I Wore a Levels Blood Glucose Monitor So You Don’t Have To. Here’s What I Learned.
It's not just about what you eat, but when you eat that matters.
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I’ve become obsessed with improving my physical health recently.
Maybe it’s from turning 30 and realizing my body isn’t as “invincible” as I thought it was, or from the random allergies I’m getting now that I didn’t have before, or recent health scares from my parents that jolted me into taking my health more seriously.
As part of my health initiatives, I’ve been studying up on how to make better health decisions and trying new experiments to see if it can noticeably improve my health.
One experiment I’ve been trying the last few months was wearing a blood glucose monitor. It’s made by a company called Levels, and it continuously tracks your blood glucose levels and uploads it into their app for you to get real-time data.
The data shows you how well your body handles glucose spikes, which meals spike your blood glucose levels, and how you can take preemptive measures to help keep it lower.
It’s also less invasive than the finger pricks that diabetes patients have to use several times a day.
Although it wasn’t cheap, ($199 annual membership to the Levels App + $199 for a 1 month supply of blood glucose monitors), I have never regretted spending money improving my health, and I figured this would be no exception.
One week later, the box of supplies showed up at my doorstep. It included two, 14 day blood glucose monitors, some alcohol wipes, and a Levels sticker patch.
Despite the needle looking scary, it didn’t hurt to apply the monitor. Once you finish applying it, every eight hours or so you have to scan it with your phone to upload your health data, and after 14 days the app will tell you to replace the monitor with a new one.
Why You Should Care About Your Blood Glucose Levels
Monitoring your blood glucose is important because how well your body processes glucose correlates with every part of your overall health.
When you eat, your body digests the food and breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose.
Then your pancreas releases “insulin” into your bloodstream which helps the cells in your body take-in the glucose from your bloodstream.
And in a chemical reaction called “cellular respiration,” the cells eventually convert the glucose into ATP, which is energy used for cellular function and repair.
So how well your body transforms glucose to ATP indicates your metabolic health. If your body doesn’t metabolize glucose well, it can cause a whole host of health problems since every cell depends on this “reaction” to get energy to function.
In the worst case scenario, persistent high glucose levels are a symptom of diabetes.
So by wearing a monitor, you can make health decisions to avoid huge spikes in blood glucose levels that put more stress on your pancreas.
For example, if you had a choice between a salad and a slice of pizza, it becomes very apparent with the blood glucose monitor that the pizza will spike your blood glucose more than the salad.
So by measuring this in real time, the monitor can help you become more conscious of the effects certain foods have on your blood glucose levels.
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What I Learned from Wearing the Blood Glucose Monitor
The main insight I had from wearing this monitor the last few months was the importance of timing your meals around exercise because exercise naturally lowers your blood glucose levels.
This makes sense since when you exercise, you’re using up more energy. So your body has to convert the glucose in your bloodstream into ATP faster, thus lowering blood glucose levels.
This explains why doctors often recommend taking 15-20 minute walks after eating.
It’s for this reason, I also realized that most people who eat at the Costco food court are actually doing it in the wrong order. Most people shop and then eat at the Costco food court, but wearing this monitor showed that it was better to eat first, then shop.
If you eat at the Costco food court first, walking around Costco, lifting stuff up and down into your cart is basically a form of exercise that will lower your blood glucose levels.
But if you eat and then sit in your car right after, the glucose will take longer to dissipate from your bloodstream. And overtime, the glucose in your bloodstream can damage your internal organs and system.
Speaking of timing, I also noticed while wearing the glucose monitor that blood glucose levels naturally dip and stabilize while we sleep.
So it’s important to avoid eating late at night to avoid shocking your metabolic system when it needs to calm down to prepare your body for sleep. Seeing this observation play out in the graphs helped me cut out the late-night snacking I used to do.
One last observation I had from wearing the glucose monitor was that there is a difference between eating a huge meal all at once vs spreading the meal into smaller portions throughout the day.
If you eat a huge meal all at once, it will cause a huge spike in blood glucose levels that may exceed the healthy blood glucose range.
But if you spread the same meal into many small meals, you’ll likely get smaller spikes that are within your normal glucose range.
So wearing this glucose monitor was a reminder to not overeat. It’s OK to eat till you’re 70% full, take the food home, and finish the rest later to not stress your metabolic system out.
Wearing the blood glucose monitor taught me how to make better health decisions by evaluating every decision on its effect on blood glucose levels.
Beyond avoiding foods that tend to spike blood glucose (eg foods with a lot of carbohydrates), I’m very conscious of the order in which I do things in my daily life now.
For example, I now do all my chores after lunch and dinner as a form of exercise to reduce my blood glucose levels after eating. I also try to eat a little bit before I workout to give myself some extra energy, because I know that my blood glucose will dip during the workout.
Wearing the glucose monitor was a fun experiment, but honestly, if you want to save money, these learnings are well-known. Here are the action items to help you moderate your blood glucose levels:
Take 15-20 minute walks after eating
Eat a little bit both before and after workouts
Try breaking large meals into several smaller meals instead
Don’t eat 2-3 hours before bed time
Avoid eating too many carbs
If you’re curious, you can check out Levels glucose monitors at this link here.