Imagine a Thanksgiving where you're not left feeling bloated, sluggish, and wanting to take a nap before the pie is even served. For many, this vision may seem elusive, as traditional Thanksgiving feasts are often associated with indulgence and post-meal lethargy. However, in the world of biohacking, the approach to Thanksgiving is one of strategic optimization — a balance between savoring the joy of the holiday by applying intentional choices to minimize toxins and blood sugar rollercoasters and maximizing flavor and gratitude.
Meal planning and movement before and after Thanksgiving matters.
Quality ingredients may help minimize the digestive discomfort after Thanksgiving dinner.
Practice gratitude, enjoy family time, and remember that one day of indulgence is okay. You can get back on track the next day.
So, can Thanksgiving be biohacked? We talked to a couple of well-known biohackers, and turns out that with a thoughtful blend of nutrition, supplements, and mindful practices, you can create a holiday celebration that not only satisfies the taste buds but also aligns with the principles of biohacking.
Strategic meal and movement planning
When you are a biohacker, every meal is an opportunity for optimization, and Thanksgiving is no exception. Renowned biohacker and best-selling author Dave Asprey recommends starting the day with a breakfast rich in high-quality animal protein, strategically designed to prevent overindulgence later on.
“While I’m big on intermittent fasting most days, having a breakfast consisting of 30–50 grams of high-quality animal protein can keep you from overeating at your Thanksgiving feast later in the day,” Asprey said, noting that in addition to that, right before dinner, he usually does a workout that only takes him a few minutes — "it will prime my muscles for taking advantage of the food I’m going to eat, rather than sending it straight to fat stores.”
A traditional Thanksgiving meal will likely leave you with blood sugar spikes followed by a rapid drop in glucose, causing you to feel tired. “To avoid this, go for a 20–30 minute walk with your family after your meal. Studies show that exercise after a meal significantly reduces post-meal glucose spikes,” he said.
Plus, to get back on track the next day, Asprey said he usually does a longer fast with coffee and essential minerals.
Ingredient substitutions for healthier options
Another aspect of biohacking Thanksgiving involves making ingredient substitutions in traditional dishes to minimize inflammation and blood sugar spikes. Asprey said he prefers swapping turkey for grass-fed beef roast to minimize inflammatory omega-6 fats for more healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3s and brain-boosting saturated fats. He added, “if you have your heart set on turkey, find one that is pasture-raised and organic." He also enjoys replacing potatoes with mashed cauliflower to avoid lectins that may cause joint pain for many people, him being one of them. He said these substitutions aim to reduce inflammatory elements and enhance the nutritional profile of the meal.
Lauren Sambataro, functional health coach and co-host of the Biohacker Babes podcast, is a fan of coconut milk as a substitution for dairy: “I think more people have a sensitivity to dairy than would like to admit,” she said, noting that “it's a great base for adding warming-winter spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and has a great satiety profile that is more gut-friendly.” Additionally, she said that coconut milk is a great source of vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and selenium.
What about dessert? You don’t have to say goodbye to your pumpkin pie, Asprey said. “You can make it a little more biohacker-friendly by swapping the sugar for allulose or monk fruit (sweeteners that won’t spike your blood sugar) and by using a gluten-free crust made with rice flour instead of wheat flour,” he explained.
Supplementation for digestive optimization
Thanksgiving feasts often end with overeating, food coma, and digestive discomfort due to potential toxins in the food. However, Sambataro and Asprey said certain supplements can help mitigate their impact and enhance digestion.
"These toxins not only make you feel hungover, but they also hijack your brain, causing intense sugar cravings"Dave Asprey
When you eat a toxin, your brain asks for more sugar for energy to help your body safely remove it. “After a questionable meal, I like to take a few capsules of activated charcoal to soak up any toxins that may have been present,” he said.
While Asprey also adds digestive enzymes to help offset poor digestion, Sambataro has a couple of not-so-traditional menu items to do just that: “I love bitter foods for supporting liver function, so I almost always add an arugula or shaved brussels salad to the start of my Thanksgiving meal.” She also makes a pre-Thanksgiving tonic to prime glucose and stimulate digestion as well as liver and gallbladder function. For the holidays, she combines apple cider vinegar, a dash of low-sugar tonic, lemon squeeze, angostura or dietary bitters, cinnamon, and sea salt.
Mindful eating practices
Gratitude and mindful eating are integral components of biohacking Thanksgiving. Both Asprey and Sambataro emphasized the importance of gratitude and how differently your body might react to that feast when surrounded by loved ones.
Asprey said that gratitude is one of the most impactful biohacks in his arsenal. “Make it a point to share what you’re thankful for with loved ones. Studies show that gratitude literally rewires your brain and makes you a more positive person,” he emphasized.
In addition to that, Sambataro highlighted how much the setting in which one eats their food impacts their glucose response. Using a continuous glucose monitor, she discovered that when sitting around a table with friends and family, expressing gratitude, laughing, and having a good time, her nervous system set the stage for an optimal glucose response no matter what she ate.
”I have run experiments where I eat the same turkey day meal the following day, except I eat alone, at lunchtime, and much faster, and my glucose response goes through the roof, whereas on Thanksgiving it stays quite stable,” she said, noting that eating in a parasympathetic nervous system state makes the world of a difference.
Quality over quantity
Biohacking is inherently individualized, and quality often outweighs quantity — this principle applies to Thanksgiving as well. Ten years ago, Sambataro used to be much more restrictive on Thanksgiving, worrying about overeating, glucose spikes, and energy dips.
Now, she said she focuses on the quality of ingredients and indulges in almost all of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. “Sourcing real, whole foods, naturally low in sugar, animal proteins free of hormones and pesticides, and produce that is organic, GMO-free, and pesticide-free, allows me to enjoy an indulgent meal without feeling terrible,” she said.
Can Thanksgiving be biohacked?
The overarching theme in biohacking Thanksgiving is finding a balance between indulgence and optimization. Biohackers recognize that holidays are times for celebration and enjoyment, but they also seek ways to mitigate potential negative impacts on their health. This balance involves making conscious choices without sacrificing the joy of the occasion.
For some, it involves going straight to the pie and skipping the casserole. “It sweet potato casserole is a blood glucose bomb!!! I find most Thanksgiving pies are more primed for a better glucose response, so I skip the casserole and go for the pie,” Sambataro said.
"Let go of perfection, have some enzymes and activated charcoal, and get right back to your regular diet the next day"Dave Asprey
If your grandma’s casserole is your favorite and too good to miss out on, it’s okay to enjoy it.