Biohacker Greg Potter, “People Need to Focus on Building Healthier Habits”
How to approach body optimization properly? How to choose a suitable diet? What lifestyle aspects should people upgrade to achieve longevity?
The issues were unveiled in the interview for Biohacking Conference Moscow by Greg Potter, a researcher, and famous biohacker. He specializes in health optimization by the means of optimal sleeping patterns, diets, and control of metabolism.
Greg has a master's degree in exercise physiology. He trained sprinters and worked with the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command on health optimization and productivity. Besides, the expert participated in the research published in leading global periodicals. He works as a Content Director at humanOS, an online platform intended to support health.
On September 19, Greg will take part in Biohacking Conference Moscow. At the event, he will give a presentation “How to optimize your diet by applying principles from chronobiology”.
Greg invites enthusiasts that take care of their health to attend the conference and listen to his report. Watch the video to find out what secrets of healthy diets he will unveil at the event.
Interviewer: Biohacking Conference Moscow (BCM)
Respondent: Greg Potter (G.P.)
BCM: When did you become a biohacker? Why did this movement interest you?
G.P.: I have been interested in health since I was 11. If biohacking is about self-optimization then I suppose I have been a biohacker of sorts since then!
I remember the initial Quantified Self movement, and I used to read some of the work of people such as Seth Roberts (RIP). As far as I can tell, biohacking spun out of Quantified Self. So, I have been exposed to the biohacking community since its inception. I went to my first biohacker event last year when I made a report at the conference. I had a great time there and very much enjoyed spending time with people who are so passionate about health.
BCM: What goals do you set as an experienced biohacker?
G.P.: I focus on identity-basedgoals. For more on what these are and more on how to build better habits, I recommend that you read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.
As someone who identifies as being a healthy, high-performing person, I focus on enacting the behaviors common to healthy people. They are practicing good sleep hygiene, having a regular sleep schedule, having a comprehensive exercise program, eating a whole-foods-based diet, spending time with people I love, having tools to help me manage stress, and spending extended periods focusing on difficult work that I enjoy and find meaningful. I am also always tinkering, changing one or two things and seeing whether doing so benefits me.
BCM: You conducted researches about sleeping, diets, and metabolic health. Will you tell us about the most interesting and significant research? What results did it have?
G.P.: Sleep, diet, and metabolic health was the subject of my Ph.D. research. The publication from this work that got the most attention was a study that assessed the associations between how UK adults sleep and their metabolic health. Among other things, my colleagues and I found that people who sleep less tend to be heavier and have larger waistlines.
The work that we published that has most dramatically affected my own lifestyle, however, is about diet timing. In short, it is not just, what you eat that matters, when you eat is critical too, and this is what I will discuss at the conference in Moscow.
BCM: What actions should a person take to improve health?
G.P.: In short, everyone is different, both in terms of which behaviors they should address and in terms of how able they are to change. I think that most people go wrong by trying to change too many things at once – it is hard to change how you eat, start a new exercise program, and begin meditating all at once.
A better approach is to first identify what you are struggling with most (nowadays, this is often excessive stress) and then pick a very simple change to make – so simple that it seems tooeasy.
If, for example, you want to start meditating, you might begin by doing one minute a daywhile your tea or coffee brews in the morning. This is easy enough to develop it into a habit, and as you start to accumulate these small habits over time, they will amount to something meaningful.
I think some biohackers go overboard with micromanaging their health. The healthiest people do not tend to do this.
Besides, my impression is that many biohackers spend a lot of time focusing on things such as supplements, diet, sleep, photobiomodulation, sauna use, cold therapy, and meditation. But they do not pay much attention to optimizing their physical activity, and physical activity is so important.
BCM: How to choose a diet that will be helpful for the body? What are the advantages of following a certain dietary regime?
G.P.: It depends and people need to make changes that they can sustain. People should consider numerous factors when it comes to their diets, such as their goals, what they enjoy, how much they can spend on their diets, where they live, and so on. People do not necessarily have to follow a specific dietary pattern (such as the paleo diet), they can simply take any ideas from any of the patterns that make sense to them and then experiment.
Next, were I helping you with your nutrition, I would broadly look at three key variables:
- what you eat (for example, whether you use a certain dietary pattern);
- when you eat;
- how you eat (for example, the order in which you consume items at a meal, and how mindfully you eat).
Finally, I will mention weight loss, for so many people are interested in this. Lots of people trying to lose weight go through yoyo dieting. Often, their problem is that the diet they use to reach their goal bodyweight is practically the same as the one they need to sustain to maintain that body weight… but the diet they used to lose the weight was not sustainable. So, once more, people need to focus on building healthier habits.
Being completely honest, for numerous reasons, I think that some version of the paleo diet is likely to be an excellent option for the vast majority of people, and it is often what I suggest people default to. There are a few quite good books and resources out there on this topic.
BCM: How important is the optimization of sleeping? What should a person do to normalize sleeping?
G.P.: Healthy sleep is essential to wellbeing. I have written and spoken at length about this subject, so I will point interested readers to a few resources. I have written many blogs about sleep for humanOS, and these two are a good place to start link 1, link 2.
There are many sleep disorders, but insomnia is the most common. If you think you might have insomnia, I suggest you try Sleepio.
BCM: One of the main goals of biohackers is to prolong life to 100 years and more. Is this goal attainable and what should one do to attain it? How do you think?
G.P.: Life expectancy continues to increase in most countries worldwide, so this goal is increasingly attainable. I think people should focus on healthspan, not lifespan, and we already know a lot about the determinants of healthspan. Obviously, lots of people are interested in using novel pharmaceuticals and technologies to extend healthspan, and there are some prominent figures in the biohacking community who are discussing potential ways to prolong healthspan that we do not yet know are safe and/or effective. Being honest, I think this is a bit reckless.
While some of the preclinical studies of purportedly pro-longevity compounds and technologies are interesting, the studies of humans that have been done so far have generally not impressed me very much. So, in the meantime, I think it is best for people to focus on optimizing the aspects of lifestyle that numerous studies continue to show are pivotal to longevity. These, of course, include circadian rhythms and sleep, community, physical activity, and nutrition.
Alongside these core tenets of wellbeing, people interested in maximizing lifespan can try some more novel compounds and/or technologies, but please be smart if you do! For example, anything you try should have been shown to be safe in humans, any supplements you take should have been independently tested for purity, and so on.
BCM: What will you be speaking about at Biohacking Conference Moscow?
G.P.: I am very much looking forward to the event!
My talk will address the following topics:
- how our bodies' clocks optimize our bodies for food intake at certain times of day;
- how eating influences our bodies clocks;
- smart ways to use time-restricted eating in different situations;
- why the time at which we eat may influence our responses to drugs and supplements.