My wife and I visited Aruba a few weeks ago, the One Happy Little Island! It is an amazing place to visit, the beaches were gorgeous, food was great, and totally relaxing. In preparing for the trip, I also planned a few biohacks I would want to do before and during the trip. The term biohacking is part of an art of controlling your surroundings to improve your performance. While travelling you can expect whole new environments to try to work in your favor. Knowing we would be getting extra sun exposure was a key area of focus, aside from my normal focus on nutrition.
Sun protection is key due to skin cancer concerns, however, this advice is often conflicted by the fact that Vitamin D is so darn important. So I set out to try to understand how to improve the quality of my sun exposure. A supplement I stumbled across is Astaxanthin, which is an antioxidant member of the carotenoid family (think carrots and tomatoes). Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring substance responsible for the red color in salmon and krill. This supplement is reported to be protective from sunlight and extend the amount of time you can spend in the sun without turning red. So, for the weeks prior to our trip to Aruba, my wife and I started a daily supplement of this substance.
I definitely didn’t want to rely on Astaxanthin as my only protection, so I went to the EWG’s list of approved sunblocks to stock up on ones that avoid many of the risky chemicals in conventional sunblock. I ordered a few different brands, because we had used the Badger brand before and it didn’t spread well.
Finally, if we were outside not intentionally absorbing sunlight, I made sure I was always wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect my face and neck from exposure, which are the most common places people get sunburn. I didn’t care if I looked like a dorky tourist, I definitely didn’t want to get a burn on my moneymaker (face).
When we arrived on the island, I really geeked out when I found out the island had an amazing supply of Gouda cheese! Not only is Gouda a delicious type of cheese, but it contains the highest Vitamin K2 content than all other cheeses. Why is this important? Well, K2 has been shown to be synergistic with the effects of Vitamin D, and having the right balance of K2 and D will help prevent Vitamin D toxicity. So as you are basking in the sunlight, enjoying some gouda cheese will be synergistic. Also, the fat from the cheese will help the body absorb both of these fat-soluble nutrients.
I put my Astaxanthin to the test one day by intentionally laying out in direct sun for 25 minutes without sunscreen. Afterwards I retreated to the shade, and allowed my newly produced Vitamin D soak in for 20 minutes. Then I applied sunscreen and we went in the water for a little while. I did get mottled redness around my shoulders, collarbone, and one forearm, but overall I did really good. I think the combination of being in the sun without sunscreen and being in the water losing some sunscreen caused my mild burn. So the Astaxanathin proved not to be a miracle skin protector, but I would like to think it helped avoid more severe sunburns.
Afterwards, I was able to apply some Aruba Aloe to my burns by using the free samples from the storefronts peppered across the island.
I found it quite easy to stick to my diet on the island. Most of our meals we prepared ourselves in the condo, having stopped at the grocery store on the first day to stock up for the week. The grocery store had a great name!
When we did go out to dinner, I also had an easy time sticking to my diet. I typically ordered the French Onion soup, and pulled all the bread out and ate everything else. The bread really looks nasty when it is dissociated from the rest of the soup. My meals were usually the fresh catch fish from the island, vegetables, and I always substituted the starch for extra vegetables! As a bonus, I asked for extra butter with my meals, and they came out with a server full of pre-melted butter! It was great!
Aruba turned out to be an amazing trip. The beaches, sunlight, and scenery were beautiful. On top of that, I felt great by maximizing the benefits of the sunlight and nutrition sources on the island.
Thanks for reading!