Intermittent fasting has helped many people lose weight, lower their blood glucose, and reverse Type 2 Diabetes without the hassle of tracking their food. But, disappointingly, for many others, fasting doesn’t provide the results they had hoped for.
When we get ravenously hungry after not eating for an extended period, many of us reach for energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and meals that quickly undo all the benefits of fasting.
To ensure long-term success, you need to find the minimum effective dose of fasting. Your mission is to achieve your goals without pushing your body so hard that it rebels, trapping you like a fly in amber, in an endless cycle of binge-restrict-binge.
As with many things in life, when it comes to fasting, more isn’t always better. You need just enough restriction to ensure you’re moving towards your goal at a sustainable rate.
With Data-Driven Fasting (DDF), you’ll learn how to ‘gamify‘ the fat loss process with a few simple measurements to guide your progress over the long term. By measuring the things that matter, you personalise and optimise your eating schedule to create your desired outcome.
Data-Driven Fasting (DDF) is a powerful, time-proven tool that has guided many people towards their fat loss and blood glucose goals without tracking calories or following a rigid fasting window designed for someone else.
We are thrilled with the results of thousands of people who have used Data-Driven Fasting to fine-tune their eating routine! To learn how to leverage the powerful insights provided by your blood sugars, read on!
- Download the Data-Driven Fasting Manual
- Of calories, brains and lizards… Is calorie counting the best way to lose weight?
- Counting calories may cause disordered eating
- What is the best fasting schedule for YOU?
- What is the best re-fuelling schedule for you?
- Why fasting fails for so many
- How your body uses the food you eat?
- Your Personal Fat Threshold
- Why are blood glucose and insulin so important?
- Why it’s more important to manage your basal insulin than your bolus insulin
- What happens to glucose and fat when we eat?
- How to use your blood glucose monitor to lose weight
- How to use your blood sugar meter as a fuel gauge
- Hunger Training… lose weight using your blood sugar as a fuel gauge
- Why we created Data-Driven Fasting
- Join the DDF Facebook Group
- Success stories & reviees
Download the Data-Driven Fasting Manual
This article is part of the 150-page DDF Manual, which you can download for offline reading here.
Many people try calorie counting, but the vast majority find it unsustainable, even with tracking apps like MyFitnessPal
Most of us live unpredictable lives punctuated with events like family dinners, work lunches, and impromptu parties that make it impractical to weigh and measure everything we eat. While we can be disciplined most of the time, it is those occasional meals (when your calorie tracking app isn’t looking) that spontaneously undo all of your hard work.
Even if you could weigh and measure everything you put into your mouth, the nutrition data in your app won’t precisely match the foods you ate. Your body doesn’t ‘burn’ foods the same way that calories are measured in a bomb calorimeter (the machine used to measure the energy in food, pictured below).
Calorie tracking apps also don’t account for the thermic effect of food, which varies depending on the degree of processing and the food’s macronutrient profile. So, any calorie projection from an online calculator will always be inaccurate, providing a “guesstimate,” at best.
Your metabolism is incredibly complex. The amount of energy you use each day is influenced by many factors, including your muscle mass, exercise, stress, activity, age, overall health, and sleep. So, your energy expenditure naturally adapts and changes from day to day.
Eating is primal and instinctual. Your appetite ensures that you seek out the nutrients you need. When you restrict calories, the ‘Reptilian Brain,’ or amygdala (the part of your brain that looks after your instincts), perceives a starvation threat, and responds to this ‘dire emergency’ by driving up hunger and slowing your metabolism.
If you consistently fail to provide the nutrients your body requires, you can expect a hostile takeover by your lizard brain as it hijacks your appetite to send you in search of the nutrients you require, despite your best efforts to limit the amount you eat.
If you try to maintain a fixed calorie intake, ignoring genuine hunger on some days and overeating on others, there is a real risk that your natural, healthy appetite signals will become dysregulated.
When you slash your energy intake by simply restricting calories without changing WHAT you eat, your body quickly adapts to ensure your survival. Your metabolic rate slows. You produce less heat, feel less energetic, and involuntary activity grinds to a halt, diverting precious limited energy to your heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and other organs essential to your survival. Consider it metabolic rationing.
Energy is always conserved, but the factors on both sides of the “calories in vs calories out” equation are incredibly complex and beyond our ability to precisely measure or manipulate.
While we would like to believe that our conscious brain is always in control and that we can use our willpower to eat less and move more, most people are unsuccessful at self-imposing this approach long term.
As we have previously learned, prolonged fasting and exceptionally low-calorie diets eventually panic our ‘lizard brain’ into wresting hunger control from our neocortex, rescuing us from what “Lizzy’” perceives as eminent “starvation.”
But fear not! While Data-Driven Fasting introduces us to the querulous Lizzy, Hunger Training teaches us how to slowly tame her by giving your lizard brain exactly what she needs, precisely when she needs it. Hunger Training is like a lullaby for a restless Lizzy, singing your inner lizard back to sleep so that you can relax into this new way of eating and thrive.
Counting calories may cause disordered eating
If you’ve ever tried tracking calories, you already know that your lizard brain doesn’t like to relinquish control of your appetite to a smartphone app.
Frustration and anxiety buzz like bee keepers at a convention once users discover that all the time and energy they’ve invested tracking everything they put into their mouth has failed to yield the expected dividends.
Sadly, food tracking makes many people neurotic. A 2017 study of people with a diagnosed eating disorder found that 75% of participants reported using MyFitnessPal. Disturbingly, 73% of the MyFitnessPal users claimed the app had contributed to their eating disorder.
Counting calories and trying to stay under an arbitrary target is a recipe for failure. The flawed mainstream manifesto to ‘eat less, move more’ drives many traditional dieters into a futile cycle of exercise, deprive, binge, repeat.
The recipe for disaster goes something like this. Take human nature, add the ridiculously inflated numbers of “calories burned” credited to even modest activity, combined with days of “being good,” and presto! You’ve created fasters who believethat they deserve to binge, that they have earned it, and that they have banked enough extra calories from previous diet and exercise to “fund” it without gaining weight. Counting calories is a vector for “calorie amnesia,” another reason for its impreciseness. The practice is as archaic as using an abacus. It’s an artificial external tool for restrictingfoods that should be viewed as no more than an interesting footnote to nutrition history.
Our natural hunger signals have been hijacked by many factors in our modern food environment, including:
- an abundance of highly processed foods that are a combination of refined carbohydrates and fats. (This combination of macros is rare in nature and drives us to overeat as we once instinctively did every autumn, building our fat stores for winter survival).
- 24/7 food availability 365 days per year
- cultural cues that lead us to associate food with fun, affection, pleasure, social gatherings, and popularity (rather than as the source of the nutrients we need to thrive), targeted food advertising and marketing campaigns that promote snacking and eating; and
- “bait and switch “artificial colourings, scents, and flavours that trick your appetite into falsely believing processed food products contain the nutrients you need.
These factors contribute to the burgeoning Frankenfood marketplace that stimulates and perpetuates overeating and weight gain, driving the diabesity epidemic that (according to the World Health Organisation) currently affects more than 422 million people worldwide.
While fasting continues to grow in popularity, there is still plenty of confusion about the ideal routine. Is it:
- Michael Mosely’s 5:2 Diet,
- Hugh Jackman’s 16:8,
- Bert Herring’s Fast Five,
- Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat,
- Ori Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet,
- Valter Longo’s Fast Mimicking Diet,
- Alternate Day Fasting,
- Multi-Day Extended Fasting, or
- One Meal a Day (OMAD)?
People are passionate about their favourite fasting routine, enthusiastically proselytising about whatever worked wonders for them.
But what about you?
- How do you know which fasting plan is right for you?
- How do you know if it is working?
- How can you fine-tune your routine to optimise your results?
- How do you know your chosen schedule won’t lead to bingeing, negating all your arduous work?
- What if you feel ravenously hungry, but it is not ‘time to eat’ according to the fasting approach you have chosen?
Imagine your best friend told you that the ideal time to put fuel in your car was on the first Saturday of the month. But they drive a hybrid hatchback, with a 20-minute commute to work, and enjoy walking everywhere on the weekend. Meanwhile, you drive a pickup truck, have a two-hour commute to work, and sometimes like to drive to the beach on the weekend.
Obviously, following the re-fuelling schedule that your friend swears by will leave you out of gas on the side of the road. So, the only rational way to decide when to refuel is to go by the fuel gauge on YOUR truck. While you don’t want to fuel up too often, neither do you want to let the tank go dry and find yourself in an emergency, broken down on the side of the motorway.
Now let’s take this analogy and apply similar logic to selecting the fasting protocol that’s right for you, using your glucometer as the fuel gauge and your body as the vehicle. You’ll get better “mileage” by dialling in your fasting routine based on your fuel gauge (i.e., your blood glucose) than you will by filling up on someone else’s clock-based schedule, no matter how well theirs works for them.
Data-Driven Fasting helps you optimise your refuelling schedule by understanding when is your hunger gauge on “full” and when is it flashing “empty”? Personalising your eating schedule with your own blood glucose data is what puts DDF ahead of the also-rans– the typical intermittent fasting programs that have failed so many users.
There are plenty of people who fast for days but are still not lean. It’s not that difficult to do a multi-day fast, especially if you are carrying a lot of stored body fat.
You may have seen people claiming to feel fantastic, bragging to everyone on Facebook about their high ketone levels after days of fasting. But you’ve likely also seen plenty of other posters in the same fasting groups complaining about not making long-term progress as they yo-yo up and down, recycling the same few pounds over and over, destabilising their body composition with gained fat and lost muscle.
Many fasting programs promote the idea that you can ‘build your fasting muscle’ by pouring on the will power to endure longer and longer fasts–rather like endurance training for the appetite. Unfortunately, many “by the window” fasters only succeed in waking Lizzy, and she responds by turning a silent or softly whimpering hunger into a screeching aria of unrequited “starvation,” which is unscientifically known as the ‘Godzilla response.’
When Lizzy rampages after days of extended fasting, most handlers don’t try to tame her with grilled chicken breast and broccoli, but with peace offerings of her favs– highly processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods like cakes, chips, peanut butter and ice cream.
‘Any fool can fast, but only the wise man knows how to break a fast’.
George Bernard Shaw
People who fast regularly typically get less of the protein and micronutrients they require to prevent cravings, achieve satiety, and optimise their health. Over time, they risk becoming ‘skinny fat’, unintentionally trading increasing body fat for less muscle mass, lowering their metabolism and worsening their metabolic health.
The reality is nothing magical about fasting eliminates your need for nutrients. Lizzy will always work to ensure you get what your body needs, regardless of how much willpower (or won’t power) you exert with your conscious mind.
The trick is finding a way to get just enough restriction to achieve the benefits of fasting without pushing so hard that your Reptilian Brain slithers in and undoes all of your hard work.
Rather than resolutely pushing through hunger signals, people who want to lose body fat must find a way to reacquaint themselves with their healthy appetite. They should forgo occasional Herculean efforts in favour of small incremental changes that build more sustainable, lasting healthy habits.
To maximise resilience in any context, our bodies have adapted to store and use a wide range of fuels. The fuel we use to produce energy can come from either the food we have just eaten or the fat stored in our bodies.
The table below shows the relative oxidative priority of alcohol, ketones, glucose and fat in your body (adapted from Oxidative Priority, Meal Frequency, and the Energy Economy of Food and Activity: Implications for Longevity, Obesity, and Cardiometabolic Disease by Cronise et al., 2017).
|Alcohol||Ketones||Excess protein||Glucose||Fatty acids||Body fat|
|Use||Energy||Energy||Energy and excretion||Energy||Energy||Storage|
|Capacity (calories)||20||20||–||1200 – 2000||150||40,000 – 500,000|
|Thermic effect||15%||3%||20 – 35%||5 – 15%||3 – 15%||3 – 15%|
Some fuels are harder to convert into usable energy than others, and their conversion losses are higher. You might recognise this phenomenon by several names, including the ‘thermic effect of food’, ‘dietary-induced thermogenesis’ or the ‘specific dynamic action of food’.
While these distinctions are typically ignored in our simplistic discussion of ‘calories in’ vs ‘calories out’, they profoundly affect the ways our bodies use the food we eat, how much of it we eat, and how much of it we store.
While we continuously burn a mixture of available fuels, your body prefers to first use the fuels that it can’t store. The energy from alcohol and ketones must be burned first because both fuels are highly volatile. We haven’t much room to store them other than in tiny amounts in our bloodstream.
Any energy available from alcohol (e.g. if you’ve just had a glass of wine) will be used first.
Ketones are generally present in our urine, breath, or blood only when glucose and protein are low. If you have ketones in your blood (i.e. due to illness, extended fasting, eating a lot of fat, or consuming exogenous ketones), your pancreas secretes insulin to hold back the glucose in your liver and bloodstream.
Excess protein is next in the oxidative priority line-up and is burned after alcohol and ketones. Most of the protein we eat funds the maintenance and repair of numerous critical body functions, including muscle protein synthesis. People typically don’t over eat protein because it’s incredibly satiating: we rarely eat enough of it, let alone more than we need.
The body’s remaining dominant fuel sources are carbs and fats. While your body likes to maintain some glucose in your bloodstream, having too much prevents fat burning.
Counterintuitively, people carrying a lot of body fat primarily burn glucose at rest. When we measure their respiratory quotient (i.e. the ratio of CO2 exhaled vs the oxygen consumed), we find that they are working overtime, trying to burn off the glucose that is ‘backed up’ in their system so that they can access the fat stored in their body. Because you can only store about five grams of glucose in your blood (about a teaspoon’s worth), a little dietary carbohydrate can quickly change your blood glucose levels, especially if your fat and glucose storage tanks are already flashing “no vacancy”, so you can’t easily absorb the excess energy.
While we can convert sugar to fat (via de novo lipogenesis), most of the time, it’s the fat in our diet that is stored while our body works to burn off glucose first. Any leftover dietary fat is easily stored (to our everlasting dismay!) in our adipose tissue for future use.
It’s not that fat is a better fuel source than carbs. It’s that after eating carbs, glucose levels quickly rise, appearing in your bloodstream and registering on your meter as a glucose spike. Glucose essentially ‘floats on top’ of the fat in your bloodstream and your adipose tissue.
Top Fat Loss Secret Revealed: You must deplete the glucose in your bloodstream before your body can access the stored fat on your body. And here’s a SPOILER ALERT to compliment what you’ve just learned. Some people talk about eating more fat to become ‘fat adapted’ and get ‘into ketosis’ so that they can torch even more fat. But dietary (exogenous) fat is neither a faster’s friend nor a “free food.” Understanding the oxidative priority of various fuels is the key to successfully
burning the fat and glucose in your bloodstream so that you can finally burn the fat on your body. It’s been a long, fraught journey, but you’re almost home!
The body’s fuel tanks are separate but interconnected. As you deplete the glucose in your blood, it’s refilled from the glycogen stores in your liver (note: glycogen is the fancy name for the storage form of glucose). As liver glycogen is depleted, your body turns to the fat in your blood for energy, and, finally, to the fat on your body.
You can think of your available fuels as though they are stacked up on top of each other (as shown below). To burn body fat, you must first deplete the alcohol, ketones, glucose, and fat in your bloodstream.
The image below shows how our blood glucose and the glycogen stored in our liver are related.
As we go without food, we use up the glycogen in our liver, reducing our blood glucose. Rather than instructing you to fast harder, Data-Driven Fasting teaches you to fast smarter by delaying your meals just long enough to drop your blood glucose below Your Personalised Trigger. This technique fosters long-term progress towards your goals without pitting Lizzy against your conscious brain in a colossal battle over appetite control and perceived starvation. It’s a win-win mashup—your body gets the nutrients it needs, glucose is drained from your liver and blood, and your body turns to stored fat for fuel.
Our bodies store each respective fuel in varying quantities and uses them in different ways.
Body fat is your largest fuel tank, but it can still become full and overflow like a clogged drain. For reasons nutrition researchers don’t yet fully understand (but that are undoubtedly linked to ethnicity, diet, inflammation, activity levels, biological age, health span, etc.), some people reach their Personal Fat Threshold at lower body fat levels than others. Most people develop Type 2 Diabetes after gaining a significant amount of excess weight, but others are diagnosed while still relatively lean, earning the descriptor ‘skinny fat.’
You may have heard the term ‘TOFI’ (Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside) in reference to people who carry their fat subcutaneously in the adipose tissue under their skin (like the guy on the left in the photo below). In contrast, others store excess fat viscerally ‘inside’ and around their organs (like the guy on the right).
Body fat acts like a sponge sopping up the excess energy that, over time, becomes corrosive to many body systems. But just as a sponge can only absorb so much liquid, there is a limit to how much energy your body fat can hold.
The amount of fat your body can comfortably store ‘outside’ your body (in your adipose tissue) is known as your ‘Personal Fat Threshold’. Once your body exceeds its Personal Fat Threshold, blood glucose levels start to rise as excess energy ’backs up’ into your bloodstream, measuring as elevated levels of glucose, ketones, and free fatty acids.
If stored energy levels continue to rise, visceral fat is deposited in, and around, the vital organs, making them more insulin sensitive than your overfilled adipose tissue. External fat stored as ’muffin tops,’ or ‘jelly bellies’ makes us cringe and reach for the latest pop-culture diet book, but it’s our invisible visceral fat that’s really unsightly, as in ‘call the plastic surgeon’ dead ugly!
Maintaining healthy blood glucose and insulin levels is a big deal. When someone exceeds their Personal Fat Threshold, they increase their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and other diseases related to energy toxicity, or metabolic syndrome.
Elevated insulin and blood glucose levels correlate with many burgeoning modern diseases, including:
- heart disease,
- Alzheimer’s disease,
- Type 2 Diabetes,
- high cholesterol,
- high blood pressure,
- abdominal obesity,
- fatty liver disease,
- polycystic ovary syndrome,
- gastroesophageal reflux disease,
- obstructive sleep apnoea, and
Unfortunately, confusion and misunderstanding abound regarding the role of insulin in our bodies. Optimising our blood glucose, insulin, and body fat is not as simple as avoiding carbs and protein to prevent blood glucose spikes after meals.
Insulin is a powerful hormone that is secreted by the pancreas. Its most well-known role is to facilitate the movement of glucose from the bloodstream into your cells, either to be used as energy or stored.
In healthy, non-diabetic people, insulin is continuously secreted by the pancreas as basal insulin, with small ‘pulses’ called bolus insulin delivered when we eat. The graph below shows how different foods raise our insulin levels after eating (post prandial). Notice that though pure glucose (black line) quickly drives up insulin, it returns to baseline after two hours. In contrast, foods that contain a combination of fat and carbs (e.g., milk, the aqua line) have a smaller initial spike but keep insulin levels elevated longer, extending beyond the two-hour mark.
The more significant, but often overlooked, role of insulin is to function as a dam, holding back your stored energy while incoming dietary energy is uploaded via your mouth.
Because the amount your blood glucose rises after meals is closely related to what you eat, many people treat managing their blood glucose levels after meals as their end goal. They believe that super-stable, flat-line blood sugars will lead to improved metabolic health and fat loss.
This mistaken goal leads some to swap carbs for more dietary fat and even to minimise protein. This often results in a nutrient-poor, low satiety diet that drives the pancreas to increase basal insulin levels and total insulin production t throughout the day.
Trying to manage your insulin levels by merely swapping carbs for fat in the pursuit of flatline blood sugars and super stable insulin is a bit like measuring the volume of water in the ocean by measuring the height of the waves at the beach. The real solution is to reduce the area under the curve of your insulin and glucose levels across the entire day.
Data-Driven Fasting guides you to fine-tune when and how much you eat. DDF also teaches you how to select high satiety foods that will reduce your appetite so that you can eat less and lose more body fat.
What happens to glucose and fat when we eat?
In a recent study (Hall et al., 2020), NIH researchers fed 20 participants a 75% fat or a 75% carbohydrate diet for two weeks. They tracked blood glucose continually and tested free fatty acids present in participants’ blood after meals.
The chart below shows how free fatty acids change after a low-fat meal (green line) vs a high-fat meal (red line). We can see that fat in the blood decreases more after a high-carb meal as the liver (controlled by insulin) slows the release of stored fat (through the process of ‘lipolysis’) until all incoming dietary energy is is exhausted.
The following chart, from the same study, shows that after eating a high-carb meal (green line), blood glucose levels rose for about an hour and then fell back towards the baseline, while a low-carb, high-fat meal (red line) elicited a much flatter response.
Unfortunately, reducing carbs and protein, and increasing dietary fat, only manages the symptoms (by stabilising blood glucose after meals). It won’t necessarily help you lose body fat, or reverse insulin resistance.
As shown in the chart below from our analysis of people using Data-Driven Fasting, we can see that there is no correlation between a smaller blood glucose rise and a healthier waist-to-height ratio.
Many people fail to recognise that body fat (commonly assessed by the Body Mass Index or BMI), insulin, and blood glucose are highly positively correlated. The higher your body fat, the higher your fasting blood glucose is likely to be.
Similarly, the higher your BMI, the higher your insulin levels.
The only meaningful way to reduce your insulin and fasting blood glucose levels (and truly reverse Type 2 Diabetes) is to reduce the amount of stored body fat you are carrying.
When you haven’t eaten for a while, your body startsdepleting the fuel available in your bloodstream. As these supplies are used up, your liver releases glucose to maintain stable blood sugars. As glycogen stores are exhausted, your body uses a process called ‘gluconeogenesis’ to convert protein (and even fat) into additional glucose, to refill the energy stores in your liver. This critical process ensures that you always have some stashed glucose available for explosive activity if required—for instance, when you’re trying to outrun that “hangry” lion intent on making you his next energy source!
It’s only when your glycogen stores are depleted (but not completely exhausted) that your blood glucose starts dropping, insulin decreases, and you finally begin pulling energy from your stored body fat. Now it takes less insulin to ‘hold’ your fat in storage and keep your insulin levels dropping across the course of your day. Well done, you! Rather than modifying your diet to manage your rise in blood glucose and insulin only after meals, you’ve learned that you must reduce your average blood glucose and insulin levels across the live-long day. While this may sound similar, the difference is in the approach, and in the radically different, positive results you’ll achieve with Data-Driven Fasting. Whether you are eating a high-fat or a high-carb diet, the key to burning stored body fat is to have blood glucose levels return to below your baseline before you eat again.
How to use your blood sugar meter as a fuel gauge
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple but precise fuel gauge for your body that you could use to tell if you:
- actually needed to eat (refuel) now,
- are craving those yummy leftovers in the fridge just because you know they’re there,
- are reaching for food to soothe your emotions or relieve boredom, or
- are just eating out of habit (just because it’s ‘breakfast time’)?
A blood glucose meter is as close as it gets to having an instantaneous fuel gauge to help you understand whether your hunger is real or pseudo. Is it actually time to refuel and meet your body’s healthy nutritional requirements, or is it simply nom-nom NetFlix nosh time, pass the popcorn, please?
Unlike an Ouija board, your glucometer never lies, making it your new BBF if fat loss and healthier biomarkers are your long-term goals.
Maintaining blood glucose levels in the healthy non-diabetic range is important. However, our analysis of hundreds of people who have used Data-Driven Fasting to date shows that:
- most people who have some experience with fasting, low carb, or keto diets already have very stable blood glucose, and
- manipulating your diet to achieve even more stable blood glucose does not necessarily lead to fat loss or improved metabolic health.
The reality is, to lose body fat, you need to manage your blood glucose level before you eat. With Data-Driven Fasting, you will learn how to use a glucose meter as a fuel gauge to lose fat without pushing your body too hard.
Data-Driven Fasting uses your personalised blood glucose as a ‘trigger’. When you feel hungry and think about eating, you simply check your blood glucose to validate your hunger and to see if you need to refuel. If your blood glucose is above Your Personalised Trigger, wait a little longer until your blood glucose drops below Your Personalised Trigger. It’s that simple.
Waiting until your blood glucose drops below your personalised trigger point ensures that your fasting routine achieves a negative energy balance. You gain all the benefits of fasting (e.g., increased insulin sensitivity, improved blood glucose levels, weight loss, fat loss, and autophagy) over the long term, without waking ‘Lizzy Lizard,’ and triggering an unhealthy binge-restrict cycle—not to mention all that reptilian drama.
We have designed Data-Driven Fasting to help you fine-tune your eating routine and find the minimum effective dose of fasting required to get the results you want.
Data-Driven Fasting is based on the understanding that to burn stored body fat, you must first deplete both the glucose and the fat in your bloodstream. You make this magic happen by measuring your blood glucose levels to confirm that they’ve dropped below Your Personalised Trigger before you eat.
Although there’s nothing wrong with going 24 or 36 hours (i.e. skipping a whole day) without food, you’ll sacrifice the benefits of fasting if you make poor food choices when you refeed. What you eat when you refuel is critical to ensuring that you get the nutrients you need over the longer term. If you find yourself reaching for the ice cream, cake or pizza after your fast, chances are you’d benefit by being a little less ambitious next time.
To ensure that the time you spend fasting doesn’t awaken your reptilian instincts (and lead to poor food choices when refeeding), we use a concept known as ‘hunger training’.
‘Hunger training’ is an exciting approach that has had some fantastic outcomes in recent studies. In her 2012 book, ‘The Glucometer’, Angela Ross recommended simply delaying eating if your blood glucose is above 5.0 mmol/L (90 mg/dL).
Later, a 2016 study from the University of Otago in New Zealand (Adherence to hunger training using blood glucose monitoring) found hunger training extremely effective, with obese people losing 1.5 kg on average over just two weeks. Importantly, they also found it was more effective for people to have a personalised blood glucose trigger rather than expecting them to reach optimal blood glucose levels before eating.
In the subsequent study, published in 2017 by the same group (The Effect of Different Types of Monitoring Strategies on Weight Loss: A Randomized Controlled Trial), lead researchers tested hunger training against
- daily weighing,
- calorie tracking with MyFitnessPal, and
- counselling sessions.
Hunger training using a personalised blood glucose target was the only scenario where people lost weight. Everyone else gained weight!
People did quite well when they simply tracked their weight, which made them more mindful of their eating. But the best outcomes were achieved by study participants who used hunger training, in tandem with their However pre-meal blood glucose levels, to validate their hunger signals, and verify their actual need for food,
Counterintuitively, calorie counting using the MyFitnessPal app saw the most significant increase in weight out of the four approaches. It seems that people lose touch with their true hunger signals when they outsource their satiety to a smartphone app. The study also found that depression, anxiety and stress all worsened for participants who used MyFitnessPal.
Tracking blood glucose is empowering because it provides immediate feedback on whether you need to eat now or wait a little longer. Validating your need for food, based on your blood glucose, gives you a greater sense of control and empowerment..
When you see high blood glucose numbers, you can immediately think back to your last meal and understand how your unique metabolism responded. You quickly learn which meals keep your blood glucose higher for longer, and learn to avoid them in the future.
Participants found they could accurately predict their blood glucose based on their hunger, particularly as their blood glucose started to decrease. Hunger Training enables us to retrain our understanding of hunger based on our body’s actual need for fuel.
While this research is fascinating, we realised that to make it applicable, accessible, and adaptable to non-scientists, a number of improvements needed to be made. So, we figuratively rolled up our sleeves and set about creating a comprehensive and viable system for sustainable weight loss and subsequent maintenance. Here’s how it works.
- Choosing the correct initial premeal blood glucose trigger is critical to the Hunger Training Process’s effectiveness. In Data-Driven Fasting, we use your blood glucose average before you eat during three days of Baselining to establish Your Personalised Trigger.
- When you move into Hunger Training, you only need to do a little better than your current average, rather than meeting some new, arbitrary target.
- As you start to delay your meals a little, you will progressively drain your stored energy. Before long, as your body adapts and you deplete your excess energy stores, you will find it easier to reach your initial trigger.
- To ensure you continue to make progress, Your Personalised Trigger continually updates based on the average of the past seven days of tracking. Continually updating your target ensures your forward movement, but not at such a fast clip that you wake your reptilian instincts and end up in a rebound binge.
- During the first week of Data-Driven Fasting, you will learn a lot about how your blood glucose responds to the food you eat. While some people love ALL the data and want to know their blood glucose before and after every meal, most people do best with the minimum effective dose of testing required to get results. You need only track long enough to ensure that you are moving forward and that you are maintaining the necessary momentum to propel you towards your goals at a sustainable pace.
Join the DDF Facebook Group
We’ve been thrilled to see the warm supportive community that has grown up around DDF. We’d love you to join our private Data-Driven Fasting Facebook Group to learn more and ask any questions you might have.
In addition to the FAQs, we have developed a number of articles to help you gain a deeper understanding of how and why Data-Driven Fasting works.
- Hunger Training: how to use your glucometer as a fuel gauge to train your appetite for sustainable weight loss.
- The best way to measure your weight loss progress (without the scale)
- Oxidative Priority: The SECRET to optimising WHEN and WHAT you eat
- Want to lose fat? DON’T aim for stable blood sugars! (Why your CGM could be making you fat)
Over the last few months, we have accumulated many awesome success stores that you can check out using the following links:
- “I cannot remain silent any longer! I am absolutely astounded by this process!”
- Non-Scale Victories with Data-Driven Fasting
- What did we all learn from the Data-Driven Fasting 30-Day Challenge?
- “Here’s a blushing review…” from Holly
- Top Tips and Insiders’ Secrets from DDF Veterans
- The simple secrets to fat loss with Data-Driven Fasting
- Teammates in love, life, and health… meet Kelli and Dan Buckley
- Debbie reaches her goal with Data-Driven Fasting
- Clark got shredded with DDF
- A story about Jane
- Linda’s amazing Data-Driven Fasting progress! Textbook DDF + Nutritional Optimisation!
- Margaret pushes toward optimal with Data-Driven Fasting,
- Kathleen’s Fantastic Data-Driven Fasting Results
- Mark’s magnificent DDF mass loss!
- Maureen’s all smiles after her Data-Driven Fasting Challenge!
- Data-Driven Fasting + Optimal Nutrition for the Win
- Data-Driven Fasting
- Download the manual (PDF)
- Facebook Group
- QuickStart Guide
- Success stories & results
- FAQ #1 – What makes DDF different?
- FAQ #2 – Getting ready
- FAQ #3 – Tracking your progress
- FAQ #4 – WHEN to eat
- FAQ #5 – WHAT to eat
- FAQ #6 – Winning the mind game
- FAQ #7 – Understanding your unique metabolism
- FAQ #8 – Troubleshooting
- FAQ #9 – Things that affect your blood sugars (other than food)
- FAQ #10 – Moving on…
- Join the next 30-Day Challenge