Once reserved for diabetics, athletes are using continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) to gather more information, but can these glucose monitors deliver on their promise of improving performance?
Continuous glucose monitors are intrinsically reserved for nutrition, but the information it gathers could help athletes of any sport make different if not better decisions when it comes to eating habits.
Find out if CGM is for you.
What Is Continuous Glucose Monitoring
You have probably seen it in the past. Someone with an adhesive patch about 3 centimetres (1 inch) is usually glued to the back of a person’s upper arm, but not exclusively. That adhesive patch has a filament embedded into the person’s flesh. This is the continuous glucose monitor.
This technological device is designed to track real-time blood sugar (glucose) levels in diabetics due to the nature of their health condition.
Connected to an App or another handheld device, the CGM delivers instant data about the sugar spike in the blood.
Read More: Is Sugar Making You Fat?
Athletes Are Turning to CGM
Although continuous glucose monitoring is necessary to prevent diabetics from having health complications, over the past few years, this device has been getting traction in the fitness world.
In 2020, Jake Smith utilised the information his CGM gave him the week before running a half-marathon and found out how to fuel his body properly. At the World Half-Marathon Championships in Poland, he flew low and broke Steve Jones’ long-standing Welsh record with a new PR of 1:00:31 – his number sits third overall on the all-time British list for the distance.
Emma McQuaid, another CrossFit athlete and pupil of Sam Briggs, told BOXROX she decided to begin using CGM to change her eating habits and achieve peak performance.
“There are some foods that I will avoid eating before training because it’ll give me a massive spike, then a massive low, so I’m trying to find that balance of foods where it keeps my glucose levels nice and level,” McQuaid said.
In November 2021, Kristian Blummenfelt broke the world record for fastest Ironman, although later the record was taken off from the official webpage due to the down-current on Cozumel island. And yes, he makes use of the CGM device in his favour as well.
Is CGM Right For You?
If you are serious about your sport, probably yes. Continuous glucose monitoring will show your blood sugar levels at intervals and you can use this information to your advantage. The body runs on glucose and a CGM would give you real-time insight into how well fuelled you are and what you can do to be better prepared next time.
Although it can be beneficial for nearly any athlete, sports that cause the body to rely on glycogen as an energy source are ideal such as endurance sports (triathlon or long-distance swimming) and intermittent sprint sports (team games such as soccer and hockey).
In endurance athletes, high muscle glycogen content can increase the time to fatigue during exertion. In intermittent sprint exercises, athletes can spend more time at higher intensity levels and improve their performance when they have high levels of glycogen.
However, if you are a regular gym-goer, chances are that the CGM will not add weight plates to your barbell the next time you go for a deadlift PR, for example.
Although some believe that the extra data that CGM devices provide you are simply not worth analysing, you can choose to use more information for your benefit – if not for achieving peak performance, then to improve your overall health so you can sleep better and, ultimately, recover faster from any physical activity.
“Once you kind of get a baseline of this [reading the data] and this works, then you don’t need to do it for a while, but I’ll always do it two weeks leading into a competition now,” Emma McQuaid explained.
You can check the story of Michel Jean and Delaney Wade, two teenage CrossFit athletes who competed at the highest level in 2021 while being diagnosed with diabetes.
Can you work out with a glucose monitor?
Yes. Regardless of what sports activity you plan on doing, CGM devices are water-resistant and sturdy.
Can a continuous glucose monitor help with weight loss?
Can CGM help me achieve peak performance?
Yes. If you are preparing for a competition, a continuous glucose monitoring device can give you valuable information if you are properly fuelled or if you need to dial in (or dial back) on your nutrition to keep your body with the necessary amount of energy for the competition.
Is it painful to have a CGM on your arm or stomach?
Not for most people. The filament that goes into your skin and that reads your glucose level is usually 5 millimetres long and you feel less than a needle, for example. However uncommon, there could be skin irritation in the area to which you adhere the CGM.