OM Signal Shirt on the Slopes

I took my OM Signal shirt on the slopes at Breckinridge for the Thanksgiving weekend. This short post is attributed to a full weekend spent on the slopes and not shuffling through mounds of data nor posting my regular blog. I had a good time with family and friends:

OM Signal Shirt on the Slopes

I had gotten an OM Signal shirt as part of its initial launch last summer. Though it was a bit overdue (about a year) and the shirt chased me via post from London to San Francisco to Denver I never gave up on it because they tried really hard to make it right.

The first shirt was like a compression shirt that constricted your chest, terribly uncomfortable. This is not that shirt, but this is what it felt like:

OM Signal Shirt on the Slopes I tried to run with it…once. It was just too uncomfortable. So my two OM Signal shirts sat the summer out in my sports kit drawer.

Fast forward to the late summer and OM Signal helpfully sent me another shirt at no cost. This is the shirt I took skiing. Unlike the first one, this same sized shirt was very comfortable. There is a band inside the shirt at chest level, but it felt fine to the point that I didn’t even notice it. The rest of the shirt is form fitting, but not noticeable either. So huge improvement and thumbs up to OM Signal for the improvement.

Here are two plus hours of skiing at Breckinridge:

OM Signal Shirt on the Slopes

You can see the ski runs pretty clearly. And the breaks. I was intrigued by the respiration rate as OM Signal is the only integrated product I know of that has both heart rate and respiration for a sporting environment.

Looking at how to use the quantification to improve performance, I think the respiration might be an indicator of calmness while skiing. That may not be true, but worth a look.

The app is clean and has a nice interface. Of equal quality to a Jawbone or Fitbit. I would prefer it less structured and I realize I am not center of the bell curve for users.

So no real quantified self goodness in this post, just a report on my OM Signal shirt and a bit of time on the slopes. You will hear more about the shirt as I am now intrigued and will do some additional tests. Comments and ideas are always welcome.

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Smart Drugs Do Not Make Me Smart

I thought I would try a nootropic, or “smart drug,” to see how it would work for me. I really like the podcast Smart Drug Smarts, by Jesse Lawler. It is well produced, informative and entertaining. Jesse is great, however, he does not shy away from pitching his products as in each episode he encourages you to buy his nootropic, Nexus.

Smart Drugs Do Not Make Me Smart

Nexus ingredients include Aniracetam, CDP Choline, Phosphatidylserine, and Pycnogenol®. On the website the product claims to “enhance cognition, beat stress, and sharpen concentration.” It goes on to claim that it created with fast thinking and neuroprotectivity in mind. The capsules are not cheap. At $1.00 a capsule and a recommended daily dose of 2 capsules, you are in for $60 a month, or $55 if you subscribe. At that cost, it had better work.

My Question

Would Nexus improve my cognitive performance?

What I Did

I tested myself using eight cognitive tests in the Quantified-Mind app after either taking Nexus or not. I then compared scores of the group of tests where I took Nexus to the scores where I did not take Nexus to see if the smart drug improved my test scores.

How I Did It

I created a spreadsheet column of randomly assigned numbers between o and 1. Each day in the afternoon I checked the next number in the column. It if was 1, I took two caplets of Nexus. If it was 0, I did not take Nexus. Thirty minutes after I took the capsule (or not), I would open the Quantified-Mind app and take eight tests. Those tests took approximately 15 minutes. They ranged from memory tests like dual-n-back to attention and reaction tests. I took down each test score for all eight tests and put them in the spreadsheet. After 19 tests, I compared the averages in the two groups and did a student’s TTest to see if the differences in readings were significant.

What I Learned

Smart drugs do not make me smart. Of the eight tests I took during each session, there was no significant difference in the readings between if I had taken Nexus or I had not. Here are my scores:

Smart Drugs Do Not Make Me Smart

You can see that none of the tests had a statistically significant difference. If there was, the TTest P value would have been less than .05. You can argue that the sample size was too small. If we discard the TTest and just look at the averages, my scores seemed to go down in all but two of the categories.

Of interest is that on one test I seemed to do better – Attentional Focus. On that test you stare at two lines and tap a key when one gets longer. It can be difficult to maintain staring at the lines and the Nexus seemed to improve my averages there. On all the others, where I had some cognitive task to perform, my scores seemed to be degraded.

So I guess if I had an important report to write and I took Nexus I would stay focussed on the keyboard and keep typing, but the words that came out might not make as much sense.

One of the things I learned from Smart Drug Smarts podcast is that a test of one brain…is a test of one brain. The mixture found in Nexus might work for you. And I will continue being a fan of Jesse and his podcast. It is intelligent, fun, and informative. I just won’t buy his nootropics because they don’t work for me.

One thing I did learn in several sessions I had to throw out is that a lack of sleep trashes cognitive performance. On those days that I had had a poor night sleep the night before my scores were awful. I threw out those sessions, and I learned that sleep trumps nootropics with respect to performance. So in the future if I get a good nights sleep, and have an inexpensive cup of coffee in the morning my brain will be in good enough shape to handle that work report without having to resort to smart drugs.

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Meditation Breakthrough With

As a followup to my earlier work on binaural beats, I did another tracking study using After fine tuning the approach and trying it for more than a month, I had a meditation breakthrough with  I found a hugely useful technique to help me have a smoother wakeup.

breakthrough with
What it might look like to wake up without the brain working to full capacity.

Each morning I conduct a tracking routine that includes heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure, blood glucose and various body dimension measurements. In my last study, I had used for five-minute sessions without any discernable effect on my physiology. With feedback from the founders of, I retooled the tracking approach and tried again.

What I Did

The advice I got was that it takes 10 minutes to entrain the brain using binaural beats. I redid the tracking study so that I added a 10-minute session prior to taking a five-minute HRV reading. I wanted to ensure I had enough time listening to the binaural beats so the would be effective.

To determine the efficacy of’s binaural beat meditation soundtrack, I compared it to similar sounding music without binaural beats embedded. I wanted to compare the effect on HRV after 10 minutes of binaural beats vs an identical period of time without the beats.

How I Did It

I created a Google spreadsheet with a randomly generated number (0 or 1) for each day in the study. On waking, I would look at the sheet to determine whether to use (1) or a Pandora station I called “meditation” (0) that I set up with reference artists Deva Premal and Krishna Das.

If I used I would turn on the unguided meditation for 10 minutes and sit relaxed with normal respiration.

breakthrough with

On completion of the 10 minute session, I put on the Polar H7 heart rate belt and the HRV Logger from Marco Altini and took a five-minute HRV reading while continuing to listen to the binaural beats.

On days when I used the Pandora station I would conduct the exact same procedure listening to the meditative music without binaural beats. On completion for both music sources, I would log my rMSSD measurement in the Google spreadsheet.

What I Learned

I was unable to find a significant difference in my physiological state when using music with binaural beats or music without binaural beats. Across 30 measurements, my average rMSSD with binaural beats was 50.9 vs 49.8 without binaural beats. The T Test showed that there was no statistically significant difference between the two soundtrack types (p=.87).

The site says that its binaural beats would have an immediate effect, and it appears that immediate means at least longer than 10 minutes. As a tactical approach to calming the body or the mind on waking, I don’t find it practical to have a preparatory session longer than 10 minutes. So for me,’s binaural beats are not a good tool to assist in my morning meditation.

The Breakthrough With

Though the soundtrack with embedded binaural beats did not have a discernable effect on my HRV readings, I did have a breakthrough with My continued use of the product showed me without question that some form of music played during morning deep breathing work made it more likely I would engage in the activity and stick with it once I started.

There is something pleasant and energizing about sitting quietly for 10 minutes while my physical system comes online and wakes up. I found myself getting out of bed more readily knowing the session was the first thing I would do. Once I started the session it seemed to go quickly. Often I was surprised when my device indicated I had successfully completed the session.

For my morning sessions, I will still use It has a pleasing format, it easy to use and I like the soundtrack. It is packaged well enough to be ready for use. I am realistic about it jacking my brain with frequencies in less than 10 minutes. That does not happen. Sometimes, however, relaxing tunes is just good enough to make a product useful and for that, is a winner.

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Muse Indirectly Crushes Meditation Training

Looking at my morning tracking routine I realized that one of the most impactful wearable devices I have used has been the Muse EEG headband. After using it for more than five months, I think that Muse indirectly crushes meditation training.

I started using the Muse EEG headband in June of this year and have sat with it 152 sessions. The data the product has given me has not been the source of value. The source of value has been that the product has helped me become a habitual meditator.

Muse indirectly crushes meditation training

Muse claims to read your EEG and give you a “calm” score. It also awards a secondary score that is cumulative as a game style mechanic to keep you coming back.

When I started with Muse I took a straightforward sporting approach to the mediation training.  I would practice each morning with a goal to get higher “calm” scores. I saw it similar to training for a 5K where I would look to my speed. The fun would be to see how much higher I could push my calm score with practice.

Unfortunately, it did not work out that way. I did not improve the score even with months of  practice.

Muse indirectly crushes meditation trainingThe calm score itself is of questionable usefulness. It did not correlate with any other physiological factor that I compared it with. For example, when looking at the correlation between the score and heart rate variability (HRV) across 145 readings, there was no relationship (Pearson r = -.016). I had taken HRV readings simultaneous with the Muse readings and they did not track together at all. Blood glucose levels (r= -.17), average resting heart rate (r = .13), blood pressure (r=.21) all were at best a weak relationship.

Thinking that the calm score might somehow be associated with how distracted or stressed I was, I looked at a morning mood score I had been keeping versus the calm score. Oddly, I found a moderate inverse relationship between the Muse calm and my perception of mood (r = -.32). That meant I was more “calm” when I was in a lousier mood that morning. That made no sense at all.

So my original idea of practicing to increase my calm score did not pan out for me.  So why do I believe Muse indirectly crushes meditation training? Because for me, meditation had been boring and numerous attempts in the last 32 years to incorporate it in my daily routine had failed miserably. Chasing the Muse score in a structured way each morning I broke the boredom and acquired the habit of meditating. And meditating has scientifically validated positive benefits.

The Muse basic session is six minutes long with a starting calibration of one minute then a five minute reading. After multiple months of starting doing these simple six minute readings with the headband I found I had started comfortably expanding the amount of time I was sitting quietly.

First, I incorporated a ten-minute session before the Muse session to test the effectiveness of binaural beats, and that ended up with me sitting quietly for fifteen minutes each morning. Then a podcast on HRV inspired me to add twenty minutes of paced breathing later in the day. I was able to expand because I had gotten comfortable with sitting during the initial months of short six minute Muse sessions.

So the paradoxical outcome presents itself. In the past when I had tried to “learn” to meditate I could not do it for long and was unsuccessful. When I introduced the game of chasing the Muse calm score I was able to get enough time sitting quietly to find meditation doable and even pleasurable. And when I had enough data to determine the score I had been chasing was meaningless I had worked my way up to 35 minutes of sitting a day. That is why Muse indirectly crushes meditation training.

I imagine the engineers who created the scoring system and the EEG technology may not appreciate my assessment. It seems better to have the scoring and EEG technology to be a valued feature. However, the product bills itself as a meditation assistant. In that, it performs its job perfectly.

To someone looking for a Quantified Self product review on Muse the answer may sound like something out of a wearables zen koan. To realize the value of the Muse product, diligently try to improve your Muse score until you are sitting in comfortable in daily meditation realizing that the score never was the point.




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Slow Breathing Workout Increases My HRV

What is the Slow Breathing Workout?

I heard Richard Gervitz talking about a slow breathing workout as part of a daily discipline on the Quantified Body Podcast. I had started doing slow breathing sessions back in May 2014 though I had never specifically looked at the effect on my daily heart rate variability (HRV) reading. And I had fallen out of the habit so I was interested in trying it again.

slow breathing workout

A slow breathing workout means taking your respiration to a slower pace than normal with inhalations and exhalations of equal length. This is not normal breathing as it synchronizes the cardiac and respiratory systems. Gervitz recommended 20 minutes per day.

The beneficial effects of doing this breathing include a more flexible autonomic nervous system, increased resilience to physical or psychological stress, and sharpened mental clarity. Motivated by what I heard on the podcast, I decided to jump back into a disciplined slow breathing workout.

My Question

Could doing 20 minutes a day of deep, meditative breathing in the afternoon improve my morning HRV readings?

What I Did

I had a standing practice of measuring my HRV for five minutes on waking each morning. This provided a baseline of 24 readings. I began doing 20 minutes of evenly paced breathing each afternoon. This provided 18 additional morning readings that were impacted by the slow breathing workouts. I controlled for confounders by removing readings where circumstances were out of the norm like low amounts of sleep or too much food.

How I Did It

For my morning readings, I used Marco Altini’s Heart Rate Variability Logger to take a five-minute rMSSD reading.

slow breathing workout

Prior to the five minute readings I would listen to 10 minutes of soft music to settle in and ensure I was relaxed. For my afternoon HRV breathing workouts, I used a basic breath pacer app for iOS. With it, I could set the number of seconds per inhalation and exhalation. This would allow me to breath slowly and at a steady pace for the sessions.

slow breathing workout

I also like to get biofeedback as I do my slow breathing, so I used Heartmath Pro to track how effectively I got I aligned my cardiac and respiratory systems. The Heartmath dashboard shows the HRV in the top panel and the heart beat frequencies in the lower left panel.

slow breathing workout

The useful thing about the biofeedback is that I could adjust the length of my inhalations and exhalations until I found the highest level of alignment. Without feedback I would have to use levels derived from published data. With the biofeedback I had set up slow breathing exercises tailored for my physiology.

What I Learned

Starting an afternoon slow breathing workout regime increased my average morning HRV readings to a significant degree. You can see the lift in the scores on the graph of readings through the period:

slow breathing workout

Looking at my readings pre-program my rMSSD averaged 42.8 for the morning session and post-program it averaged 54.8, a 28% increase. Doing a TTest comparing the readings before and after being on the slow breathing workout showed a p-value of .037, meaning the change was statistically significant. You can see the raw data that is the basis of the calculations.

I found my optimal breathing came out at 7 seconds for each inhale and 7 seconds for each exhale. I started with 5.5 seconds per inhale and exhale and kept moving it up until I found my level.

That said, the biofeedback application is not necessary to get the benefit of a slow breathing workout. Though it is helpful to get the biofeedback readings, a simple breathing app with 20 minutes of practice each day will give you all the benefits. And I will continue with it now that I have established its value.

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Network Effectively With This Simple Trick

I wanted to know if Quantified Self techniques could be useful in improving how I keep in contact with people and give me tools to network effectively. I am not a natural networker so I knew that some awareness and daily habits would help.

network effectively
What Quantified Selfers Would Look Like If They Knew How to Network – And Wore Suits

My Question

How could I organize my daily communication habits so that I could network effectively?

What I Did

I tried three different approaches to tracking and daily contact follow-up. Each day I would set aside time to contact people. At the end of the day I would log the number of people contacted and the resulting positive outcomes if any. At completion I had enough data to compare the three approaches.

How I Did It

I kept a Google Spreadsheet of contacts that included the number of maximum number of days I wanted to elapse before I followed up with someone. Each day would update a field when I had connected with someone.

network effectively

A formula would then calculate the “next contact” date. With this mechanism, I could count the number of people I had on the list and the number with whom I was up to date with. I also made a note each day when I had some positive outcome from my networking.

What I Learned

How I approached the reason for contact made a significant difference in my effectiveness and stamina. Contacting people, regardless of approach, yielded a similar amount of positive outcomes. It is true that if you contact people regularly a number of them are happy to help you.

My first approach was to put 150 interesting people from my LinkedIn and personal network on the list. I thought that having a subset of people that I knew well and I liked would make for a better experience and I would “network” for a more sustained period. Here are my results from that approach:

network effectively

I had five positive outcomes during the first thirty days. That means I had job offers, proposals for collaboration or some significant project brought to me as a result of my outreach.

I maintained contact with that list for about forty days, then my efforts petered out. I was never able to be up to date with the entire list. And significantly, I dreaded sitting down daily and seeing I had five to twelve emails to write.

I tried again two months later. Thinking that the size of the list was too large on the first approach, I slimmed the list down to fifty people for the second. Here are the results:

Network Effectively

Again, I had five positive outcomes in the first thirty days and I lost interest at about the same point in time, about forty days in. I built the list to fifty people quite easily. I tried to push the list larger on 3 June, but five days later just stopped contacting people.

After these two trials I knew I had to change the framework to keep the effort going past forty  days. My approach prior had been when it was time to contact a person I looked at the last communication with that person and tried to come up with some news. Each night was a bit stressful. I had to alter that experience.

On the third approach, I did not start with a predetermined list. I put people on the list if I had a request for them. On my tracking sheet I created three notes sections. In one I wrote what I wanted from them. In the second I wrote how I could contribute to them. The third was a short note on the nature of the last contact. This is the result of organizing my communication this way:

Network Effectively

I had eight positive outcomes in the first 50 days, making for a very consistent results on all three approaches. On this final approach, I easily went past the forty day mark and am still going strong nearly sixty days in.

The trick was designing for the moment that is was time to reach out to someone. Where before I had a blank page in front of me, in this third approach I focussed on what I can contribute to them. This mde the outreach easier because I know I am giving them something and that type of contact is usually welcome. I ask them for something only on when they respond or it is appropriate to the conversation.

So the key to maintaining momentum is lowering the barrier to taking action each day. By removing that tiny hesitation when it is time to reach out the result the result was I kept at it longer. And with the consistent and clear positive outcomes that arise out of keeping in touch with people, applying a trick to sustain momentum is the obvious thing to do.

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Tracking Upsets Yields Insight

I find tracking Upsets yields insight as it tells me about the events that trigger negative reactions in me. These things can be immediate dangers or just imaginings I might have. With this insight I can understand some of my behavior. In my first quantified self study I tracked Upsets and learned a lot. I wanted to repeat the study eighteen months later.

Tracking Upsets Yields Insight

I have explored many techniques to reduce the number and duration of my Upsets. I wanted to see if I could measure changes in the source of Upsets based on the work I had done. And I wanted to see if the proportion of Direct and Self Induced Upsets had changed.

A Direct Upset is the result of something happening in the moment like a car nearly hitting me in the crosswalk. Some element of actual danger is occurring in that moment. An Upset is Self Induced when I am sitting in a quiet room worrying about whether my insurance policy is properly paid up. There is no environmental reason for the worry. I am creating that disaster scenario from pure thought.

My Question

Had my Upsets changed source and type in the last eighteen months?

What I Did 

I logged Upsets for 27 days. There were two conditions for me to log an Upset as occurring. The first was if I had a repeated negative thought. The second was I felt a heat in my body that I associated with being irritated or worried.

How I Did It

I set up my DIY Tracker on an iPhone. The entry was a text box in which I would write the source of the Upset. In a spreadsheet I added three categories to each Upset which were Self Induced/Direct, past/present/future, and source.

What I Learned

Work, other people’s actions, a move to a new house and travel were the leading topics that triggered Upsets in this study:

Tracking Upsets Yields Insight

Eighteen months ago the source profile was similar. Adjusting for different category names, I was thoughtful about work and other people’s actions 50% of the time versus 46% in this study. Technology malfunctions moved from 5% to 10% due to a house move that put me in the position of having to set up a lot of new gadgets. I was on the road much less so the percent for travel dropped from 11% to 6%. Overall the categories had not changed much and where they had the reasons were understandable.

The majority of Upsets were Self Induced. For most of the logged events I was sitting in a comfortable environment dreaming up disaster scenarios:

Tracking Upsets Yields Insight

In the first study I had done the percentage of Self Induced had been much higher. Here are the percentages from the three studies:

Apr-14 May-14 Oct-15
Self Induced 77% 62% 66%
Direct 23% 38% 34%

Tracking Upsets yields insight and the awareness that results seems to reduce the amount of time spent dreaming up disaster scenarios which is a good thing.

As in the earlier studies I was more concerned for the future than regretful of the past.

Tracking Upsets Yields Insight

Looking at only Self Induced Upsets shows that the vast majority of my disaster scenarios are anticipating something bad in the future.

Tracking Upsets Yields Insight

Eighteen months ago my Upsets about the past were 16%. I’m pleased that the past Upsets remain a small percent. There is nothing I can do about a meeting I screwed up in the past. Regret is a fruitless exercise.

Scientists may dislike this type of tracking as it is self reported and completely subjective. Data points about thoughts and emotion are difficult to control for and make statistical validity nearly impossible. Wearables companies are wise to avoid it as they would have no market making potential. Measuring thought is very distant from step counts.  I, however,  find this type of tracking hugely useful as it gives me insight about myself. And that is what quantified self is all about.

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Binaural Beats Had No Five Minute Payoff

I conducted an N of 1 study on the effect of binaural beats during a five minute meditation.  My colleague Tim Hanrahan had turned me on to after having written a post about them.

I have always had a soft spot for binaural beats since I discovered the Monroe Institute and hemispherical synchronization while a cadet at West Point. As an aspiring Intelligence Officer, the promise of listening to some frequencies and being upgraded to being able to do remote viewing was too good an opportunity to resist. I envisioned a career of thwarting the Soviet threat armed only my mind and a Sony Walkman. I thought I would be the one to write books like this:


But alas, many hours of listening to my special cassette tapes never yielded enough remote viewing skill to be assigned to the psychic corps. All my snooping ended up being electronic. Ho hum. With this background using binaural beats I was ready to try a far less grandiose use case using’s service.

My Question

During a five minute meditation, will using binaural beats be effective in increasing my heart rate variability (HRV) and thus my physiological calm during the session?

What I Did

For 52 sessions of five minutes each, I measured my HRV while either listening to’s unguided meditation soundtrack or to no sound at all.

To ensure I controlled for differences in time of day and physiological condition, at each sitting I did two consecutive five minute sessions, one with the beats and the other without. I used a random number generator to determine whether I used beats first or second in each session. This way each beats session had a corresponding control session with the same physical conditions present.

How I Did It

I used the site while wearing a standard set of earbud headphones and wearing a Polar H7 heart rate belt bluetooth connected to Marco Altini’s Heart Rate Variability Logger app. The HRV measurement I tracked was rMSSD.

All readings were sitting relaxed in a chair breathing at a constant rate, and mental strategy was just the simple “in/out” verbalization of basic meditation.

At the end of the period, I looked at the difference in rMSSD using both a TTest and Wilcoxon ranked sum test.

What I Learned

For me, binaural beats had no five minute payoff. There was no significant difference in my HRV levels when using them or sitting in silence. Both the TTest and the Wilcoxon confirmed this with P values of .98 and .52 respectively.

My subjective experience was that the time in meditation seemed to go much faster when listening to the beats and the associated music. Perhaps the mind was engaged in some way and in doing that the experience of time quickened.

My interest in using binaural beats was as a quick modifier to  my physiological state prior to a meeting or one on one conversation. It would have been useful if I could do a quick frequency induced calming session like I can with BreatheSync. For that specific use binaural beats would not contribute any value.

I reached out to the founders of for their thoughts.They engaged in the discussion and wrote that entrainment does not begin until 10 minutes into the session. I had never seen that written anywhere but I have definitely confirmed that nothing happens at the five minute mark. They also shared a peer reviewed study on the use of brain entrainment to elevate HRV. In that study, the participants listened to the frequencies for 20 minutes and had their HRV measured.

Though I won’t think of binaural beats as a useful preparatory tool at the office I am still interested in seeing if I can replicate the effect reported in the study. I am designing a followup to that end. If you would like updates on this and other studies, make sure you sign up for the QuantXLaFont newsletter and stay tuned here as we look for truly effective ways to heighten alertness and performance.

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A look ahead to Sherbit: taking control of your data

By: Tim Hanrahan

I wanted to take a look ahead to Sherbit, and app I saw as a first time attendee at the annual Quantified Self summer conference in San Francisco. I took note of the many smartphone apps in development. The collection of apps there was bountiful and it was exciting to discover new ones each of the three days.

Naturally, there’s a bit of overlap in terms of function. Some apps focus on niche markets (sleep tracking, for ex.) and everyone is selling what makes them unique to their competition, vying for their piece of the pie.

Sherbit stood out. It aggregates all of the data collection from your smartphone and emphasizes taking your own control over the data amidst increasing privacy concerns.

Here’s a quick intro the app released this week:

One of the cool initial takeaways is how Sherbit is aggregating all of the apps you use everyday. Your socials, your locations, your Fitbit, your health data… everything. Ok, sure. But then what?

Well, it looks like they’ll be delivering new conclusions about your daily/weekly/monthly patterns. They can easily track how moving around (or maybe the lack of) could be affecting your energy. Moreover, Sherbit even stresses that they can track your coffee intake’s effect on your sleep (where was that for my post last week?!), why you may be stressed, and even if your workout routine is an optimal one.

This is the exciting potential for Sherbit that I’m most eager to see play out, even more than their focus on privacy. Their aggregate tools, and beautiful interface display already, can naturally test many quantified self experiments without us having to do more than the minimal work, even none at all. That’s a huge step for many beginners who are just discovering the power of the quantified self to improve our own lifestyle.

look ahead to Sherbit
Examples of Sherbit’s applications to receive new insights about yourself.

Where I’m curious to know more about Sherbit comes from their stance that “your data doesn’t just belong to internet companies — it belongs to you.” We can all get behind that if we feel our privacy is threatened, and I’m sure you or someone you know has some digital privacy horror story. That may outweigh the counter benefits of, for example, advertisers having access to our Facebook data. We see more sponsored posts and ads in our feed of products or news in our areas of interest that we like. For now though, Sherbit rates the privacy policies of all of your favorite apps, as they say in their introductory video earlier this year.

Sherbit is currently in Beta form and there currently exists a long wait list to try the app. However, you can find out more through Sherbit’s site (and informative blog on wearable/tech news) and join the wait list there. After speaking to founder Alex Senemar in San Francisco, he’s assured me and the attendees that applications are being readied ASAP to get everyone on the wait list in soon. Between Sherbit and my previously positive first impressions of Compass, I think we’ll be in great hands with a couple of go-to apps who aggregate.

Looking forward to getting my hands on Sherbit next. The app has some great promise, and again, stood out amongst what had to be over 40-50 other booths. You’ll definitely see a follow-up with my first impressions, QS experiments, and more of the benefits I’m sure to discover. To make sure you don’t miss it, take a moment to sign up for our QuantSelfLaFont newsletter below. We only send cool updates, like this week’s where Paul went on a five-day water fast (!)


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Water Fast Yields Ketosis And Halitosis

I am a regular listener and a fan of Damien Blenkensopp’s The Quantified Body podcast. He podcasted excellent coverage and reportage of his five day water fast so I decided to try it and report back to compare and contrast my experience.

Before the fast I was intimidated by the idea of doing it. Despite hearing evidence from Damien’s experience, I had the idea that I would be in a stupor for five days. I also envisioned that I would have hardcore hunger pain.


I had an embedded fasting advantage and simultaneous disadvantage in the fact that during my military days I attended and graduated from the Army Ranger School. Small ration amounts and long patrols allowed me to experience true near starvation and the associated pain that goes with it. I remembered those pains and dreaded experiencing them again. I was pleased to find the fast was in no way as stressful as Ranger School.

Ranger School Pic

During the fast I took about 3 liters of water a day and had no other liquid or food of any type. Not a single cheat. The closest I came to opening the glove compartment in the car and seeing a box of Tic-Tacs. I resisted though I had lust in my heart.

Why I did it

Other than being inspired by The Quantified Body podcast, I have been trying to test my food and supplement intake to drop my blood glucose levels. I thought a fast would be a way to see my glucose and ketones in a food free state. And I liked the challenge of it.

What I measured

For the fast I measured:

What I Found

Overall, I found that fasting for five days is not stressful, does not put me into a stupor and my glucose level dropped to a range Damien and his co-fasters reported seeing. As a technique, a water fast yields ketosis like I had never experienced before. I lost 10 lbs. And I had horrible bad breath for four of the days. Here are the details.

Heart Rate Variability

My heart rate variability (HRV) averaged an rMSSD of 44 during the fast and my average over multiple months prior was 50. The lowered period on the graph just prior to the fast was due to travel.

1. HRV&Fasting

Glucose & Ketones

Fasting glucose clearly dropped from an average of 101 down to 69 for days 3, 4 and 5. Of interest is that it took my body two days to adjust.

2. WakingGlucose

It took me the two days to bring my ketones up to a point where they were more plentiful than my dropping glucose. I had three days of the glucose-ketone ratio being under 1.0, which reportedly has a therapeutic effect. This was a great outcome. Here are my afternoon (postprandial) readings:
3. Glucose & Ketones


Obviously weight was going to drop as I was not eating. I was an average of 192 pre-fast and lost 10 lbs by the end of the fast.

4. Weight

Here is a before and after picture that shows for me what losing 10 lbs looks like. Picture on left was the night before the fast, right the last day of the fast.

Fast Yields Ketosis and Halitosis


Nine times a day I measured how alert I felt because my story was that I would be in a stupor. A measure of 3 is normal, 2 would be actually yawning. You can see I was yawning tired in the first few days then my body compensated. I was never exhausted.

6. Awake Readings


I felt hunger pangs throughout but intermittently. Only once did I have a headache related to the fast which was the end of day 2. Notably day 3 on my awareness of hunger diminished and you can see the jump in scores (higher is less hungry).

5. Hunger Graph Fast

Muse Calm

My Muse calm score seemed to drop off through the fast. I felt calm and good each morning on waking you can see the drop when the fast started. Bears further investigation.

8. MuseCalmFast

Blood Pressure

My diastolic blood pressure was completely unaffected and my sistolic popped up a bit on days 3 & 4.
9. Blood Pressure

Notes On The Experience

My original idea was to have a five day period to focus on the fast and be sequestered away to save energy, but life intruded. I had several social commitments that had been scheduled well before I decided to do the fast to include a Meetup and a charity event.

One significant drawback is my breath was awful. According to Damien and his fellow fasters, this is due to increased acetone that comes out through the breath. When you are discussing deep thoughts at a charity event while spewing breath that can knock a buzzard off a manure wagon you have discovered the downside of fasting.

Anecdotally I felt great when I was focused on a task and was able to get a lot of work done. But when I was interrupted or had a something suddenly come up I experienced fairly hot and palpable irritation. This seemingly lowered ability to handle context switches deserves further study.

This is the most meaningful and impactful experiment I have done. I ended the fast having experienced the fact that our bodies have a deep reserve of nutrients and that eating huge meals three times a day is completely unnecessary. Doing this has raised my interest in finding my own optimal nutrient level. Thanks for Damien for the inspiration. Good times ahead.

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