Nowadays, you can lose 10kg in four weeks while eating what you want and taking some special pills, get the beach body of your dreams by standing on a vibrating plate several times for a few minutes, become a fast runner by running hard just 6x30 seconds twice a week, supercharge your brain power by taking supplements from the Amazon, and so on. What a great world we’re living in. Welcome to the wonderland of bio-hacking.

Bio-hackers aim at being healthier than the norm, having more energy, living longer, they want to “be the best version of themselves”. They tend to explore non-conventional methods either by leveraging on the latest discoveries from science and/or by rediscovering treatments that were half-forgotten or neglected for centuries.

For example, to improve his sleep quality, a bio-hacker might use a mix of breathing and meditation techniques known for millennia with taking herbal remedy Ashwaganda and wear orange glasses two hours before sleeping, using a sleep monitor electronic device for the analysis of his night the morning after.

Trying to improve one’s body and mind is not a new trend, but with the internet and its unlimited circulation of information, it has become a mass phenomenon. Besides, with the rise of chronic diseases, a lot of people are looking for new solutions. In fact, we’re all bio-hackers, to some extent. After all, taking a cup of coffee in the morning to be more alert also qualifies as a body hack.

Alternative medicine and acupuncture is a great tool to supplement training, but no bio-hack is a quick fix to healthy living. Photo: Alamy

Like everything, there is some good and some ugly in body hacking. The trend has created booming new markets. Expensive supplements, infra-red saunas, BioHack studios selling “Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields as the ideal way to perform Cellular Exercise”, the list goes on and on. If you have the willingness to try and the money to spend, go ahead. However, to me, some of these methods can in fact be dangerous, and, at a minimum, deceiving.

The body has its own clock. For millions of years, we had to contend with our DNA, our biology, our human limitations. Mutations have taken thousands of generations to occur. While the pace of “progress” is going exponentially faster, our body cannot be changed overnight and its major limitations are here to stay. As an endurance sports and health coach, you can take my word: endurance, speed, strength, optimum body composition, resilience, recovery, everything comes at a price, but money can’t buy it. Improvement only comes with consistency, effort and hard work. Adaptation takes time. Only a systemic and holistic approach can bring top fitness. There are no short cuts, never will be.

Olivier Baillet (Left) and Bruce Pye (Right), swim around Lantau Island. Years of patient training enabled the feat, no short cuts. Photo: SCMP

Granted, you may lose some weight, sleep a bit better, run a bit faster with some of the most common bio-hacks. But the two questions that are almost never covered in the marketing campaigns are: is this sustainable and is this healthy? Most people want instantaneous results and don’t give time to time. Losing 5kg is pointless if you gain 7kg in the following month. Gaining 10 seconds per kilometre on your local 10km race won’t bring you far if you get a stress fracture in the process. Often, ill-applied bio-hacks actually bring you below where you were before, if we look at the long term. And long term is what matters, isn’t it?

It’s not trendy to say it, but when you approach bio-hacking, just like everything else in life, you need to use a couple of skills that are often forgotten:

  • common sense: if the promise looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true.
  • patience: remember everything takes time and the body has its own pace that needs to be respected.

So next time you’re about to use your credit card for some titanium tea, an acupressure spike mat and an elevation training mask, go back to the basics, and think twice.