4 Things I’ve Learned From Two Weeks Of Blood Glucose Monitoring
Blood test is a generally accepted way to analyze diabetes or pre-diabetes risk. Currently most medical assessments across the world suggest that generally healthy individuals should do a glucose blood test once per year. However this approach is far from ideal as there are many factors (i.e. mental and physical stress) which influence blood glucose on a particular day. Hence test results taken on a random day once per year may not provide an adequate picture of what is going on inside our body. This is especially true for people who exercise a lot as they need to understand how energy drinks consumed during long exercise sessions impact glucose levels in their blood. For years traditional approach for continuous blood monitoring involved finger pricking several times per day and consequent analysis of blood test strips with a special gadget. Painful and VERY inconvenient.
Here is where sensors for continuous blood glucose monitoring come very handy. My wife and myself had an opportunity to use Freestyle Libre sensors by Abbot Laboratories. These sensors (see the photo above) have a size of a large coin, weigh several grams and attached to a hand with their sticky surface. There is a very thin needle which pricks the skin but special applicator makes it virtually pain free. Sensors provide two weeks of constant blood glucose monitoring. All you need to do is to bring your smartphone close to the sensor three times per day for data download via Bluetooth. One could hardly feel presence of the sensor on your hand: you can even exercise and take shower. After two weeks sensor’s battery is finished. You have to peel off the sensor and discard it. The primary purpose for these sensors is to provide continuous blood glucose monitoring for diabetes patients.
Both my wife and myself are generally healthy and after two weeks of experimenting we found four interesting things worth sharing.
- It turned out that my wife and myself have different response to the same food. During the two week experiment we both were eating pretty much the same food. Her average daily glucose level was 4.5 mmol/L and mine was 5.25 mmol/L. Both within the recommended range of 4–10 mmol/L but the difference is substantial. I do not have enough knowledge to judge which is better 😀 On the surface it feels that my body needs less carbs to produce the same amount of energy.
- One unhealthy meal can screw up the day. The graph below shows the picture of one particular Sunday. Very light dinner the night before and hence a drop in glucose during the night. Healthy breakfast at 8am and nice glucose response. On that particular Sunday we had a lunch at in-laws at 2pm. You could see what oversized pasta and home made fruit drink could do to someone’s glucose: it jumped almost to the ceiling. Later the body tried in panic to digest an unusual meal. Glucose dropped below the lower limit leaving me with a feeling of tiredness and low energy for the rest of the day. I felt guilty and skipped the dinner that day 😀
3. Proper nutrition can make or break a long exercise. Below is a graph of the day with a two hour indoor cycling session from 8:15 to 10:15 am. I had a substantial breakfast with oats at 7:30 and glucose responded nicely with 7.0 level. Started exercising at 8:15 and by 9:00 glucose was heavily depleted (red 3.4 box). I started to consume energy drink every 30min for the rest of the exercise and as you can see the glucose recovered to a level sufficient to complete the training 4.9). It felt that my energy stayed at a good level during the exercise. You could see also that a properly balanced recovery meal at 10:30 raised glucose to a reasonable 5.7 level but it was well below the upper limit.
4. Fasting during high energy days is BAD. Below is a graph of the hectic day which involved long morning travel to a downhill skiing location. Two snacks at 6:30 and 9:00 on the way. Started skiing at 12 and was totally exhausted without food by 5pm. Had just one small bread roll at 5pm and glucose went through the roof (above 10). I guess the body had been totally confused with what was going on. Interestingly, a substantial dinner at 7pm produced a reasonable glucose response of 7.2.
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