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Experiments With Life

Posted by on June 21, 2008

I’ve always been the guy that if I read something scientific that’s either beneficial to me or just sounds really cool, I’ll give it a shot. I remember back in highschool I read an article about the aphrodisiac effects of eating celery. (Check out a similar article HERE.) For weeks I would show up at my friends house to go out and while they were downing 6 cans of liquid courage I would be on my fourth stalk of celery. Thinking back now, I don’t remember ever tracking the results of that experiment, but I do remember learning that celery has a lot of fiber. Think about that.

Then there was the time where I was told by a work colleague about a 100% natural ancient Peruvian herb that is supposed to skyrocket your sex drive and essentially make you insatiable. I had a girlfriend at this point in my life so I was quick to sign up for this one. The herb itself is an adaptagen that slowly integrates itself into your body to also help cope with mental and physical stress. So I started out with two pills a day and slowly made my way up to four a day. (2 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner) At one point I made the mistake of drinking an espresso while taking this herb and let me tell you, I felt like I was a super hero. I remember sitting at my desk in the open concept office I used to work in and I felt as if I had super hearing. Believe me, I know it sounds ridiculous, but bare with me. I could hear a girl behind me making a personal call and chatting with a friend about what she was up to that weekend. As I was the manager at the time I turned around to give her the ‘ol “Get back to work” glare and sure enough she was at the other end of the office maybe 30ft away, on the other side of 5-10 other sales reps. I’m telling you, Super Hero. As for the sex drive portion of this experiment, lets just say I had to stop taking it because it was just too much, my libido could have been described as driving a Ferrari on rocket fuel with a bottomless gas tank.

My latest experiment comes from a Men’s Health Article entitled The World’s Most Effective Diet. The entire article is about the authors lifestyle of fasting once a week, typically for 36 hours. Let me preface this experience by saying I am the LAST person I’d ever expect to try a 24-hr fast. I LOVE eating. Every aspect. Every minute. Every second. Just LOVE IT. But the part of the tag line that got me interested in the first place is that in his research the author found zero side effects to fasting, and it actually makes eating the foods you love that much more enjoyable. So, if this prophet claims he can make a veal parmigiana sandwich with peppers and mushrooms MORE enjoyable for me AND improve my health, who am I to not test his theory.

The article recommends building up to 36 hour fasts, but I wasn’t that ambitious yesterday. So I decided to try a full 24 hours and see how it goes. I figured if I can make it 24 hours without punching a baby or eating our family cat, then I’d know I could eventually handle the 36 hour haul.

Here’s some quick facts about how fasting improves your overall health:

Mitochondria inside your body’s cells use carbohydrates to make cell fuel. The molecular by-product: free radicals that damage DNA, impair cellular function, and promote cancer. Here’s how fasting may help.

1. Fewer free radicals During a fast, the mitochondria, sensing a lack of food, become more efficient. Like a cleaner-burning fire, they start producing fewer free radicals per calorie burned, says Eric Ravussin, Ph.D., a clinical investigator at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

2. More antioxidants The diminishing number of free radicals is met by an increase in antioxidant production within your cells. These enzymes “search and destroy free radicals,” says Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health.

3. Stronger cells This cleaner calorie-burning also produces a surge in beneficial stress hormones, such as cortisol and growth hormone. “Exercise during a fast and the increase is even greater,” says Ravussin, adding that the hormones prepare cells for worse stresses. “They’ll better resist tumors and rebound faster from a heart attack.”

I found the above super motivating for me, especially since I typically don’t stop eating throughout the day. I’m that guy that’s always munching on something. Fruits, nuts, a sandwich, a salad, a protein shake, there’s really no end. So at 1pm after finishing a rather large shake I decided that other than water I wouldn’t consume anything else until 1pm the next day and then spend Friday and Saturday eating only fruits and vegetables for added “fun”.

This task seemed rather daunting when at 4pm all I could think of were the six chicken breasts waiting for me in the fridge. I’ll admit that I nearly quit then, and twice without thinking I washed and nearly bit into an apple before catching myself. Thankfully from 6-8pm I had to attend my little brother’s Grade 8 Graduation so only in fleeting moments did I realize how hungry I was. But the true test of will power came at 830pm when I offered to take my brother and some of his buddies to McDonald’s for a quick bite before their graduation dance started. I don’t like McDonalds and rarely eat there, but standing at the counter listening to them order made my stomach leap into contractions that felt like I was certain to give birth to triplets.

Around 10pm I think my body began to accept what was going on. My earlier headache was now a numbed sensation and as I sat in front of my computer I quickly realized concentrating on a blog post was out of the question. I accepted I was going to go completely through with this fast and so I found a movie to watch online until I was tired enough to go to sleep.

My brain, I believe mimicking the fight my body was currently battling internally gave me nothing but dreams of war and fear. At one moment I woke up startled and scared from a particular hellish nightmare. By 930am I was out of bed and trying to find things to do that required zero brain power but would kill time until 1pm. Thank you Arrested Development and Facebook.

Surprisingly when the fast was over I felt like I could easily go another 6 hours but it was starting to bug me that I couldn’t even concentrate long enough to read a four page magazine article. So at 1pm I drove to a friend’s condo as she had made some superb veggie ground round and salsa burritos that were eaten like goldfish in a piranha tank. So after I inhaled 3 above-average sized burritos, a half bowl of cherries, some strawberries, and a little apple pie I was feeling a lot better. We then discussed if eating so much after a fast was a good idea, and though neither of us knew the answer we decided it was likely not the best move, but I was already full and didn’t particularly care.

After being off the fast for nearly 12 hours now, I notice that I feel much calmer and clearer than I have in months. I even fell into the deepest, darkest nap later this afternoon. It felt like I had been out for 2 minutes and it was an hour, I was shocked and totally refreshed.

Another aspect of the article that acted as further inspiration for this experience was a part of the logical reasoning. There is a theory that states, “without digestion of food to deal with, the liver can scrub the blood, ridding it of pesticides, food additives, and other toxins. These exit through your pores, sinuses, colon, and urine.” By my 22nd hour I could feel some toxins beginning to rise to the surface. Identically to the author’s story my tongue coated over with a white film, and my breath was not pleasant; its said these are classic signs of detoxification. I believe if I would have went the full 36 hours though I would have seen a skin breakout as well, but that’s speculative.

Now here I sit at my dinner table at 2am, twelve hours after hitting the 24 hour mark and I feel fantastic. Clear, healthy, and uber serene. I plan to wait a couple weeks before trying again, and at least a month before attempting the 36 hour fast. But if I do that one, I’ll be sure to record my experience.

I highly suggest the 24 hour fast. Its not only a matter of health and a great test of will power, but the end results so far are impressive to say the least. If anyone else out there has done this, I would love to hear your experiences as well.

If you have any ideas for further life experiments you think I may be interested in, please let me know.

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