Glucose sensors are becoming increasingly common among triathlon athletes and amateur endurance runners. With real-time data on glucose levels, you can make informed decisions about when to eat, drink, and rest during training and competition. This allows you to optimize your energy levels and avoid the dreaded bonk.
Diana Wikblom, a Finnish long-distance runner and Aonach athlete, has been using a glucose sensor for the past year to improve her performance and better understand her metabolism.
We caught up with her to learn more about glucose sensors.
Why is glucose essential for endurance athletes?
Glucose is your fuel. The higher the intensity of your running, the more glucose your body uses. If you have a body full of glucose, training feels much better. If you go slow, you use more fat as fuel. But power needs glucose, so it’s important to eat carbs.
How can a glucose sensor improve performance?
You usually refuel with a sports drink or a banana when your glucose levels drop during a long run. However, everybody’s metabolism reacts differently to food and beverages. For example, some people’s glucose levels spike and immediately drop after eating certain foods, while others have little reaction. Also, afternoon runners and athletes often eat too little and become fatigued.
By tracking the impact of a high-carbohydrate meal on your glucose levels, you can determine the perfect time to eat before a competition. Likewise, you can monitor the effects of an intense workout to optimize training and nutrition plans and identify possible issues that may be affecting performance, such as poor sleep or stress.
What did you learn about yourself using the glucose sensor?
After getting home from a run, I loved eating.
I still do, but thanks to the glucose sensor, I learned to take something to eat on long, easy runs because when I suddenly feel tired, it is because my glucose level is dropping. It was a trial and error in the beginning as I learned when and what to eat, but now my glucose levels are far more stable, and my performance levels have improved.
I also found that my glucose level went high when I was stressed and if I ate too quickly. It was a surprise to discover that glucose is independent of how quickly you eat. Eat slower because then your glucose level is more stable. Also, I added more nuts, seeds, olive oil, and coconut oil to my primarily vegetarian foods to avoid a rush after eating.
How long did it take to understand your body fully?
It’s a lifelong process, but I learned a great deal in the first two weeks. It took me a few days to understand the basics and move to the next level.
Much work is involved in documenting what you eat, your activities, sleep times, and so on, but you can access so much data when you've finished. I recommend eating as usual during the first week and then looking at the statistics on the free phone app or third-party apps like Apple Health, Garmin, and Nolio.
Many great bloggers are writing about their experiences with glucose sensors, and plenty of other reference material is available online. If you want to use it all the time and get the most out of it, I suggest a professional look at the data and advise accordingly.
How difficult is it to start using a glucose sensor?
Using a glucose sensor is straightforward to use, hygienic, and painless.
You press the plastic biosensor patch onto the back of your triceps, and a small needle shoots into the muscle. It sounds horrible but doesn’t hurt, and there’s no blood. After the sensor has been active for two weeks, you remove it and put in a new one.
Any words of encouragement to anybody thinking of trying a glucose sensor?
Whether training or not, you can learn how different foods affect you. For example, if I eat this portion, does my glucose spike and immediately drop? If that happens, it doesn’t mean you are still hungry and should eat that chocolate bar. It is just your brain telling you that your glucose is dropping fast, making you want chocolate.
Honestly, everybody should try a glucose sensor for at least two weeks.
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To start your glucose-monitoring journey, visit our Supersapiens Glucose Biosensor page.