Lately Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) have become so popular. But before we get into CGMs, we need to understand what these monitors are even measuring and why we should even care.
Blood Sugar, Insulin and Metabolic Syndrome
Blood sugar or glucose is a form of energy in the body and is controlled by the central nervous system. When blood glucose is too high or too low, the pancreas steps in and releases either insulin or glucagon. The hormone insulin is released when blood sugar levels are too high, and the hormone glucagon is released when blood sugar is too low.
Part of being metabolically healthy is being able to control our energy stores. The body leverages insulin and glucagon hormones to pull all these energy levers. There are many mechanisms for the body to produce glucose within the body.
- GLYCOGENESIS. The liver converts glucose to glycogen and stores it for future use. The average adult can store about 100 grams of glycogen in the liver, about 10% of the organ’s weight. Skeletal muscle cells also convert blood glucose to glycogen (via glycogenesis) and store it locally.The average adult can store about 400 grams of glycogen in the muscles, accounting for 1 to 2% of muscle mass. Glycogen stores in the muscles can only be used locally, while liver glycogen can be used anywhere.
- LIPOGENESIS. When the liver and muscle glycogen stores are full, the liver then converts any remaining glucose to triglycerides, which are then stored as fat cells. This is why triglycerides are lower on a ketogenic diet.
- LIPOLYSIS. This is the breakdown of triglycerides (stored in body fat) into GLYCEROL and free fatty acids. When blood sugar is low, fat cells release these free fatty acids into the blood for energy.
- GLYCOGENOLYSIS. This is used to convert glycogen back to glucose for energy.
- GLUCONEOGENESIS. This is when protein is converted to glucose within the liver (lactate, GLYCEROL, and amino acids to glucose.)
- GLYCOLYSIS. This is the metabolic pathway that converts glucose into pyruvate, which can then enter the Citric Acid Cycle for energy. (The Krebs cycle)
- KETOGENESIS. This when the body converts fatty acids into ketones in the liver.
You don’t need to remember all these terms, but knowing how our body makes, uses, and stores energy allows us to understand metabolic function. Most importantly, it helps us to understand that the right diet and lifestyle will affect our energy stores and ultimately how we feel.
Not All Energy Is Created Equal
Replenishing glucose with carbohydrates can be more efficient than gluconeogenesis from protein (converting fat and protein into glucose/glycogen for energy).
But this replenishing of glucose is an over exaggeration. Glycogen (the stored form of glucose) is mainly stored in the liver and the muscles. It doesn’t require a lot of sugar to fill these stores. That’s why even as sugar-burners for decades, we can produce ketones (energy from fat) in just two days.
As a fat-burner, you’ll mainly use glycogen during strenuous workouts. If you eat organ meats and shellfish, which are meats that contain carbohydrates, these will quickly be used for energy. If you are zero carbs, your body will need to use gluconeogenesis for parts of the body that require glucose (it’s minimal).
But this isn’t the whole story.
The brain is the most energy-demanding organ in the body and requires fat for survival. If we recall a little bit of biology, the powerhouse of cells is the mitochondria. The mitochondria convert what we eat into energy.
Our brains need fat-soluble vitamins and cholesterol for cognitive function, memory, and proper nerve function. Most of us fuel our brains with glucose from carbohydrates, but the long-term effects of carbohydrates for energy are damaging to our bodies. Too much glucose is not good for anyone. One reason is that both the heart and brain prefer fat as their fuel source. In fact, all cells require fat for proper structure and functioning (biphospholipid layer of every single cell’s outer layer is made of fat).
So if we are sugar burners, what does that do to our heart and brain, which prefer fat as a fuel source? Could this be a cause of Alzheimer’s? After all, they are starting to call Alzheimer’s Type 3 diabetes.
We know by now that if we are sugar burners, all the fat we consume mostly gets stored as fat. The body rarely accesses the fat, and whatever glucose we don’t use up also gets stored as fat. And since energy from sugar is easier to make than requiring the body to produce ketones, your brain will tell you to get more sugar when you have the insulin dip of energy.
So you eat (often carb-rich foods).
You get a burst of energy for a short bit, but you rarely access the fat stores for sustained energy, and over time, that’s how you pack on the pounds and always feel hungry. You are eating your sugary way into metabolic disease.
“Sugar craving plays a critical role in all metabolic and modern-day diseases. We consume more sugar than our bodies are equipped to process. That’s why diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease are on the rise” Carnivore Cure (75).
Per Dr. Philip Ovadia, 88% of adults in the US are not metabolically healthy. What does this mean? We are not able to create or store energy from our food. We cannot support cellular health and tissue growth, so we suffer from metabolic syndrome.
“Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that raise your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems. Metabolic syndrome is also called insulin resistance syndrome.”
“The more you ride the insulin resistance roller-coaster, the more you risk becoming insulin resistant” (248) Carnivore Cure. Dr. Ben Bikman describes insulin resistance as having two sides like a coin. One side of insulin resistance is that insulin is not performing as it used to in the body. Insulin is not able to respond to some of our cells. The other side of insulin resistance is chronically elevated blood glucose levels or hyperinsulinemia, chronically elevated insulin, or chronically elevated insulin signaling.
Why do we see this happening in the body?
It could be because of inflammation, stress, and chronic insulin output from excess glucose consumption. It is important to know more about what triggers our bodies. Everyone responds differently according to their environment, health, and diet.
A meat-only carnivore diet will help eliminate inflammation from food, but we will also have to work on stress and chronic insulin from years of eating a higher carb or processed food diet.
1. 23% of insulin response is from glucose
2. 10% from fats and proteins
3. 67% of the insulin response is unknown
4. High cortisol (stress & high-carb diet) causes an insulin response
5. Fructose (in fruits and HFCS) causes an insulin response and eventually can cause insulin resistance.
We are not worried about glucose in isolation, but how glucose can cause insulin resistance and the slew of metabolic and autoimmune issues that arise from insulin resistance. Because 67% of insulin response is unknown, it’s essential for us to be in tune with our bodies.
Eating a meat-based diet is one of the best ways to get back to insulin sensitivity.
How to Prevent Metabolic Syndrome
Avoiding metabolic syndrome isn’t possible without knowing the optimal levels of blood glucose and how easily they are affected.
As shown below, we want to keep the blood glucose levels in the orange range. The most optimal is around 80-100. Most carnivores will be in the high-80s to mid-90s in the morning.
If your numbers are close but not exact, we need to reflect on how our bodies feel and perform.
- Are you sleeping through the night?
- Do you have energy throughout the day?
If so, you may not need to worry.
However, if you have low energy and are not sleeping well, you may need to look at what is going on with your blood glucose, as it is likely affecting your insulin.
If we want to keep our blood glucose within the optimal range, we need to understand just how sensitive the body is to sugar.
“The human body contains about five liters of blood at any given time. Its blood sugar range is carefully controlled at around 80 mg per deciliter (mg/dL). Mathematically, this works out to about 4 grams of sugar, which is less than a teaspoon. Someone who is prediabetic has glucose levels of about 100 mg/dL, about one teaspoon of sugar circulating in the blood. People diagnosed as diabetic have a fasting blood sugar level of more than 120 mg/dL; the amount of sugar in the blood is about 1.25 teaspoons. This demonstrates that the amount of sugar in the blood is carefully regulated: the difference between being healthy and being diabetic is only a quarter teaspoon of sugar.” (Carnivore Cure p.82).
What if we are not eating tablespoons or even a teaspoon of sugar?
As we all know, carbohydrates turn into sugar in the body. When we eat low carb but high fat daily and then have an off-plan day of 300+ grams of carbs, we are taxing the pancreas to produce a lot of insulin at once.
The body doesn’t utilize the 300 grams in one day as effectively as if the 300 grams were spread throughout 7 days (about 42 grams daily). Although 42 grams daily may not help you reduce your insulin resistance markers enough and this is where you must figure out what makes sense for you.
Luckily, we can control our blood glucose levels and get into optimal range with the correct diet, sleep, exercise, and macronutrients. The best way to get into the optimal range is to track your blood glucose levels with a Continuous Glucose monitor.
How CGMs Can Help
Continuous Glucose monitors can track your glucose 24/7, allowing you to see how every aspect of your day affects your blood sugar. Conventional blood glucose meters only give you a snapshot in time. How your body was at that moment is not a very good indicator of what is happening 24 hours a day.
A CGM helps to create new and healthy habits. Allowing us to see positive and negative effects on our blood glucose will help us make small changes in our day.
Nutrisense is a continuous glucose monitoring or CGM program where you can see what your blood sugar is doing 24 hours a day. Most chronic illness stems from the inability to manage blood glucose levels, impacting insulin levels.
I like the temporary use of CGMs for two reasons:
1. Low energy and poor sleep. If you have low energy on a meat-based ketogenic diet, you can see how your body responds to different foods, sleep, stress and exercise. I also like CGMs, and one of the main reasons my clients try them is to figure out why they are waking up multiple times a night.
Usually, when blood sugar drops too low, and the adrenals compensate to increase blood sugar, most people will wake up. It’s pretty fascinating to see this on the CGM. (You’ll see a sharp decline and then a sudden increase on your CGM chart).
In this client, you can see that their blood glucose at 3AM drops to 60s mg/dL and then has a sharp rise to 80 mg/dL. That’s not too bad but some clients have had 80 point spikes.
2. Motivation tool. The second reason to get a CGM is to use it as a motivational tool. When you see your body’s blood glucose react to sugary foods, for some people, it’s motivation to choose better food options.
I used to think that CGMs weren’t ideal because of the Bluetooth-like feature (it’s Near Field Communication, NFC technology) but I think the short-term benefits are powerful.
I’ve seen the habit changes in my loved ones and my clients.
Whether you temporarily use a CGM to troubleshoot diet and lifestyle or as a habit tracker, Nutrisense’s CGM program can help you get to better health.
Each CGM lasts 14 days, and each subscription plan includes one month of free support from a Registered Dietitian. Nutrisense comes with an app that helps you track your data, understand your glucose trends, log meals, and much more.
I don’t believe people need CGMs forever (this may differ for Type 1 Diabetics) but it’s a great way to troubleshoot your health and change your habits.
Nutrisense has offered a discount to the Nutrition with Judy community! Use “NWJ25” at nutrisense.io/judy to get $25 off your order today.
How to Experiment With CGMs
CGMs are a great short-term tool, especially for people who are just starting on the carnivore diet, as you’ll likely have a lot of questions about how your body is responding.
- What macros are working best for you
- How higher fat at night vs. leaner proteins affect your sleep
- How stress levels affect you
- Are your workouts supporting your health? Is the intensity too much?
- Can you add carbs into your diet? How about the Randle Cycle?
- How does your body handle fasting?
- Should you eat One Meal a Day (OMAD) or have multiple meals?
Asking these types of questions will help you understand the use of a CGM and the power that comes with the knowledge.
Think of it as an experiment. You are the subject, and your metabolic health is in question.
The best way to investigate if various factors of your life support a healthy glucose response or negatively affect you is by first asking the questions and then experimenting and isolating the things in question.
Below are just some examples of how to experiment with your CGM on a carnivore diet.
- If you are currently eating OMAD, try and eat two meals a day.
- If you work out fasted, check to see how that impacts your glucose. Then the next day, try eating prior and check again.
- Switch up your macros. If you eat 70% fat to 30% protein in terms of total calories (70/30), try 80%/20% and see how it affects your glucose levels.
- Are you including any carbs on your carnivore diet? If so, this will be a very eye-opening experiment for you, especially if those carbs are coming from fruits or honey. Check your blood glucose on days you include carbs and again on days you don’t. Also, note how you feel.
- Eat at various times of the day. Does a late-night meal or snack affect your glucose? Do you do better eating first thing in the morning or waiting?
- Keep your mealtimes the same but incorporate walking after your meals.
- How do you compare if you do CrossFit one day and resistance training another day?
- Track days when you use your digestive supplements, and track days you don’t take the supplements. How does it affect your glucose levels?
The questions and experimental possibilities are seemingly endless. The CGM gives you the opportunity to personalize your health and see the foods that impact your glucose levels (which affect your energy levels). CMGs provide you with the information you need to tinker with your daily habits so that you can figure out what best supports you and your metabolic health.
I placed my order on https://www.nutrisense.io/ and filled out the new client intake form. I then received the kit in the mail.
You take the contraption and press it into your arm.
You’ll feel a sharp pinch and then you can cover the CGM with Nutrisense’s black fabric cover. I thought it would be best to have it on my non-dominant arm (or the opposite arm of the side you sleep on) but I did two weeks on the left and two weeks on the right.
It didn’t make a big difference for me.
My Personal Experience With CGMs
I have been eating meat-based Carnivore for 5 years (3 years was meat-only) and you can see that my blood glucose is pretty consistent (not a lot of ups and downs). We want some movement in our glucose after our meals and workouts as our glucose is showing healthy function.
Use “NWJ25” at nutrisense.io/judy to get $25 off your order today.
While CGMs can be a great resource, they may not capture other aspects that experienced practitioners can help identify. I had a client who improved the dropping glucose at night and went from waking up four times to two. But he was still tired.
We found out he had mold exposure, and he is now following a mold protocol. With a meat-only carnivore diet and a CGM, we were able to identify the blood glucose drops in the night and search further for root-cause healing.
Troubleshooting your daily habits is just a piece of the puzzle and some people need more support if they still don’t feel well.
If you eat mostly meat-based and struggle with insulin resistance, you may want to work more closely with the Nutrition with Judy nutritionist team. We can work with you in a one-on-one personalized manner and provide the support you need on your health journey to get to root-cause healing.
If you’re ready to heal, you can start the process with the Symptom Burden Assessment and Consult.
Make sure to try out a 4-week trial of the CGM. Let me know what you learn and how it helps you to heal!
Use “NWJ25” at nutrisense.io/judy to get $25 off your order today.
w️ith ♥ and hope for healing,
DISCLAIMER: The content is for educational purposes only. While I am board-certified in holistic nutrition and a nutritional therapy practitioner, I am not providing medical advice. Whenever you start a new diet or protocol, always first consult with your trusted practitioner.