Pre-Diabetes – my personal science experiment (wk 2)

In my post Pre-diabetes, the Hidden Peril in your body I mentioned that I planned to do some research and personally experiment to understand which foods and activities caused a spike in my blood glucose levels.

In week 1 of this experiment, I played around with things, deliberately doing things to skew the numbers a bit, in order to determine what my body does in certain situations. The results surprised me. There were times when my blood sugar spiked particularly high, and other times when I would attempt to spike the results only to find that although elevated, the numbers were much lower. There is clearly much more to this insulin resistance (ie pre-diabetes) than just what we eat. As well as the obvious and much talked about ‘obesity’ factor, there are also correlations between exercise and insulin sensitivity, and sleep, whether it’s sleep quality or quantity. My sleep quality is a bit erratic, so that might be a contributing factor to peculiar results.

In week 2, My plan is to use what I learned in week 1 to try to keep my blood glucose levels stable, and to try work out how to use glucose and glycogen stores effectively to manage both my base levels and my exercise fuelling well. I shall also be adding my active calories into the mix, and monitoring my sleep quality as well. Maybe they will help fill in some of the gaps.

Recap

My monitor measures in mmol/L, (alternative measurement is mg/dL) and the relevant result ranges are shown below

Glucose tolerance test (2 hr Post-prandial)

This is where you fast overnight, take a test, then drink a sugary liquid, then take more tests over 2 hours. The numbers below related to the results after 2 hours. Ideally your levels should drop off within that time. In my case I will simply be taking the results from a period of time after food.

Factors that will affect results

To start off week 2 I had a weekend away in London, that was a very belated Christmas Present from 2019 which we couldn’t take due to the various lockdowns. My plan was to not indulge too much, but it’s fair to say sensible eating patterns largely went out of the window. I did avoid sweets and cake, but I certainly still ate & drank way too much of things that are not particularly good for me.

Day 8 – Fri 7 Oct

Although working in the morning, we travelled to London by train, and opted to walk between our destinations.

Sleep quality – 8 hours 20 mins – Excellent quality

Breakfast – Wholemeal toast & whole earth peanut butter

Lunch – Prawn Pad Thai street food

Dinner – Tomato soup, bread roll, sweet rice noodles & dauphinoise potatoes, and tender stem broccoli (yes a dreadful vegan option provided at a function) lemon mouse & 2 glasses white wine

Snacks – Salted crisps, Raspberry Kombucha, Hot chocolate before bed.

Active Calories – 743 cals from 19400 steps (8.3 miles walking)

Results

NumberTimeDescriptionResult
19:00Fasted6.0 mmol/L
218:53Before Dinner6.4 mmol/L
323:45Before Bed5.3 mmol/L

Day 9 – Sat 8 Oct

Today’s plan is to walk around Central London’s museums, and then hire a Santander Bike to take us to Earls Court where we are staying tonight.

Sleep quality – 6 hrs 35 mins sleep, high quality

Breakfast – Mini Bircher muesli, mini strawberry yoghurt, scrambled egg and smoked salmon on brown toast. Toast & jam. Green clean juice (not sure what was in it, but it was lovely)

Lunch – Almond Croissant, Mozzarella pastry

Dinner – Thai meal out + pint beer

Snacks – Salted crisps

Active Calories – 844 cals from 21637 steps (9.1 miles walking) + 200 cals from Bike hire (4.2 miles)

Results

NumberTimeDescriptionResult
108:27Fasted4.5 mmol/L
219:56Before Dinner5.7 mmol/L

Day 10 – Sun 9 Oct

An easy day is the plan today, mainly because my feet ache from all the walking over the last couple of days. The aim is slowly make our way back to the station using the hire bikes, but also wander around Battersea park.

Sleep quality – 9 hrs 50 mins sleep, good quality

Breakfast – Scrambled egg and avocado on brown toast. almond croissant, almond pain aux chocolate. French pastries are my real weakness. black coffee with 1 sugar

Lunch – No lunch

Dinner – Nachos, salsa & cheese. Ben & Jerries ice cream

Snacks – Mr Whippy ice cream with flake.

Active Calories – 719 cals from 13110 steps (5.6 miles), 400 cals from cycling 8.7 miles

Results

NumberTimeDescriptionResult
18:54Fasted5.4 mmol/L
214:51mid day (no lunch)6.5 mmol/L
323:06Before Bed6.4 mmol/L

Day 11 – Mon 11 Oct

I’m trying to make sure I eat balanced and smaller meals at each mealtime

Sleep quality – 6 hr 55 mins, excellent quality

Breakfast – Porridge with apple, cinammon, walnuts and maple syrup with non dairy milk

Lunch – Salmon fishcakes, tender-stem broccoli, sweet potato wedges (roasted), red onion and garlic

Dinner – Salmon fillet, roasted cauliflower, wedges

Snacks – Handful mixed nuts

Active Calories – 352 kcal from 4892 steps (2.1 miles) . A pretty sedentary day as my legs and feet recovered rom the weekend.

Results

NumberTimeDescriptionResult
109:30Fasted4.3 mmol/L
216:20Between meals5.9 mmol/L
320:29After dinner5.7 mmol/L
423:50Before bed5.9 mmol/L

Day 12 – Tue 12 Oct

Sleep quality – 6 hr 45 mins, very disrupted night

Breakfast – Toast and marmite

Lunch – Jacket potato, tuna, spring onion and cheese

Dinner – Toast and peanut butter before the ride.

Snacks – Afternoon snack was a very indulgent fresh cream cake….VERY indulgent, it wasn’t small!!

Crisps and alcohol free beer in pub. Toast & peanut butter after ride.

Active Calories – 870 kcal from 5141 steps (2.3 miles) + Led our women’s cycling group this evening, and 30 miles ridden. Back quite late

Results

NumberTimeDescriptionResult
109:10Before breakfast5.1 mmol/L
212:48Before lunch4.9 mmol/L
317:02After snack6.5 mmol/L
423:21After exercise/before bed6.5 mmol/L

Day 13 – Wed 13 Oct

I have planned a long bike ride today, but am concerned as I haven’t really followed my normal overnight fuelling regime for this kind of ride. In fact my toast fuelling from last night isn’t really going to cut it at all.

Sleep quality – 7 hr 10 mins, average quality

Breakfast – Porridge with almonds, banana, maple syrup and a scoop of protein powder

Lunch – Macaroni Cheese & salad, washed down with a full fat coke (I figured I needed the calories)

Dinner – King Prawn Chow Mein (take away)

Ride Snacks – Peanut butter & jam sandwich, banana, 3 x Tribe bars

Active Calories – 1792 cals from 9717 steps (4.6 miles) + 93 mile bike ride

Results

NumberTimeDescriptionResult
108:49Fasted5.3 mmol/L

Day 14 – Thu 14 Oct

A quiet office based day today.

Sleep quality – 6 hr 55 mins, poor quality

Breakfast – Seeded Toast with butter, Bagel with Philadelphia

Lunch – Spanish omlette (eggs, pepper, sweet potato, mushrooms, peas, tomato, cheese)

Dinner – Butter nut squash & red lentil curry, banana, Creme Fraiche & flaked almonds

Snacks – Handful mixed nuts (unsalted), 2 x Heineken 0% beer

Active Calories 379 cals from 4516 steps (2 miles)

Results

NumberTimeDescriptionResult
108:40After Breakfast7.5 mmol/L
210:30between meals5.4 mmol/L
313:30Before lunch7.1 mmol/L
414:501hr after lunch6.0 mmol/L
520:10Before dinner5.9 mmol/L
622:50Before bed6.0 mmol/L

Final Thoughts

It’s strange isn’t it, that we often think that our diet is ok, but then when you look at a typical week it’s clear that there’s lots of room for improvement. Life gets in the way of consistency, and what you have close to hand is very important. We don’t keep sweets, biscuits or cake in the house, but then we don’t need to. We live within 1/4 mile of a variety of shops and takeaways, which make purchasing them a little too easy, and provides an excellent opportunity to get outside for a bit of fresh air. That cream cake from Tuesday was an easy response to the ‘I fancy something sweet’ conversation. The Chinese takeaway after my ride on Wednesday, was quick and simple, but massively increased my blood sugars. The fridge is full of ‘healthy’ food, but if it’s not quick and easy to prepare, it doesn’t become the quick snack. And something else….I’ve realised I eat a lot of toast!

Carbs are really not my friend, or at least not the white kind such as rice and pasta. We are making the shift to wholemeal everything, and to consuming smaller quantities. Being unprepared, and disorganised in the kitchen is costing me my health, that is clear. Whilst not all my disorganisation results in unhealthy choices, it does happen more often than is good for me. If I can tackle my kitchen habits, then I hope to make better choices. It’s not a case of not knowing what is best to eat, it’s more that I need to develop the will to be more disciplined so that the lapses are not as often. As a couple, it’s even more difficult, as we mostly eat completely differently during the day, only eating the same thing in the evening. This is because we like different things to eat, and my husband in particular prefers not to eat the same quantity as vegetables as me…and is a confirmed salad dodger. But I am a meat avoider, and he is becoming much more plant based over time.

With regards to my blood glucose experiment however, I will say that at this point my observations have proved inconclusive.

On the day that my diet was the healthiest (Monday), my numbers were fairly stable all day. However, if I have a particularly bad day the day before, my numbers can remain high well into the next day, and also throw out the figures for all of that day (Thursday).

Exercise doesn’t appear to have the instant antidote to bad food. It seems that you can get away with things a bit WHILST your exercising since the exercise will be using your blood sugar for energy. But, eating a Chinese for example directly afterwards, will still cause high levels in the morning.

And finally, I haven’t really been able to measure the impact of good v poor sleep quality as I’ve not really slept well all week, although maybe my mixed results though the week actually are the measure of poor sleep.

It has been very interesting doing this experiment, and I shall certainly continue to regularly measure my blood glucose levels. In particular I’ll be looking to understand the effects that different types of food have, so that I can establish what causes the spikes that don’t come back down quickly, and thus avoid them as much as possible. Once I have more data, I’ll share in a follow up post.

I hope you’ve found my experiment informative, even if I have yet to discover the magic formula for me. I urge you to consider being your own science experiment should you find yourself in a similar situation. It is possible to reverse the trend so that Type 2 Diabetes isn’t an inevitable outcome, but first you need to understand what you are up against.

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