The weekly fast isn’t an extreme money-saving move by a scrappy, bootstrapping company. Instead, Nootrobox team members swear withholding food for 36 hours — they stop eating Monday night — improves their workplace focus and concentration.
“We’re actually super productive on Tuesdays,” co-founder and CEO Geoffrey Woo said. “It’s hard at first, but we literally adopted it as part of the company culture.”
Woo and other entrepreneurs are using fasts and other tricks to “hack” their brain chemistry like they would a computer, hoping to give themselves an edge as they strive to dream up the next billion-dollar idea. Known by insiders as “biohacking,” the push for cognitive self-improvement is gaining momentum in the Silicon Valley tech world, where workers face constant pressure to innovate and produce at the highest levels.
Some use vitamins or other nutritional supplements known as nootropics or “smart drugs” to improve their cognitive function. Others have a more expansive view of brain-enhancers, taking off-label prescription drugs, small doses of LSD or Russian pharmaceuticals not approved for consumption in the U.S. Like-minded entrepreneurs exchange dosage tips via online message boards such as Reddit, which has almost 73,000 readers on its Nootropics thread.
“Entrepreneurs and executives and investors are not normal people,” said San Francisco-based Dr. Molly Maloof, who emphasizes nutritional supplements with her biohacking clients — C-suite employees at top-tier Silicon Valley tech companies. “They are like high-performance race cars that are nonstop moving, and they need pit stops more often than normal people.”
Research into the cognitive benefits of nootropics is still in its early stages, and some experts worry about the long-term health effects of ingesting potent synthetic smart drugs, which are largely unregulated. Some users have reported side effects including headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety and depression.