Supplements can help you hack your biology

12 Biohacking Supplements You Need to Try

We all know that the cornerstones of wellness are a balanced diet, exercise, at least seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep, and stress management. This sounds pretty straightforward—but it's often not so obtainable for those night owls who have a 6 AM wake-up call, or snackaholics who can't stick to that regimen of fresh vegetables and lean protein when the fried food beckons.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, is an elite group of disciplined individuals, for whom it's not enough to check these boxes...they want more. For them, why settle for good health when optimal wellness is within reach?

Meet the biohackers.

What is a biohacker?

To biohack is to practice a form of self-experimentation which may include a wide array of practices designed to enhance wellness. Some biohacking techniques include diet modification, cold showers, wearable technology, microchip implants, red light therapy and more. Since experimenting on yourself requires collecting data and adjusting your approach accordingly, biohackers are known to track their heart rate and sleeping patterns.

They're also game for changing up their food intake—not because they're seeking weight loss, but to see whether they feel at their best when restricting a certain food group; elimination diets can be considered a biohacking practice, as are methods such as intermittent fasting (time-restricted eating).

Supplements can play a big role in a biohacker's lifestyle, too. While many people who take supplements do so to fill in any dietary gaps (to avoid, for example, a vitamin D deficiency) and to be proactive with their health, biohackers tend to use supplementation for a different reason: to optimize their mental and physical performance.

What is the goal of biohacking?

The point of hacking your biology is to maximize your health and healthy aging. That means enhancing the body's capacity to withstand stress and immune challenges, while expanding upon its ability to maintain energetic function and synthesis function of hormones, proteins, neurotransmitters, and other compounds.

12 biohacking supplements

Taking any quality supplement is a form of biohacking. What we consider the "basics"—vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, essential amino acids (like branched-chain amino acids) and magnesium—all can help you support your health status. Biohacking supplements, specifically, however, can enhance your self-improvement journey.

Here are 12 supplements that are integral to any biohacking journey.

1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Speaking of healthy energy, let's talk about coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10. This fat-soluble molecule is present in the mitochondria of our cells; it helps transport electrons during ATP production (the process for cellular energy production), supporting power organs like your heart, kidneys and lungs. We all have CoQ10 in our bodies. But since time forgives no one, healthy levels of CoQ10 decline as we age. That's why biohackers take CoQ10 supplements to provide the body access to this crucial molecule. There's compelling research supporting CoQ10's benefits as a nutritional supplement. Ubiquinol, a reduced form of CoQ10, is up to eight times more absorbable than ubiquinone. And CoQ10 pairs well with PQQ; you could say they're the "dynamic duo" for promoting optimal cellular energy production.

2. NAD+ boosting supplements

So what is NAD+, or nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide? This coenzyme is essential for energy production, circadian rhythm, DNA repair, a healthy immune response and healthy aging. You can't actually take NAD+ the way you can take something like CoQ10, but you can supplement with specific nutrients that support NAD+ levels. By helping maintain healthy NAD+ levels (they naturally decline as we age), you're essentially practicing "DIY biology": supporting different biological pathways that keep you functioning optimally.

3. Melatonin

Take control of those restless nights—and your overall health—by hacking your melatonin levels. You may know melatonin as the "sleep hormone," but this nutrient's health benefits go beyond promoting restful sleep. Research suggests that melatonin may also confer immune and healthy aging benefits. Like so many things (as we've seen), melatonin production naturally declines with age, creating an imbalance in our sleeping patterns and negatively affecting our health and wellness. Let's be honest: there's something rejuvenating and immune empowering about a good night's sleep, so keeping healthy melatonin levels is a must for those of us who want to feel our best at any age.

Since everyone's biology is different, it's important to find melatonin formulations that fit your needs. (Your doctor can be your guide). Fortunately, there's no shortage of options when it comes to melatonin products: you can get formulas that are time-released and/or fast-acting, in gummy form, and in multiple dosages.

4. Ashwagandha

Whether you consider yourself a biohacker or are just biohacking-curious, you've probably heard of ashwagandha. Essential to the Ayurvedic tradition, this potent adaptogen has been shown to promote a healthy stress response and encourage a state of calm. In a randomized controlled trial, participants taking ashwagandha extract reported reduced stress and had lower cortisol levels than the placebo group. If you want to add this calming herb to biohack your mental health, look for high-quality products that are easy for your body to use. Your best bet is a supplement made from an ashwagandha extract from the root and leaf standardized to its active components for maximum benefits.

5. Resveratrol

Resveratrol is famously known as an anti-aging nutrient and just might be the "O.G." of biohacking supplements…after all, if you can hack your lifespan, you've achieved next-level hacking status! If this word conjures up a fine "reserve wine," you're not entirely off—resveratrol is a nutrient found in red grapes (hello, rosé and red wines!) and other plants like Japanese knotweed. So, should you skip the supplement and instead stock up on red wine? Unfortunately, wine won't help you biohack healthy aging, and here's why. While enjoying a glass of red wine as part of a balanced diet may confer some health benefits, it would take hundreds of glasses for your body to get any resveratrol benefits, if at all. (And of course, alcohol consumption isn't biohacking friendly). The best way to hack into resveratrol's health-supporting benefits is with a high-quality trans-resveratrol supplement, which reaches higher levels and circulates longer than traditional resveratrol. Bonus: just like a hearty Bordeaux pairs well with a creamy brie, resveratrol pairs well with NAD+ supplements.

6. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

A big focus of do-it-yourself biology is maintaining healthy hormone balance. One of the key hormones for optimal balance is dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA for short. DHEA is the most abundant circulating hormone in the body, and it's a precursor for sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Unfortunately, levels decline over time—and with that decline, hormone imbalance tends to follow. If you can biohack your hormones and maintain healthy DHEA levels through supplementation, you may also promote healthy immune function, healthy blood flow and even sexual function.

Pro tip: Take DHEA in the morning since your natural production is the highest this time of day.

7. Curcumin

Curcumin is found in turmeric, the golden spice famous for adding flavor to different cuisines. But it's more than just pleasing to the eyes and the tastebuds. Studies show this yellow plant compound packs a host of whole-body health benefits, ranging from promoting a healthy inflammatory response to cardiovascular health, already-healthy blood pressure, and even liver health and immune function! You could say it's a whole-body hacking supplement. In a clinical trial, curcumin was shown to help reduce biomarkers of oxidative stress that can impact several aspects of well-being.

Unfortunately, all those head-to-toe health benefits aren't easy to access because curcuminoids (the active compounds in curcumin) become less effective during digestion thanks to a process called conjugation. No, it has nothing to do with grammar; in biology, conjugation is a normal reaction where compounds attach to another compound, rendering curcumin's benefits inefficient for the body. But fear not! If you want to add this powerful nutrient to your wellness routine, look for formulations that protect curcumin from the digestive process so that you can get the maximum benefits of this golden nutrient!

Explore Our Best Anti-Aging & Longevity Supplements

Shop Now

8. Nootropics

Biohackers enhance their brain game with nootropics, substances that encourage mental stamina, support cognitive performance and help sharpen memory and focus. If that sounds a bit like your morning coffee, you're not mistaken; caffeine is a nootropic. But you can (and should) seek caffeine-free nootropic supplements as well. As much as a cup of joe can kick your noggin into gear, there can be a mental crash that ultimately counteracts your biohacking efforts. Instead, many biohackers choose botanical products like gotu kola and water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri). Research also suggests lutein and zeaxanthin may confer nootropic benefits like improving memory, reasoning skills and cognitive flexibility. You can biohack your cognitive function and help your brain think faster, learn better and stay focused with a high-quality product combining all three nutrients.

9. B vitamins

B vitamins are the basic biohacking supplements in your wellness arsenal because they support several biological processes throughout the body. Optimal organ function, healthy metabolism, cognitive function and nerve health all depend on vitamin B. Your primary "B" sources are foods like grass-fed meats and organ meats, fatty fish, leafy greens, veggies, nuts and legumes. Adding a high-quality supplement that uses active forms of vitamin B helps your body directly access the health-supporting benefits of the vitamin B family. This is especially important for those who eat plant-based diets, since B12 is not found in plant food sources.

10. Salvia officinalis (sage)

Looking for a nootropic that supports overall cognitive function as well as cognitive performance? A green herb native to Southeastern Europe, Salvia officinalis (sage) is a well-studied species for brain health and has been used for centuries. Supplements from the Salvia plant can help protect brain cells from oxidative stress and support a healthy inflammatory response. Studies also show that sage extract can quickly and significantly enhance brain performance in healthy individuals by impacting multiple brain pathways involved in cognitive health and performance. Adding sage-based supplements to your arsenal of biohacking supplements is a no-brainer.

11. Lithium

Looking to biohack your way into a healthier brain as you age? Lithium is particularly well known for supporting cognitive health, brain function, and a healthy mood—and some research suggests that low-dose lithium may prevent cognitive loss by encouraging the natural process of clearing accumulated proteins in the brain that can interfere with healthy communication between brain cells, negatively impacting memory and overall cognition. Lithium also helps support glucose metabolism in the brain, providing the energy the brain needs to function. What about healthy aging? Recent studies suggest lithium may help support healthy aging by potentially protecting telomere length (the "endcaps" of your DNA that protect the delicate chromosomes). These end caps get shorter over time, contributing to the aging process; lithium may help keep those telomeres long and healthy, supporting a robust lifespan.

12. Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)

Having healthy energy levels is essential to enjoy life. A great way to hack your energy production and help your cells work optimally is with pyrroloquinoline quinone, a health-promoting nutrient better known as PQQ. PQQ is a potent antioxidant famous for protecting mitochondria from oxidative stress and encouraging the creation of new mitochondria.

You've probably heard of mitochondria as "powerhouses" because they provide almost every cell in your body with the energy they need to thrive. But mitochondria are also health modulators, meaning they don't just provide energy; they are involved in the synthesis of chemical messengers like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, and stress and sex hormones. They're crucial to a healthy inflammatory response, and even play a role in immune system support.

A large body of research has shown that faulty mitochondria are associated with several health concerns, including cognitive and metabolic decline. So, keeping these tiny power packs healthy is a must in any biohacker's journey—and PQQ dietary supplements are an excellent tool to do just that!

Does biohacking work?

Some types of biohacking indeed have been shown to be effective. While the jury is still out on more extreme forms of biohacking (like gene modification), one area of biohacking with a large body of scientific support is nutrigenomics.

Nutrigenomics refers to the strategic use of foods based on how they interact with your genes. At its core, nutrigenomics focuses on providing the body with nutrients that work with specific biological pathways to improve multiple aspects of overall health like cognition, stress resilience, immune health, energy levels, sleep and metabolic health—and that includes biohacking supplements.

Ready to get hacking?

Whether you want to hack your mental performance, your mood, your immune health or your healthy aging, there's no time like right now to add these biohacking supplements to your routine—just be sure to read the instructions and check with your doctor if you have any concerns. Be sure to choose formulations tested for efficacy and purity.

Not sure where to start?Take a quiz to get nutritional recommendations customized to your needs.

About the Author: Jessica Monge has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences & neuroscience and a master's degree in comparative studies and related languages from Florida Atlantic University. She worked as a tutor, freelance writer and editor before joining Life Extension, where she is currently a Digital Content Writer.


Brain Health Favorite