[Note from TC: There have always been people in our industry who experiment with drugs. They venture forth where no man has gone before. And sometimes they don't make it back.
While our first impulse might be to shake our heads in bewilderment, we should be thankful for them. Guys like Dan Duchaine and the author of this piece on DNP, Anthony Roberts, let us know if the "air is okay." They're the canaries in the coalmine.
In the case of DNP, the air isn't fine, but Anthony made it back regardless. Suffice it to say, don't try to repeat his experiment. DNP is dangerous stuff. This isn't the usual "don't smoke pot" stuff you hear from your parents; this is TC talking, and I'm telling you this stuff is bad news. Hopefully, Anthony's article will convey that.]
I remember when I was still at University, earning my degree in English, and had to read Dante's Inferno. For anyone who isn't familiar with this story, it's about the author's three-day descent into Hell, guided by his greatest inspiration, the Latin poet Virgil.
Dante's Inferno. Also, the main office of the IRS.
I read this story my junior year and wondered why anyone would subject themselves to a journey through Hell. This journey brought Dante through the nine circles of Hell and then back to Earth on Easter Sunday. He emerged a much wiser man.
That story, of course, is allegorical. My story, although disturbingly similar, is not.
Descent Into Hell
I first heard about DNP (2,4-Dinitrophenol) in a free tape (as in "audio cassette" for the younger readers) that I received as part of a ten-cassette bonus incentive for subscribing to MM2K about a decade ago. The interviewer on the cassette was TC and the speaker was Dan Duchaine.
In the interview, Duchaine promised to let listeners in on a huge secret sometime in the coming year, something he promised would change the face of modern bodybuilding. Later that year, he revealed the secret, which was to become known as "DNP" in the chemical enhancement community.
Just like Dante had Virgil to guide him through the circles of Hell, I had Dan to guide me through my hellish experience with DNP. Well, not really, because Dan passed away quite some time ago... but then Virgil died long before Dante wrote his Inferno.
I decided to do DNP for a couple of reasons. The first is that I typically like to try all of the chemicals I write about. The second is that DNP was previously used as an igniter for TNT as well as a pesticide. (Yes, it's flammable, explosive, and poison). In the early 1930's, researchers at Stanford University figured out that DNP could also be used for weight loss. It stayed on the weight loss market for five years until the FDA outlawed it.
An illegal fat loss product that's also an explosive poison is just too appealing for me to pass up. And then there's also the allure of actually trying something that the late Dan Duchaine introduced to the bodybuilding world... very tempting.
But what really got me interested in DNP was the idea that I could eat whatever I wanted and still lose an astounding amount of fat. In fact, if Duchaine had his facts right (and he did), you could burn between a half pound and a pound of fat per day.
And "burn" is definitely the right choice of words here. DNP can raise your core body temperature by four or five degrees. Of course, too much more of an increase in core body temperature will simply kill you.
I refreshed my memory on DNP by reading what I'd already written in my book (yeah, I still use my own book as a reference), and then by reading everything Dan had written on the subject. Then I went out and got myself a hundred caps of it, dosed at 200mgs each. Of course, I downed a cap with a glass of water as soon as I received them. The smell of sulphur was pretty strong, and it reminded me of Dante's first whiff of Hell, which was ironically sulphur (brimstone) as well.
I started out with Dan's originally recommended dose of between 2-3mgs/kg of body weight (I took a 200mg cap and I'm about 90-95kgs). Within an hour I was sweating worse than the guest of honor at a Titus family barbeque. I was flushed and out of breath just sitting around.
At this point I should mention that I'm in very good cardiovascular shape and typically run for 20-30 minutes four to five times a week in addition to my weight training. I was now out of breath sitting on my couch watching television.
I should also mention my typical habits. I basically stay on steroids all year round. I was on them during my DNP experiment as well. This allows me to have some, er, leniencywith my diet and still stay pretty lean. I'd say that my typical diet falls somewhere between powerlifter and bodybuilder. In other words, it's not horrible, but not great.
I figured as long as I got enough protein and vitamins while I was doing DNP, I'd be fine, and I could eat whatever else I wanted. So there I was, taking Vitamins A, C, and E with every meal, a daily multi, and drinking a gallon-plus of water per day. (I hadn't taken a vitamin in the entire year before this, nor drank a protein shake.) I improved my diet, but I was also eating the usual bad foods too. Logically, I figured I'd still be burning fat no matter what I ate, but I double-checked anyway.
I checked my book and saw that the dose I was taking should've elevated my metabolism by about a third. Now, believe it or not, I didn't really understand the full implications of this when I'd written that it would make everything from benching to mowing the lawn harder. The best way to describe being on DNP is that everythingis at least a third harder.
So this means when you wake up in the morning and walk to the bathroom, you feel like you're walking on an incline of 33% or more. Now imagine every stair you climb is over a third higher. And imagine you have to do all of that for a third longer than usual. That's how you feel on DNP. Your legs feel like lead all the time. You're winded from talking. And this is day one. Somewhere, off in the distance, I could hear Dan telling me to stay the course...
Further Down the Spiral
To understand why I was feeling like I was, you need to understand that DNP is a mitochondrial uncoupler. This means that it works by uncoupling oxidative phosphorylation, which increases the body's temperature and metabolic rate.
Mitochondria are usually called the cell's powerhouse, as they convert foodstuffs into ATP (AdenosineTriPhosphate), which in turn powers your muscles. DNP actually depletes your muscle's ATP, thus requiring your mitochondria to convert more energy from food molecules, and thus create more ATP to replace what was lost.
In addition, it makes foodstuffs less efficient as the mitochondria now give more of it off as heat in lieu of turning it into ATP. This may also modulate fatty acid synthesis and inhibit muscle contraction. This is most certainly how DNP exerts its effects, since while it's doing all of this, it's actually lowering your thyroid function, causing you to feel lethargic and tired all the time. To combat the lethargy, I was taking stimulants, but I was still tired most of the time.
Did I know all of this about DNP before I used it? Of course I did. Did I really understand what this felt like? No! Not at all. Imagine strapping a third of your own body weight to yourself, then walking uphill all day, and that's what 200mgs of DNP felt like to me for the first few days I was on it.
So what did I do? I doubled Dan's original recommended dose.
Now, at this point, I need to warn you that this isn't something you want to try yourself. DNP has been linked to some serious side effects like severe dehydration, cataracts, and, um, death. I was decidedly interested in avoiding these things, so I kept up with my water intake, my vitamins, and my food.
At this point I was sweating all the time, out of breath, and tired. At this dose, I couldn't handle large carb meals without dripping sweat onto my plate as the DNP forced my poor mitochondria to generate heat instead of ATP. My workouts were getting difficult; my cardio sessions were getting near impossible. I checked the scale as well as my body fat and I'd been losing a half a pound of fat per day thus far.
During the day, I sweated and panted for air when performing simple tasks. At night, I panted and sweated as I lay in bed staring at my ceiling, my alarm clock, and my dog. Insomnia set in. Whenever I actually got to sleep, I woke up in a puddle of sweat.
This brings me to another interesting point: if you don't drink enough water, your bodily fluids begin to take on a sulphur-ish smell. You taste sulphur when you burp. You smell it when you sneeze. And did I mention that bodily fluids begin to take on a yellow tint to go along with their sulphur smell and taste? Yes, allof them.
And guess what? There's no amount of water that constitutes "enough" when you're on DNP. And guess what else? At this dose, I was taking slightly over the "LDLo." The LDLo is the lowest recorded lethal dose for a given compound. For DNP, that's 4.3mgs/kg of bodyweight. Remember, 3.5mgs/kg increases heat production by roughly 40%. That makes you very hot. You can't even imagine, but I'm sure it was roughly as hot as Dante was when he had his excursion into Hell... but the heat was coming from inside of me, not the outside. At this point I hadn't even been on DNP for a week. I felt like garbage, but I kept at it and kept taking my supplements.
Then, as you may have guessed, I did something insanely stupid. I upped my dose to 600mgs/day, or about 1.5 times the lowest recorded lethal dose. Of course, like Dante before me, I was still following my guide, Mr. Duchaine, through this version of Hell. After his initial (more conservative) recommendations, he later suggested 5 to 8 mg/kg bodyweight (in his Dirty Dieting newsletter.)
DNP: Your ticket to Hell
At this point I couldn't stop sweating. I was out of breath, whether I was moving or not. The weights I could handle during my workouts dropped to the point that my top work weight was my top warm-up weight prior to DNP. In other words, my second to heaviest set from last week became my heaviest set this week... and I did it for less reps.
I'd have gladly traded places with Dante in Hell at this point. I got tired talking on the phone, I got tired typing, and I got tired of DNP, period. Even the benefit of being able to eat whatever I wanted was nullified when I realized that eating a whole cheesecake became an exercise in agony as I sweated all over the place and then fell into a sweaty and restless sleep immediately afterwards – a side effect of DNP severely altering my body's metabolism of foodstuffs. Paradoxically, DNP causes carb cravings as well as the inability to tolerate carbohydrates.
It had been a week since I took my first dose and according to my calipers, I was five pounds lighter, with four of them coming from fat (the last pound came from water loss). I lost four pounds of fat in a week, with no additional cardio while basically eating whatever I wanted. Typically, even at an accelerated rate, that would've taken me an increase in cardio and a stricter diet.
But throughout all of this, something weird happened. I took my supplements religiously for a week. I didn't miss meals. I drank my protein shakes. I stopped eating shitty foods because I didn't want to sweat buckets and then pass out. In fact, all of the reasons I wanted to take DNP – basically to avoid doing things the hard way – were necessary to do while I was on it.
I was doing everything right by the end, just to avoid some of the nasty side effects DNP had been causing me. I stopped taking the DNP at this point, one week after I took that first little yellow pill.
Emerging From the Inferno
Just like Dante, I emerged on the other side of my own inferno a bit wiser for the experience. But the interesting thing about all of this is that even though I hadn't consistently taken supplements for ages, now I was back in the habit.
I was drinking a shake with each meal, taking vitamins, and even making sure I had enough water to drink daily. A week later, I was still doing everything right. Then a week became two, and I was feeling great. Oh, and because I was getting enough protein in and taking in good fats and complex carbs, I'd actually lost another couple of pounds of fat! I hadn't even realized it before, but taking my supplements and eating right was actually easier than taking DNP!
Don't get me wrong, if I had to lose five pounds of fat in a week, I couldn't do it without a lot of help from various chemicals. But for getting leaner and staying that way, it's better to do it the old fashioned way, or at least the old fashioned way combined with HOT-ROX.