealth Air
- See how your activity affects your oxygen level and pulse pre and post workout
- Blood pressure monitoring with iHealth clear
- Long-term data on blood pressure fluctuations throughout the day
- Constant low-grade inflammation levels with EuroLyser CUBE
- hs-CRP levels instantly
Want even more biohacking goodies from my brilliant friends in Finland? Then check out their brand new 544-page “Biohacker’s Handbook”—an absolutely stellar read jam-packed with tips, tricks, and hacks I’d never before seen. It has now been released in the English language and is the ultimate addition to any health, fitness, and nutrition enthusiast’s coffee table or bookshelf.
(If you’re in the US, you can pre-order here and use 10% code: BEN to save.)
The same guys who wrote the book also put on the extremely popular Biohacker Summit in global hotspots such as Helsinki, Stockholm, Estonia, London, and Toronto—summits where I’ve personally spoken and where many brands have hit it big for the first time, including Four Sigmatic, Oura, Goodio, and Ambronite. Biohacker Summit is one of the top optimal human performance & health conferences on the planet that focuses on combining ancestral living with modern biohacking practices.
The upcoming Biohacker Summit 2019 is the 5th year anniversary edition that will be organized on 1~2 November 2019 in Helsinki, Finland with the theme “Optimize Your Day 24/7.” Tickets include a wild-plant foraged VIP dinner, upgraded parties, a fantastic expo floor to play with new biohacking devices, and much more. You can click here and use code: BEN for 10% off tickets to this upcoming summit in Helsinki, Finland.
You can also get a bundle of videos from all previous summits by clicking here (use 10% discount code: BEN).
Please leave your questions, comments, and feedback in the comments section below.