In October I got to meet Stephan Raczak of Biohacks.net when he visited me in Seattle. During our visit he interviewed me, so I thought it might be interesting to interview him. I read very few sites in the fitness domain, Biohacks is one that I do. The posts on Biohacks are interesting and well researched. Enough background, here is the interview.
Tell us about yourself and your blog Biohacks.net.
My name is Stephan Raczak, 23 years old, and I am currently finishing my Bachelor’s degree in “Biomedical Engineering” in Germany. My hometown is Berlin and I am proud to call myself a real “Berliner”.
I started my blog back in May 2012 after I discovered the blogosphere and felt the urge to share my everyday findings. I don’t use Facebook, so my website is my cyber portal to share information with the world. Two main reasons why I started my website: nutrition & fitness. I had just transitioned from a wrecking 2-year vegan odyssey to the Bulletproof diet and started doing HIT after reading McGuff’s “Body by Science”. I got my libido back, put on 30 lbs of muscle in a year, eliminated food cravings, didn’t hear my joints crack anymore, fixed my digestive tract and started enjoying life a lot more by not being so restricted in my dietary choices.
What is your definition of a biohack?
A biohack to me represents an intervention that allows a person to experience their body in a way that will help them fulfill the maximum of their human potential. A biohack often involves stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing your limits to see what you are really capable of. With that said, I also like to write about lifehacks such as minimalist traveling, mastering procrastination, or not wasting time reading the news.
With my biohacks, I like to treat them as long term projects where the pleasure of discovering new aspects about the body make it an exciting learning experience. Biohacks are not necessarily noticeable overnight but can take years of effort to reach full manifestation. Best example: it takes years of dedication and intuitive understanding of how your body works to build an impressive drug-free physique. No supplement, diet or workout routine will deliver instant results overnight.
Tell us about a few of your favorite biohacks.
Healing Cavities: Being vegan had left me with five cavities. Now, I have only none. How? Eating nutrient-dense foods with a particular focus on providing the nutrients your bones and teeth need to remineralise – magnesium, Vit D3, Vit K2, phosphorus, calcium.
Trigger Point Activation: Either using my Lacrosse Ball or a foam roller, I self-massage areas on my body that feel stiff, tight or that are simply fatigued from working my body too hard. Especially rolling on the Lacrosse ball is incredibly painful when done right, but having a pain-free body makes it worth the effort and the sweat.
Conscious Deep Breathing: Whenever I feel stressed, restless or too distracted, I consciously take 10 deep breaths (preferably outside in cold weather). It takes the tension away from my body and more importantly it calms my mind. It’s like hitting a Reset button. I regain my focus and I can usually return to working what is important for the day. Meditation is the upgrade to conscious deep breathing.
Sitting Less & Moving More: I have been victimised by my chair for too long and decided to change that by installing a Standing Desk. Standing is definitely better than endless sitting but it’s not optimal either. Now, I try not to spend too much time (longer than 30 min) in only one position. I mix it and change my position as often as I can This can mean that I sit down on the floor for dinner, raise a leg while standing up or stay in a full squat position while navigating my laptop or reading a book.
Eating Organ Meats: Anybody not eating organ meats but popping supplement pills instead isn’t very intelligent. Liver, heart, brain, kidney, testicles, lungs – these meats are so nutrient-dense they dwarf any Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) by providing more nutrients per calorie than any other food. Liver is the king among them. If you don’t eat liver at least once a week, you probably should. If you don’t like the taste of liver, try heart, kidney or sweetbread – they are less offensive in their taste and odour but still very nutritious. What’s also great about organ meats – they are incredibly cheap compared to high-quality muscle meats.
5 Minute Favour: Doesn’t fall into the category of a biohack but very effective nevertheless. I started helping one person a day by giving them 5 minutes of my time and trying to fix a problem they have or help them in some other way. I have used it with my colleagues a fair bit now with the result that whenever I get stuck with something they are more than happy to help me.
Do you use quantifiable self techniques in your biohacking? If so, can you provide an example?
Unlike the data-driven Quantified Self community, I have found for myself that I am not so big on quantifying every single variable. Back when I began my health & fitness journey, I would obsess too much over minute details, wondering about silly things like if I should eat almonds with their skins or without. I would totally miss the big picture and not get the basics down first.
With that said, however, I have tracked different kinds of variables when I first started out. I would use apps to scan the foods I consumed and thereby track my daily caloric intake (~3400 cal) to get a basic idea of how much food I actually ate. I would diligently record all the supplements I ingested, track my sleep duration, subjectively rate my stool quality, graph my weight fluctuations etc.
At the moment, pretty much the only thing I track is my blood work: in particular a very extensive lipid panel (I have Familial Cholesterolemia and take a statin), C-reactive protein and my Vitamin D3 levels. With the Vit D3, I look at my blood level, shoot for around 50 ng/dl, supplement accordingly (currently 60,000 IU/week), and re-test every 2 months to correct for fluctuations.
In general, I have found that if you want to quantify, don’t track several variables at a time but focus one variable at a time and see how tweaking it affects your body. After you have learned how your body responds to all the different stimuli you throw at it, stop obsessing over small things, focus on the basics that will deliver 90% of the results and stop shortening your lifespan by being constantly stressed out about things you can’t control.
Who are some of your mentors or role models?
Fitness mentors: Bodybuilder Dorian Yates, Boxing coach Ross Enamait, Gymnast Ido Portal, Powerlifter Dan Green, Strongman Misha Koklyaev, MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko, Youtuber Daniel Vadnal etc
The one common trait shared by all of the guys above is that they simply DO and talk less shit: Acta Non Verba!
They are incredibly focused on their goals, don’t get distracted by others, bust their asses, and wake up every morning trying to become a better version of themselves.
Life mentors: Comedian George Carlin, Podcaster Joe Rogan, Blogger Scott H Young, Author Tim Ferriss, Philosopher Plato, Author Hermann Hesse, Political Activist Lyndon LaRouche, Physicist Richard Feynman
Can you tell us what you are currently researching or testing?
On an academic level, I have just concluded my clinical study with patients who have a Spinal Cord Injury. We used different types of vibration to examine how this could reduce spasticity in the lower body muscles of these injured individuals.
On a personal level, I have started incorporating 3-4 short bodyweight workouts spread throughout the day to increase my total working capacity. Especially for more complex bodyweight exercises such as handstands or one-arm chin-ups it is necessary to “grease the groove” and thereby make the body more neurally efficient at performing these complex motor patterns.
Thank You Stephan!
If you have any questions for Stephan, leave a comment.