Data-Driven Fasting by the Clock for Long-Term Success

I’ve been diving into the past eighteen months’ worth of data from over 4,402 Data-Driven Fasting app users. 

It’s exciting to see that people consistently do REALLY WELL with DDF, but only if they stick with it! 

We all start with the best intentions on our health journeys, but life happens!  It can be a struggle to make our health a long-term priority when things get hectic.  

This article will show you how to lock in a nuanced eating schedule tailored to your routine and unique metabolism, so you can form consistent habits that will last long enough to get the results you’re hoping for.

DDF Smashes Arbitrary ‘By the Clock’ Fasting Regimes

If you’ve done one of our Data-Driven Fasting challenges, you’ll know we designed Data-Driven Fasting to smash arbitrary, intermittent fasting regimes. 

Just because a specific eating schedule worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for your unique metabolism and schedule! 

Imagine your friend told you that the best time to fill up your car was every third Thursday at seven in the morning.  This precise routine worked for them; they’ve never run out of fuel!

But once you start to think about it, you realise they drive a tiny hatchback, have a 20-minute commute to work, and ride their bike on the weekends.  

Meanwhile, you drive a 6.2L V8 pickup truck, your commute to work is two hours each way, and you run errands and haul your kids to sports on the weekends. 

Would you expect your friend’s refuelling routine to work for you? 

Hell, no!  That would be ridiculous! 

After a few days, you’d end up broken down on the side of the road waiting (or hoping) for a tow truck. 

After such a traumatic experience, you’ll probably top up your truck’s fuel tank every time you pass a gas station for the next few months instead of waiting until the fuel gauge shows it’s time to refuel! 

The only logical way to fuel your pickup truck is by reading your fuel gauge. 

Although One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD), 16:8, 20:4, 22:2, and Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF) work for some people, some of the time, there’s no guarantee it’ll work for you. 

In Data-Driven Fasting, participants use a simple blood glucose meter as a fuel gauge to understand precisely when they need to eat. 

This style of glucose-guided eating has helped thousands of people find the perfect eating routine that works for them, so they can reach and maintain their goals! 

How to Find YOUR Optimal Eating Routine

Testing your blood glucose levels is the most efficient, accurate method of finding the optimal eating routine that works for your unique metabolism and lifestyle.  In the first couple of weeks of the Data-Driven Fasting Challenges, we ‘throw everything in the air’ and teach you to listen to your body’s needs using your glucose meter.  In that time, you will learn to refuel only when your blood glucose gives you the go-ahead and fall back in tune with your hunger cues. 

Although your hunger may appear mysterious and random, some distinct patterns emerge after a few weeks.  For example, we’ve included a 14-day hourly glucose chart from the DDF App below. 

Here, you can see some distinct clusters that indicate a three-meal per day pattern.  Others find they tend to eat twice a day around similar times because their hunger cues tell them to do so or because they have other constraints (like work or other commitments) limiting their meal frequency.  

In our Data-Driven Fasting Challenges, we guide participants to shuffle when and what they eat until they find the routine that works for them.  For example:

  • If your waking glucose is consistently high, you can try eating your last meal a little sooner.  If your blood sugars are elevated in the morning, prioritising protein a little earlier in the day tends to increase satiety and bring blood glucose back below Your Personal Trigger earlier. 
  • If your blood sugars are lower in the afternoon, you can try prioritising carbs and eating a little earlier before they fall too low. 

Through some trial and error, people tend to find the routine that works for their unique metabolism and life schedule.

Lock It In! 

Now that you’ve found your ideal eating schedule, why not lock it in?!?!

Grab your phone and set up some alarms so you don’t forget!

An example schedule could be:

  • 6 am – Weigh-in and waking glucose.  
  • 6.30 am – Walk the dog.
  • 7.00 am – Shower and get ready.
  • 7.30 am – Leave for work.
  • 11 am – Eat your first meal.
  • 3 pm – Afternoon tea.  If you’re above trigger, skip this eating opportunity.
  • 3.30 pm – Workout.
  • 7 pm – Dinner.

These times will vary depending on YOUR unique life schedule and the mealtimes you’ve chosen.  The next time you think of eating mindlessly, remember that you have an alarm coming up, and you can hold off just a little bit longer.  Use this to motivate yourself to not break the routine that YOU have identified as optimal for YOU! 

As you reflect on your hourly glucose chart in the DDF App, you can fine-tune the times for your phone alarms in the coming weeks. 

This technique was suggested by Margaret, who said: 

“I have continued tracking glucose since the last challenge, but I changed things up by adding timers.  It helped me because I thought I was hungry and started eating before I would test.  Because I am on my own schedule, I tend to eat randomly and forget to eat until it’s too late to avoid a binge. 

“For example, I’m up at 5:30 am, so I have a reminder at 6 am to test waking glucose.  Since I am usually a high level then, I don’t want to eat.  So, I have an alarm at 10:30 to test.  In the past, I tested every 30 minutes, wondering, ‘am I there yet?’ 

“If I’m at trigger at 10:30, I eat.  If not, I wait another 30 minutes and eat a high-protein meal with lots of veggies anyway.  It keeps me going for hours, but the next alarm is at 3 pm.  I repeat the same process.  I eat if I’m at target but wait 30 minutes otherwise. 

“I’m 70 and have started weight training 2x per week.  My DEXA scans have shown an increase in muscle and fat loss.  For someone who is retired and can graze or gorge with no clear hunger sensations, I find that adding a timer has helped me refrain from snacking or eating without my premeal blood glucose trigger’s permission. 

“My morning glucose was not terrible, but it’s trending down.  I’m not prediabetic, and I want to keep it that way!  Watching the long-term trends in the charts keeps me going!  Thank you for making tracking easy!”

You can follow this more regimented process using hunger training or maintenance mode in the DDF app. 

To be clear, you don’t have to eat precisely when the alarm goes off, but you can use it to remind yourself that it’s time to test your glucose soon.  If you’re not hungry, you could wait a little longer.  If you’re hungry, test your sugars, and find that you’re above your trigger, you can make more intelligent food choices based on your current blood sugar.   

Some of our most successful DDF biggest losers have used this approach to implement a consistent DDF routine.  Muffy is a great example!

As the chart below shows, Muffy lost 55 lbs (25 kg) with her solid DDF routine!

Some of our other DDF moderators have had some great results with locking in their eating routine with phone reminders. 

To be clear, you don’t need to worry about setting alarms if you’re someone who remembers to check your glucose when you feel hungry and enjoy a more flexible routine.  But if you regularly ‘forget’ for a few days or avoid your blood sugars and the scale because you don’t want to see the number, giving yourself a structured reminder could help you stick with the process until you see the results you’re hoping for.  Settling into a regular routine of testing and eating will also help you minimise the number of tests you have to perform. 

The chart below was taken from our DDF app analysis.  Here, you can see that perceived hunger correlates with premeal blood sugar levels.  The long-term goal of Data-Driven Fasting is to get you back in touch with your hunger signals using your premeal sugars, so you don’t need the ‘training wheels’ that your blood glucose meter provides.  

Similarly, setting up phone alarms is a crutch you won’t need in the long term.  But until then, setting these reminders will help you build consistent habits so you can close in on that long-term success you’ve been aspiring for. 

Why You May Need a Little Nudge to Keep Building Habits

While DDF is designed to minimise the amount of testing over time while still maximising sustainability, we’ve noticed a substantial drop in the number of people who continued tracking their premeal glucose and weight.  

It’s also interesting to note there are some substantial week-to-week fluctuations.  As shown in the example chart below, people tend to test more frequently on the weekends and Mondays.  However, they seem to get busy and ‘forget’ during the week. 

People are often ‘good’ during the week; some are maybe even a little too good!  Some use this as precedence to relax on the weekends and eat more than they otherwise would, which ultimately ends in their pre- and post-meal glucose readings peaking on Monday.

Meanwhile, weight and waking glucose—which are highly correlated—tend to peak on Tuesday. 

This causes the cycle to repeat, with many people trying to compensate for their wild weekend by ‘being good’ during the weekdays.  But as you can see, restricting food intake excessively when someone is busy during the week can trigger excessive hunger on weekends when they slow down and have easy access to food. 

Some people might also avoid tracking their food and biometrics after a big weekend because they know their numbers won’t look so good the Monday after.

While taking a day off here and there isn’t the end of the world, this constant cycle could lead to someone ‘forgetting’ to test and track for multiple days.  Before long, they’re back to where they started.  Forgetting to track once happens—that’s life!  But missing two or three times is a sure way to sure-fire way to derail any good habits you were starting to form. 

One way to minimise the risk of rebounding on the weekend is to use your glucose fuel gauge as a guide throughout the week to ensure you are eating enough.  If you ensure you’re not running on empty during the week, you’ll be less likely to ‘fall off the wagon’ on the weekend when you have more opportunities to eat less-than-optimal foods. 

When to Eat Using Your CGM

While you don’t need one for Data-Driven Fasting, continuous glucose monitors (CGM) are becoming more popular lately. While most people use CGMs to try to flatten their glucose response after eating, they can be much more useful to identify when you need to eat.

The chart below shows my glucose ranges over the past six weeks of wearing a CGM. I’ve been doing some experiments to see how different exercises and foods affect my blood glucose.

While it might look pretty flat in the chart above, if you zoom in and look at the range, you can see a more distinct pattern, with a morning low at around 8-9 am and another one around 5 pm. Based on this, I have set up reminders on my phone to make sure I remember to eat at 9 am and 5 pm.

In our DDF Challenges, we see many people with elevated morning glucose (due to Dawn Phenomenon). However, you can see my pattern is lower in the morning, particularly after I’ve gone for a bike ride. It doesn’t rise much after that through the day but it then tends to rise a lot more after my PM meal. I’m still working on moving more of my daily calories to the morning so I’m less hungry at night.

What to Eat

Beyond WHEN to eat, the DDF app will also guide you on WHAT to eat based on your premeal glucose.  Understanding what to eat based on your blood sugar can be extremely useful once you’ve found the routine that works for you. 

The table below shows the DDF app’s guidance based on your blood glucose readings.  Based on whether your glucose is above or below your current trigger, this data empowers you to make more intelligent choices on what to eat.

GlucoseGuidance
Significantly above triggerWait!  You don’t need to eat yet.  You’ve got plenty of fuel on board! 
Just above triggerIdeally, wait to eat.  If you’re particularly hungry, prioritise fibre and protein over carbs and fat.
Just below triggerEat ‘normally’. 
Significantly below triggerPrioritise just enough carbohydrates to bring glucose back to your normal range so you can quickly alleviate extreme hunger from low glucose.  This might take some trial and error!

Making better food choices based on your blood sugars and need for nutrients vs energy will help you give your body precisely what it needs when it needs it so you can feel fuller for longer.  Using your glucose to guide WHAT and WHEN you eat as we do in DDF will push you in this direction. 

Food Lists and NutriBooster Recipes

For some inspiration on what to eat based on your blood glucose levels, you can also check out our Free Food List Bundle or NutriBooster Recipe Books

The table below shows some options you could choose depending on your goals and premeal glucose values.   

GlucoseFood ListNutriBooster recipes
Just above triggerMaximum Nutrient Density
Fat Loss
Maximum Nutrient Density
Fat Loss
High Protein:Energy
Just below triggerBlood Sugar & Fat Loss
Nutrient-Dense Maintenance
Blood Sugar
Lean Bulk/Bodybuilder
Blood Sugar & Fat Loss
Maintenance
Low-Carb & Blood Sugar Bodybuilder
Significantly below triggerLow-Fat
Athletes & Bulking
Low-Fat
Athletes & Bulking

I hope this little clock-based ‘hack’ helps you lock in sustainable long-term habits.  While it may seem a little regimented, a few little external nudges and guides can help us form new habits and routines to prioritise our health and maintain long-term success when life happens. 

If you try this clock-based approach to Data-Driven Fasting, let us know how it works in the comments below!  

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