Troubleshooting [Data Driven Fasting FAQ Part 8]

This section of the Data-Driven Fasting FAQs answers questions that arise in the challenges as people troubleshoot their journeys towards optimal weight and metabolic health.

8.1 Does Insulin Resistance Make It Harder for Me to Lose Weight?

There is a common misconception that being insulin resistant or having Type2 Diabetes makes it harder to lose weight.

However, the opposite is true.

We become insulin resistant because we are obese. 

We are not obese because we are insulin resistant.  

This distinction is critical. 

People who can gain a massive amount of weight are often highly insulin-sensitive and have normal blood glucose levels. This is even true for someone with much higher body fat levels before they develop diabetes.

Lean people are typically much more insulin sensitive, meaning they can quickly gain weight in the form of both muscle and fat when they eat. Weight loss generally slows as someone becomes leaner, and hunger increases to prevent starvation. 

It takes a massive amount of discipline and self-restraint for bodybuilders to diet down for a competition.  Bodybuilders regularly deprive themselves of calories to become leaner, despite having high calorie demands to support their exercise. After the show, many of them subsequently regain weight due to a massive upregulation of appetite.  Their fat cells are primed, like an empty sponge, to soak up all the energy they can get.

As a general rule, someone who is obese is more likely to be insulin resistant and have excess energy flowing into their bloodstream and elevated blood glucose. However, it’s harder to gain more body fat (at least compared to an ultra-lean bodybuilder) because their adipose tissues are already much fuller. 

However, once they drain the excess energy from their bloodstream and give their body the nutrients they require without excess energy, they will be able to lose body fat.  It’s likely that their pancreas is struggling to keep up with insulin production to hold their excess energy in storage. As they lose body fat, their insulin levels reduce, and they regain insulin sensitivity and healthy blood glucose levels. 

8.2 Would Data-Driven Fasting Be Appropriate If I’m Active? 

One of the biggest challenges for active people is getting enough fuel to recover and grow without eating so much that they add excess body fat.  This becomes even more difficult if someone wants to include fasting in their routine. Our daily energy requirements and appetite vary depending on the amount and type of activities. 

Intermittent fasting can be a valuable tool for active people to manage their body composition. Data-Driven Fasting is not just for overweight people or those with Type-2 Diabetes.  We have seen the process be incredibly effective for people at both extremes of the spectrum of age or metabolic health.

It’s valuable to refuel if your blood glucose is low to avoid getting too hungry, where you become susceptible to bingeing later. However, given that your blood glucose is closely tied to body fat levels, using your blood glucose as a fuel gauge also enables you to curb your appetite.

In contrast, other fasting methods often leave users with a raging appetite and feeling entitled to eat unlimited amounts of energy that leave them gaining fat despite all their hard work.

When you are active, your body will crave more energy for recovery and build muscle and your liver releases stored glucose to fuel your activity.  Your muscles become inflamed and demand glucose to help with the refuelling and repair process.   The

If you see your blood glucose elevated after a workout, you can flag it in the DDF app, which will give you a slightly higher trigger so you can still eat.  Another strategy is to time your Main Meal before or after your workout.

If your blood glucose is trending up rather than down when you’re well-rested and recovered, it’s a sign you are over-fuelling and need to dial things back in to avoid gaining excess body fat.  

8.3 What Should I Do If My Waking Blood Glucose Is Not Dropping?

Your waking blood glucose is a key marker of metabolic health and an indicator of whether you are holding excess stored energy.  We have found that lower pre-meal blood glucose is strongly correlated with lower waking blood glucose.  

If you are achieving a negative energy balance, draining your excess glucose stores from your bloodstream, and losing body fat, you should also see your waking blood glucose trending downward over the long term. 

However, there are several reasons that your waking glucose may not be dropping:   

Scenario 1 – Eating too late

When waiting for your trigger, it’s possible that we can push our last meal back so late that we end up overly hungry late at night.  As a result, it might not be a surprise that your waking blood glucose remains elevated if you are still digesting your meal from the night before.  While many people find it easier to eat later in the day, you should work to personalise your fasting approach to suit your lifestyle and preferences. 

However, plenty of studies, like this one, show that people who eat most of their food later in the day tend to have worse metabolic health.  Although it’s useful to wait until your blood glucose falls below baseline before eating, holding off as long as you possibly can may not be the solution.

Instead, the best way to manage this may be to start the day with a nutrient-dense, protein-focused meal regardless of your blood glucose and to finish eating earlier.  You can then treat your other meals as discretionary based on your blood glucose. 

Scenario 2 – Stress and poor sleep

Stress and poor sleep will have an impact on your waking blood glucose. High stress levels can also trigger comfort eating less optimal foods.  Higher waking blood glucose levels may indicate that you need to better manage your stress levels. 

If your blood glucose levels are abnormally elevated due to stress, you can tick the relevant boxes in the DDF app to get a slightly higher trigger for 24 hours so you can still eat. 

Scenario 3 – Low protein percentage 

People who have body fat to lose but eat a lower protein percentage may see minimal variability in their blood glucose after meals.  However, their body still releases plenty of stored energy into their bloodstream overnight, which can cause elevated morning blood glucose.  Prioritising a higher protein percentage by reducing dietary fat and carbs provides greater satiety.  In time, this will help with fat loss and lower waking blood glucose. 

Scenario 4 – Your weight is in freefall!

As you wait for your pre-meal blood glucose to drop below Your Personal Trigger, your insulin levels will plummet to allow stored energy in the form of glucose, ketones, and free fatty acids to flow into your bloodstream. If you have fat to lose, this is a good thing as you will use stored energy.  Despite eating less, you will have plenty of fuel in the bloodstream. 

If your waking blood glucose is higher but your pre-meal blood glucose, weight, waist and body fat are all trending down, you simply need to be patient.  Expect insulin levels to drop and ketones to rise over the first couple of weeks of weight loss before levelling out when your weight stabilises again.

If other markers like waist, weight, and body fat are moving in the right direction, you should expect to see lower waking glucose once you switch to maintenance mode and your weight stabilises.  This is because your body has less energy to hold in storage, and waking glucose thus becomes lower. 

If everything else is moving in the right direction, we suggest you stop testing your waking blood glucose during the challenge and simply focus on pre-meal blood glucose until you transition to maintenance.  Once your weight is stable, your waking glucose will be a more useful indicator of metabolic health than while your weight is in freefall. 

8.4 What If My Blood Glucose Doesn’t Drop Below My Trigger for The Whole Day? 

As you start to make progress and burn through excess glucose stores, your body will start to find a new normal.   Some days, you may not see your blood glucose fall below your trigger and wonder if you’re allowed to eat at all that day. 

This is where you can fall back to your Main Meal and Discretionary Meals.  If your blood glucose is above your trigger despite still feeling hungry, you can choose to eat one less meal than usual that day.   For example:

  • If you usually have three meals, you can choose to have two. 
  • If you usually have two meals, you can drop back to only Your Main Meal. 

We don’t recommend you try to skip full days of eating as you risk becoming overly hungry and bingeing on less optimal foods when refuelling.

If your blood glucose is slightly above your trigger, the DDF app will suggest you focus on nutrient-dense foods with a higher protein percentage if you are hungry.

8.5 Should I Fast When I’m Sick?

Sickness, infection and inflammation can affect your blood glucose.  People usually see their blood sugars rise when they are sick.  Your body may need more food to recover from illness.  You may also lose your appetite while your body takes some downtime to heal. 

You can take a break from testing your blood glucose and follow your regular eating routine when you’re sick.  Listen to your appetite signals and eat when hungry. You can always pick back up where you left off with Data-Driven Fasting once you recover. 

8.6 Is My Blood Glucose Meter Accurate?

Some people are bemused when they take multiple tests and find they are slightly different.  This causes them to question the accuracy of their meter.  

Others take multiple tests with multiple meters and get confused when they get different readings.  In this case, you should find one accurate meter and stick with it.   Your trigger will adapt to you and your meter, so it doesn’t matter how it compares to other meters. 

There’s no harm in taking another measurement if the number you see on your meter isn’t what you expected or outside of your normal range.  Measurements can sometimes be less accurate if you didn’t get enough blood initially and had to add more to get a reading.

However, keep in mind that no measurement is perfectly accurate.  We recommend you don’t continue taking multiple measurements and second guess the numbers.  

While there will always be variability with any measurement, you can still use the data to force the trend in the direction you want. If you feel starving, you are free to override the blood glucose trigger.    

8.7 How Will Fasting Affect My Sleep?

Many people find their sleep improves when their blood glucose starts to stabilise.  

Not eating too much or too late enables your body to rest, repair, and recover rather than working all night to store the food you ate just before bed. 

Getting adequate protein is critical to provide amino acids like tyrosine and tryptophan. These compounds are the precursors to melatonin, which promotes healthy sleep cycles.

It’s important to remember that as you get leaner and move towards the other end of the spectrum, your sleep may worsen. This often results because your body perceives starvation and releases cortisol and ketones to keep you alert to survive. Insomnia and poor sleep could indicate you’re going too fast with your dieting or that you’ve gone too far in your weight loss.

Most people who have dieted down to very lean levels find their sleep deteriorates.  Not sleeping well is not sustainable and can even be counterproductive to weight loss. Sleep deprivation can trigger cravings for energy-dense food, as your body does whatever it can to get to a more comfortable body fat level.

If you find you are not sleeping well, it might be wise to back off for a little while and be more gracious with yourself. Try switching to Pause Mode or Maintenance Mode in the DDF app until you feel OK. You can always come back when you are ready.

8.8 Why am I Gaining Weight When I Eat More Protein?

Some people are perplexed when they see the weight on the scale increase when they start eating more protein. However, at the same time, their body fat and waist measurements are decreasing.  

If you currently don’t eat a significant amount of protein because you are following a high-fat keto diet or some form of extended fasting, your body may be starving for adequate protein. When you give it more protein, your appetite may temporarily increase for high protein foods as your body uses it to rebuild your muscles and organs.  

While this may result in a temporary increase in scale weight, you can rest assured that your body finds it very hard to convert protein to body fat.  Before long, your appetite will settle, and you can get on with losing body fat once your body has obtained protein. 

Remember, your goal is not just to lose weight but rather to lose fat without losing too much muscle. Muscle is denser than fat.  If you are tracking using bioimpedance scales, you want to see a trend toward reducing body fat rather than just only weight loss. 

A simple waist measurement and how your clothes are fitting will give you a good indication of whether you’re gaining muscle or fat with your increased protein. 

See What do the numbers on my bioimpedance scale mean (and how can I manage them)? for more details on how to make the most of your scales. 

8.9 Is My Thyroid Stopping Me from Losing Weight?  

Many people who have excess stored fat and metabolic syndrome have some level of thyroid dysfunction.  However, similar to insulin, this is often a result of obesity rather than the cause.

Your thyroid is a central governor of your metabolism. Like insulin, your pituitary gland will ramp up the production of thyroid-stimulating hormone to rev your metabolic rate if you have more energy to burn off.

If you are taking medication for your thyroid, you should continue to have your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) monitored by your health care team and adjust your medications as required.     

As you lose weight and reduce your blood glucose, your body won’t need as much thyroid-stimulating hormone to keep your metabolism elevated. Thus, your TSH levels may decrease. Many people have had to decrease their medication to accommodate their normalising TSH levels as they progress with Data-Driven Fasting.

It’s also worth noting that consuming adequate micronutrients like selenium, iodine, niacin, histidine, and tyrosine is critical to healthy thyroid function. Hence, prioritising nutrient-dense meals from whole foods is also a crucial part of the equation. 

If you find your blood sugars are low and stable and your weight loss has stalled later in your Data-Driven Fasting journey, an occasional small bolus of carbs can boost thyroid function and metabolic rate to restart weight loss when your blood sugars start to bottom out. 

For more details, see Metabolic flexibility: How to Give Your Body What it Needs When It Needs It.

8.10 Don’t Try Too Hard!  

Don’t try to push your blood glucose too far beyond your current trigger by waiting too long.

You want to feel a little hungry – not STARVING! – before you eat. Otherwise, you will be more likely to overeat at your next meal, and you will have to delay your next meal even further until your blood glucose falls below your trigger. 

Data-Driven Fasting is a tool to ensure you are achieving an energy deficit over the long term. Not surprisingly, it will become more challenging if you force a more significant energy deficit as your lizard brain fights back to ensure you survive.

Your long-term goal with Data-Driven Fasting is to find a sustainable routine that allows you to move towards a goal like weight loss, fat loss, lowered blood glucose, or insulin sensitivity over the coming weeks and months.

Data-Driven Fasting helps fine-tune your eating schedule, retrain your appetite and hunger signals, and build long-term habits.  If you push too hard, your body will always find a way to compensate to survive. 

You only need the minimum effective dose of fasting to move toward your goals at a sustainable rate. Not only will this be easier to do, but it will also give you a better chance of long-term success.

More