Tracking blood sugar for weight loss

Mar 18, 2022

 by Christina Wilson

Blood Sugar tracking and Weight Loss for Non Diabetics

Unlike traditional dietary strategies like calorie counting — which have been shown repeatedly to be ineffective for sustained weight loss — blood sugar (aka glucose) monitoring provides insight into the underlying physiological processes including hormones that lead to fat storage.

Relationship between blood sugar and insulin

When we eat food, our body breaks it down and it is absorbed into our bloodstream as blood sugar. Insulin is an important hormone in our body that helps us to regulate our blood sugar like this:

- Our body notices the increase in blood sugar after eating and signals our pancreas to release insulin. 

- Insulin travels to all the cells in the body and helps them open up and take in sugar to use as fuel. 

- Insulin also tells the liver to store blood sugar for later. 

- When blood sugar travels into the cells, the amount of sugar in your bloodstream decreases, signaling your insulin levels to decrease. 

Chronically increased insulin levels lead to fat storage and weight gain.  

When there is a lot of excess blood sugar, and thus excess insulin in our bloodstream, and the liver and muscles are full, the body starts to store the extra sugar as fat. So as a result, chronically increased insulin levels lead to fat storage and weight gain.  

Over time, if glucose is consistently elevated and insulin production is constantly active, our cells can become “numb” to insulin, which is called insulin resistance. Insulin Resistance means more and more circulating insulin to get glucose into cells, leading to higher baseline insulin levels. This process directly counters weight loss efforts.

Not one diet or glucose response fits all.

When we’re not eating– if we’re between meals, sleeping, or fasting–the lack of dietary glucose causes insulin levels to fall, signaling to our body that we should burn stored energy, starting with glycogen. Once the stores of glycogen run out, we start burning fat. 

Reading this, you might think we should eat very few calories and/or carbohydrates to decrease insulin and lose fat and weight. This may be part of the puzzle, but it’s not the only piece. Many complex carbohydrates can help our bodies function optimally and may not generate significant glucose and insulin spikes. Everyone has a unique carbohydrate threshold. 

Different people who eat the same meal might have highly variable glucose responses, due in part to the unique and complex biologic environment of their bodies.

Different meals with the same carbohydrates can generate highly variable glucose levels in a single person. Therefore, carbohydrate content alone is often a poor predictor of personal glycemic response.

Lifestyle: Glucose levels might change based on stress and sleep quantity factors. For example, restricting sleep to 4 hours per night for six days has led to higher glucose response to specific foods and a 40% lower glucose clearance rate from the blood.

The time of day that we eat can profoundly impact glucose levels in the blood, with a high-glycemic and high-calorie meal eaten in the evening causing significantly greater glucose and insulin response compared to the same meal consumed in the morning.

The meal's composition and the order of foods consumed can cause glucose to change differently than if those foods were eaten in isolation.

So as the data shows, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet that will optimize glucose!  Neither a food’s carbohydrate content nor glycemic load/index can predict a person’s exact response to a real-life meal. These metrics fail to account for genetics, weight, sleep quality, stress levels, gut microbiome, insulin sensitivity, and food combinations—all of which affect glycemic response.

So what’s the best way to determine an optimal diet? So how do you keep your glucose levels stable? How do you know when you have a sugar spike and which foods caused it? Consider using a CGM

We know that an optimal diet is one that minimizes post-meal glucose spikes, reduces glycemic variability, and maintains fasting blood glucose in an optimal range. 

That’s where CGM comes into play. Continuous glucose monitoring allows you to see your blood glucose levels in real-time and store that data for future reference; this makes CGMs uniquely positioned to help you optimize your diet and lifestyle. Foods affect each person differently, and it is hard to know what your blood glucose is doing at any one time without measuring it. CGMs can give you the data you need to optimize your health. Choosing foods and lifestyle habits that consistently keep average glucose lower and post-meal spikes lower will improve glucose patterns over time. CGM can aid in achieving these aims. Using CGM (especially coupled with software to interpret the data), you can track post-meal spikes, glycemic variability, and fasting glucose in a way that’s accurate, individualized, applicable to real-life, and actionable. Reading nutrition labels isn’t enough. CGM can offer enhanced control and power to pursue optimal health and well-being and take the guesswork out of your diet.

Monitoring glucose levels with a metabolic tracking tool offer powerful, real-time information that can help us understand our body’s response to our diet and lifestyle at a deeper, more actionable level. Dietary changes, physical activity, and even some medications can be powerful tools to help reduce both blood sugar and insulin levels. Levels, Signos, NutriSense, are three companies that sell CGM’s.  They are straightforward to apply and use and have become more mainstream for diabetics and nondiabetics alike. Consider using a CGM if you want to dive deeper into biohacking!