We know very little about our bodies, much less than we know about the car we drive. Our vehicles are equipped with precise and verified digital indicators that provide us a continuous feed of data concerning its speed, fuel consumption, power and more. But when it comes to ourselves? We know next-to-nothing; only feelings or intuitions that can be easily distorted by external influences. Although we can exchange cars for new ones as needed, we cannot replace our bodies.
When I set out on my journey to a healthier life several years ago, one of the first steps was crafting an organized system for attaining and tracking physical data about myself. From basic metrics such as height, weight, and waist circumference to more advanced measurements supplied by wearable technologies like the Apple Watch, for example, heart rate, VO2 max, blood oxygen, body temperature dynamics, and blood pressure readings. With this comprehensive information map laid out before me, I had control to make positive changes in my health trajectory.
But one very important body performance indicator alluded me – the blood glucose level. Traditional methods like finger-pricking are both uncomfortable and inconvenient since they are painful and need frequent repetition and specialised equipment. However, two years ago I discovered a revolutionary technology – continuous blood glucose monitors. These marvels of modern technology offer a much more regular, convenient and comfortable readout than their predecessors ever could.
Why understanding blood glucose level is important
The answer to this question deserves special attention. I strongly recommend reading this article from Healthypedia.
Continuous blood glucose monitor. How it works for me
The standard old-school procedure to test your blood glucose level is pretty simple. The entire process takes around 2 minutes, total. You experience slight discomfort in your finger followed by the result. It is also relatively inexpensive; the toolkit I bought on Amazon was £19.99 with 50 test strips included. The 100 additional test strips would cost another £19.99 or £0.2 each.
Although this method is easy and cheap there are several inconveniences:
1. You need a special toolkit
2. A single test takes at least two minutes
3. Tests cause, albeit tolerable, discomfort
4. There is a minor risk of infection
5. You have just 10 fingers and cannot do it very often
6. You have to record your results manually
As a result, you can easily do the test but you will not do it on a regular basis without strong incentives, for example Diabetes.
New technologies in blood glucose monitoring
With the emergence of continuous glucose monitors just a few years ago we are witnessing an incredible transformation in blood sugar monitoring. The phrase “revolution” usually makes me suspicious, but in this case, it truly is a revolution in nutrition science and health control.
Imagine a small device no bigger than a coin that sticks to your arm for two weeks, providing instant and accurate readings of your glucose levels. Attaching it may cause an initial sensation of discomfort similar to old-fashioned blood tests however the rewards are greater as you obtain minute-by-minute data directly on your smartphone! It is like magic, but real nonetheless.
But as always, the benefits come with a cost. As usual 🙂
The cost of each two-week device is about £60. You can buy it without any prescription on Amazon.
Continuous blood glucose monitor. How it works for me
I started using this type of monitor almost two years ago. Initially, I just opened Amazon and ordered a monitor from one of the leading health solution companies – Abbot.
After trying the original Abbot app on my phone – which was ok but not user-friendly – I switched to the Veri subscription service.
They provide the same Abbot monitor but with a significantly better app. It has good integration with Apple Health and a lot of additional analytical features. Besides this, they add a protection patch inside each box. It’s a small bonus but very useful for a two-week timeframe.
Each device works for two weeks and should be replaced afterward. The ‘installation’ process is very simple. It takes 5 minutes the first time you do it and the majority of the time you read the application instructions. Only 1 minute is spent on the ‘installation’ itself.
You ‘install’ the device on the back side of your upper arm without any pain. There could be very small discomfort after installation but it is very brief – in my experience, at least.
Initialization of the device takes one hour. You do not have to do anything but wait…and voila! The vital information about your metabolism is on the way to your phone.
One more thing: the device itself stores data just for the last 8 hours. It means that every 8 hours you have to scan it by bringing your phone close to the device. This process takes seconds but you have to remember it. What is convenient is that the Veri app sends reminders to do it; difficult to forget but slightly annoying 😄.
The cost of £60 per device is not cheap. That’s why I use two devices to cover one month of measurements twice a year. This helps me to check my metabolic health and its dynamic without draining my wallet.
Warning. Accuracy of the device is not exactly for medical purposes
You have to be careful while using data provided by glucose monitors for final judgment regarding your medical conditions. The accuracy of blood glucose monitors is not 100% correct. Even the lab results could give a 15-20% level of margin error. A continuous blood glucose monitor gives you an understanding of how close you are to a healthy range of levels. The most important thing is the blood glucose dynamic, not exact figures.
The results and their interpretation
In order to avoid the effects of different activities and foods on my result, I use my own protocol during all check-ups.
For the food test – Avoid any other meal/drink or serious physical activity for two hours prior to the testing, and at least two hours after you ate the food you would like to test. Pure water is allowed but in reasonable quantities (1-2 glasses).
For the exercise test – Avoid any meals/drinks two hours before the workout, during the workout, and one hour after workout. Up to 1 liter of pure water is allowed.
How to read the results
Veri provides good visualization of blood glucose dynamics and integrated scoring for your meals. They do a great job of making complicated processes easier to understand.
Nutrition score 8-10. My good foods
8-10 Meal Score is a great score. This means your body has a stable glucose response and the food makes a positive effect on your metabolic health. In my experience, vegetables, high quality proteins and berries are the best in terms of metabolic reaction. My favorite tricolor salad and salmon got 9 out of 10 – tasty and healthy!
Eat. And repeat 🙂
Nutrition score 5-7. Not perfect
Foods with this score create moderate glucose response. That means you have to limit the intake of these foods or improve your body reaction to them, by replacing some of the ingredients to healthier ones.
My case study. Bananas
Bananas are not quite good for me, primary because of the sugar content, even in natural form. And it seems like three bananas are too much to eat at once. The conclusion is simple – one banana is good, two is already over the limit.
My case study. Vegetable soup with meatballs and sourdough bread
The majority of the ingredients in this soup are very healthy except one simple addition – sourdough bread – makes my body’s reaction worse. Sourdough is the healthiest bread option but it is still a bread and the Meal Score is a reflection of out; a sub-par score of 6 out of 10.
Interestingly, I had the same soup without bread the next day and it generated much more positive reaction (see the infographics below).
Foods to pay attention to. Nutrition score 1-4
These foods create high blood glucose response. You have to seriously limit or avoid foods with this range of Meal Scores.
My case study. Baked potato
I love potato but it’s not for me from health perspective. My conclusion and action plan – switch from baked to mushed with lower glycemic index and limit the intake by 200 g.
My case study. Innocent smoothie
Ah-ha-ha! This smoothie is not innocent at all. I love the taste and thought it was a great source of vitamins: sweet but very healthy. But I am afraid it is not for me and now I know why; the smoothie has too much sugar and no fiber at all. The finer is destroyed in the process of production. As a result – the smoothies cause an immediate spike of blood glucose (and insulin) levels which lasts for several hours. This contributes to the opposite of weight loss. I came to the conclusion that I had to fully substitute this product with real fruits and berries. No other way.
My case study. Pizza Diavola from my favorite pizzeria
I knew this would happen. I knew there is too much bread – even sourdough – in this pizza, it is a poor source of protein from processed meat like chorizo salami and no veggies at all. The outcome is very logical… no surprises here!
My conclusion on this dish: because I still love Diavola pizza very much, and cannot limit to half a pizza when I order it, I have to order it as less frequent as possible, for example, once a month. Period.
It was pretty interesting to see the reactions of my body to high intensive exercises like CrossFit, which I do at least 3 times a week.
Disclosure. I don’t have meals 2 hours prior a training, during a training and after the training. Just water and intense workout.
There was a huge blood glucose Everest-like spike during the 30 minutes after the most intense part of the training. But from health perspective it is a completely different result compared with food consumption check-ups. Totally opposite!
Body requires huge volumes of glucose to perform. If all glucose stored in muscles and liver is depleted, body starts to utilize fat at an enormous capacity for its energy purposes. When it cannot stop doing this during 30-60 after your exercise this leads to fat-loss. Fantastic result and excellent confirmation that HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is one of the best things you can do for your health. Not only for muscles but for metabolic processes and weight management as well. While you lose fat, you train your body to use your fat storage for energy at a very large speed and volume.
Moderate or low intensity physical activity
Moderate or low intensity activity like walking and cycling gets different reaction from the body. It doesn’t turn on the fat-burning engine on maximum but instead does this at slow pace. It’s light but consistent burning process. In case of insulin resistance and poor metabolic flexibility two hours of walking or cycling can lead to a lower level of blood glucose and feelings of physical exhaustion. This was exactly how I felt four years ago after one hour of cycling, because my body could not easily access to my fat storage. Now I am free to go with an energy source that covers 2 months of my body needs. It is always with me and is easily accessible 🙂
Reaction to sleep
Sleep is tremendously important for metabolic processes and overall health. During the night all your processes are stabilizing, and this is the best time to fast 🙂 My mistake in this case (in the screenshot above) was that I ate too late the evening before. By doing this, I stole around 2 hours of self-healing process during sleep. Do not repeat my mistake!
These are results and reactions of my body only. From a scientific point of view, they are not representative for other people. Some of the outcomes could be similar to many people, but some could be very different. Your blood glucose reactions are very dependent on the level of your metabolic health, time of the day, quantity and quality of food you consume, external conditions like weather and even level of stress. I would strongly recommend to try this monitor at least for couple of weeks and make the decisions based on your own results, rather than mine.
Let’s sum up
A Continuous glucose monitor is a great way to see how your body reacts to different foods or activities. It gives an excellent source of insights to change your lifestyle, food choices, size of the portions, and so much more. It costs some money but it accessible and affordable. At least to try once. Get a look inside your body! Knowledge is power, and knowledge about your body is priceless.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more
If you want more information about using continuous glucose monitors, I recommend you read the Veri blog. They do a very good job! I should mention, that the company promotes its service however, the team is pretty accurate in terms of science. They know a lot about aggregating and analysing the huge amounts of data on people’s blood glucose responses.
Receive Exclusive Tips & Weekly Digest – subscribe to our newsletter