Self-quantification enables comparison, tracking, and evaluation of your progress over time. It highlights changes otherwise easily overlooked. How do you evaluate lifestyle change when any discernible effects could be chalked up to placebo or novelty?
Before you run for the hills — you don’t have to track 43+ biohacking biomarkers to get started. Quantification can be simple.
Some healthy practices feel good. Endorphins help athletes to power through tough workouts. A quality lunch can stave off the need for an afternoon nap. Quantification that doesn’t fit neatly into a number falls under the term qualitative. Numerical quantification (quantitive) combined with the qualitative together provide the 10,000-foot view of your health.
You don’t always notice changes to your health, even when severe.
Imagine buying a fancy new car. Tens of thousands of miles later, the car still drives perfectly but the check engine light comes on. The mechanic goes through routine checks to catch any problems long before they before apparent.
A cheap oil change or new part today can prevent costly problems down the line. Like the car, your body is a machine, and it too has its warning lights.
Motor Oil of the Human Body
Similar to how a car engine requires motor oil, we require a number of bodily fluids to function. These include blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, mucus, bile, urine, sweat to name a few.
Long before something visibly goes wrong, problems manifest throughout the body. Various tests can help us understand how our body is performing and ways to further improve it.
Let’s avoid major breakdowns.
Pay Attention to Your Crimson Gold
Medicine has focused on one fluid in particular for a long time.
Frequently overlooked by biohackers, blood is a great first step into self-quantification. It provides critical data on the workings of your body. Yearly (or quarterly if within budget) blood tests can give you immediately actionable data on your lifestyle. Some commonly tested biomarker categories include:
- Food sensitivities
- Hormone levels
- Extreme cholesterol abnormalities
- Blood sugar
From these tests you can evaluate and determine if diet, training, recovery, stress, sleep, or other lifestyle factors need tweaking.
Your blood is just the beginning.
The Difference Between You and a Banana
You share 60 percent of your DNA with bananas.
While understanding the secrets hidden in your DNA is important (see my review of DNA analytics software called SelfDecode here), it’s not your destiny. DNA highlights your predispositions. Another type of genes is appearing to be equally important.
Of late, the “gut microbiome” has received a great deal of attention (and funding from innovative companies). The diverse population of microbes regulates everything from reaction to foods to heart health, immune system function, body weight, happiness (serotonin levels), cognition, and more. Much of the microbiome forms early in life. Factors like diet, exercise, sleep, and environment continuously shapes the population of good and bad gut inhabitants throughout your life.
Fascinatingly, microbes in your gut can alter the expression of genes (this field of study is known as epigenetics). We have only scratched the surface in understanding these critters. Your gut microbiome health is important. And our interest in the field is only growing.
Companies now can quantify the contents of your gut so that you can make better food choices: what to avoid, what to moderate, and what to indulge in. Not only will you feel better from eating in alignment with your microbes, but your overall health improves as well.
Decoding the Fountain of Youth
Ever guess someone’s age and miss by decades?
This happens in both directions, and comes down to how well their body functions. How long you’ve been on Earth (chronological age) does not necessarily match the health of your cells (biological age). For your sake I hope that you look younger than your age. Either way, new tests allow you to track the effects of lifestyle on cellular age.
Telomere testing as it called, gives health optimizers great insight into how tweaking their lifestyle impacts their health. The technology has its faults, but it becomes more stable and available by the year.
Tracking the Gauntlet of Biomarkers
Ketones, blood glucose, inflammation levels, hormones, immune function, disease markers, alcohol consumption, fasting windows, sleep stages, body temperature, blood oxygen, respiratory rate, HRV, recovery status, workout logs, and the list continues.
Ask self-quantification nerds about the biometrics they track. You’ll get quite the variety.
At the other end are people haven’t a moment to consider their health in decades.
Those are both extremes. You can easily set up a self-quantification experiment. Integrating self-quantification into a normal lifestyle does not have to induce anxiety.
Why Your Height, Weight, and BMI Are Beyond Useless
I’ve dropped ten pounds in 24 hours.
Healthy move? Definitely not.
Not only does weight fluctuate, but lifestyle changes can cause massive spikes in weight from one day to the next.
Which would you prefer?
- Losing 5 pounds: 1 of fat, 4 of muscle
- Losing 3 pounds: All 3 of fat.
Though the second scenario is obviously healthier, most people would be dismayed to see fewer pounds lost.
Other tests like the infamous body mass index inaccurately assess certain body types. Especially individuals with muscle.
You always have other options. In the case of BMI, one useful alternative is the waist-to-height ratio. Plug-in your height, weight, age, waist size, and gender to an online calculator for a more accurate representation of your health.
The Future of Self-Quantification
New technologies come out seemingly daily with promising early detection of problems. Your lifestlye impacts everything from sleep, to food intolerances, and even how you respond to stress. Each of these technologies deserves attention and their own posts.
Getting a snapshot of your health can seem complicated. With the right information and tools, you do not need to dedicate your life to following trends, or reading every last paper (admittedly a vice of mine)."If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it." — Peter Drucker Click To Tweet
Biohacking is an individual journey. Establish a baseline and track your progress. You’re on your way to upgraded performance!s