January 5, 2015
Alright folks, this is officially it. Sit back, grab a bottle of booze and get ready to be entertained. Exactly 30 days ago, I told you all about one lucky guy named Jason Sissel, who volunteered to guinea pig himself by quitting alcohol cold turkey and doing before and after blood tests with WellnessFX.
You can click here to read Part 1, in which you get to see how messed up Jason was from his daily habit of a few glasses of wine, mixed in with some beer and hard alcohol here and there. You can also click here to read Jason's blog post “30 Days, No Alcohol Biohack–Thoughts at the Midpoint”.
And now, in Part 2, I'm going to reveal exactly what happened to Jason's internal biology over the past 30 days. Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below the article!
Finally, if you'd like to run your own 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment, you can order your two Baseline blood testing packages (exactly what Jason got) from WellnessFX here. And at checkout, you can even include a 20-minute nutritionist consultation for personalized recommendations you can implement immediately. Click here to get this blood testing package now.
I knew these results weren't going to be a yawner when I saw this Facebook post from Jason Sissel on December 23, exactly 30 days after he quit his daily alcohol intake:
Now, let's jump into the nitty-gritty screenshots from Jason's WellnessFX lab dashboard (click here to download Jason's full WellnessFX blood results).
We'll start with triglycerides. Before, I noted that:
“…Jason's Triglyceride to HDL ratio (one of the first values I pay attention to on a lipid panel) is very high, at 5.9 (I like to see it below 1!). Excess triglycerides can be stored in blood vessels, contributing to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Higher amounts of HDL can carry these fatty deposits away from blood vessels and be protective. So the ratio of triglycerides to HDL can be a valuable measure to help predict cardiovascular risk.
Due to it's high fructose content, most forms of alcohol can shove triglycerides through the roof. Alcohol has an especially significant additive effect on the postprandial (after a meal) triglyceride peak when it accompanies a meal containing fat, especially saturated fat. This results from a decrease in the breakdown of cholesterol due to an acute inhibitory effect of alcohol on the activity of the crucial fat burning enzyme lipoprotein lipase.
Alcohol also increases the synthesis of large VLDL particles in the liver, which is the main source of triglycerides in the high triglyceride state so often seen with chronic excessive alcohol intake.”
Now check out the results below. Jason's triglycerides plummeted from 386 to 113, with absolutely no dietary changes other than the elimination of alcohol.
Next, let's look at Jason's ApoB, a protein that can help LDL cholesterol bind to and clog blood vessels. Jason saw a significant drop in ApoB (142 to 118), indicating a significant improvement in cardiovascular health.
Next, let's look at blood sugar. Before, I noted that:
“…Jason has high fasted blood glucose and high hemoglobin A1c (a 3 month snapshot of his average blood sugar levels). Since alcoholic drinks contain high amounts of sugar from both glucose and fructose sources, this is no surprise. In an active athlete like Jason, I'd expect to see fasted glucose levels that are below 90, but instead, he appears to have chronically elevated blood sugar levels and is relying upon carbohydrates (not fat) for energy. In Jason's resting metabolic rate results farther below, you'll see that this is indeed the case.”
However, now look at Jasons HbA1c values! They dropped from 5.7 to 5.4, another significant improvement in an important metabolic marker.
Now comes a big one: thyroid.
I had noted before that:
“…Jason has a very elevated TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). TSH triggers the thyroid gland in your neck to produce thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which are crucial for your body's use of energy. The amount of functioning thyroid hormones gives your brain feedback as to how much TSH to release, so the brain will release less or more TSH as it senses is necessary. Low thyroid function can cause weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance and brain fog.
Prior to this test, Jason was aware that he was hypothyroid, and is currently on 75mcg per day of Synthroid (Levothyroxine). This is definitely not my top pick for thyroid supplementation, as it is a synthetic form of thyroid and contains only one of the two major thyroid hormones: T4. I'm a much bigger fan of a full spectrum of thyroid hormones that includes T1, T2, T3 and T4. In the past, I've recommend natural thyroid replacement supplements such as ThyroGold for this reason.
While alcohol isn't always the culprit when it comes to low thyroid function, it can certainly play a role. It has been shown to cause direct suppression of thyroid function by cellular toxicity, and indirect suppression by blunting the release of an important thyroid-related hormone called thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). With elevated chronic use, it can also cause a decrease of peripheral thyroid hormones like T3 and T4, primarily due to it's deleterious effect on liver and gut conversion of thyroid hormones to their active form.
My guess is that Jason experiences a distinct drop in TSH after 30 days, indicated improved thyroid function.”
Jason's TSH drop was shocking. He went from a clinically concerning 4.73 down to a 2.44, indicating a huge shift in his thyroid hormone production capabilities. This alone has influenced me personally to be careful to limit myself to the “one glass of wine” rule as a consistent habit, and if you're concerned about your own thyroid, you should definitely pay attention to this one.
The changes in Jason's liver enzymes should come as no surprise. Before, I said:
….”As I would have expected due to his level of alcohol consumption, Jason has elevated liver enzymes. His Alanine Aminotransferase, or ALT, is especially elevated. This is an enzyme in liver cells, and liver damage or disease causes a release of ALT from the liver cells, increasing the amount in the blood. AST and ALP are found in cells other than liver cells, while ALT is more specific to liver cells.
High alcohol intake and high body fat percentages can both increase liver enzymes. I suspect we'll see some very favorable decreases in Jason's liver enzymes at the end of 30 days.”
Now check out the charts below. His enzymes dropped significantly across the board. Jason's liver is shouting an enormous thank-you. It's amazing how your body's primary filters can bounce back when you just give them a chance.
Before, I noted on Jason's White Blood Cell (WBC) results that
“…An abnormally high amount of eosinophils in the blood can suggest a variety of different problems, such as allergies or infections, and I often see this in individuals who are A) eating lots of foods that create autoimmune issues, such as commercial wheat, soy, or dairy; B) have some kind of a gut infection, such as bacterial overgrowth or a parasite…”
You can see that Jason's eosinophil count dropped from 8.1 to 7.3, possibly indicating less autoimmune activity (a good thing!). I'm not entirely convinced that this drop in WBC's is extremely significant, or related to the drop in alcohol intake, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Regarding Jason's Vitamin D levels, I originally wrote that Jason's…
“…Vitamin D is low…really low. Ideal ranges for Vitamin D are 40-80 and he is at 11. It is well known in nutritional science that drinking too much alcohol can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and activate Vitamin D.
Vitamin D only becomes physiologically active after it’s been chemically modified in the liver and kidneys. Since the liver must carry the majority of the burden of alcohol metabolism, excessive alcohol consumption puts an unhealthy overload on the liver and makes it less able to perform its other duties. This overload on the liver can eventually result in a number of disorders, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. By compromising normal liver function, alcohol interferes with the conversion of both dietary (from food) and endogenous (from sunlight) vitamin D into its active forms. As a consequence, heavy drinkers will tend to have low blood levels of vitamin D.
Jason will not be adding any extra Vitamin D supplementation over the next 30 days or increasing his sunlight exposure significantly, so it will be interesting to see how cutting alcohol affects his Vitamin D.”
As you can see below, despite no supplementation with Vitamin D, Jason's Vitamin D climbed from 11 to 18 in just 30 days – which is extremely significant.
Before & After Photos
You probably noticed above that Jason lost 8.8 pounds of body weight. If you'd like to see what that amount of weight loss looks like qualitatively in photo form, then behold the before and after photos below.
Finally, here is Jason's own post with his thoughts on the experience and his feelings on the highlights of cutting alcohol for 30 days.
After reviewing Jason's results, I'm personally inspired to back off my alcohol intake a bit. While I enjoy my nightly glass of red wine, and see no issues with the “glass a day” habit, I am certainly going to think twice before pouring myself a second glass, and although in the past, I'd go out and have two to five drinks every few weeks or so, I am also going to be limiting that amount of partying or binging I do in 2015.
After all, I think you can have quite a bit of fun without going on a bender, and without deleteriously affecting your blood glucose, liver health, thyroid, metabolism and immune system in the way that we've learned by looking at Jason's results.
Then, as I always do, I'm also going to spend the first 30 days of January doing a simple, mild detox. For me personally, this means one or two 20-24 hour fasts, along with very limited amounts of alcohol, 30 days of Metal-Free heavy metal detox spray, and finally 2 NatureCleanse Detox & Gut Cleanser each morning with 2 NatureCleanse Detox & Gut Cleanser each evening.
If you want to peruse my other detoxing articles and materials, and the rationale behind my personal yearly detox, here are the best resources I've created on the topic:
–Is Detoxing Really A Myth? (article)
–How To Detox For Active People (article)
–How To Detox – A Quick Primer On How To Cleanse Your Body For The New Year (Without Going To Some Expensive Resort On A Mountaintop (article)
–How To Fix Your Gut: 9 Bad Things That Happen When Your Digestion Goes Wrong, How To Hit The Reboot Button & The Best Way To Detox Your Body (article)
–Detox Special Podcast: The 8 Most Popular Detox Diets, How To Detox, A Detox Q&A, And Much More! (podcast)
–What Is Detoxification and How Can You Detox Your Body? (podcast)
Feel free to include any detox questions below this post. I'm happy to help walk you through the details, and a detox protocol would be perfect to include along with limited alcohol intake for at least one month out of every year.
And like I mentioned earlier, if you'd like to run your own 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment, you can order your two Baseline blood testing packages (exactly what Jason got) from WellnessFX here. And at checkout, you can even include a 20-minute nutritionist consultation for personalized recommendations you can implement immediately. Click here to get this blood testing package now.
So what do you think? Would YOU quit alcohol for 30 days? Have you done it before and if so, what happened? Leave your questions, comments and feedback below!
54 thoughts on “The 30 Days No Alcohol Experiment: Part 2 (What Happens When You Quit Alcohol Cold Turkey).”
Ben, I just discovered this article, and your website and while I’m not sure if you will be notified of this post on such an old blog post, I thought would ask anyway. Could you elaborate a bit on your statement in the first part of “All that bread, cheese, grain, sugar and dairy isn’t doing Jason any favors, and is in fact likely oxidizing that big portion of morning fat from the butter coffee he’s drinking, rendering his breakfast into an artery-clogging nuclear bomb.” I’m assuming that the benefits of keto from the Bulletproof Coffee are nullified by standard American diet choices? Would that apply to most keto choices, go strictly compliant or you’ll do more harm than good? Thanks.
Can you post actual WBC and lymphocyte counts- before and after? eosinophil count is interesting but would like to see full CBC
Did you hear anything about this? I’m also curious about WBC and Neutrophils!
There are two many variables that your leaving out. If you follow a ketogenic diet you can have far more latitude in drinking simply because your consuming so much less sugar. I consue no sugar or carbs and lift extremely heavy weight. One of the benefits I guess
I drink two to three strong glasses of red wine each night.
I cut out all alcohol six weeks ago, after one month, brain fog lifted. Feel great and sleep better. Used to drink two pints beer and two-three big glasses red wine a night. 5’7″ and 165 lbs….now 159 lbs.
October 29, 2016
Today, I stop for a minimum of 30 days. 61 years old, 195 lbs. Have various issues, financial, job the most pressing. Tired of feeling lousy, am also frequently sick with colds and sinus troubles.
Awesome! And good luck!
Great story. I am almost 48, 5’9″, and I exercise at least 5 days a week. I have dealt with some challenges over the last three years. I am currently going through my own transformation, which includes zero alcohol I started on April 19, 2016. My first weighin was on April 27 (every Thursday ). I have lost eight (8) pounds. I did have labs completed prior to starting, but not to the extent that Jason did. If you are interested in how this will effect a middle age woman, what my program consists, and what my 12 week goals are, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected], or friend me on myfitnesspal at jsbrito365. I am so very committed to this process. All the support garnered so far has been outstanding. I hope to hear from you. Jen
I think I need to do this. My diet is pretty healthy. I workout 3 times a week. I walk a couple of hours a day…but have a downside, drink! I’m a ‘binge-drinker’. I don’t drink everyday or even most day, but when I do I can’t stop!
I’ll definately try this. Losing 8 pounds in 30 days – just from cutting booze is impressive.
What was Jason’s RMR after 30 days?
Response From Jason: Went up about 10% to 2041. But there’s a bit of an asterisk with that number. As you might recall, I wasn’t able to get the final RMR/DEXA readings immediately following the experiment due to commitments around the holidays so the final reading was taken about 3 weeks post-experiment. During that time, I drank very little alcohol (about 1-3 glasses wine/wk), cleaned up the diet, etc. So while RMR certainly improved during the experiment, we can’t conclude all that juice was solely from the 30-day period.
Sorry, BEN :)
Jason, Is the $395 charge just for blood work. I recently had very detailed blood work done. Can those results be used as the base line?
Monday 2/29 Day 2 no drinking. I woke up still tired and heavy heading….. Still feel hung over from Saturday night. 271 pounds. The heaviest I have been in years. I am determined to lose 30 pounds in two months. Have to read up on healthy eating … This artical gave me the idea to do this…I have been taking high blood pressure meds for years … I’m hoping to stop taking meds and feeling more energy.
Monday 2/29 Day 2 no drinking. I woke up still tired and heavy heading….. Still feel hung over from Saturday night. 171 pounds. The heaviest I have been in years. I am determined to lose 30 pounds in two months. Have to read up on healthy eating … This artical gave me the idea to do this…I have been taking high blood pressure meds for years … I’m hoping to stop taking meds and feeling more energy.
A strict 2-a-day drinker, every day, one at midday and one late evening. I decided to give it go… Have quit for about 40 days now, it seems like my blood sugar is frequently feeling low agh
How much alcohol can be consumed without interrupting weight loss ?
I haven't found many folks who drink more than one drink per night to be very successful with their weight loss.
Really interesting to read these comments and your article. I have just decided to do 30 days alcohol free with a view to extending it indefinitely. I am far too fond of red wine and have, now I have started this challenge, started to read all the cyclical, addictive, brain altering stuff out there about alcohol consumption and recognising my own brain/body in that! Just want to feel clean and healthy without having to constantly drag myself out of bed in the morning!
I was wondering where the rest of the lipid panel results are. I may be missing something but I only see Triglycerides. Is there a link to the complete side by side results?
Alcohol is detrimental to those of us with thyroid problems,I had to quit altogether
Do you think it might be interesting to do a similar test with GMOs? Is it even possible? Or do we know what we can measure without impacting other diet or lifestyle factors? I've always been a strong advocate of non-GMO but then there are so many GMO supporters out there and the conflicting information does not do any good to any of us. Perhaps this might be a best way to figure out if we REALLY need to worry about them as much as we do.
That would be an interesting test. We should keep it in mind for the future.
I’m doing 30 days alcohol free for January, too. My love for red wine was starting to control me instead of the other way around. I could NOT stop at just one glass a night. However, I seem to be replacing my cravings with sweets, instead; and even mentally justifying it by telling myself it’s okay because I’m not drinking!?! Ugh, anybody wanna join me for “sugar-free February”?
Tessa, you should check this page out https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/03/276-5… you may get something from the "How To Drink less" section.
Hi Tessa, My wife and I just ran a 30 day sugar free challenge on this page here for our friends, family and anyone else who would like to join. https://www.facebook.com/GenZealWellness. Feel free to join us. We will be having one again very soon :). All the best with your alcohol and Sugar free lifestyle !
What about his testosteron?
We would have loved to do hormones, but it didn’t happen this time around due to expenses. Perhaps we’ll do this again next year and look at even more!
I honestly can't believe that it was cost prohibitive. Direct labs has their "10 Best" tests, including testosterone, for $300. I'm sure you could have "passed the hat" and those of us curious would have paid for it. Especially since every(?) discussion on the podcast regarding alcohol has included testosterone, and it was brought up again in the inspiration for this "experiment." To have omitted that in this "trial" is terrible. What a wasted opportunity.
New Scientist magazine in the UK just did a similar experiment with some similar results: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2015/01/06/37208…
I have been doing 4 weeks a year alcohol free for over 30 years now. I usually pick Jan or Feb. After the excesses of Christmas, it’s almost a relief to do it.
My usual daily consumption is 3-5 beers or glasses of wine a day.
When I first started, the 4 weeks was good for 8-12 lbs weight loss with no other changes. Now that doesn’t happen. I have to diet to lose the weight.
I don’t avoid pubs or other social events. At social events all I say is “I’m taking a break from overdoing it over the holidays.” Then drink a water, pop, or non-alcolholic beer. People are usually intrigued. Many say they’d like to give it a try, any many of my friends have.
I usually explore lots of no-caffeine teas during this month. Any I’m always available as a DD!
I'm not saying I don't believe Jason didn't change his diet in those 30 days, but in Part 1 you posted a few days of his eating log. Would like to see a few days of it from the actual challenge part, just to see what he was eating.
Ben, I noticed there’s a correlation between alcohol consumption and thyroid activity. As a non drinker and newly diagnosed autoimmune type hypothyroidism lady, I’ve found it difficult to lose any weight even though I’ve been taking my levothyroxine for about 2 months now. I’m 5’5 and weigh 163 and would like to be at a healthy weight for my height. Do you have any suggestions or resources that can help me nutritionally and get the ball rolling for exercise programming? I also plan to do the Spartan Sprint here in CO in May. I need help. Thank you!!
Well, I can necessarily say levithyroxine would be best choice, so I'd start there. Check this out: http://chriskresser.com/the-most-important-thing-… – I'd also consider dietary factors that may be interfering with thyroid function, such as gluten or other potentially allergenic foods. Consider something like this autoimmune diet: http://goo.gl/6MhqT
Ive been without alcohol for more than 20 years now, what I see now is a new non alcoholic trend ( more young people) growing and hopefully staying. The only time I can support small amount of alcohol is for silent/low confidence people, to start a conversation at the pub, to perhaps find tour life patner. / hugs to yall ;)
Great article Ben and congrats to Jason. I am not a heavy drinker ( 1-3 glasses of wine every few days, no beer, no hard stuff) but I don’t sleep well if I do and my blood sugars spike.
I am going to try 30 days without alcohol. I will be tracking my sleep and blood sugars. Also a lab I have an account with sent me some 24 hour urine kits to check growth hormone. I have done one in the last day and I will do another one in 30 days.
So why not extend the challenge to someone who has real issues? Not downplaying Jason's success or particulars.
If you can find someone to fund it, we'll be happy to do it ;)
Hello Ben, your response did not come to me automatically, so please excuse the delay in my reply. Funding is always a sticking point. A potential test subject I know who has much reluctance to share fat photos accompanied by bypass & eczema scars could potentially offer diagnosed autoimmune issues, OSA, IBS, morbid obesity and a host of other health issues in the pursuit of science IF properly cajoled and challenged to an even greater test of the human spirit than that of Jason.
Hello, Ben – Great experiment. I did 35 days no alcohol last Summer and noticed that I slept a lot better. :-) I love red wine and have a hard time sticking to just one glass. I usally end up having two. What tricks do you have up your sleeve for sticking to just one?
We dug into that during this podcast – https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/03/276-5… check it out.
I use boxed wine. Boom. No "guilty" feeling about opening a bottle and it getting destroyed as boxed wine preserves just fine. I drink one glass and then…drumroll please…use sheer willpower to stop. Nothing magical. ;) Also check for candida, yeast and fungus if cravings are off the hook…we did a podcast on alcohol cravings and I bet you could find it.. <a href="http:// .https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/02/episode-271-full-transcript/” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://.https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/02/episode-271-full-transcript/” target=”_blank”>.https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/02/episode-271-full-transcript/
These results are so dramatic they beg for a second experiment with someone who is in shape, careful about their diet, and a glass of wine a day drinker. Just because moderate drinking is so socially acceptable and, sometimes, required, shouldn't excuse it from investigation. Conversely, get someone who doesn't drink much at all and see the effects of adding one a day. You'd probably need more baselines a few weeks apart, but it would be applicable to a much larger audience.
My friend does Sober January every year and has tried to talk me into it every year. I took him up on it this year so I am 5 days in. My usual habit is every other day, but about 5-7 drinks..so quite a bit. I am already feeling so much better the first 5 days in. Can’t wait to see what 31 days will bring (though I am still vaping some ‘herbal’ remedies in the evening.
Why didn't you measure hormones like testosterone and GH? You have discussed the negative effects of alcohol on hormones numerous times. It seems strange to pass up this opportunity to add that to the data.
We were a little bit limited as to what tests we were able to get from WellnessFX as there were definite test costs involved, and would have loved to do hormones, but it didn’t happen this time around due to expenses!
I race masters downhill mountain bike (national series champion in my age class last year) and I find when I drop my 1 to 2 drinks a day habit for at least two weeks, my high speed cognitive and spacial abilities improve markedly enabling me to be faster, safer.
Around the time you published the first article I decided to not completely quite but back it way off. I knew some social commitments over the holidays and New Years would be hard to not drink at all but with that said it was lighter than most years. Changing nothing else in my diet I lost 5+ pounds and went down a pants size. I would also say I have even started eating a little bit of dairy and some real pizza and pasta a few times. I’m a vegetarian that eats no dairy and gluten for years. The only thing I drank in the last month was a few martinis and red wine, NO BEER! I’m lighter, quicker and stronger and the power numbers are up! Cheers
Thx for the great analysis and for the whole experiment. I am very surprised that even though he was not watching his diet and only cut of the alcohol intake some blood markers dropped incredibly low. I am wondering how diet clean up would effect the results. This clearly shows how alcohol is bad for us.
thx once again Ben.
We'll dig into this a little during the next podcast. It's a good question!
This has completely motivated me to do the 30 day challenge. And change the way I view alcohol.
I am going to try this ! 30 days NO alcohol