Definition of a habit
A habit is an action triggered unconsciously. It takes place in 3 steps:
– CONTEXT: for a habit to be triggered, a specific context is needed such as a place, a time of day, etc.
– ACTION: depending on this context, our brain will search in its library of possible actions, what would be the action that would bring us the most satisfaction
– REWARD: once the action is triggered, we experience satisfaction
Example: I’m at a party with friends (CONTEXT) + I’m having a cigarette (UNCONSCIOUS ACTION) + I’m having a good time (REWARD).
This example illustrates the principle of a habit as an unconscious act. And the whole difficulty is to consciously create new habits!
What habits should we adopt on a daily basis to boost our cellular health?
Within each of our cells are small energy generators called mitochondria.
The health of our mitochondria determines how much adenosine triphosphate (ATP) they can produce from the calories we eat and the oxygen we consume. Without robust mitochondria, cells cannot do all the work they are capable of and that we need to stay healthy.
To achieve higher levels of performance and avoid developing disease, we need to optimize the energy production of our mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells.
Cellular function is not always the first place to start for followers of biohacking (or neurohacking) and nootropics, because it is difficult to see a subjective improvement in our mitochondrial function.
Whether or not we can subjectively detect an improvement in our cells, the science is pretty clear: healthy mitochondria play a role in supporting all indicators of cognition, physical performance, and aging.
1. Boost your mitochondria with HIIT
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a strategy of alternating short bursts of intense exercise (via sprints, for example) with short rest, repeating this activity-rest cycle until exhaustion.
By implementing 30-minute exercises a day, several times in the same day and alternating this with a 1-minute rest session, you can strengthen and take care of the body’s cells.
Physical activity of any type over the long term produces energy and can boost mitochondrial function, but HIIT appears to be particularly beneficial for cellular function.
A 2017 article in the journal Cell Metabolism found that HIIT causes cells to make more protein for the mitochondria, making the cell’s powerhouse more robust.
HIIT conferred a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity in healthy young adults participating in the study: older volunteers experienced a 69% increase.
Something to motivate!
2. Fuel your cells with a ketogenic diet
Fat, that’s life ! But beware, not just any fat! To avoid cardiovascular disease or worsen your type 1 or 2 diabetes, if you have it, we present the ketogenic diet.
High in fat, low in carbohydrates and protein, this diet, whose popularity continues to grow, improves your state of health and optimizes your mental performance.
Ketones provide an alternate fuel source when blood sugar (glucose) is not available. These ketones are often used during prolonged fasting, but very specific diets achieve the same physiological state.
Many proponents of the ketogenic diet claim they are more alert and focused, and some anecdotal reports suggest it may also help with anxiety.
A study confirmed that the ketogenic diet influences longevity pathways like AMPK, mTOR, and sirtuins. This may be one reason why ketogenic diets can slow the progression of mitochondrial diseases in animal models.
The ketogenic diet has been proposed as a possible treatment for mitochondrial cellular disorders.
For those who have different eating habits or who like proteins (red meat, …) and carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables, …) the option can also be the practice of a diet limited in time and long-term water fasts. The body seems relatively flexible to switch from glucose to ketones for energy.
For people who want to get started, there are right and wrong ways to approach the ketogenic diet. For example, you could include a tablespoon of “MCT OIL”, a pure coconut oil, in your breakfast.
3. Sleep hygiene for optimal cell health
Sleep researcher Allan Rechtschaffen once quipped: “If sleep doesn’t perform an absolutely vital function, then that’s the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made.”
One of the primary mechanisms that makes sleep so important to cell health is the “glymphatic system,” which was described in a 2013 report in Science Magazine.
For people who can’t sleep, restorative sleep allows the brain to eliminate thought by-products (waste products) and maintain healthy mitochondria.
For example, you can opt in your bedroom for bulbs that do not emit blue light. Or a sound machine and earplugs to make sure the sounds don’t disturb sleep.
A habit that has a strong impact is going to bed at the same time every day, limiting the time spent on the phone, and reading a pleasant (and not stimulating) book.
4. Earthing at the service of the cells
Grounding (also known as earthing) involves applying one’s bare skin to the earth (walking barefoot on grass, dirt, etc.) in order to draw electrons into the body to neutralize free radicals and cause positive physiological reactions.
When we first hear about earthing, we may be skeptical from a scientific point of view, but we must recognize the disconnect between our evolutionary environments (where we were constantly in contact with the Earth) and urban civilization (where we are rarely, if ever, in direct contact with the Earth).
Grounding practices are based on reliable scientific research. A meta-analysis has shown that grounding can promote restful sleep and help with chronic pain.
Another study published in the Journal of Inflammation Research showed that grounding can support the immune system and promote wound healing. The study also noted profound effects on inflammatory markers.
It is imperative to get out into nature as often and frequently as possible!
And preferably without shoes! Although there are many devices (grounding mats, grounding beds), they are not particularly attractive. They are expensive and provide little of the mental satisfaction that comes from actually being outside, in contact with the Earth.
5. Intermittent fasting to stimulate cells
Fasting refers to the abstinence from calories or the significant reduction in calorie intake (also called calorie restriction) for a certain duration.
The anti-aging benefits of fasting consist of many mitochondria-enhancing mechanisms. Certain fasting protocols activate pathways like AMP-dependent kinase (AMPK) and sirtuins (SIRT), which are valuable for improving cell health.
These pathways specifically support mitochondrial biogenesis (i.e. the creation of new mitochondria).
Another process, called “mitophagy,” recycles damaged and dysfunctional mitochondria (like house cleaning).
Together, fasting promotes a high-quality mitochondrial network by shedding damaged mitochondria and replacing them with new, robust mitochondria.