Fasting is an ancient practice done for both health and spiritual reasons. It can cultivate discipline and mental clarity, but the main reason people fast in modern times is for the health benefits. When done in the right way, fasting is known to help with weight loss, it can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and even boost cognitive health.
These diverse effects make fasting an enticing modern-day solution to improving general wellness. One of the most popular methods of fasting that has taken the wellness world by storm is what’s known as “intermittent fasting”.
Intermittent fasting means reserving all foods to fit within a designated “eating window” followed by a “fasting window” with no food. You can consume calorie-free beverages like black coffee, tea, herbal infusions, or electrolytes during the fasting window, however.
There are several different versions of popular fasts, one of which is known as the 4/20 method. This strategy has just a 4-hour eating window followed by a 20-hour eating window, and it can be a fantastic tool for achieving weight loss. The 20 hour fast benefits can be a complete game changer for many health enthusiasts, particularly those who haven’t seen the results they desire from trying shorter fasts.
A Brief Overview of The Different Types of Intermittent Fasting
Though the 4/20 method is an excellent eating strategy for some people, it’s not for everyone. It’s important to understand the various types of intermittent fasting methods before deciding which one can best support your personal goals.
These are some of the most common intermittent fasting protocols:
- One Meal a Day (OMAD)
- Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)
- 8/16 Fast
- 10/14 Fast
- 4/20 Fast
- Eat-Stop-Eat (ESE)
- The Warrior Diet
- The 5:2 Diet
All of these protocols involve different types of food or caloric restrictions for a set period of time, with the freedom to choose whatever foods you prefer during the eating windows. The OMAD diet refers to only eating one large meal a day. This can be helpful for weight loss, but it’s not necessarily ideal for everyone’s digestion to eat such a large meal, and it may lead to low energy throughout the day.
The ADF is another intense method of intermittent fasting. It requires you to fast (with no food or minimal food, depending on your needs) every other day. This can be easier on digestion since it doesn’t require such big meals, but it may also be too intense and difficult for beginners to stick to.
The Eat-Stop-Eat fasting method is similar to the ADF method but a milder version. It involves regularly eating for the entire week with the exception of one or two days where you “stop”. This means doing a fast on these days. This is an easy-to-follow plan for most people as long as fasting for a whole day is a realistic goal.
The Warrior diet is another realistic option for beginners to try. It entails eating only small portions of fruits and vegetables for several hours, followed by a large meal in the evening.
The final 3 types of fasting listed all fall into the category of “time-restricted eating”. This means you can eat any food within the eating window, which may be 8 hours, 10 hours, or perhaps even just 4. A short 4-hour window is, of course, the most challenging of these options, but it can lend the best results for weight loss in particular.
Why Try 4/20 Intermittent Fasting?
4/20 intermittent fasting is a great option for anyone wanting to see serious results from their diet and who doesn’t mind adapting to a slightly unconventional lifestyle. While it can be difficult to forgo the usual 3 meals a day most people enjoy, there is total flexibility for when fasters decide their eating window should be.
This means you could have your 4-hour eating period in the morning if you enjoy breakfast foods most, or you could delay the eating window til the evening if having a sit-down dinner is more meaningful to you. Either way, it will take some sacrifice and some getting used to to accommodate this lifestyle.
It may not be feasible for those new to fasting to start with a 4/20 method right away, or else they may prefer to try it only on occasion while getting their body and hunger cues to adapt. Once this takes place however, all the effort and practice of learning to eat with this schedule are well worth it.
The benefits from longer are more pronounced than shorter ones, and the ones that are too short may not even yield the same benefits at all. Studies have shown that longer fasts (18 hours or over) are more effective at lowering blood lipid levels, for example. This is because fat oxidation (using fat for energy) only begins approximately 18 hours after fasting, and this is the process that improves this particular metabolic health marker.
Another benefit seen to be more effective with a longer fast, like a 20-hour fast, is lower blood glucose levels. This is an important metabolic marker as well because it signifies how efficiently the body is responding to and utilizing the important hormone insulin.
Is 4/20 Fasting Effective For Weight Loss?
The final and perhaps most common consideration for most people wanting to try the 4/20 fasting diet is whether or not it can result in effective weight loss. The answer is yes, it certainly can.
4 hours is a short enough period of eating to make it difficult to over consume calories. Even if you’re eating until satisfaction, it’s unlikely that you’ll exceed your daily caloric limit for weight maintenance within such a short time.
On top of this, 20 hours is a long enough period of fasting to put the body into a fat-burning state. This can help to drop stubborn fat stores while in the fasting state. On top of this, going back and forth between fasting and eating triggers what’s known as metabolic switching. This is where the body goes back and forth between running on glucose or running on fat-derived ketones for fuel. This is known to help improve body composition by preserving lean muscle and reducing fat stores.
Even though 4/20 fasting can be an effective tool for weight loss, it won’t necessarily suit everyone’s lifestyle preferences. It’s far more important to select a diet plan that is realistic and sustainable for the long term.
If 4/20 seems like a reasonable fit, it can also be important to finetune the foods consumed during the eating window if your results aren’t as pronounced as you’d hoped for. Prioritizing protein and eliminating processed foods is a good additional step to take for this purpose.
This caveats aside, 4/20 can indeed be an excellent and effective method for weight loss. Just don’t forget to seek the advice of a trusted healthcare provider before making any significant dietary changes.