In January of 2023, I decided to track my blood sugar for a year and make changes according to the findings. As I close in on 12 months of glucose monitoring with the Nutrisense CGM, here are the six most important lessons I learned.
- Refined sugars and refined grains were equally damaging to my blood sugar balance
Turns out that a corn chip or rice cracker was just as negatively impactful as a gluten-free cookie or milk chocolate. Often, we think of grains as heathy, but when the grain has been stripped of fiber through processing, it drives blood sugar up, triggering inflammation. Moreover, carbs need to be burned, which means if you’re not moving, you don’t need fuel and the glucose turns to triglycerides (fat). Low carb meals became my mainstay unless I was getting ready to exercise.
- Alcohol doesn’t spike glucose, but it causes weight gain
Alcohol, on its own, does not spike glucose, unless it's mixed with a sweetened mixer. However, this because alcohol isn't glucose and cannot be used as fuel. Instead, it is almost immediately converted to a triglyceride and stored as fat, often around the organs. This type of fat is called visceral fat and is dangerous and inflammatory.
- Poor sleep caused higher glucose levels all day and carb cravings
Every night that my sleep was interrupted, or I woke up hours before my alarm, my morning glucose levels remained elevated throughout the day. This is likely due to cortisol (stress) and the subsequent fatigue that led me to eat more carbs throughout the day as I "chased energy". Those days were also less likely to include exercise due to fatigue.
- Stress and caffeine caused spikes even when I wasn’t eating
One of the most interesting trends is that my morning black coffee spikes my glucose for about an hour. This is not due to actual blood sugar, but the stress response caused by caffeine. Similar spikes were noted after moments of phycological stress. When cortisol spikes due to stress or caffeine, the liver releases stored glucose into the bloodstream, boosting blood sugar.
- Exercise matters
The two most essential exercise takeaways were that if I moved after eating, my spikes were blunted. This worked even if I just took a walk. However, the more important exercise effect was if I lifted heavy weights in the morning. On the days I lift heavy, my glucose is better all day. This is due to better muscle mitochondrial function, which means more fuel is burnt all day long.
- Fiber with food made for better satiety and blood sugar
Eating beans, lentils, flax, chia and other high soluble fiber foods was always helpful for balancing blood sugar. However, I played around regularly with adding 1-2 tsp Florasophy fiber to my meals. Soluble fiber expands which means you get fuller faster while slowing absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, but it also feeds the microbiome which increases the satiety hormone GLP-1. This meant that when I added fiber, I ate less, had better blood sugar curves and longer periods of satiety!
The immediate feedback from a continuous glucose monitor is a fantastic learning experience. It’s also dynamic, because as the user interprets the data, they can make changes in real-time to yield better results. Understanding how nutrition, sleep, stress, and exercise affect glucose balance is an incredibly effective way to optimize habits for better health and longevity. The data that I’ve collected has informed better decision all year long.