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How much sugar is too much? Sharing my glucose monitoring experiment...

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

You know by now that blood sugar balance is one of the basics for avoiding migraine. It’s also the basis for hormone balance and good energy levels throughout the day.

Most of my clients are not the kind of people who eat doughnuts or croissants for breakfast or snickers bars and chips at 4PM. They typically have much healthier foods like muesli, granola or porridge with yogurt and fruit for breakfast and snack on fruit rather than opting for junk food. They also often don’t eat a lot of protein…

I’ve talked a lot about blood sugar before and also mentioned some surprising blood sugar traps like oats for instance - go back to my article here

Everyone is different and some people do better with carbs than others, but fact is that most of us don’t actually need this constant supply of quick energy since we’re sitting most of the day and so our liver is just storing away the excess glucose as fat.

Repeated high glucose spikes after meals contribute to inflammation, blood vessel damage, increased risk of diabetes, and weight gain. They also have a negative impact on your liver health and if your liver is too busy storing away excess glucose for fat, it doesn't have much capacity for hormone detox or other detoxing activities...

But how much sugar is too much?

The American Heart Association suggests a stricter added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) for most adult women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men. Source

And these are generic recommendations that are in my opinion even too high… It all depends and what kind of carbs or sugars of course and also your activity and hormone level.

Most people consume 3x more “sugar” than they need: basically if you have 50-60g granola for breakfast with 200ml of ordinary milk or yogurt, you consumed 50g carbs, when using oat milk even more. I recommend 130g of total carbs for women who are exercising moderately. So you see you’ve already consumed half your allowance at breakfast alone and on top of that, a kind of breakfast like this is setting you up for the blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of the day. Every vegetable contains carbs even if the carb amount is pretty low at least for the green veggies, but every vegetable, fruit, bean, etc contains carbs.

As a general rule of thumb, I recommend to keep sugars to 5g per 100g. If we take the example of most oat milks, although they don’t have any “added” sugars, they often do contain around 5g or more per 100ml and then you’ll rarely just consume 100ml don’t you?!

If you read food labels, look for carbohydrates and then how much of the carbs are sugar.

Now I wanted to share with you my main takeaways from my 14 day glucose monitoring experiment:

The first day I had glucose “spikes” after my 3 meals and let's talk about what optimal ranges are for a minute: the monitoring device I used had a standard range of 100 to 350mg/dl - 350 being a set as high glucose alarm. The standard post meal range is up to 140mg/dl usually. The first days, my post-meal glucose was 120-150mg/dl which was perfect according to this device, but not so great according to the ranges you see below, where actually your post-meal glucose should not be higher than 110mg/dl. And I did see that once I found the culprit causing my high post meal glucose and sticking to a max of 110mg/dl, I also did not have any low glucose events anymore.

The next days I left out some suspects to see the impact:

  • My small decaf coffee with oat milk & coconut milk did spike my blood sugar (I left out the coffee the next day and had no spike) - I did some further tests on this, check out my youtube video series to find out more

  • Just the tiniest piece of chocolate (90% with 7g sugar per 100g) brought on a blood sugar spike, but not on an other day when I had a bigger piece with almonds (this was later in the experiment when my blood sugar was more stable too due to cutting out the oat milk)

  • Tofu seemed to have an impact on my blood sugar: I had it for lunch when I had the highest glucose spike and thought it was the coffee and small piece of chocolate I had for dessert, but another day I added tofu to my dinner to increase the protein and to my astonishment had to see that my glucose ran much higher than the other days after dinner. Now I have to add that I have tested slightly reactive to soy on a food sensitivity test a couple of years ago, so this might be what was at play here - if you are eating foods that you are reacting to, it will trigger a cortisol response and that will impact your blood sugar too.

  • Exercise definitely has an impact: moderate exercise raised my blood sugar a bit each time. Except one day after a strenuous long workout when I fell into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). I also went for a brisk walk one day after dinner and saw that it brought my glucose levels down faster

  • Bad sleep has an impact: I definitely saw my blood sugar balance more sensitive on days I hadn’t slept well

So this experiment allowed me to bring down my average HbA1c of 5.7% and 38mmol/mol that I steadily had on my blood panels in the past years to 4.7% (28mmol/mol). This was only a duration of 2 weeks but I find the improvement significant!

My average post meal glucose was 110mg/dl in follicular phase and 125mg/dl in luteal phase from day 19 of cycle - so estrogen or a lack thereof DOES have a HUGE impact on our blood sugar sensitivity - the proof that what I'm preaching to my clients is not only theory ;-)

Of note, CGM devices measure interstitial glucose levels (glucose from the fluid in between cells) compared to blood/plasma glucose levels (glucose in the blood) measured in the blood tests. While interstitial glucose and blood/plasma glucose levels correlate highly, they are not precisely the same, and diagnoses are not made from interstitial measurement.

If you liked this article, make sure to give me a like :-)

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