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  • ulysseha19

Self-tracking Series

Rationale

If anything is to be done at all, it should be done with a reason. Here, I lay out my rationale as a note to self that objective always precedes methodology.


Over the past 2-3 years, I have experimented with different dietary practices (time-restricted eating, biweekly fasts, and slow carbs etc.) and supplementation ("nootropics" and off the shelf stuff like magnesium) to battle my long-lasting lethargy. While the benefits of controlling certain variables are subjectively noticeable, especially restricting my eating window, a systemic review of these variables has never been done, and thus a coherent routine or protocol is yet to be formed. As such, I will use this article to re-organize my existing tools based on their effects on my sleep and daytime energy fluctuation, using Oura and Dexcom G6 as my tackers.


To track oneself is to learn more about oneself . I intend to use my self-knowledge to optimise my daily life by controlling energy fluctuation. While I find the general fitness and productivity culture overall uncritical in its aim and aesthetically unpleasant, it is undeniable that many benefits can be reaped from an industrious lifestyle that is maximally insulated from ailments. I'm also of the opinion that, fundamentally, I'm doing this out of boredom. It is hoped that having a side project to hone my all-purpose methodological tools would serve as an intellectual anchor in my post-university life.


Methodology


Objective

The image above demonstrates my overall approach. To me, a good day doesn't always have to be a productive day, but it certainly shouldn't be plagued by lethargy, unless I'm hungover.

Below is how I define feeling good:


Feel good = subjective feeling of sharpness throughout a day as a result of decent sleep quality and decent diet (with 3 'levers' to consider: what, when, and how much), which are themselves inter-connected.


Ultimately, my goal is to hopefully identify meaningful correlation between what I consume and both how I sleep and how my feeling fluctuates throughout the day. Consumption is further broken down into supplementary and dietary, each with two specific variables that are measured by different metrics. Whereas supplementary variables include actual supplementation (e.g., magnesium) as well as caffeine consumption (the 3 levers also apply), dietary variables refer to eating window (fasting) and carbs ("fast" vs. "slow" carbs and sugar).

My hypothesis is that blood sugar level spikes would slow me down. Therefore, I should keep it consistent and avoid any food that spikes my glucose. Meanwhile, caffeine is known to have a 5-7 hours half life and its detrimental effect on sleep is well-documented. By examining my coffee intake, I hope to find an acceptable substitute and ideal cut off time.


Measurement

Correspondingly, different tools will be used to measure my body's reaction to things that I put in my mouth as well as my sleep. For instance, Dexcom G6, a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device, will be used to measure my blood glucose level against my feeling (self-report) of alertness and clarity after a meal. Oura, on the other hand, will be used to measure my heart rate, a proxy of my reaction to caffeine, and my sleep quality, on which supplementation and caffeine control should have an effect.




Timeline

A baseline shall first be established with a constraint-free diet in the first week (e.g., no time-restriction, no caffeine cut-off time, much carbs as I like), with more dietary principles to be added subsequently (e.g., time-restricted eating plus time-restricted caffeine consumption, restricted amount and types of carbs)




Block 1 Findings (22/01 - 04/02)


Summary & Next Steps

Average sleep score: 73.5

Average sleep efficiency: 82%

Average glucose: 6.2 mmol/L


All in all a block that was filled with social activities and heavy drinking (I blame the festive atmosphere before and during Chinese New Year), which gravely undermined the consistency of my sleep data (sleep deprivation and irregular hours) , glucose data (over and underfeeding myself), as well as my subjective feeling of sharpness (compounded hangovers).


Not ideal for self-knowledge generation.


Tracking Method

  • Food and drinks tags don’t work very well, try pictures

  • 30mins interval for energy is difficult to execute, try 1 hr

  • Going out has completely ruined the consistency of my experimentation

Other Variables

  • Cardio seems to have a significant impact on amount of deep sleep

  • Unclear, I could still feel clear-headed despite post-dinner high glucose; meanwhile, low glucose in the morning could co-exist with drowsiness.


Sleep

Effect of Caffeine

  • TBD (no caffeine control)

Effect of Supplementation

  • TBD (no supplements taken)



Daily Energy Fluctuation

Effect of Caffeine

  • Subjectively, drinking tea helps maintain a noticeably more stable energy level

  • Tea also seems to induce a smaller heart rate spike (60-90 BPM compared within 3 hours of consumption, compared to coffee which could lead up to >100 BPM). Data remain inconclusive and any pattern identification should require tea-only days in block 3.

Effect of Supplementation

  • TBD (no supplements taken)

Effect of Fasting

  • TBD (no fasting done)

Effect of Carbs

  • Sweet potatoes









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