Biohacking Porn: Quit OCD, Embrace Life

biohacks book and tools

Optimization is great.

It allows you to be more efficient, doing more, with less.

As for everything though, you can go too far.
And today the old ineffective “hustle porn” has been replaced by “optimization porn”.

It’s just another “feel busy but go nowhere trap”.
We explain why:

Life optimization tools with an optimization book in the middle

Intro

We define both “optimization porn” and “biohacking porn” as:

To spend time and resources learning, acquiring, and implementing sub-Pareto (80-20) improvements (“hacks”) for small-ish, dubious, or even negative ROI

It’s a mouthful, I know :).

But it gets clearer I promise:

Optimizing VS Over-Optimizing

This is simple math:

The more you optimize, the lower your returns become.

After a certain point, the inputs will outweigh the output -negative ROI-.
Think of it as an inverted U curve.

The issue then is that optimization porn pushes a lot of people beyond that optimal point.
In chart:

life otpimization and biohacking optimum balance

For example, most people reach level 50 on health by acting on simple basic information that would fit in a single post

In real life though it’s difficult to say when you cross the threshold.

So as a rule of thumb to help you self-assess:

Optimization turns over-optimization when it stops being a means to an end.
Then it’s more likely to make you less effective because it’s optimization for optimization’s sake.
It becomes its own game, with its own rewards.

Nothing wrong with that.

But you may as well be honest with yourself:

Own Up: It’s Not Effectiveness

Here’s why optimization is so sexy:

We get to tell ourselves we’re effective, driven, smart… Better than the rest, maybe.

But the truth is:

You’re not optimizing.

You’re doing… Something else.

Some of that “something else” is totally fine.
For example:

  • Hobby
  • Break from work
  • Pushing the limits to see how far you can go

In some ways, albeit geeky, it’s a typical male thing.

But over-optimization drivers may be less healthy.
Such as:

  • Chasing feelings rather than results: feeling busy, feeling like advancing, feeling like “doing the right thing”
  • OCD
  • Skirting actual work: Alex Hormozi mentions a guy with a 3h morning routine who couldn’t get enough work done 🙂

Or…

You’ve fallen for the guru-game.
And a (semi-manipulative) optimization guru tricked you into the optimization rabbit hole.

Now we’re talking proper TPM expertise :).

No shame, though.
I’ve fallen for it too (read on).

It’s A Slow-Life Strategy

Life Passes You By While You Over-Optimize For It

– Lucio Buffalmano

I think you’ve heard the rock and roll motto:

Live fast, die young.

I’ve always had a soft spot for that.
Next life, maybe :).

How does that relate to optimization porn, though?

Different “life speeds” are different life strategies.
And linked to a reproductive strategy.

The “rocker” one, called fast life strategy, was originally proposed by Bruce Ellis.
It’s largely adopted by psychopaths.

Fast livers rarely optimize because they’re focused on the short term.
What they get right now, consuming liberally… And abusing sometimes.
Including themselves, and their bodies.

The slow livers do the optimization.
Slow-livers optimize because they’re (over-)concerned about the long-term.
They treat their bodies well because it should remain effective long-term.
So they worry about the dangers of sun exposure, the ills of eating pizza, and… How to stay alive for long with “bio-hacking”.

biohacking porn with a man taking a ice bath while normal people are enjoying life the floor downstair

Over-optimization is Risk-Averse and Feminine

It’s funny:

The over-optimizer may be in the best shape possible.
His body sculpted by perfect gym attendance.

And still… The slow approach is inherently more feminine

Says Dr. Tania Reynolds (slightly edited for clarity):

Hormones (…) serve as the dial for this life history strategy speed.
So a more masculine hormonal profile leads people to a slightly more fast life history strategy

There you have it.

For the record, this is a hypothesis.
But it’s a hypothesis that seems logical to me.

My take on it is even more speculative.

But follow the logic and see for yourself:

Fast life is higher risk, more associated with men than women.
And no time for over-optimizing when you’re busy living.

Slow and safer is lower risk, more associated with women, than men
And plenty of time and scope for self-care -and its geekier sub-sets: biohacking and optimizing-.

Over-optimizers struggle to gain masculine men’s respect

I’m not a very “masculine man”.

Niether do I care much to be.
And neither do we make it a priority here at TPM -we prefer “whatever is effective” here-.

And still…

Dr. Reynold’s insight well explain my personal “secret feelings”.

I’d be cautious saying this in some settings.
But deep down, I can’t help but have little man-to-man respect for over-optimizers.

Part of me looks down on over-optimizers as… Can’t say this publicly, but catch the drift.

The fast livers naturally get more of my respect, instead.

This means that over-optimizers struggle to gain leadership roles in very masculine environments.
And over-optimizers may struggle to gain “alpha male statusin naturally-occurring male-only groups.

Few men will say it because few men are even aware of their subconscious.
But that’s how it goes…

Over-Optimizers VS Over-Liver: Example

vasco rossi symbol of the opposite of optimizer

Vasco Rossi is an alcoholic and heavy substance user.

Like many rockers, Vasco Rossi lived the fast life.

Let’s quickly compare his fast life with over-optimizers:

Morning:

  • Over-optimizer wakes up at 4 am
    • Vasco Rossi wakes up at 12 next to a new girl (BTW, in his songs he even talks about 16 YOs, and nobody even mentioned “canceling”)

Breakfast:

  • Over-optimizer carefully weighs his food and goes through his “supplement stack”
    • Vasco Rossi “chops his breakfast on a mirror” while reminiscing and smiling about his previous great night

Confidence & Self-Esteem:

  • The over-optimizer needs taxing routines to “earn his own” respect (I talk from first-hand experience here, I’ve been like this for a long time and still partly am)
    • Vasco Rossi does whatever he feels and feels awesome no matter what, even as an overweight guy

And back to reproductive strategies:

  • While one famous over-optimizer sperm-banks for his future at 48 YO…

Think about that.

Sure, Vasco may live a shorter life (albeit he still reached older age).
Or don’t preserve his cognitive functions nearly as well (albeit he makes a lot more sense than many current “gurus”).

But he can make a good claim he lived 10x an optimizer’s life :).

That’s not to say “live the fast life”.

I’ll even admit: it’s misleading and “wrong” to put those items in red VS green.

Most fast lives are not as glamorous as rockstars, but harsh and ugly. And not suited for most men.
Vasco Rossi also struggled with addiction and rehabs.

It’s also not good for society, if anyone cares about that.

I don’t want the Vasco Rossi life (or I’d be doing it).

So, what then?

As “unsexy” as that may sound… Balance is the answer.

Don’t (over-)do drugs, countless hookups with floozies, or run-ins with the law.
But don’t overdo stupid-level hack-seeking either.

an image that displays the stark contrast between an over-optimizer and a liver

Pareto > Genes > Optimization

Here’s the truth:

Genes trump hacks.

Especially once you do the basics.
And the basics also trump hacks.

It’s the old Pareto principle.
All the biohackers and life optimizers, I bet, know the theory.

Most “advanced biohacks” address the last 20% at most and when combined.
Individually, we’re often talking about 1% or less.
And no matter how well you optimize the 1%… It won’t take you far.

Anecdotal evidence is generally poor evidence.
But it sometimes says something.

So this is a picture of my father at age 80:

My father looked great for an 80 YO. Zero biohacks, no life optimization, and even ignored some important basics

Nothing crazy here.
It’s not like my father beat any record.
But, in my opinion, age-adjusted he looks better and younger than many biohackers and life-extensionists I see online.
And zero hacks.

Can Freedom Be Scary?

This take may pain the over-optimizers.

Instead, I see it as the opposite:

Focus on the 80%,
And then… You’re free!

You can let go of all the hacking BS.

And enjoy life :).

Scammy Biohacking

Biohacking sometimes turns into pseudoscience BS.

For example:

  • Detox
  • Superfoods
  • EMS blocking adhesives

Etc. etc.

And there’s plenty of grey areas.
Gurus and marketers love “bending the truth”:

Lucio: biohacking fads start with a dark triad who wants to get famous and rich, or a marketer looking to create demand. Then standard social dynamics do the rest

Gurus Red Flags

Some of the manipulative tools of dubious gurus include:

  1. Scientific and intellectual posturing. Teacher frames, white lab coats, etc.
    • Pseudoscience. Misquoting “autophagy” is a popular one at the time of writing
  2. Inflated claims. Ie. “cold exposure makes… (you live to 100 / faster / your dick longer, etc.)”
  3. Naturalistic fallacies. Ie. “we weren’t meant/born to… (wear shoes / wear clothes, etc.)“. Always tell yourself “yeah, and I wasn’t born to listen to this idiot”
  4. Bamboozling and over-complication with unneeded or made-up jargon
  5. Extreme hacking/exercise/deprivation. If I wanted to handicap my enemies, I’d tell them “skimp on sleep, and go train heavy weights”
  6. Conspiracies. Ie.: “The government colludes with big corp to make you fat“. Also watch out for the milder frame of health organizations as “poor mainstream advice”.

Lost a lot of respect for Jordan Peterson when he started doing some of that:

Peterson: it’s obvious that (….) our tyrannical government (…) regulating what people serve at their tables

There you are, all the keywords that should tell you “stop listening”.
So instead of the “tyrannical government”, you can listen to her daughter’s podcast teaching you how to properly eat :S.

Let’s now review some good biohackers.
If we spot the red flags in the good ones, it’ll be even easier with the bad ones.

Biohackers Reviews

Let me say this first:

Both Tim Ferriss and Andrew Huberman seem great guys.

And seem to have generally good intentions.

I loved some of Ferriss’ work, and agreed with much of his 4h Workweek philosophy.

And I listened to a couple of Huberman’s podcasts.
I’ve learned and even implemented something from him.

So, well done to them.

We may criticize the approaches, here NOT the men.
And we’ll use their content to learn the psychology, MO, and risks of optimization porn.

Andrew Huberman

Huberman says the episode above is eminently practical.

So it’s a good example because we should have fewer red flags.

Let’s see:

1. Tendency to over-optimize

Huberman: What I’m talking about is taking 900 milligrams of myo-inositol also 30 to 60 minutes before sleep along with the standard sleep stack

That’s already your cue of over-doing the “biohacking”.

If Huberman himself says that supplements should be the last thing you look into… Why “sleep stack” seems to be his norm?

🐍 Machiavelli may mention Hubermans sells supplements.

2. Extra jargon for extra authority

Huberman: Elevating your feet (….) can be really beneficial for increasing the depth of sleep because of the so-called glymphatic washout.

This is just my take.

But it makes me lose some trust because it feels like an authority power move.

You know, just in case you forgot the “lab” plastered everywhere next to his name :).

Of course, there is nothing wrong with displaying your authority.
You can easily under-do it.

But as for everything, balance.

I feel Huberman may overdo it.

3. Conflates the 80% with the 0.0001%

Huberman: (talking about raising your legs at night) lead to more wakefulness and actually can improve cognitive function and a number of other things related to brain health.

Bro, please!

To me, this is one of the most dangerous red flags. 🚩

The way Huberman speaks suggests that “elevating your feet by 3 to 5 degrees” can significantly impact “cognitive functions” or health.

I’d bet a million, right now, that elevating your feet at night will not significantly impact cognitive functions.
Or “brain health” for that matter -a nebulous term that to me, means nothing-.

Worst yet, this approach drags a lot of people down the over-optimization trap.

So why do optimizers talk like this?
Because it feels like you’re gaining invaluable insights that could change your life.
And it feels like he’s dropping endless gold.

But it’s a form of value-inflating –manipulation?-.

And, in my opinion, it’s all optimization porn.

4. Authority-Inflating, Covert-Brags, & Overcomplicates Things

5 techniques to sound more authoritative, in red:

Huberman: Not just that cortisol peak but it’s going to trigger proper metabolism (<— Bamboozling technique. What does “trigger proper metabolism” mean? It’s too fuzzy to convey any real information. It’s a bamboozling device to sound authoritative)
it’s going to set a timer for you to be able to fall asleep about 16 hours later and on and on and on (<— Pull rank technique. Makes it sound like it’s a long and complex list. He knows it well, but he’s cutting it short “for us non-scientists”. A power move to “pull rank” on the audience)
And I should mention within the on and on and on (<— Breadcrumb technique. Frames it like he’s picking one thing among the many he could pick to give us a juicier detail. The game is “here’s a crumb for you, but there’s a whole bigger loaf where that comes from because I’m an expert”. A power move, and I feel he’ll only add more smoke without substance)
suppress any melatonin, a hormone that (…) It does a number of other things too (<— again, frame that “he’s not gonna bother us with all the details”, but covertly showing off he does know all the details),
including interact with the adenosine system and kind of wash out some of the adenosine that might still be residual (…) (<— Big words techniques. covert authority displays with unneeded details and “big words” power moves such as “residual”)
Fundamentally speaking, get that morning sunlight viewing (<— Big smoke strategy. So, after bamboozling us with smokescreens and jargon, everything could have been boiled to a simple sentence. Thanks for saving time, Andrew 🫤)

Overall, I get a major covert brag vibe of “look how smart I am”.

Very effective if you can’t spot it.
Very off-putting when you can.

Andrew still shares useful info.
But better be aware, so you don’t keep the bathwater with the baby.

5. Verbosity

Huberman: In addition, I get a lot of questions about earplugs. Here’s the deal with earplugs. Some people find that earplugs are very beneficial because, of course, they prevent the entrance of sound into the ear that could wake us up.

Yeah, thank you, Andrew.
I thought earplugs stopped background cosmic radiation 🙄.

And he adds even more:

Huberman: But some people find that the sound of their own beating of their own heart can be disruptive and they get a sort of humming in their head when they have those earplugs in. I’m one such person. Although, I have family members that like using earplugs when they sleep. 

Compare the communication if one sought effective delivery of information:

Effective communication: Some ask about earplugs. They work for some, not for others. Try it and see.

But that would have been too simple eh?

In the end, the podcast was more than 1.5h.
In my opinion, could have been a 10 minutes video, with no loss of information.

But if effective is not the goal, then this all makes sense.
The optimization porn addict enjoys the long hours spent in Huberman’s company.

Tim Ferris

Ferriss is the optimizers’ Godfather.

In The 4-hour Body he guides readers to rapid weight loss (with rabid hacking).

the 4 hour body book cover

For the record, some nutritionists I respect say rapid weight loss is not good for you.
ChatGPT agrees:

the prevailing wisdom against fast weight loss biohacking

That alone makes the full book, well… Questionable.

But if you enjoy hacks and geeking-it-out, boy… Does Ferriss deliver :).

Here’s an example.
Bold is mine, red are my attempts at humor to highlight the nonsense.
And original text redacted for brevity (you can only imagine the original):

I consumed the ECA stack 45 minutes prior to (<—- is the optimizers’ secret handshake to drop the word “Stack”?)
cold-bath immersion on an empty stomach (<—- not fasting would have been too “casual”. You gotta add some extra hurdle).
Though the metabolism of caffeine (caffeine clearance) (<—- technical jargon. “Authority ping”)
(…) I assumed that blood concentration would peak between 60 and 90 minutes post–oral (<—- displays the brain work. Ferriss geeked the analytics out)
consumption, which was based on the average pharmacokinetics (<—- got that?)
of caffeine in white male subjects. (<—- ensure ethnical relevancy. You never know you’re going off Martian’s parmacokinetics)
Pharmacokinetics, usually in graph form, show (…) (<—- Ferris can read charts)

I (…) submerged myself for a total of 20 minutes.
Those 20 minutes were phased as follows: (<—- Did you think you could just lay there? Nope, phases guys, phases!)

00:00–10:00 minutes: (…) (<—- We removed Ferriss’ made-up body positions to adopt)
10:00–15:00 minutes: (…)
15:00–20:00 minutes: (…)

Sound painful? It is. (<—- you gotta earn your over-optimizer stripes, bitch!)

(…)

That’s it.

Tim Ferris, The 4-Hour Body

That’s it, says Ferris.

You’ve just spent half a day prepping for an ice bath meant to “burn fat”… While you could have just eaten less.

Imagine that!

Save time, money, and do it the healthier way.

Ferriss asks if it sounds painful.
I bet he was proud to declare “it is”.

I may sound nasty here.
But to me, more than painful, it sounded stupid.
The whole book, frankly, also struck me as sounding “smart”, but very low in critical thinking.

Thomas DeLauer

Needs no analysis:

Thomas: (I live to bio-hack)

No dig on Thomas, he seems a great guy, kind, and even very open-minded towards critics.
But to me, if you see this and don’t think it’s over-over-doing biohacking, you may be too far gone 🙂

Lucio’s Biohacking

First, foundational mindset of personal power:

See Power University

PU, Foundational mindsets of self-empowerment

Then:

Rules of Thumb

I follow rules of thumb based on credibility and required input:

  • High investment for uncertain returns: no. Hence out all strict, stringent, and weird diets
  • If it’s a new fad, most likely no. Most fads go against the literature consensus.
  • If it’s from a marketer / scammer / non-scientist, most likely no. TPM/PU can help by the way. You develop a sixth sense for those
  • If it’s easy, or one-off investment, most likely yes. Even if the benefits are uncertain

Input rationale:
I focus more on input because most outputs are uncertain, unquantifiable, or small-ish.
So if they’re high input, they’re likely not worth it.
But if they’re low-effort or one-off, then even small improvements are welcome.

Credibility rationale:
It’s an industry ripe with scammers, marketers, and biohacking porn addicts.
Even well-meaning folks can seldom think rationally and analytically.

Dont’s

Reminder:

My experience, my opinion :).

We write for smart men here.
If you looked into it, tried it, and if you’re sure it works for you, you’re right.

I tried and stopped:

  • Intermittent fasting: I did 8/16, then one meal a day. If I’d tell you the dates it ruined you’d think I’m the biggest idiot on earth (and you’d be right)
  • Extreme, “prove yourself” habits & exercising: over-optimizers tend to go extreme everywhere.
    Including the drive to “prove one’s worth to himself / others”. There is a time and place for that. I still have it in me and use it.
    But I also made it a point to address it. Much more power to have high self-esteem as default:

Lucio: 4am alarm to lift weights is what you should advice your enemey. Lack of sleep increases the odds of injury. And extremism as “motivation” is killing your self-esteem

  • Ketogenic diet: I never felt more stupid than on a rooftop bar in Rio de Janeiro. Everyone having a great time… And me Googling the carbs percentage of each cocktail. Then ensuring the bartender followed my special instructions.🙄
    That’s when I told myself “f*ck this BS”
  • Barefoot shoes: Tried, and still wear them on “hack squat days”.
    But never for normal life. I think they harm more than help. The “we weren’t meant to walk with shoes” is so dumb it doesn’t deserve to be addressed
  • Fasting: don’t believe in the oversold benefits
  • Wearable to monitor body functions: this is complication mistaken for effectiveness. Most of it is unneeded data, pure biohacking porn.
    I have the same feeling for weather forecast:

Lucio: winners don’t check the weather (/wearable trackers). They will do anything they need to do anyway, no matter the weather (/what the trackers say)

Not doing:

  • Reverse aging / life extension

Again: anything that’s easy is welcome.

I’d rather live longer and better than less and worse -duh!- :).

However, I’m not a fan of the philosophy of “biohacking for life extension”.
Especially when it turns into biohacking porn, as it sometimes does.

I have a strong take on it actually:

Quit the narcissism of living forever.
Have the courage to bow out when it’s time.
Focus on making it a good life-show you can be proud to bow out from

Lucio Buffalmano
  • Ice baths: I turn the tap full cold for the last seconds. Ice baths feel 100% optimization porn territory
  • Nootropics: not a major limiting factor to address. Not interested
  • Saunas: no thanks
  • Earthing or grounding: may do this “naturally” if in nature. But if you gotta go out for its “therapeutic effects”… Get outta here hippie 🙂
  • Microdosing: not interested for now
    • Therapeutic hallucinogenics: none of those who’ve done it without previous issues seem better off to me. Some seem worse off.
  • Cheat days: God, such an idiotic frame. Eagles don’t cheat. 🦅
    I enjoy pretty much all the food I eat. I have some treats every day (porridge with yogurt, berries, fruits, nuts, peanut spread etc.). And some other treats every once in a while. But all part of a balanced diet & life.
    Don’t even come mentioning that weak-ass cheat stuff

Does

  • The BASICS: this is where it’s all at. You probably won’t need anything else. All of them I do regularly and at good intensity, but without excesses.
    • Exercise, some weights (used to be home exercises), cardio (more recently), home exercises. Use stairs for lower floors, and bicycles/walks instead of cars for shorter distances
    • Quality food & balanced diet. Whole foods, enough proteins, plenty of vegetables and fruits, and limited processed foods
    • Natural sleep/wake rhythm. Wake up without alarm #1. To me it’s also about personal power and the only way of “proper living”. Nap when I feel like. Go to bed when sleepy is the one I “naturally resist” the most, but I’m OK with it.
    • No smoking / drugs / excessive alcohol. But I’ll bum a couple puffs after a meal if someone smokes. Or enjoy wine with food sometimes. Have nothing against getting drunk or high sometimes, but haven’t done it in a while
    • Good relationships. These days I prioritize work and don’t have a “proper social circle”. But still good family relationships, and remained friends with childhood friends
  • Some supplements, such as D3 when I spend winters in EU
  • Mouth taping to ensure nose breathing at night. This is good optimization: specific to the individual, great ROI, no pretenses to generalize it to others (most people don’t need this). For me, it was great. I’ll stop once it becomes a habit
  • Water purification. Not sure how helpful it is. Health optimization gurus are useless unless they checked your pipes’ water. But it may help, and it likely does help a bit. And it’s very low effort. That’s why it’s a “yes”
  • Light optimization, all easy to implement. Including:
    • Blue light removal from laptop and phone after a certain hour
    • Black and white smartphone, great tip to potentially reduce phone use. Thanks to Alex Hormozi
    • Lower lights in the evening
  • Meditation

And finally:

Talking about “basics first”.

Social effectiveness will do more for you than all other bio hacks combined.

So ditch the infrared lamp.
And learn how to get some status, respect, and attraction.

Summary

Optimization is great.

We’re ALL for optimization and effectiveness here.
We encourage it.

However, optimization and effectiveness aren’t exactly the same.

And you must apply the effectiveness mindset also to optimization itself.

Some people may tend to overdo optimization to the point where it’s not effective anymore.

We showed the risks of overdoing “life optimization” and “bio-hacking”.
Including some red flags of biohackers who may pull you down the bio-rabbit hole :).

And don’t forget:

  • Do the actual work
  • And enjoy life

Ad majora friends!
-Lucio

The Power Moves (TPM) maintains high standards of sourcing guidelines to provide our readers with content that is accurate and actionable.
We rely on peer-reviewed studies, accredited experts, psychology textbooks, and academic research institutions. Learn more by reviewing our full editorial policy.

  • Ellis BJ. Timing of pubertal maturation in girls: an integrated life history approach. Psychol Bull. 2004 Nov;130(6):920-58. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.6.920. PMID: 15535743.
  • Baker, P., & Norton, L. (2019). Fat loss forever: How to Lose Fat and KEEP It Off.
  • Anthony A. Volk, Historical and hunter-gatherer perspectives on fast-slow life history strategies, Evolution and Human Behavior, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2023.02.006.
  • Macken Murphy. (2023, November 1). Gossiping for Mates | Dr. Tania Reynolds | Species Podcast [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIzghRqqbnQ
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