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FoodHealthIs the Ultrahuman glucose monitor worth the hefty price tag?

It’s become the new status symbol: Ultrahuman’s black patch with distinctive white lettering, pasted to the underarm on every fitness influencer and every third exercise enthusiast you see. Getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and being physically active are key to living a healthy lifestyle. However, as with most things in life, it’s not that simple. How much you sleep, as well as what and when you eat and exercise can have a drastic...
Alexandria GouveiaDecember 26, 202215 min
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UltrahumanImage courtesy Ultrahuman

It’s become the new status symbol: Ultrahuman’s black patch with distinctive white lettering, pasted to the underarm on every fitness influencer and every third exercise enthusiast you see.

Getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and being physically active are key to living a healthy lifestyle. However, as with most things in life, it’s not that simple. How much you sleep, as well as what and when you eat and exercise can have a drastic effect on your overall well-being. But how do you know what schedule works best for you? Unless you’re acutely attuned to your body, metabolic services such as continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, can serve as helpful trackers. While they’ve been around for decades, the fitness industry is honing in on these devices right now, and the latest that’s got the experts talking is the Ultrahuman M1 Live. We decided to put it to the test. 

What is Ultrahuman M1 Live?

Ultrahuman M1 Live is a metabolic fitness platform that allows users to monitor their glucose levels in real time. It was founded by Mohit Kumar and Vatsal Singhal with the aim to help athletes train smartly. “Having data in your hand gives you the ability to customize your diet and lifestyle in a way which is unique to you,” explains Kumar. “Out of a list of biomarkers that are available, glucose seemed really interesting primarily because it had a more direct way to give feedback on your food than anything else. With metabolism tracking, we’re more focused on overall health than just fitness.”

How does the Ultrahuman M1 Live work?

Users attach a continuous glucose sensor to their arm. The sensor monitors glucose variability and metabolic score in real time transmitting data to the Ultrahuman app via Bluetooth. These results are presented in the app as percentages as well as in a line graphic, clearly depicting the peaks and troughs throughout 24 hours. 

To better understand the cause of results, users are encouraged to log their food and activities throughout the day. Your activity can also be automatically updated if you link the Ultrahuman app to your health apps. All meals are rated out of 10 with a score of eight-plus being optimum. By ranking your meals you can make tweaks to your diet accordingly.

The more you log the more feedback the app can provide, for example on the best time to have your evening meal and also the optimum hours to workout. 

What is metabolic score and glucose variability? 

Your metabolic score is a factor of your food consumption, activities performed, stress levels and quality of sleep, and is measured on a scale of 0-100. Ideally you want to be in the range of 90-plus. Regular exercise and eating food eliciting a lower glycemic response can help improve your score. Low glycemic foods include green vegetables, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils.

Glucose variability tracks the ups and downs present in your glucose levels graph. A low variability indicates that you have a stable glucose trend, which is an indicator of good metabolic health. A high variability depicts that your body is subjected to high glucose spikes and crashes, which might be the reason for feeling lethargic. The ideal target glucose score range is 70-110 mg/dL. Repetitive glucose peaks over 120 mg/dL can increase the chances of cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases. For glucose variability, less than 12% is ideal. 

Kumar claims: “By tracking their health via the patch, we’ve seen users reverse pre-diabetes, lose weight, train better, and become more active.”

The experience

Jesse Akister, co-founder of The Shero Life, uses the data to biohack optimum performance.

“I’ve made some changes to the frequency of my meals, the order of the foods I eat and portion sizes,” she explains. “I already have good habits, so the changes I’ve made are small but they have helped with more consistent energy throughout my long working days.”

Designer, business advisor and health coach Deborah Henning started using Ultrahuman M1 Live to further understand how to help her clients get the most out of their sleep, nutrition and brain in order to enhance their business performance.

“The results were eye-opening,” she explains, after trying the sensor for herself first. “I found out I’m hypoglycemic, which means my glucose levels were going dangerously low at night and affecting my sleep. Armed with this knowledge, I tweaked my diet by eating smaller but more frequent meals that’d keep me in optimal range all day. Once I found consistency with better levels both day and night, I then began looking at portion size for those meals that caused a bigger spike than I’d like.”

The verdict

In order to make effective changes users need to understand the metrics provided in the app. While the app does feature metabolic education videos, and you can speak to experts via live chat, unless you understand the jargon it can still be complicated. Further research into the effects of glucose on the body would be beneficial – Henning advises reading The Glucose Revolution by Jessie Inchauspé. 

That said, even with basic knowledge, following the data in real time is insightful. We spotted that late night meals led to restless sleep, while morning coffee on an empty stomach, as well as a seemingly healthy breakfast of fruit salad, caused gigantic spikes. Henning advises flattening the curve by following the general rule: fiber first (veggies, hummus), then protein (avocado, eggs) then starch and carbs (toast), then fruit. She also adds: “Coffee on an empty stomach is hard on your adrenals. If you’re not going to eat then it’s better to have green tea or matcha.”

When it comes to monitoring calories, other apps such as MyFitnessPal are more suitable. Ultrahuman’s food lists are very limited and unlike my MyFitnessPal there isn’t an option to scan barcodes. However, it is still advised to record your foods so you can better understand and track your spikes.  

Where Ultrahuman stands out from its competitors is the app – it’s well designed and comprehensive. It not only presents clear data on glucose levels but also gives users access to the Ultrahuman podcast and educational videos. There’s also a portfolio of free workouts ranging from yoga to pilates and HIIT as well as a mindfulness and meditation series (however, FitOn, for example, offers a far superior selection). A weekly report sent to your email also helps you keep track of your data and progress.

“If you need data to make lifestyle changes, Ultrahuman is awesome,” says Akister. “It gives you real-time, visual data that shows you the consequences of the choices you are making. I’d highly recommend it for people with health concerns like PCOS, heart disease, and insulin resistance.”

Henning agrees: “The pros for knowing this type of information for general health is huge, and for those wanting peak performance it is a vital tool.”

However, ultimately this is just a glucose sensor and there are many brands available in your local chemist for half the price – Ultrahuman M1 Live starts from Dh611 for one month. (Ultrahuman is also coming out with the the world’s first metabolism tracking ring, now available for preorder at Dh1,099.) So while the sensors help monitor your glucose levels – and help you make serious lifestyle changes that will improve your sleep and your overall health – it’s up to you whether you fork out for the extra fancy bells and whistles in your health and fitness regime.

Alexandria Gouveia

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