Written by Ben Ridler. The original version of this article appeared on Ben’s Medium channel. Ben is an experienced CEO, leader, strategic planner, growth hacker and product developer. He has started five companies, each of which exceeded US$1 million in revenue. Ben is an EO New Zealand member who joined in 2002.
Almost a year ago, I committed to becoming a human lab rat, applying all the anti-aging and wellness programs I can handle with the aim of reducing my biological and cognitive age by five years.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on my anti-aging and biohacker journey. It’s quite staggering what I’ve achieved in the last year compared to the previous 25 years!
More importantly, I’ve been reflecting on why I’ve achieved so much, and how others can do the same. I’ve got it down to a few key things that were different from my previous efforts to improve my health and performance.
First, the tale of the tape. My weight has remained reasonably steady at about 73 kg (161 pounds). I’m the lightest I’ve been in my adult life. And, for the first time in my life, I don’t want to lose any more weight! The crazy thing is, once I became fat-adapted a couple of months in, I didn’t feel that I was missing out or dieting. My body loves the modified keto diet. My brain loves it even more. I feel like I was deceived my entire life about food and nutrition, and that I have just discovered my truth.
Body composition: 15.2% body fat and skeletal muscle mass is 30.54 kg. I’ve achieved my goal for body composition with minimal physical effort. When considering how hard I’ve trained in the past to get much poorer results, I’m a little embarrassed. Understanding the relationships between diet, sleep, hormones, energy, and exercise has helped me realize an almost magical transformation. Every time I see myself with a six-pack in the mirror, I’m like, who the hell is that guy? I look like the men I used to envy and console myself by blaming my poor genetics for not looking as good as I wanted to.
Sleep: I get an average 7:46 hours per night, of which 82% is deep sleep. And I know exactly how to get it into the 90s when I need to recharge fully or when I have big day ahead.
Blood work: in range or better than range. I learned that the range we use today is calculated based on the average for people the same sex as you aged 17 to 70. For 40 years, they’ve adjusted the range as people have become unhealthier. WTF? That means that average blood ranges today were not average 30 years ago.
Hear Ben Ridler and Dr. Vanessa Ingraham speak more about biohacking during EO24/7, EO’s annual virtual-learning event. Learn more and register today.
Age: My physical age is now 10 years younger than my actual age! Assessing my physical vs. biological age is based on testing my heart, lungs, skin, and brain with a process called Bloom Physioage. I still need to measure telomere length and immunology ages.
The most significant turnaround is my neuroage—or brain function — which was my main focus as I was pretty concerned about it a year ago when I was stressed, drinking to cope and struggling to focus.
According to my neuroage, my brain is now performing the best it has as an adult. It’s functioning as one would expect a 20-year-old’s brain to function, but with all the knowledge of my hard-earned experience.
I feel so sharp most of the time it’s like I’ve been enhanced. In the past, I have experienced with performance enhancers and focus drugs. Today, I consider high-level ketosis and meditation as the two most powerful things I’ve done. I will keep playing with smart-drugs for different effects or situations. But my day-to-day state is now at an unbelievable level. Productivity, energy, clarity, speed.
I wouldn’t want to compete with me when I get back to entrepreneurial life.! It feels like I’m cheating. But given how poorly I was operating before, I’m happy to gain a few advantages for my next ventures.
Hormones : One thing many entrepreneurs don’t realize is how much our profession affects our health —and one of the most common areas is our hormones. My adrenal function was utterly stuffed when I started this journey, and while it’s improved, there’s a long way to go. Good news is that my testosterone is back up. And everything is going in the right direction. I’m also far more aware of how the damage occurs, and how to mitigate it.
There’s lots more that’s changed, big and small. But these are the factors that jump out. So why has this been so successful, what’s the secret sauce?
More importantly, what can you learn from my journey? I have narrowed it down to a few key factors:
- Access to information that I can trust — in real time.
One of the most significant advantages I’ve had is being able to have complex medical information explained to me—when I needed it, without bias, in the context of my current health journey, and from a source in which I have complete confidence.
So, falling in love with Dr. Vanessa Ingraham has been the best thing that’s happened to me on many levels.
I’m a natural skeptic and contrarian. Initially, I would continually challenge, question and scoff at her advice. As I’ve learned more about health, how much misinformation is out there, and how little most people know about health, including many doctors (whose specialty is sickness), I’ve come to learn that Dr. V is operating at a level of knowledge that very few people in the world have attained. This is all due to her lifelong addiction to learning about health, a father who is a doctor and a mother who is a health entrepreneur and nurse, as well as her way solving health issues like a private investigator might.
- Ability to measure , get clarity, then adjust. I love data and seeing progress. All the things I’ve been successful in, I’ve had a trusted way to measure. I’ve also had someone who could help interpret my results and offer suggestions on how to improve them. Now I don’t try anything that I can’t measure. In the age of wearables, real-time feedback is the killer app for health. I’ve got a heap of things I’m tracking, and plenty more I want to achieve as I continue to enhance my potential.
- Taking on less at a time. Just as when I was building a business, I take on a couple of things each quarter and focus on them. Set a goal, choose a strategy, pick the metric and then measure and adjust along the way.
- A change of mindset. By looking at every adjustment as a new way to live—not a quick fix or something to do for a while—I have found things I can sustain, and then implemented them in sustainable ways.
For example: Replace a bad habit with a less bad habit. Then, replace again with an even better one. This has been a more successful approach compared to trying to stop habits. I know I like to drink, so I needed alternatives to giving up alcohol completely. Changing my diet wasn’t so bad when I made sure to have plenty of the keto food I love the most on hand.
Being relaxed about how things are tracking and playing the long game has also been important. The results have come far faster than I would have thought possible . Weird, but it just feels different thinking about it this way.
So that’s where I am after 8 months as a biohacker. Who would have thought it would work this well?
I appreciate all the support, and I am inspired to see many of the people around me making changes, too. This entrepreneurial life is a tough one. As a group, we are the top of the stats for most significant ailments—heart attacks, cancer, breakdowns, and stress-related health issues. Many of our careers are cut short when the stress we live with every day catches up to us.
When your doctor tells you to reduce stress and drink less, it’s not that easy when your job description and the causes of stress are identical, and drinking may give you a short respite from everything.
Maybe you’re like I was, and you believe you’re coping. Even so, it’s shortening your life and lowering your effectiveness.
If you want to get ahead of the curve and add biohacking to your toolkit, reach out for help. I’m happy to help you. Biohacking is, by far, the best thing I’ve done for my professional and personal development for a long time. And, while I’m enjoying the time out of running businesses after 25 years of being a CEO, I know I’ve reached a whole new level and will be dramatically more effective when I go back soon.
Connect with Ben Ridler via LinkedIn. Hear Ben speak more about biohacking during EO24/7, EO’s annual virtual-learning event. Learn more and register today. This year’s event will feature profound insights from today’s top teachers in the fields of business growth and innovation.