Protein causing blood sugar spike in the am?

Hi all! So I’m on a healthy eating journey and part of my new routine is to eat lese carbs. I’m the am I’m typically eating a protein shake or bar with low carbs (5 max). I’m still bolusing for carbs, but notice a spike that’s in my opinion fairly high for not really eating sugar or a ton of carbs. Has anyone else noticed this with high protein foods? If so, how do you combat it?

@Tee25 HI Taylor, lots of us get a high spike in the morning it’s sometimes related to Dawn Phenomenon (or dawn effect).

For normals, the body releases stored sugar in the morning to help them “wake up” and it works pretty good. Subtract a working pancreas for type 1, and we see it as an “unexplained high” with no carbs

Running your blood sugar a little higher may help, or may not.
bolusing in anticipation for that high may work, or may not and you crash

modifying your routine may work (at the daylight savings/ standard time shift my dawn phenomenon goes away… temporarily)

if you have a cgm - or you can test more. - you may see it starting and you can use insulin + activity… to flatten it out.

also, many of us are more insulin resistant in the mornings as well… so the same amount of insulin covers less carbs in the am. I need 20% more for example until about noon.

good luck.

@Tee25, I’m assuming you’ve tested basal rates with your typical diet, and are confident you’re not experiencing Dawn phenomenon. That said, when I consistently eat low carbs, I have to account for proteins raising my blood sugar. When I’m eating a typical diet, I don’t account for proteins. This is a common situation, based on info I see in various groups for T1Ds. Take a cautious approach to blousing for proteins until you understand how they are affecting you. Many people have found that blousing as if around 50% of protein grams were carb grams gets them close, and that’s the number that works for me.

Correct. I wear a cgm and don’t really have a dawn phenomenon. My basal rate is adjusted to correct the brief morning spike I have. I can eat a super carby breakfast (cereal/milk, pancakes etc) and be totally fine. It’s just when I tend to go high protein low carb that I notice definitive spike.

Hi Tee @Tee25, my “guess” is that you may be masking your dawn phenomenon with increased bolus ratio for your breakfast and agree with @mikefarley that maybe you should validate your AM basal rates. Basal rates are validated by fasting [i.e., eating a ‘normal’ supper on a day of usual activity and not eating again until the following lunch time] and seeing if you can you stay in range for that 18 hour period.

With your higher carb breakfast you are taking “a lot” of bolus and keeping your BGL in range; on your protein breakfast days I suspect you take a “very small” bolus which is not sufficient to mask your too low basal rates. Yes, I’m assuming you use a pump.


Morning, I’m suspicious of the no carb sweeteners used in certain low carb bars and protein powders. My sugar spikes due to certain ‘ol’ sugar substitutes. Maltitol, sorbitol, etc.

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Hi @trufflemaker, both sorbitol and maltitol are sugar alcohols and are considered carbohydrates. The need to be included in carb counts.
These sweeteners are plant based and as such you will need to find where and how they affect your glucose - very similar to how you determine the effect of vegetables and fruits. “Sugar free” does not mean free of carbohydrates.

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Yes, according to Dr. Richard K Bernstein, who studied his own Type 1 diabetes for many years, proteins can convert some 45% of their calories to glucose ONLY on a low carb diet. He should know, he;'s been low-carbing since the 1970s

But the conversion takes time, so it shows up later in bg. That’s why it shows up about when most expect Dawn Phenomenon to take effect.

Taylor, if this is happening in the early am and it has been hours since you’ve eaten could be Dawn Phenomena this is where the liver deposits sugar in yur blood, the liver thinks you are starving will deposit glucose. the way to stoop this is to eat as little bit of carbs, this will stop the liver and your B/S should get back to your normal reading. Usually if you eat a little, crackers and P-Butter before bed time, you can usually stop the spike, protein doesn’t usually cause a spike. Hope this helps. Bye jan

I also eat a lower carb diet. I have found that I have to bolus 50% of the protein count for carbs and use an extended bolus. Carbs and fat tend to have a later spike than grain based carbs.

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I have been on the keto diet since February to manage my blood sugar with insulin pens instead of the pump, which I was on for the last 23 years (T1 for 43 yrs). I still have to take insulin for protein at every meal but usually wait about an hour after I eat unless my CGM shows a rise in blood sugar. I do get the rise in the morning as soon as my feet hit the floor no matter what time I get up as others have mentioned. Btw, the difference between eating low carb and keto is that I can now exercise without the rapid drop in my blood sugar since the body burns fat instead of sugar during ketosis. I don’t need to lose weight but my A1c is better than it has ever been. This is my new way of life and I love being “untethered” from the pump!.