Biohacking with Peptides for Health and Mental Clarity
We’ve all heard stories of elders who remained active, with sharp memories well into their old age. There are also more fantastical stories like those of Methuselah, Ponce de Leon and the fountain of youth, or even Highlander, where humans live to extraordinary ages through one means or another. While these tales are either fiction, far fetched or sometimes manipulative fabrications, some are true and we’re left wondering if there is anything beyond genetics that has helped these folks live so long and stay in such good shape.
Of course, I don’t claim to have all the magic answers, nor do I even want to live forever. The implications of such longevity would be complicated and lead to many problems and philosophical questions. I also need to state that I’m not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. This is about my personal research and experiences so far. My goals have been to heal stubborn injuries and to improve my general health and wellbeing, especially after the stress and bad habits that grad school brought along with it.
I searched the internet, explored body-builder forums, bio-hacking discussions, and blog posts by the likes of Ben Greenfield and others. I saw the downsides of steroids, which are mainly used for body-building, and of their relatives the SARMS, or selective androgen receptor modulators, which are usually used by the same communities. Of course, I lift weights myself and I’m not writing this to attack those communities.
Anyway, the main question for me was: is there a way I can live better and possibly a little longer, beyond just improving my exercise and diet? After all, it’s no good living to 95 if you’re stuck in bed and can’t take care of yourself. Specifically, I’ll list my aims below:
- Better injury recovery
- Improved mental clarity andrecovery from chronic stress
- Overall better sense of well-being
- General health and longevity
Enter the Peptides
As Wikipedia explains, Peptides are short chains of 2–50 amino acids linked by peptide bonds. They are akin to very short proteins, and like proteins there are different kinds and qualities of peptides with different effects on the human body. But while proteins are longer molecules and get broken down in the stomach, peptides are small enough to interact with specific receptors inside our bodies. I initially learned about them on reddit where there is an active community discussion, but then read more from research studies (linked below) and websites like PeptideSciences, which collates studies for easy reading. Many of the studies involved using peptides for healing or treatment of chronic diseases, so my interest was peaked.
In my case, I wanted to try to heal my shoulder, which had been hurting since a nasty bike crash in October when I crashed into some poorly-marked wet cement in the bike lane here in Chicago (yeah, it was hilarious to see). I should have seen the doctor, but Covid-19 spiked that November and appointments at the hospital were hard to come by. I’d also injured this shoulder before during Tae-Kwon-Do as a teenager, and later during other activities, so it has a checkered history at best. My second goal was to clear some of my brain-fog and improve my focus at bit at work. I searched around, read studies, dove into Wikipedia articles, and double checked for side-effects. And after that phase I finally dove in and tried them. These are the compounds I found and tried out, and how they have helped me so far:
- BPC-157: Also know as body-protective compound, this peptide is found naturally in the human gut. Studies so far have been relatively limited, with some done in Russia, and early animal results looking promising. Early studies show promising results for wound healing and improving bowel disorders. I’ve used this for almost two months now and while my shoulder has not fully healed, my longterm stomach pain is completely gone. It can be taken orally, but is more effective if used subcutaneously, and I generally used 250–500 mcg (micrograms=10^-6 grams) a day for about 8 weeks, sometimes taking weekends off to give my body a break.
- TB-500: This peptide (and its cousin Thymosin Beta 4) is often used alongside BPC-157 and many on reddit and other forums will swear by the combination. While I haven’t personally noticed the benefits, there are indications that it also helps with wound healing and blood vessel generation. I used about 500mcg daily for 3–4 weeks, although many people only use it a few times a week as the half-life is longer in the body.
- GHK-Cu: This copper-containing peptide is actually found in skin creams and is used to promote healthy skin, but can also be used subcutaneously. It stimulates blood vessel and nerve outgrowth, increases collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycan synthesis, and generally improves tissue repair. The dose is often 1–2mg, though I used less, and users sometimes report stinging and soreness — which was also true in my case. As copper and zinc work together in the body, I also took a zinc supplement with this, which I had been during to cold-prevention during Covid anyway. I have used this for less than a week so I can’t report results yet.
- Semax: Semax is a peptide known for its nootropic, neuroprotective, and neurorestorative properties and is available over the counter in Russia and in some stores in the United States — in this case as a nasal spray. However, as with other peptides here it is generally faster acting and more effective if used subcutaneously. As Wikipedia explains, the uses for Semax include treatment of stroke, transient ischemic attack, memory and cognitive disorders, peptic ulcers, optic nerve diseases, and as a booster to the immune system. There are related compounds, including Selank, NA-Semax, and NA-Semax Amidate. The last one is the one I tried, and it is meant to last longer, with more potent effects. I used this over two weeks, between 100–400 mcg a day, and have periodically used smaller doses since for about a month total. The first day, I immediately noticed a clearer head and better focus along with mild euphoria. Though that initial effect wore off, the mental clarity has stayed with me and I believe it has helped mitigate the effects of some of my longterm stress, questionable diet, and alcohol consumption during graduate school.
- MK-677: MK-677 is not a peptide, but rather an orally bioavailable “nonpeptide” and a mimic of GH-releasing peptides. Essentially, is stimulates hunger and encourages the body to release more growth hormone in a somewhat similar fashion to fasting. While excess growth hormone can be unhealthy, it’s also well-documented that growth hormone diminishes with age, leading to lower bone density, muscle wasting, and other deleterious effects. MK-677 shows promising results for treating these symptoms of aging, though of course it’s no fountain of youth either. In my case, I experienced hunger and deeper sleep (two common side effects) but didn’t notice a huge difference. This can be taken orally, which makes it appealing to many people. I bought sixty capsules and used them at half a dose, or once a day, for 12.5 mg total. I felt an overall improved sense of well-being and general recovery from exercise, although I can’t say my shoulder is healed yet.
- Epithalon: Epithalon is an anti-aging peptide being studied and developed by the St. Petersburg Institute of Bioregulation and Gerontology, along with other research groups. It is taken to lengthen and protect telomeres, which shorten with age and are associated with increased cancer risk. In terms of direct effects on me, this one was the most subtle and least noticeable. Epithalon may help prevent some symptoms of aging and there are indications from studies that it reduces cancer risk.
Although none of these peptides should have influenced my testosterone, I had my testosterone and several other hormones tested before and after these experiences just in case and the tests came out normal afterward, and in fact somewhat better than before. The peptides may have helped, but I suspect it’s also thanks in part to the warm weather and increased exercise I’m getting.
How Peptides are Used
As noted above, some peptides are taken orally, but many are injected subcutaneously. Naturally, this is the step that causes many people to hesitate. There are risks of infection with injections, and one needs to take care and prepare things in a sterile environment. There’s also an association with steroids and with intravenous drug use, so I think people naturally have such caution. It’s worth noting, however, that clinics are now prescribing and preparing all of these compounds (and many more) for patients in the US, Canada, and abroad. Some quick google searches will turn up lots of results and interesting information. Working with a professional makes it safer and ensures proper precautions are taken. The downside, of course, is that it’s expensive and insurance won’t cover many of these treatments — hence my previous post.
So how does this work? First, the peptides will usually arrive as powder or pucks in small vacuum sealed vials. I initially started with BPC-157 and TB-500, which arrived like the vials pictured below. From there, I needed to reconstitute them with bacteriostatic water. This is simply sterile water that has 0.9% benzyl alcohol added to inhibit bacterial growth. It’s a common ingredient in skincare products and cosmetics, so it’s not difficult to come by. Some users buy the bacteriostatic water online, which is expensive, and in the past it was available from pharmacies, but it’s difficult to find these days. In my case, I made my own from distilled water and benzyl alcohol purchased on Amazon. A gallon of water is 3785.41 ml, so I added 35 ml of benzyl alcoohol, measured using a 100ml syringe.
From there, I reconstituted the peptides with the water. First, I used rubbing alcohol to sterilize my workspace and the tops of the vials, then slowly injected 100 ml three times per vial, nearly filling each one. The math here can be confusing, but once you get the hang of it it’s not too bad. BPC-157, for example, comes in 5 mg vials. The dose is 250 mcg twice a day, or 5% of our bottle per dose. How did I know that (other than using a calculator)? Well, 500 mcg is 0.1*5mg, or ten percent of our bottle, so 250 is half that, or 5%. If I injected 100 ml into the vial, it would be super easy — I’d just need 5ml. When I filled the vial with 300 ml, I multiplied by 3, for 15ml per dose. From there, I stored the reconstituted peptides in the fridge in two layers of plastic bags to keep them cool and isolated from the food and other contaminants.
When ready to use them, I wiped down the tops of the bottles with rubbing alcohol, and then my shoulder or arm, and slowly injected beneath the skin. And that’s it! Sometimes there’s a little pain or soreness, especially with the GHK-Cu, but usually not too bad.
Overall, peptides have really helped me out, essentially with ending a decade of stomach issues that doctors either rolled their eyes at or prescribed unhelpful medicine for. They’ve also helped with mental clarity and sleep. I’d like to say they healed my shoulder or made me stronger, but I think my improvements there have been just as much from getting out more and going to the gym now that I’m vaccinated.
While I’m writing this, a few additional things have helped me out:
- Whey protein powder — to help repair muscles after workouts. Research shows this stuff works.
- Collagen supplements — to keep my skin healthy and help repair tissues and ligaments. You might think this would break down in the stomach, but early research shows it helps strengthen skin and my skin definitely seems firmer and more resilient.
- Intermittent fasting — fasting can help folks lose weight and begin the processes of ketogenesis and autophagy, where bodies break down fat and old broken components, and even release growth hormone. But it’s best done with adequate electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium to protect the heart and muscles. Electrolyte imbalances during fasting can cause people to pass out or even die.
- Healthier diet — I’ve been trying to eat less pizza and sugary snacks and more vegetables and lean proteins. If you check any body-building forums or biohacking discussions, folks will often say to start here.
- Exercise — for strength, health, and well-being. This one is a no-brainer as well, and healthy hearts and lungs help protect against serious covid symptoms and other diseases. But as well all know, hitting the gym hasn’t always been an option during the pandemic.
From here, I’m planning to wrap up the experiment and give my body a break. So far the results have been promising, but the consensus with clinics and doctors seems to be that it’s good to take some time off and let your body return to normal. As with caffeine, alcohol, or other substances, sometimes a tolerance break can do wonders. However, down the road I may try peptides again, especially as more information and studies come out and promising compounds are discovered.