What else affects insulin requirement other than food and exercise?

Has anyone (maybe they have a CGM) learnt anything they feel would be useful about how certain foods change blood sugars/need for insulin? An example would be that when my husband eats meat I’m sure the process of digesting requires extra energy as he always goes high suggesting that the body is trying to find extra energy but there’s not enough insulin to release it or that there is sugar in meat (I don’t think so!!)???
I just sometimes feel that we are missing a trick and that there are other things which have not been researched fully that affect the amount of insulin he needs to take. Just insulin against food sometimes seems to be a bit of a basic equation. What do you think?

Hello Emily,
it sounds strange that meat alone would make your husband high. (How high is high? Does he test blood sugar before and 2h after eating?) Protein is converted to glucose but much more slowly so it shouldn’t cause a dramatic rise. I guess a huge amount of meat could make him high, but that would happen slowly over several hours. Does this always happen when he eats meat? What kind of meat does he usually have? Maybe it has something to do with things he eats together with the meat?

Generally the glycemic index is a usefull tool, it rates foods with carbs according to the effect they have on the blood sugar i.e. how fast they are converted to sugar. rice for example is notorious for it’s high glycemic index and making us high. But the oh so fun thing about diabetes is that everybody reacts differently to different foods. So the only way to be sure is testing a lot.


Many BBQ sauces are FULL of sugar. That could have been the problem. Always check.

“What else affects insulin requirement other than food and exercise?”

Pretty much everything. Stess levels, hormones, amount of sleep you get, how your food is combined (amounts of fat, carbs, protein), exercise, kind of exercise, amount of exercise, if your sick or have an infection, how well you body digests food, and the list goes on.

You mention your husband eats bbq. BBQ food often is high fat meat, with a carby (and delish!) sauce. When I eat that kind of food, I use a dual-wave bolus of insulin, giving me about half of my rapid acting insulin right away to cover the initial carb blast, and half of my insulin slowly over the next hour to cover the carbs that will be released into my system more slowly due to the fat content. Otherwise, I’d end up with high bgl’s well after eating. You don’t mention what kind of insulin regime your husband is on. If I were him, I’d want to meet with my diabetes educator or doctor to adjust my therapy or find ways of managing my insulin to cover these kind of foods.

What doesn’t affect it?

Yes, foods are different; the time of day is different. Other medications being taken and colds coming on - all influence what’s happening. It’s individual. I keep my little 4x6 spiral, one page a day, complete with grams of each food & the bolus I took. When I take a new food I check an hour later to see if I got a huge rise out of it and it gets written down. My units per grams carbs changes between morning and supper. The journal has taught me how much of each item (including rice) that I can take at the supper meal when I have to take the greater units of insulin per grams carbohydrate. Maybe he’s having greater resistance in the evening. If you have the bottle of BBQ sauce in the frig, note its carbs per Tablespoon, & add it into the equation. The best action is having fewer BBQs + pinpointing foods that cause a rise less than 180 - 200, and increasing those in the diet. You’re asking the right questions.

Protein & fat are harder & slower to digest, so their effect on BG shows up later than carbs. 50% of protein turns into glucose, so it’s dependent on how much meat he’s eating.

I have delayed stomach emptying. When I eat red meat, my 2 hour post meal readings are good, but sometimes 4 hours later there’s a spike. I can’t eat fatty meat or I go sky high hours later. Easier to digest proteins like fish, chicken & chopped meat work better for me.

I need more insulin to cover evening meals. I think it’s because all day I’m running around non-stop & in the evening I’m doing nothing physical.

You multiply by 18 to get US units. So 15 = 270. Not good, it is 3 times normal. Meat is ok it is the patotoes that go with it are toxic. And watch out for the starchy and sweet BBQ sauces. Starchy s==t like: patotoes in any form, pasta, rice, bread most any kind, are immediate pure blood sugar as soon as the stuff mixes with you saliva. Actually worst than ice cream for the short term blood sugar spike.

Meat does have very little if any starch it is protein and fat. These will turn into blood sugar very slowly.