How Levels Founder Josh Clemente mastered his energy levels with glucose tracking and CGM

“I was getting into my late twenties and was starting to notice a significant slowdown and general lack of energy throughout the day,” mentions Josh, Founder of Levels....

June 30 2020

“I was getting into my late twenties and was starting to notice a significant slowdown and general lack of energy throughout the day,” mentions Josh, Founder of Levels. “I noticed increased fatigue levels, more irritability, and a lower mood. I had been feeling some serious fatigue personally.”

Josh spent the first half of his professional career working at SpaceX and Hyperloop– two companies, one founded by and the other supported by Elon Musk, with reputations for attracting the nation’s most promising and ambitious talent and pushing them to new productivity heights to accomplish demanding goals.

For Josh, performing at peak levels of focus for extended periods of time was a daily requirement, and slumping energy levels weren’t an option.

At SpaceX, Josh spent six years working on rocket and spacecraft systems, including the pressurized life support systems that flew astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station in May 2020. At Hyperloop One, a high-speed, evacuated transportation company, Josh worked on infrastructure level engineering and life support systems development.

“I decided to get some quantitative data to understand what’s going on with my metabolism, the energy producing system of the body– and see how I might take objective action to improve my current state. Going down this road, I started experimenting with measuring my glucose.”

In an effort to combat fatigue, Josh applied his characteristic engineering approach to his health by using glucose monitoring to analyze how his body was performing in converting food to usable energy. In time, through years of this self-experimentation and further exposure to metabolic research while at SpaceX, Josh would be compelled to go on to start Levels to help others improve their metabolic fitness.

Today, Josh feels confident he exerts a high level of control over his energy levels by having developed a dialed-in intuition about how his body responds to specific food and what affects his glucose levels.

“It’s not like I have some superhuman energy and I’m always running on afterburners at 110%,” jokes Josh. “I just have much more control. I don’t have the post-meal lows, and that’s the biggest improvement that I’ve experienced. I don’t have this overwhelming need for a nap in the afternoon. Every once in a while I’ll have an afternoon cup of coffee just because I love it, but now it’s more of a ritual than a requirement.”

How Josh Clemente Optimized His Energy with Levels

Prior to being hit with fatigue, irritability, and lower mood in his late 20s, Josh — who is also a Level 2 CrossFit trainer– was seemingly doing everything right. Already athletically inclined, Josh grew frustrated that his energy levels were slumping despite his hours in the gym.

“I expected that if you work out regularly and aren’t overweight, the aesthetic physical fitness element will equate to overall health,” says Josh. “I thought that I was fairly healthy because I was in decent shape, but didn’t really pay attention to the nutrition side or the holistic side of metabolic function and metabolic health.”

Josh first encountered scientific research about the potential of different dietary strategies while at SpaceX. The study, originally done on rats, extrapolated that a ketogenic diet could potentially have neurological and protective benefits for people in strenuous circumstances, including jobs such as astronauts and divers.

“That study showed me for the first time that diet could have a profound positive impact on human physiology,” notes Josh. “I followed a rabbit hole that led me to the two basic primary energy molecules in the human body, fat and carbohydrates, and I knew I wanted to track them in my own body.”

Josh started with fingerprick blood glucose tests and an Excel sheet to try to discern a correlation between his food consumption and energy levels.

After a few weeks of taking upwards of sixty finger pricks a day, Josh ultimately noticed that the unfavorable energy fluctuations he was experiencing were correlated with wild variability in a primary energy substrate in the body: glucose.

Although Josh started to see some patterns, he wanted to get more immediate real-time data.

“I wanted to get a more granular view of my glucose responses, so I started exploring continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices, which were originally developed for diabetes management.”

A CGM is a wearable sensor with a small filament that inserts under the skin that automatically check glucose at regular, frequent intervals, without the need for fingerpricks.

Josh found his energy fluctuations appeared to be correlated with large spikes in glucose that resulted from the dietary decisions he was making. Post-meal glucose elevations are generally followed by surges in insulin, which allow glucose to be taken into the cells, and when the glucose load is excessive, it can cause an exaggerated insulin response that leads to a subsequent big drop in blood sugar, a response known as reactive hypoglycemia.

“These lows following my glucose highs corresponded almost perfectly with my mid-afternoon crash: that 2:00 PM need to have another cup of coffee, and just a general feeling of irritability and fatigue,” says Josh.

“At the time, I was loading up on calories for muscle-building purposes. Several hundred grams of carbs per meal. My tests showed I was actually pushing myself way beyond the muscle-building threshold of carb loading into the pre-diabetic blood sugar zone. Because of this, my blood sugar would occasionally stay in an elevated range after meals for quite a long time.”

“In my personal research on myself, I realized that I’m extremely sensitive to carbohydrates– I’ll have a major blood sugar increase for something that will cause a fraction of the response in someone else. It doesn’t matter what the carbohydrate is; I am just generally sensitive to carbs. Since I’ve adjusted to a more low-carb diet, I don’t get those energy slumps anymore and feel overall healthier.”

Josh had opened the pandora’s box of human metabolism, and learned how to optimize it for himself through regular glucose monitoring: a process that culminated in the founding of Levels.

“I started looking into ways to get more value from the data by using software that helps people take action themselves to improve their metabolic health. Realizing there was some underlying metabolic dysfunction I hadn’t expected was a transformative moment for me,” recalls Josh.

It became clear to Josh that improvement in health requires a personalized, data driven approach with actionable insights; there’s no “one size fits all” strategy to get to better health, as every body is different.

Final Thoughts: Metabolic Empowerment at Scale

Josh started by thinking about how many variables are inextricably linked to glucose levels, beyond just nutrition, including sleep, stress, exercise, food selection, meal timing, food combinations, and more.

“Using Levels helped me focus on a single number, my glucose levels, and monitor how it reacts to so many of my decisions in real-time,” says Josh. “Whether it’s a workout, sleep quality, stress levels, or the food on my plate– glucose just responds so quickly and so objectively that it instantly became the most interesting data I’d ever had about my own health. All the things you can get from a normal wearable, like heart rate, step counters, heart rate variability, pulse ox, this one beats them all.”

The power of data, however, can only be unlocked with the proper analysis. Josh started Levels to make that analysis and actionability of the data seamless. Josh and the Levels team now push themselves to refine the CGM user experience to lessen the cognitive load and minimize the biological detective work to ascertain a relationship between glucose and daily choices. In doing so, they enable useful access to potentially life-changing data that is otherwise out of reach for most people.

“We want Levels to be an optimized user interface that uses composite metrics to quickly make sense of which lifestyle and dietary choices are good or bad for metabolic health,” says Josh. “We want to give people visibility into trends over time.”

Every human body is unique and can have different glucose responses to various foods, making a perfect-tailored fit of a universal blueprint diet, such as low-fat vs keto, impossible. By gaining access to your personal unique data points with Levels, Josh argues, you can engineer an optimized diet for you.

“The personalization aspect of Levels is really amazing,” adds Josh. “There’s a huge amount of variability, and it’s difficult to gauge your body’s response just based on how you feel– you need objective data to make sense of it all in the long-term and build the healthiest habits.”

At a population level, Josh sees Levels as an opportunity to make an enormous and scalable impact on the world.

“We have the capability to compare personal data across other populations,” says Josh. “Users can learn from the Levels community through social engagement, and can use the Levels software to help make sense of the multivariate drivers that all impact glucose levels. I love the feedback and having that closed-loop between actions and reactions.”

Metabolic fitness, according to Josh, starts with building awareness around our daily decisions and making minor adjustments in the pursuit of a truly healthy lifestyle.

Levels has come a long way from sixty blood glucose finger pricks per day, boasting features such as metabolic fitness scores, activity catalogs, and zone scores designed to help anyone craft their personalized optimal diet.

By using Levels to refine his understanding of how his body responds to his lifestyle choices, Josh was able to unlock a treasure trove of useful and actionable information.

Today, Josh enjoys control and flexibility over his energy levels countless entrepreneurs and engineers in demanding work environments can only dream of. All it took was getting educated on the basics of molecular energy– and building a powerful platform to apply it to his life.