• REGENERATION

    Water Break: A 24Hour Fast

    By Chris Roussos

I am committed to a high-performance life so that I can show up fully and serve those in my life, my family, my team and the incredible members I meet at 24 Hour Fitness.

As part of my high-performance lifestyle, I’ve consulted with my doctors and coaches and I tend to follow the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) or ketogenic approach to my diet. I also incorporate intermittent fasting quite extensively (especially when I am traveling).

There are many synergies between the two approaches. Both have the goal of lowering insulin—which many believe is the key driver of obesity—and renewing health at a cellular level through the process of autophagy. Intermittent fasting tends to be more intense than LCHF diets because it restricts everything. However, athletes and fit pros alike often report that fasting is an easy extension of their ketogenic diet. Once your body is fat adapted, it is not challenging to transition to fasting, and in fact, many people find it enjoyable. I am one of those people.

Intermittent fasting is a simple and powerful strategy. It’s easy to understand and straightforward to follow. (Don’t eat except during certain preset feeding windows.) Intermittent fasting has a legacy (men and women have experienced fasting since the beginning of humanity), it doesn’t cost anything to do it (it’s free), and it actually saves time typically spent shopping, cooking and cleaning up.

History

Many people around the globe fast regularly. Fasting is an ancient and time-tested tradition used for healing by almost every culture and religion on earth, to varying degrees. Hippocrates wrote, “To eat when you are sick is to feed your illness,” and Benjamin Franklin wrote, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”

Benefits

The purported benefits of fasting under medical supervision include weight loss, brain optimization, anti-aging, prevention of insulin resistance and even reversal of the early onset of Alzheimer’s. The impact of fasting occurs deep in our physiology at a subcellular level. As we fast, the process of autophagy—destruction of cells and creation of new ones—takes place. You could say that fasting is a form of cellular cleansing, as it takes advantage of the body’s ability to identify old and unhealthy cell membranes, organelles and other cellular debris and removes them.

Protocol

There are many different approaches to fasting. A 24-hour fast, however, is pretty straightforward. Don’t eat for 24 hours, and restrict all calorie-containing beverages for the day. Here is the protocol I followed, based on fasting expert Dr. Jason Fung’s 24-hour fast, with the addition of essential amino acids.

24-Hour Fast

General Guidelines

  • Be in good health to participate.
  • Eat dinner at around 7 p.m. and fast until the following dinner at 7 p.m.
  • You may drink water, herbal tea and black coffee (morning only).
  • Skip your workout—you may walk, stretch, meditate.
  • Optional: Add EAA (essential amino acid) powder.

7 p.m. Saturday:
Eat dinner.
Drink 500 milliliters (2 cups) of water.
Start fast.

9 p.m. Saturday:
Drink 1 liter (4 cups) of water.
Take 5 grams of EAA powder.

7 a.m. Sunday:
Drink 1 liter (4 cups) of water.
Drink 250 milliliters (1 cup) of green tea.
Take 5 grams of EAA powder.

12 noon Sunday:
Drink 1 liter (4 cups) of water.
Optional: Drink 250 milliliters (1 cup) of green tea.
Optional: Take 5 grams of EAA powder.

4 p.m. Sunday:
Drink 1 liter (4 cups) of water.
Optional: Drink 250 milliliters (1 cup) of herbal tea.
Optional: Take 5 grams of EAA powder.

7 p.m. Sunday:
Eat a small meal.
Drink 500 milliliters (2 cups) of water.

Monday:
Eat normally.

Insights and experiences

This protocol seemed doable, and I was looking forward to a full-day water fast and the clarity and energy I expected it would bring to my week. I wanted to experience the benefits for myself.

One of the best aspects of my 24-hour fast was improved mental focus. I found that I was more present, was able to sustain attention and focus, and I had clear short-term memory and a positive mood. I also slept really well that night. This was not surprising to me, given many studies have reported that fasting does not negatively impact cognition or mindset, but it is great insight to know that I can tap into this mental state anytime by managing my nourishment patterns.

Surprises

I was worried about training while fasting. I decided to take it easy that day and do a light resistance workout. I researched this option and discovered that the liver supplies the energy we use via gluconeogenesis, so while fasting, I knew I could train and trust that my muscles would use fatty acids directly for energy.

Recommendation

Staying hydrated is key. I spaced my hydration out throughout the day and mixed it up with some cucumber-infused water in the afternoon, and I alternated my tea selections. I made sure to avoid any added sugars or artificial flavors and kept everything natural, homemade and organic.

How to break the fast was a big question for me. As my fasting period was short and only 24 hours, there was no real challenge or special protocol recommended to break the fast. I was not overly hungry, but I was looking forward to food. I didn’t want to experience feeling stuffed after a big meal, so I opted to break my fast with my favorite smoothie followed by a small salad with nuts and clean protein later for lunch.

Pay attention to how you feel. I felt great, full of energy and also empowered to own my health. If at any time during the fast you don’t feel great or you feel like you are pushing through, stop and discuss further with your health-care provider. It is normal to feel like you want to eat, but feeling faint, nauseated or unwell is unusual and a signal to stop the fast.

It is also advisable to minimize your social commitments that day but to keep busy. The social pressure to consume is impressive, so give yourself a break from those demands while you fast, but do plan on some activities—for example, spend the day in reflection, reading, planning, self-care and/or connecting to what matters to you most.

This was my protocol, so after you consult your physician, I hope you’ll try it!

Photo credit: Ethan Sykes, Unsplash

Background

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Author

Chris Roussos

Chris Roussos is CEO of 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc. and leads the company in changing lives through fitness. He has served as CEO, President or COO for healthcare services companies for more than 15 years, including Epic Health Services, the first-ever pediatric continuum of care for medically fragile children; Harden Healthcare, a post-acute healthcare services company; and Orthodontic Centers of America (OCA). Roussos previously held management positons at PepsiCo and Rubbermaid, and served for 11 years in the U.S. Army.

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