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It’s just after lunch, and I secured a tiny inconspicuous device the size of a quarter to my arm. In several hours, it would unlock reams of my biological data.
Giving me access to real-time feedback about how my body reacts to different:
- Health & junk foods
- Exercise types
- Stressful situations
- Sleep quantity and quality
Over the next two weeks, this device tracked my every decision. Helping me tone my lifestyle to shed body fat, build muscle, stay mentally clear, recover faster, and keep energy high throughout the day. Today I am reviewing the NutriSense CGM and why it’s one of my favorite metabolic health optimization tools, even for non-diabetics.
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CGMs Are The Future of Personalized Health
Our blood contains a gold mine of precious data on our body’s internal processes. One vital biometric is blood sugar. You may already get fasting blood sugar measurements done in your yearly physical checkup. A special tool called a continuous glucose monitor takes that a huge step further and is key part of the health and performance optimization toolkit.
CGMs are tiny wearables that affix to the back of your arm. Throughout the day and night, these durable, painless, and waterproof devices constantly measure your glucose values. You get real-time feedback on the choices you make. Best of all, it’s so minimalist that you’ll forget that you’re wearing it.
Optimize Your Lifestyle & Diet With NutriSense
Blood glucose (synonymous with blood sugar) control can be considered an early indicator of health. The more fluctuation—the higher the peaks and valleys—the more damage inflicted.
Excessive glucose peaks and dips can cause inflammation, tissue damage, and elevate stress hormones. And the initial surge of energy is followed by a long crash. The better you minimize glucose swings, the higher your physical and mental performance.
As you’ll read later, CGMs aren’t just to measure your reaction to foods. Outside mealtime you’ll notice how everyday choices impact stress hormones (and thus blood sugar):
And many others. Until recently, you’d have to jump through hoops and drop over $1,000 to procure this technology.
Getting A CGM Without a Prescription
When I first discovered the technology, I feverishly searched Google to figure out how to get a continuous glucose monitor.
All sources had the same conclusion; buying a CGM requires a prescription. Non-diabetics looking to track and optimize health would have to go elsewhere.
Fast forward three years, and I tested a startup called NutriSense bringing CGMs to the masses.The price of CGMs has dropped significantly since I first started my research. That said, today it still isn’t exactly cheap.
NutriSense CGM Pricing
NutriSense offers two program plans and several options for each.
Their no-strings-attached, cancel any time option is appropriately called “Try”. Try plan prices:
- $175 for 14-days
- $350 for 28-days
If you’re willing to commit, you can get a far better price on the 28-day option called “Commit”. Commit plan prices:
- $250 per month for a 3-month commitment
- $199 per month for a 6-month commitment
- $185 per month for a 12-month commitment
All plans come with one month of 100% free dietitian support. That’s right, NutriSense also gives you a full month of your own concierge dietitians that’ll answer your any question.
To make it more affordable, they’re hooking up my readers with an exclusive NutriSense promo code (URBAN for $25 off).
Here’s how it works.
How to Hack Your Health With The NutriSense.io CGM
Nutrisense is a service that makes the popular Freestyle Libre CGM device available to non-diabetics without a prescription from your primary care physician. Once you sign up, the process to getting blood glucose readings is relatively painless.
- Select your program. Nutrisense offers multiple different program plans for every budget and lifestyle plan. See the section below to learn more.
- Answer Goals Questionnaire. Be brutally honest. You’ll get a personal registered dietitians to help you get the most out of your CGM. You can ask questions at any point. They’re your health concierge.
- Install Nutrisense app. Whether on iOS or Android, you’ll need the app to sync data from the CGM. I recommend installing the app ahead of time.
- Login to app. Make sure that you get into the app successfully before your device arrives in the mail.
- Learn about your CGM, paying special attention to the installation instructions. Take the time now before UPS delivers your new gadget. Nutrisense has built out a vast library of information to help you get the greatest bang for your buck.
- Apply the sensor (yay)! Make sure to do it Monday through Friday so their support team can help you if needed. You’ll notice that the CGM applicator has what looks like a decently large needle. Don’t worry, it’s actually a thin and flexible filament that stays under your skin. You will forget it’s there. Looks scarier than it is.
- Activate the sensor. Once you’re wearing the sensor, make sure to activate it. Your data collection won’t start until you do. Activation is easy, and the app walks through it. You’re now all setup!
- Scan the sensors every eight hours (minimum). The Freestyle Libre CGM only holds eight hours of data on the device itself. You’ll need to sync the device with your phone every eight hours (or less) to prevent data gaps. It’s annoying, but the Nutrisense app will remind you.
- Review trends. Over time you’ll start to notice patterns. How your body responds to different variables like sleep, exercise, food, drink, light, and more. This is the entire reason you’re using a CGM.
- Optional: log your foods and habits. I highly recommend either jotting down notes on paper, or using their in-app tagging to highlight correlations between lifestyle and glucose. In a few days time you won’t remember what caused that huge spike or dip. Some well timed notes will make the experiment a success.
I gleaned some powerful insights from my personal NutriSense experiment.
Lessons from wearing a NutriSense CGM
I know metabolic health is one of the most important health biomarkers. Conventional nutritional guidelines are woefully inaccurate. In his book Biochemical Individuality [Amazon], Roger Williams explains how much of health research averages away the tremendous difference between individuals.
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Indeed, as this 2015 study found, blood sugar response proves a great way to personalize nutrition.
Here are some of the lessons I learned from using a NutriSense Freestyle Libre CGM for 28-days:
How you eat matters as much as what. The physiologic state I ate in made a huge difference in the blood sugar response. A few minutes of mindfulness before eating shifts me into parasympathetic “rest-and-digest” mode. Resulting in consistently lower glucose no matter what I ate.
Stress plays a MASSIVE role. I already knew that stress impacts blood glucose. But I put it to the test. I took Paul Chek’s Integrated Movement Science course which consisted of 16-hour days learning the intricacies of the body, kinesiology, exercise, and movement. Every night we had extensive homework. Ironically, in the class we learned that the first step to effective program design is to assess and address stress. Well, nothing got my glucose below 110. The usual recommendations like fasting, eating low-carb, and meditation didn’t work. The day after the class ended my levels dropped into the 80s and 90s.
Added accountability. When choosing whether or not to go for that extra serving of rice during my carb backloading period, merely knowing that I’d see the glucose spike was enough for me to decide against it. Not to mention that my personal dietitians would see it as well!
Gym-approved. I didn’t have to back off my usual gym routine at all. Sprinting, rugby conditioning field work, rock climbing, weight training, the sensor never got in the way of my activities no matter how intense. Refreshing considering that even the minimalist Oura Ring doesn’t fare well during exercise.
Medical-grade CGM. This device felt medical-grade from the moment I opened the box. The entire process had been well thought out and left no stone unturned. I never had doubt over whether I purchased some cheap knock-off with unreliable data.
Surprisingly painless. I have no problem with needles. Yet I’m no phlebotomist. When I couldn’t find a fatty spot on my arm as the instructions recommended, I imagined piercing a vein, artery, or something important. I winced as I pushed down on the applicator. Then I wondered if I made a mistake. I didn’t feel anything. Though after the adrenaline wore off I felt a dull ache for a few hours.
Fast, objective, reliable feedback on my lifestyle choices. Epidemiological diet research suffers from the notorious issue of imperfect self-reporting. Participants knowingly (or accidentally) bending their data to avoid judgment. There’s no fooling NutriSense. The data don’t lie!
Barcode scanning. A new feature included in the NutriSense 2.0 update. Now you can easily scan the barcode of a product and add it to your favorite foods. Too bad it was released at the end of my experiment!
Daily score. Another recent feature release is the breakdown of your day into several 0-10 scores. Every day you automatically get an overall score, peak score, average score, adaptability score, and variability score. Useful to get a quick heads-up of your trends over time.
Patterns I Discovered Using My NutriSense CGM
NutriSense delivers on exactly what I was looking for. I uncovered reasons that I sometimes hit mid-afternoon slumps. Shortcomings in biohacking my sleep. The optimal time for my exercise routine. Armed with this new knowledge, I’m performing higher today.
- 85% dark chocolate, a staple in my diet, spikes my glucose hard and quick. Sadly, I’m cutting back a little.
- Red wine, despite the sugar, has little impact on my blood glucose.
- Berberine, a powerful glucose disposal agent, keeps my blood sugar down no matter what I eat. Even high-carb meals like sushi. No wonder it’s become such a popular natural metformin alternative.
- Cold showers do a great job offsetting rising glucose levels. Just 30 seconds as cold as my tap goes helps. Glucose-lowering benefits peak at 2-minutes.
- Coffee, counterintuitively, slightly reduced my fasting glucose. Theoretically, the cortisol spike following caffeine should stimulate a rise in blood sugar. Perhaps due to the MCT oil or other booster ingredients that I add to my peak brain coffee recipe.
- Walking post-meal is the best lifestyle hack I’ve found to blunt the natural increase. Just 15-20 minutes provides similar effects to a dose the gold standard glucose-lowering drug metformin. A walk also improves digestion.
- Red light therapy using my Luminousred Model 2 Pro has a slight effect in my multiple N=1 experiments. A 2015 paper explains that light can increase insulin sensitivity.
- Aromatherapy using cinnamon essential oil through my Füm Inhaler worked surprisingly well as a glucose disposal agent. I stacked it with a post-dinner walk for greater effect.
- Exercise in most forms elevated my blood glucose levels. Including “cardio” conditioning, super slow strength training, and functional training. The two exceptions were low-intensity “working-in” movement and blood flow restriction training.
- Adaptogens in my usual health cocktail produced the only reliable drop in morning blood glucose. This drink contains high-quality sea salt, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, EGCG, ashwagandha, rhodiola, gotu kola, and triphala.
NutriSense has surpassed my expectations for the most part. While not perfect, they make it easy to get a CGM without a doctor’s visit.
What I Don’t Like About NutriSense & Current CGM Technology
I’ve had a good experience with NutriSense thus far. Yet neither the service nor the CGM device itself are perfect.
These are my complaints and areas I’d like to see improved:
Using the data. First and most importantly, what can I do with this information. Certain things are obvious. For example, I know to cut back on chocolate and that a glass of wine is fine. Other areas are more murky. If coffee or exercise increase my blood glucose — is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. I’d like to see more information around using NutriSense to make better lifestyle decisions.
Fluctuations throughout the day are natural, healthy, and normal. Blood glucose should increase throughout the morning as the circadian rhythm naturally increases cortisol. This is important to wake the body and brain up. It can be difficult to completely isolate variables and know that a data point comes from an intentional change rather than natural hormonal rhythms.
No web app. When I log my habits and food, I want to do so from the computer. Far faster than manually typing and searching their database on the app. Yet NutriSense doesn’t have a web app yet. The only way to access or add data is via the app. Very inconvenient.
Calibration period is longer than I’d hope. No data shows up for the first hour. I kept opening the app, refreshing, and waited to see something. Little did I know, however, that I had begun the calibration process. For the first 24-hours, blood sugar measurements are all over the place as the device calibrates. Making the first day virtually useless.
“Continuous” is a misnomer. Freestyle Libre, the manufacturer of NutriSense CGM, only samples data once every fifteen minutes. Unless you’re using it for medical purposes, this resolution is sufficient. Though I was hoping to see more data points.
Manual logging is a hassle. To get the most out of your trial, you’ll want to log everything. Foods, drinks, exercise, experiments, biohacks, etc. The app is decent, but manually logging mixed meals and elaborate concoctions can suck up time.
Food database needs work. Nutrition logging apps like Cronometer and MyFitnessPal require premium subscriptions to access the necessary timestamp feature. NutriSense built-in food logging has a tiny database compared to the others. It’s difficult to correlate diet with blood glucose if you can’t enter the right foods easily.
Poor tagging system. You have several options of “tags” to enter to track correlations: Meal, Activity, Measurement, Note. I wanted to track things like sauna, light therapy, cold showers, and other lifestyle routines. The only real way to do so is by adding new notes every time. But this too is a nuisance. The lack of robust tagging is my biggest gripe with NutriSense.
3+ syncs required daily. The Freestyle Libre can only hold eight hours of glucose data in the unit’s memory. To avoid data gaps, you must pull out your phone, open the app, and hover it over the NFC chip at least every eight hours. Otherwise you lose the data.
Despite some of these inconveniences, NutriSense has come a long way. They now partner with a number of top biohacking technologies and gear.
NutriSense App & Integrations
The NutriSense app has come a long way. In May 2021, they released the brand new 2.0 update with features that vastly improve the overall experience. From an enhanced look and feel, to easily quantifiable metrics. My favorite being a “daily score” that makes comparing days easy. They also now break down your glucose score while sleeping for greater insights.
Another huge update is the ability to scan in foods via barcode. Simply click to add a new ingredient, scan the barcode, and the app automatically populates all the macro information for you. Then it’ll be saved into your custom foods database. Barcode scanning makes food logging far less painful.
You can find more about their latest app updates here.
NutriSense also connects nicely with other systems. Notable integrations include:
- Oura Ring
- Keto Mojo
- Apple Health
Data from the other services flows into both the app’s Dashboard tab and Analytics tab. This way you can track you sleep, blood glucose, and ketones all in the same place. Then at the end of your program, you can export all the data for safe keeping and further analysis.
Common NutriSense Questions & Answers
What is the CGM (continuous glucose monitor)?
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a tiny device that tracks your blood sugar throughout the day so that you can see how your body responds to different lifestyle factors like food and drink, movement, stress, hot and cold temperature, light exposure, and sleep.
Can I use my FSA or HSA to pay for NutriSense?
Yes, most HSA or FSA plans cover NutriSense CGMs. Contact their support team ([email protected]) to get all the required documentation.
Do I need a medical prescription to purchase a CGM?
Buying any CGM in most countries requires a prescription. Healthy or not, NutriSense will write you a prescription without having to go to the doctor.
Does NutriSense hurt?
Initially, NutriSense does not hurt. The needle isn’t noticeable. A few minutes after application, however, you might feel a dull aching in your arm which quickly subsides over a few hours. Once the CGM is on, you’ll notice that some arm positions feel uncomfortable.
How much does NutriSense cost?
NutriSense costs between $150-$350 per month depending on your chosen plan. Use the exclusive coupon code URBAN to save $25.
Which CGM is better NutriSense or Levels Health?
The general consensus among experienced users is that NutriSense is better than Levels. NutriSense is more user friendly, provides more context, integrated with Apple Health, and generates more data. Levels requires two mobile apps to use. Only NutriSense provides a free consultations with a knowledgable registered dietitians. Coupon code URBAN also makes NutriSense cheaper than Levels.
NutriSense Review Final Verdict: Is It Worth It?
I like NutriSense continuous glucose monitoring for three reasons:
- Added accountability of knowing your data will reflect every choice you make (including late-night binges)
- FREE dietary consulting with an RDN. This service alone is worth the cost of the device. Your concierge dietitians check-in and answer your every question.
- Uncover your ideal choices. Some junk foods will work for your body, and other health foods will cause issues. NutriSense helps you make better decisions.
Is the service or current CGM technology perfect?
No, NutriSense still has some kinks to work out.
From personal experience, tracking my blood glucose has spotlighted the areas I need to pay more attention to. Now I’m easily improving my metabolic health. After all, blood glucose is one of the most important health biomarkers. Yet most of us only get a single snapshot during our routine annual physical (if that).
In the coming years, tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Fitbit, and Google will incorporate continuous glucose monitoring capabilities into their wearables.
Today, however, the world of CGMs is a bit like the wild west.
Let me warn you though…
NutriSense may pull you out of your blissful ignorance. Data don’t lie. If you’re ignoring the pillars of biohacking health optimization like stress management and sleep — you’ll be in for a surprise.
Ready to jump in?
You can pick up your NutriSense CGM at a discounted rate using promo code URBAN.
Have you tried NutriSense, Levels, or got your hands on the Dexcom G6 as a non-diabetic? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!