"I could drink in the morning," he says. "I could drink every day, or I would drink on weekends. I was a functioning drunk." For the past four years, though, Nolte has not only been sober, he has been a health fanatic. Correspondent Peter Van Sant watched him in action in Malibu.
Nolte even has an organic garden at his house in the Malibu hills, where he lives with his teenage son. He eats his asparagus raw, for breakfast.
He is now so obsessed with his health, he even studies his own blood, perusing it via microscope. He takes 60 pills a day.
Nolte, who was once proclaimed the sexiest man alive by People magazine, is now 60. He is determined to push back the ravages of time by devoting himself to a so-called anti-aging regimen.
"I suppose [that] deep down, there's a passion to live forever," he says. "Rationally I know that's impossible, I know that we all die. I accept the dying process. I would just like to be as healthy as I possibly can at each step and phase along the way."
Nolte's kitchen resembles a health food store. Every day for lunch, he drinks an energy-boosting concoction based on the latest nutritional science. He eats a lot of vitamin supplements. Nolte pays tens of thousands of dollars a year on his anti-aging regimen.
Nolte says that this approach saves time: "When you get a doctor [who] says, 'you really don't need the vitamin supplements, you get it out of your food,' well, I defy to find those people that can eat six portions of vegetables a day and six portions of fruit."
He says that the regimen has improved his health. In fact, he says, "I feel as good as I've ever felt in my life."
His biggest boost comes from a daily megadoses of vitamins and hormones. "You load three or four grams two nights in a row and you wake up with woodies in the morning," he says. "You wake up like you're 14."
Nolte doesn't stop with pills. He also uses a syringe to inject himself with other vitamins.
The whole regimen is supposed to improve his memory, speed up his metabolism, ease his aches and pains, and help him look and feel younger. Nolte admits that any change he feels may be a placebo effect. He doesn't care. "What a fine mind to be able to tell me that I'm feeling great and to know it," he says.
He also doesn't care if people think he is going overboard. "I'm not really doing this for controversy," he says. "I'm doing this to find my own health."
Ironically, he still smokes, although he says he is trying to quit.
Has Nolte's unconventional regimen really made a difference? He recently had a checkup with his doctor, nutrition expert Chris Renna.
Nolte first met Renna, who is on the cutting-edge of anti-aging medicine, at a conference on alternative medcine.
Three years, ago, Dr. Renna says, Nolte was a mess: "inflammatory problems, joints, sinuses, intestinal tract, a little bit of cardiac palpitation."
Dr. Renna prescribed a raft of vitamins and supplements. Among them: vitamins E and C; saw palmetto for prostate health; bilberry for vision; chromium and zinc; calcium and magnesium to avoid osteoporosis; gingko biloba to improve circulation to the brain; and a baby aspirin to help prevent heart disease.
Nolte is also getting hormone replacements, a controversial treatment that some say can exacerbate existing cancers. To guard against any problems, Dr. Renna has meticulously monitored Nolte over the last three years.
During his checkup, Nolte underwent a state-of-the-art treadmill test designed to detect aerobic capacity.
Renna says that the information would help him fine-tune his exercise program, and his nutritional intake.
Nolte is most concerned about his brain. Nolte has had several doctors study his brain to help him understand the origin of his addiction to drugs and alcohol, and to try to repair some of the damage. During the checkup, Nolte underwent a high-tech test to see how his brain is doing.
After several hours of tests, Dr. Renna tells Nolte that he is in good aerobic shape, and that he has the "brain composite" of a 45-year-old man.
"Nick is definitely functioning like a younger person," Dr. Renna says. "That's the beautiful thing, to be 60 years old and still be able to function in various ways like 45, or 50 or 35."