WHAT IS IT?
Levels helps you see how food affects your health, giving you extra metrics and tools to help you feel and perform better day-to-day, hit your general fitness goals and, over the long term, improve your healthspan. The app provides real-time feedback on how diet and lifestyle choices impact your metabolic health by sucking in data from bio sensors, like a a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and other data sources like Apple Health. You log your meals and activity and see a score for that zone, as well as receiving a score for each day as a whole.
WHO USES IT?
At this point in time, just MH! As the first person apart from Levels staff to be on the programme, I was part of the beta testing group using an early iteration of the product. Huge advancements in the tech are already being made as we speak. The UK launch is expected early this year. You can sign up to the waitlist using our exclusive link levels.link/menshealthsquad
The case for being more aware of our blood glucose and metabolic health is compelling,. 7 of 10 leading causes of death worldwide were correlated with, caused by, or accelerated by the preventable metabolic dysfunction Levels seeks to address. It can be tied to almost every major chronic disease including: diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, infertility, chronic kidney and liver disease. In the UK these diseases cost the NHS about £6.7 billion. It’s expected that by 2050 it will tally £10 billion a year. Which is a fat load of cash.
HOW WE TESTED
I spent a month wearing a Levels CGM, logging all meals and using my Apple Watch and WHOOP 4.0 to beam my workouts and activity into the Levels App. I weighed myself twice a week, out of interest more than anything.
My life is awash with health and fitness data, from the devices I wear on either wrist, to my mattress and even the ‘soft’ metrics an iPhone gives you, such as bloody screen time. But Levels was immediately the most individualised. The CGM is about the size of a two 50ps stacked on top of one another and is simple and painless to apply. Once on, and sheathed by the sticky Levels cover, it’s light and unobtrusive, whether working out, going about your day or sleeping. Each monitor lasts for 14 days before you need to apply a new one and currently you need to manually scan it with the top of your smartphone every eight hours for uninterrupted data.
As it tracks your specific blood glucose response to what you eat, it couldn’t be more personalised. We all process foods in different ways. The biggest spiker of blood glucose is, of course, carbohydrate, but the pasta that causes one person to experience a dramatic rise and subsequent crash can have a far kinder effect on another. The aim is to have gently rolling hills and valleys across a day, as opposed to your chart looking like a San Franciscan seismograph.
I like pasta. I like bread, even more. I also like crisps, beer and, increasingly, sweets. I knew, as we all do, that these things aren’t probably ideal for sustained physical and mental vigour but enjoy them anyway. Within a day, the metrics provide by Levels had me rethinking my dietary ticks. My breakfast of eggs and two slices of toast was upgraded to eggs with one slice of toast, half an avocado and a leafy green. Lunch was protein-focussed, with a portion of carbs adjusted to whether I was going to the gym or had just come back. 8pm toast on the sofa was replaced by rice cakes with the same toppings, Brazil nuts and blueberries.
Those adjustments aren’t breaking new ground. We have offered similar advice in the pages of the magazine and the articles on our website since Men’s Health time began. But it being so personal to you; being able to experiment with your own physiology, I found to be utterly effective in a way that generalised tips tend not to be. Seeing that your meal elicited a ‘stable response’ or ‘gentle rise’, evolves your awareness in an extremely accessible way.
In my month on Levels, I lost 2kg of weight. This was not deliberate, nor consciously done. It was, I believe, the result of more gently undulating blood glucose levels across a full four weeks. I had fewer of the spikes and crashes that lead to constant snacking to stave off ever plummeting energy. I felt as well-powered for my workouts as ever.
I also found out that beer did not hit me anyway as hard as I thought it would, although the hangover hunger is hard to stave off. I discovered that fish and chips was absolutely fine for me, if supplemented with some kale. Granny Smith chopped up with peanut butter is the best snack I can have. And that good hydration (shock!) is key.
Will I continue with Levels. For the moment, I won’t. I will wait for the UK launch later this year. According to the development team, the evolutions of the product already well underway will make the users experience even better. A Bluetooth version is imminent, so manually scanning every eight hours will cease to be necessary. While the ability for the unit to track other markers in your blood is in the pipes. You will, in effect, have constant access to the sort of blood work that used to be the domain of elite athletes. Which is exciting to say the least. I find it exciting anyway. But I’m a nerd.
Weight loss may not be the established goal of Levels, but it’s clear with even a rudimentary knowledge of how blood glucose works, that a steadier chart equals less snacking, less processed food and a healthier overall diet. Sustainable weight management is a happy bonus.
The app serves up recipes, education and tips based on your personal trends, logged meal and activity. This can help you become more aware of what causes spikes and, crucially, how to level off rather than crashing and burning.
Application of the CGM was easy and, surprisingly, totally painless. I did find the protective cover that you stick over the monitor to be less effective, as it would catch and start to peel off. You are supplied with a handful, though, so you can always refresh it.
Sign up to the Levels waitlist for the UK launch using our exclusive MH Squad link levels.link/menshealthsquad
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