20/4 Intermittent Fasting
Unless you have been living under a rock recently, there is a very good chance that you have either heard or seen something on intermittent fasting. Whether it was on the television, social media, or even in a magazine article, intermittent fasting has seen a huge growth in popularity in weight loss and low-carb communities recently.
No matter whether or not you are trying to maintain weight loss, get your body into a state of ketosis very quickly, or simply take your weight loss efforts to the next level, when you switch from a keto diet to an intermittent fasting schedule, you are going to see results, and fast.
Intermittent fasting was first introduced to the mainstream back in 2002, when something called the Warrior Diet, first came out. Different from any of the other low-carb type of diet programs at that time, the Warrior Diet pushed the idea of actually timing when you are going to eat your food, as well as how much food you will eat, and what you will eat.
What made the Warrior Diet so effective for weight loss was that it referenced doing a 20/4 intermittent fast. This means that for 20 hours of your day, you would not consume any food at all. For the remaining 4 hours of your day, that would be your ‘window’ and when you would be able to consume your daily intake. Typically, this 4-hour window would usually be in the evenings.
Before and after your allowed 4-hour window, you would not be allowed to eat anything during that time.
Having built off of that, as time went on, intermittent fasting has adapted and grown to become quite popular among those following a keto diet. In fact, there are many different variations of intermittent fasting that have surfaced, most of them being way less strict that the Warrior Diet, that was the first intermittent fasting routine at a 20/4 ratio.
But just like the sequel to most movies, the variations that have been introduced since the original Warrior Diet have not been as nearly as effective, and the results just are not the same. However, with the additional choices that can be made, there has been a large group of people who are looking to lose weight with intermittent fasting on their low-carb diet.
While more people trying intermittent fasting is great, is the 20/4 intermittent fasting diet really still the top dog? And if it does, why would you need or want to include it into your current diet plan if you are already going low-carb?
Intermittent Fasting: Why?
The keto diet and getting your body into ketosis is so that you are able to switch the metabolism of your body from using glucose, as it’s main source of energy and fuel, to that of fatty acids and ketones for fuel. You are essentially trying to get your body into a state of ketosis so that it starts to use your fat stores as it’s main source of energy instead of glucose.
When your body is able to make this ‘switch’, you will also be lowering your basal insulin levels, as well as helping to curb your appetite so you don’t eat as much and start to consume your food at some type of caloric deficit.
From day one of starting the keto diet, you are going to began reducing the amount of carbohydrates and calories that are readily available to your body. Initially, your body doesn’t like this and is going to try to get itself back into the balance of energy that it is use to.
If you are only trying to lose a little bit of weight, you should be able to achieve your weight loss goals prior to your body succeeding in making that happen. However, if you have more weight to lose and lots of excess fat on your body, there is a good chance that your body is going to be able to re-achieve it’s state of equilibrium prior to achieving whatever your weight loss goals are.
If this is to happen to you, you will then start to notice that you have hit a weight loss plateau or stall. Normally, a regular keto diet will not be able to bust through this stall in your weight loss.
When the keto community first accepted intermittent fasting, there were a large number of those who were on the keto diet or other low-carb diets who had already stopped achieving the weight loss results that they were working so hard to achieve. This became a problem among the low-carb dieters who became desperate for some type of practical and painless way that they would be able to further drop their calorie intake without having to spend countless time and food prep hours to do it.
Some of the other people who were dieting became so insulin resistant to their weight loss that plateaus happened almost immediately after they switched to a keto diet. For these people, they needed some type of metabolic fix that would help them start to drop their unwanted pounds.
When intermittent fasting was introduced, it gave those on both types of diets exactly the push they needed to put their hormonal imbalance back into balance. On top of that, it was also a way to reduce their food consumption even further, which in turn would jumpstart their weight loss again. So intermittent fasting was the solution to both groups of dieters.
If you have gone keto and are struggling to lose weight or bust through a weight loss plateau, incorporating a version of the 20/4 intermittent fast may be exactly what your body needs to get back on track with your weight loss efforts.
20/4 intermittent Fasting, What is it?
Different from the Warrior Diet that was mentioned previously in this article, the 20/4 intermittent fast guidelines that are used by the keto and low-carb community today, is based off of having a longer fast period that is partnered with a version of the traditional keto diet. The end goal is to make sure that your body’s insulin level stays on the low end for a longer period of time.
So in the 20/4 intermittent fast, the ‘20’ means that you are going to go a full 20 hours without being able to eat anything, including the keto food that is allowed in your keto diet. While this may sound a little long to go without eating, keep in mind that this 20-hour window of fasting is going to include 8 hours (or however long you regularly sleep) of sleep time.
But you are able to have as many liquids as you would like, as long as they are of the no-calorie variety. This 20-hour fast is commonly referred to as your fasting window.
The ‘4’ on the other hand, is the complete opposite of the 20. The 4 is actually going to be your eat window where you can eat your regular keto diet foods. Now keep in mind that these 4 hours must be consecutive and is considered your non-fasting period. It is commonly referred to as your eating window, and the hours you choose to have as your eat window are completely up to you. Just try to keep it after the 20 hours of fasting.
Another word to the wise, you do not have to limit your eating window so that it is only in the evenings, like when intermittent fasting first came out back in 2002. In fact, you would be wise to tailor your 20 hour fast window and your 4 hour eat window to fit into your personal schedule, when you are the hungriest, as well as to factor in anything that may be going on with your life.
What Foods Can I Eat on the 20/4 Intermittent Fast?
While there has been a ton of research done on the benefits and consequences of fasting since its introduction back in 2002, unfortunately most of this research has been don on different types of animals, with mice being the main ones.
Since discoveries that apply to mice are not always correlated to that of humans, most of the available information on what you should be eating or drinking to be successful on a intermittent fast regime is not very accurate.
Typically, with a 20/4 intermittent fast, you are not going to want to drink or eat anything that contains calories for the entire period of fasting. There are some people who are able to abide by this rule, while others are not quite as strict about it. It all depends upon the commitment level and what their weight loss goals are.
With all of the variations of fasts available, the 20/4 fast plan is definitely one of the more strict programs that you can do. For this reason, not everybody is able to stick with only eating in that quick 4 hour eating window. This is especially true if you enjoy using some double cream or another sugar substitute in your morning coffee.
Some on the 20/4 fast however, will start their day by drinking Bullet Proof Coffee when they wake up in the morning, and then will eat all of their calories during their 4 hour eat window later in the day or at night.
Depending upon your personal preferences, you may find that you are much hungrier during the daytime, so scheduling your eat window during lunch or even breakfast may be a better options for you. The only change would be that you would just not be eating at night anymore.
The cool thing about the 204 intermittent fast is that it doesn’t matter which time frame you choose as your eat window or how many different meals you decide to eat during your 4 hour eat window. As long as you stick to the food that are considered to be low-carb, you are going to see results and you are going to get the weight loss that you are chasing.
In fact, there are some people who are so committed to achieving their weight loss goals that they will go with a zero carbohydrate diet.
To explain what a very low-carbohydrate diet is, it’s defined as below 30 total carbs per day, with many dieters even tweaking it so that their meal or two combines for a maximum of 20 total carbs or less.
You may be asking yourself how can somebody eat so few carbs and not be hungry all day? When you start to eat fewer carbohydrates every day, the hunger that you feel is going to drastically decrease, which makes it much easier for you to go through a whopping 20 hours without eating, or fasting. It is because of this reason that it is best to try and stick to some of the keto diet basics.
Those basics being to only eat:
- Fish, meat or poultry
- Cheese and eggs
- Leafy green vegetables
- Low-carb vegetables
- Spices that do not contain sugars
- Select low-carb condiments
- Simple gravies and sauces that are low-carb
- Bone broth to help meet your daily requirement of sodium
- Sparkling water or regular water
- Tea or coffee
What can be tricky however, is trying to make sure you are getting enough protein in your meals. Since your eat window is going to be drastically reduced to just 4 hours, you may need to make sure you get some of the higher protein options in that are going to supply you with less fat to make it all work.
If you are trying to get all of your daily protein needs consumed within one meal, then this is going to be particularly true. But don’t worry, all you are going to need to do is choose turkey breast, chicken, tuna, beef or pork loin cuts a little more often.
A lot of keto dieters have found that they have much better success if they space out when they consume their proteins. So essentially, they are going to spread out their protein consumption over the entire 4-hour eat window, thus allowing them some time to consume some of the fattier cuts of meat available.
When it comes to snacking, snacking during any part of your 4 hour eat window is going to be absolutely fine. In fact, there are some on the 20/4 intermittent fast that have found they enjoy eating one larger meal at the start of their eat window, followed by a snack right before their eat window closes.
The one thing you don’t want to do however, is to plan your eating schedule so close to your bed time that you end up being uncomfortable and feel too full. Even though you only have a 4-hour eat window, you absolutely do not want to stuff yourself.
When you are doing an intermittent fast, you are not supposed to be in pain. So be sure that you plan all of your meals earlier in the evening so that you are still able to get a good night of sleep.
And if you do accidently go over your designated eat window, try not to worry about it. It really isn’t that big a deal as you are probably going to have other days where you actually go under your 4-hour eat window as well. The thing that is most important is that you stay as consistent as possible with the pattern that you are trying to establish.
However, it for whatever reason it ends up coming down to either eating a snack that is outside of your 4 hour eat window or just deciding to quit your fast and the keto diet altogether, definitely opt for the snack. If you need to, you can even squeeze in an occasional 18/6 or 16/8 intermittent fast day as well.
One thing that keto dieters have found when it comes to starting a 20/4 intermittent fast, is that jumping to a 20/4 intermittent fast can be very difficult. If this is the case, you may find that it is much easier to ease into it by shortening your eat window a little bit every week. This will allow you to ease into it and won’t be such a shock to your body.
And if you are a keto beginner, remember that it is not always going to be workable for you to jump straight into an intermittent fast. You may want to achieve ketosis prior to getting started with your fast as can be way less stressful and much easier to for you tot succeed.
What are the Benefits and Side Effects?
By now you should know that some of the main benefits of the 20/4 intermittent fast are a lower insulin level and some major weight loss. However, those are not the only benefits that you can expect to see once you start your fast. Some of the other benefits are:
- More energy
- Lack of food cravings and hunger
- Improved blood glucose
- Increase in mental clarity
- Increase in concentration
- Less inflammation
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Better cellular cleansing
- Less insulin in response to protein
So basically any condition or bodily function that improves by lowering your insulin levels is going to see a huge improvement after you switch to an intermittent fasting diet regimen. On top of that, if you have been overeating carbohydrates prior to getting started, you will see a drastic dip in the amount of hunger and other cravings that you have.
On top of all that, since intermittent fasting allows your insulin levels to remain much lower for a longer amount of time, when you use this style of eating, there is a good chance that you are also going to prevent any insulin resistance from forming and can even correct some of the minor insulin resistance cases without any kind of external intervention.
Unfortunately, according to Dr. Jason Fung who just happens to be a diabetes specialist, some of the more severe cases of insulin resistance, such as Type 2 Diabetes, you would need to do a much longer fast period than a normal intermittent fast is going to provide. This would call for a more extreme fast of a complete 24 hours, ore even something more intense such as several days to see any type of improvement.
With that being said, consistently doing a 20/4 intermittent fast program is still going to provide you with tons of benefits that are going to make it a viable option, even if you are a diabetic.
At the end of the day, it really does not matter how you do it. There is some kind of stigma that society has taught us from a young age. You must eat smaller days frequently through your day if you want to be healthy, and just is not true at all. If you are obese or overweight, you are simply eating too many calories for you body and your current lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how little or how much that really is. If you are overweight, you are eating too much.
While you do not need to go straight to intermittent fasting if you wish to lose weight, but you should do something, even if it is just getting up and away from your desk a little more to take a brisk walk or even just move more.
But if you have tried to lose weight and have stalled and can’t seem to get back on track to your weight loss goals, you are going to have to pick some type of alternative to whatever it is that you are currently doing. There are many people who have gotten on keto diets and have seen great weight loss results, especially if they are sitting at their jobs all day.
At the end of the day, it is always going to be your choice on whether you want to try a keto diet, try a 20/4 intermittent fast, or not change anything at all and continue to be overweight. Jus remember to do what makes you happy and you will always be on the right path to success.