A few weeks ago I was speaking with a coaching client of mine who was disappointed with her lack of fat loss despite months and months of “doing all the right things”.
After a little probing, I discovered that, as of her last visit to her doctor, she had fasting blood sugar levels that were out of the normal range at 115 mg/dl, putting her well into the “pre-diabetic” category.
Clearly, she’s having trouble regulating blood sugar levels and that’s inhibiting her ability to effectively burn fat despite all of her efforts.
High blood sugar –> high blood insulin –> fat burning inhibited = no weight loss / possible weight gain.
This got me thinking about how valuable it could be knowing your blood glucose levels on a daily and even hourly basis. Something as simple as measuring blood sugar could be the key to weight loss.
When you consume carbohydrates, and to a small degree, protein, your body digests them and breaks them down into glucose, or blood sugar.
This blood sugar circulates through your body looking for a place to go – a place where it’s needed. Insulin is then secreted and travels through the blood on a mission to take the blood sugar and help it find a home.
Insulin will help shuttle blood glucose into the liver and into the muscle cells to be stored for later use when you need a quick burst of energy.
Once your liver and muscle stores are full then there’s only one place left for glucose to go – your fat stores.
(This is a simplistic explanation of how this works. If you’re a glutton for punishment I wrote more about it here.)
People with healthy metabolisms and balanced hormones have no problem with this.
Their body secretes the appropriate amount of insulin to clear the amount of glucose from their blood stream and it does its job effectively. These folks can maintain a healthy weight and have very low risk for developing diseases.
The problem is, someone with a broken metabolism (someone who has gained any amount of weight and not able to lose any, has low energy levels, doesn’t sleep well, etc) insulin can’t do its job efficiently and it leaves high circulating levels of blood sugar roaming around the body for extended periods of time.
When this happens, the resulting inflammation significantly increases the risk of stroke, cancer, eye and nerve problems.
That’s not to mention the weight control issues.
Knowing this, the solution becomes clear – knowing your blood sugar readings at strategic times, after eating various foods, would provide a ton of feedback about how your hormones respond to those foods, how balanced (or imbalanced) your hormones are and how likely you are to gain or lose weight.
Once you know how your blood sugar and insulin activity currently responds to what you eat you can then formulate an action plan to bring those hormones back into balance.
Want to have immediate feedback as to the effectiveness of your new action plan? Just take a few strategic blood glucose readings.
This will allow you to IMMEDIATELY know exactly how food is impairing or enabling your fat burning capacity and allow you to make immediate adjustments.
Just so you know, this is something that I’ve personally tested myself and have already seen the value in monitoring my blood sugar.
If you’re someone who is currently struggling with extra body fat and you’re not sure why then you should definitely experiment with testing your blood sugar.
How to Measure Your Blood Sugar
There are two ways to have your blood sugar measured:
One way to measure your blood sugar is to make an appointment with your doctor and ask him to do a blood sugar test. You’ve likely had this done before and requires that a sample of your blood be drawn and sent out to a lab.
A few days later, when your doctor gets around to calling you, you will have your results.
These results will represent your fasted blood sugar from one random moment in time.
It’s a good start but it doesn’t tell the entire story.
The good thing about this is, as long as you fasted for 8-10 hours prior to the test, you know your results are accurate.
The problem is that you can’t have access to your blood sugar readings every day, any time you want, when you go this route.
The next best option (and maybe THE best option) is to monitor your blood sugar at home using a personal blood glucose monitor and test strips.
Obviously, this is what I have been doing.
Here are the steps to take to monitor your blood glucose readings at home:
1. Grab a blood glucose meter and glucose test strips from Amazon.
If your blood sugar has been out of the normal range in the past when measured by your doctor, you *may* be able to persuade him to write a script for a monitor and test strips and there’s a chance your health insurance will cover the full or partial costs.
If not, no big whoop. Simply grab what you need from Amazon.
The meter I use is this Precision Xtra Blood Glucose and Blood Ketone Monitor (also shown in the pic above). It comes with a few glucose test strips and lancets but you will need to get more if you plan on doing more than 10 or so tests.
I actually really like the meter. I have nothing to compare it to since this is my first time testing my blood sugar at home but you don’t need much blood to run the test and you get results in only 5 seconds.
I also like the meter because it tests blood ketones in addition to glucose. Simply put, ketone levels are an indicator of whether or not you are burning fat for fuel. In general, you want to be a fat burner so you don’t store excess body fat and you use what you’ve already got for energy.
This is much more efficient, and your body’s preferred fuel source, than burning carbs for energy.
An in depth discussion on ketones is beyond the scope of this article, however, you may appreciate having access to that data at some point. This meter will do both for you.
2. Prepare your lancing device with a lancet, your blood glucose test strip and your meter.
Your meter will come with a lancing device and a handful of extra lancets. You will need to use a new, sterile lancet each time you test your blood sugar so you will need to have extra on hand (they’re only about $8 for a pack of 100).
3. Run the test.
Using the lancing device, prick your finger to expose a little blood. Don’t worry, it really doesn’t hurt.
Please follow the directions that come with your meter as to how to add the blood to your glucose test strips and insert them into the monitor. It’s super easy and only takes a few seconds, but I suspect the process is just a little different for each meter.
This shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to complete and you will have your results in no time.
Here’s a short video that will show you how to use the lancet and the meter for measuring blood sugar:
What’s a Healthy Blood Sugar Reading?
There are two strategic times you should test your blood sugar levels.
1. The Morning Fasting Reading
If you are non-diabetic and all things are running optimally, your morning reading should be somewhere between 75 and 85 mg/dl. I’d even say anything in the 70′s or 80′s is totally fine.
If it’s much higher than that then it’s possible that you’re insulin resistant and you have glucose hanging around in the blood. You’re pre-diabetic or even diabetic and you’re most likely struggling with your weight.
If it’s much lower than this range then you could have reactive hypoglycemia which indicates that you don’t have very good control of your blood sugar.
2. The Post Prandial Reading
Despite blood sugar experts maintaining that the morning fasting measurement is the gold standard when it comes to measuring blood glucose, I think that readings taken after you eat various meals and foods can be just as telling.
Post prandial really means “after eating” and is a fantastic representation of how your body is reacting to specific foods and meals.
Post prandial blood sugar readings should be taken 2 hours after the start of your meal.
Conventional wisdom (you know how much I love the cw) states that any reading under 140 mg/dl at this point in time represents efficient glucose clearing and optimal insulin sensitivity.
That’s not a bad place to start.
However, Chris Kresser maintains in this article that using 120 mg/dl as a 2 hour post prandial benchmark may be a healthier goal.
Take note of which foods, if any, cause you to have blood glucose readings above 120 mg/dl 2 hours after you eat. These are foods that you will have to eliminate from your diet for the time being, but I will go in to more detail about this in Part 2 of this article when I lay out an action plan for bringing your blood sugar into healthy ranges, balancing your hormones, and jump starting your fat loss.
Wrapping Things Up
As you can see, measuring blood sugar levels on a consistent basis, both in the morning fasted as well as 2 hours after you eat, can provide a ton of feedback as to how your body handles certain foods and if your hormones are balanced.
It will also give a good indicator over time about how healthy you are and what you can expect your longevity to look like.
Knowing your blood glucose readings can be especially important when trying to lose your unwanted body fat. Since weight loss occurs best when hormones are balanced and blood sugar levels are stable, your blood sugar readings can tell you what foods you specifically should stay away from because they create an internal environment that may not be suitable to fat burning.
Check out Part 2 of this article where I will share the 4 steps you should take to use your blood sugar readings to develop a personalized diet plan specific to YOUR metabolism so you can optimize your fat burning hormones and lose your unwanted body fat today.
Would you like to know more?
Grab your FREE Weight Loss Starter Kit by entering your email in the box below.