As many have noticed there is an escalating trend of health awareness coupled with a variety of smart devices/gadgets able to track our body health. More people are gaining knowledge about healthy habits, including their diets, exercising routines, sleep, rest and recreation, and so forth.
As we speak a long list of companies are providing a variety of hardware—smartphones, smartwatches, bands, to name a few—along with software—mainly apps on your phones—that help monitor your conditions. A sign of this topic gaining more attention is the addition of blood oxygen monitors on the more recent smartwatches from Apple and Garmin due to the importance of bloody oxygen levels regarding signs of coronavirus contraction.
Weight loss, calorie consumption/burning, sleep, daily steps… are the traditional daily routines people are interested in monitoring. Less talked about is the issue of metabolism, be it due to lack of necessary knowledge, or the true difficulty to monitor this important subject, let alone breaking the rendered data into easy-to-understand information for us common folks. This becomes even more important since your metabolism differs from mine, as both of ours differ from each of our family members and friends.
Enter Lumen, a device that “hacks” your body data to provide unique information about what fuel your body is employing. As more people are interested in burning calories to lose weight, making decisions the correct decision for your body can be at times difficult and somewhat confusing, resulting in many quitting the process altogether.
Presented in a pocket-sized device, Lumen gathers data from the gases of your breath, translates the information through an app into plain English for you and me, and provides valuable advice regarding your daily consumption.
Some preliminary science
Lumen’s mechanism, if you will, is based on determining an individual’s metabolic fuel usage according to a measurement called Respiratory Quotient, or RQ. To this day this window into your body’s apparatus has been exclusive to world-class athletes that went the distance through blood tests, spending over an hour in metabolic chambers (whatever that means!) and of course, having the necessary budget.
Thanks to Lumen’s years of research and development, however, you and I are now able to measure our RQ in a single breath. This is more convenient than other brands in the market:
- Levi: need to literally setup a small lab in your home, $100-150 in monthly costs
- Breezing: three-minute continuous breathing tests, new cartridge needed for each measurement (an additional $5)
- Ketonix: needs computer connection, data output only provides fat burn for users bound to a strict ketogenic diet
Reminder: when using Lumen, just purchase the device, install a free app, and you’re set to go (Lumen has a monthly subscription fee that varies based on your initial purchase). No strings attached, as they say. This metabolism-measuring tracker delivers real-time feedback, obviates the need to hire an expensive coach, and provides motivation to boost your morale during a diet process that can be hard both physically and psychologically.
Lumen provides you information on the impact of your nutrition (or unhealthy diet) on your body. Let’s say you had a donut and coffee for breakfast, then an apple as a snack before lunch, a healthy salad from the local grocery store (with some delicious ranch sauce, though) then a small bag of chips in the afternoon, and then two or three slices of pizza for dinner. Of course, I hope you did exercise somewhere during your day or else this article is probably not for you.
In other words, the goal of Lumen is not to immediately restrict you into a no-carbs diet with mostly fats and a reasonable amount of proteins. While Lumen is heading you into that direction, it is meant to help you understand how your carb/fat intake are impacting your metabolism, and thus making the transition into eating healthier an easier journey.
Lumen specializes in helping you understand what tweaks you can make, from a dietary perspective, to be and become metabolically more flexible, and to start burning fat for more energy. That is the most important objective of Lumen’s exercises. Your body needs to burn more fat when you decide to, meaning not only the fat that you consume but also your existing body fat. This, in my opinion, is the most powerful weight-loss tool.
How does Lumen work?
To make it simple, Lumen tells you what kind of fuel your body is burning to produce energy, meaning are you burning carbs or actual fat that has been stored in your body for some time.
The simple feedback delivers helpful support to plan your intakes, improve or maybe adjust your workouts, and through the process, adapt your metabolism to be flexible, meaning to both eat healthy and enjoy the goodies now and then.
By breathing into the device, you are inputting valuable data that Lumen will process to measure the carbon dioxide concentration in your breath. More specifically, Lumen measures the ratio of carbon dioxide in your exhalation compared to the oxygen in your inhalation. The data is sent to your mobile app to both evaluate the results and allow you to track your metabolism as you go forward. Don’t worry about the process because the app is quite user-friendly and takes you step by step to learn the correct inhales and exhales necessary for the device to assess your health.
A high CO2 signature means you are burning carbs, while lower levels are an indication that your body is burning fat. And of course, the app provides various nutrition recommendations to help you make smart metabolic choices that are right for your body and based on your goals.
Following a month of consistent use, Lumen gives you a “Flex score” from 0 to 21. The higher your Lumen Flex score means you are more metabolically flexible. If you did not receive a high score, then your challenge, which I suggest you accept, would be to elevate your score over the subsequent months.
Putting health first
Today’s health trackers and even the latest wearables provide you decent yet limited monitoring of your health. We are usually mostly focused on gaining fitness or losing weight, and the data we receive from our wide range of trackers are at times spread out in different apps, and some are too difficult to digest.
With Lumen, you not only receive data about your health, but that information can also help you make important decisions for your short or long-term distance health plans. Lumen is also working on reaching the capability of providing early signs of various illnesses, which becomes all the more important as we reach the age of 40 and beyond.
And as we age, changing our diet habits becomes harder. That is why it is important to be aware of the threats of a high-carb diet. Consuming large volumes of carbs leads to your body becoming unable to transform those carbs (glucose) to energy. Instead, the excess glucose is stored around your body in the form of fat. This is the primary cause for most metabolic diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer, dementia, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. These are all caused by a disturbed glucose metabolism due to a high carb intake.
In the line of trackers available it is widely believed that Garmin devices provide the most accurate data. That may be why Lumen is in collaboration with Garmin allowing users to follow their metabolism measurements from their Garmin watches. Studies show that ordinary users that monitor their metabolism and own a wearable are more likely to adopt meaningful and lasting changes in their lifestyle, especially when it comes down to health and fitness.
Using Lumen in the long run provides numerous metabolic health benefits:
- Building lean mass
- Establishing a stronger immune system
- Better maintaining and managing your weight
- Sleeping better
- Feeling energized and overcoming sluggishness
- Keeping consistent blood glucose levels
Going one step further, Garmin users who use Lumen to monitor their metabolism receive real-time metabolic feedback on their wrist immediately after their workout, thus making them smarter athletes. Such individuals will go on to eat healthier, move more throughout the day, and adopt a more consistent workout schedule in their daily lives.
It is worth noting here that Lumen will not make the process of losing weight or gaining your desired fitness level any easier. That is completely up to you. However, Lumen helps with the all-important concept of having mindfulness around food choices (eating healthier) parallel to the metrics presented by Lumen to help you quantify your progress and induce an extra boost of motivation.
Who is Lumen for?
Let’s be honest. There are many of us who have grown up with carbs and now have it literally institutionalized in our daily diet. And there are those of us who have adapted and evolved comfortably on a high-fat diet. While you may say Lumen is not for them, everyone could use a personal nutritionist and we should all think about a healthy diet as we, as a species, are tending to move around less while consuming more high-calorie processed foods with increasing levels of saturated fat.
Once you have purchased Lumen, it is worth noting that getting the best out of this device has a few noteworthy requirements:
- use it in the morning 30+ minutes after waking up and before eating anything
- this should follow fasting periods of at least 12 hours
- meaning if you’ve eaten dinner at 6:30 pm, don’t use Lumen until at least 6:30 am the next morning
Using the device requires you to:
- Take a deep breath through the small inhaler
- Hold your breath for ten seconds (don’t get distracted by your dog like me)
- Slowly breath out through the mouthpiece in a controlled manner
- Repeat two or three times until the app is assured about the results’ credibility
Your Lumen score ranges from 1 to 5, one meaning you are mostly burning fat. This is a good score from Lumen’s perspective. Scoring five, however, means your body is running on carbs. While you can take additional measures after breakfast or lunch, Lumen considers the initial morning measurement as principal and inputs that into your database as primary data.
As mentioned above the mechanism is quite simple. There are two sensors inside mouthpiece — airflow and CO2—and a flashing yellow LED light indicates Lumen is operating. A higher carbon dioxide proportion means you are burning more carbs than fat. Lumen uses this sensor combination to calculate your breath’s CO2 proportion.
Lumen has made the process quite interesting. Timers presented in a sharp LED indicator inform you when to breathe, followed by an animated level indicator showing you how strong you should exhale into the device.
Now don’t expect Lumen to immediately start delivering you suggestions and solutions. Take into consideration that Lumen needs a full month of data collection before the information can be processed to provide credible recommendations. Your main goal should be realizing metabolic flexibility, which in plain English, means how efficiently your body can switch from burning fats to carbs. Most people should be focusing on escalating their metabolic flexibility in the long run.
Yes, carbs and fats are bad for your body, but you do need a certain amount. Finding that balance and remaining loyal to an adequate food diet and exercise routine is key, and Lumen is here to help in this regard. Do keep in mind that Lumen does not intend to take the place of your doctor and do consult your personal physician when making decisions about your future. This is especially important for people who have special illnesses, certain medical history in their family, and/or are taking specific medication(s).
One more important issue is taking Lumen’s “calibration day” seriously. Lumen will tell you not to do any workouts and to consume a certain amount of carbs that may seem very high for some who are already on strict diets. If you do not comply with what Lumen requires, it will not be able to establish the necessary baseline, leading to your readings being off and frustrating you into thinking you’re not burning fats. So, take calibration day and all its protocols seriously to build the foundation needed to go forward.
Also, prior to taking a breath into the device, sit down and relax for a few minutes, five to be best. Lumen understands when you’re not relaxed, so cheating the device is not worth it. Furthermore, it will take at least two minutes for each Lumen test, so please be patient and go on with the process to get correct results. It’s actually a good habit to practice sitting down, clearing your thoughts, and taking good deep breaths.
What’s a good Lumen score?
Lumen provides your score from a range of 1 to 5. You can score 5 quite easily: eat plenty of junk food and stay away from fruits. Scoring 1 is nearly impossible. I myself started with 4, quickly reached 3, but going to a score of 2 and maintaining that score has been quite a welcomed challenge. And trust me, maintaining a constant score of 1 is nearly impossible unless you are probably a professional athlete with a die-hard diet of no carbs/no fats. I’m not telling you to be Cristiano Ronaldo, just that scoring 1 and maintaining such a disciplined lifestyle is quite a task.
Once Lumen collects the adequate amount of initial data, meaning after the first month, the device app begins to provide suggestions about how you should best balance your carbohydrates, fats, and protein intakes.
Getting a morning rating helps you plan your day’s meals and even snacks. Testing before lunch and dinner provides you information about how your body reacted to your last meal, and how to move forward. A rating prior to your exercise routine (workout optimization) provides a look into your energy level, allowing you to decide to either go for a grueling workout, do a simple practice, or fuel up with energy for tomorrow.
To better process the collected data in sync with your daily activities, Lumen’s app will ask you to log in your sleep hours and exercises. One of my favorite characteristics about Lumen is the area in the app that is specifically focused on providing you recipes on what to eat.
The Lumen app also provides answers to many whys, such as the reason behind weight variation, why your energy levels seem low, and more basically, why is your body storing carbs. All this will keep you better informed and aware of your next decisions.
Although Lumen won’t ever recommend you to have a donut, the provided suggestions are specially integrated with Lumen’s approach to a healthy diet, with room for fun, too.
Strong build, yet slight issues
Once you take Lumen in your hand you realize the hardware is quite firm and well-built. The strong body comes with a soft-touch outer surface, delivering a strong sense of reliability. An LED ring lights up purple when connected to your phone and red when there are link-up issues (which I honestly never experienced). Having checked on a variety of devices from different brands I found that Lumen connects to a phone almost instantly. You should also know that connecting Lumen to Apple Health and Google Fit can help you receive a more accurate picture of your health.
While this is an excellent product, I do think that at a price of $299 it will unfortunately be out of many people’s reach. Furthermore, I think the main challenge before Lumen, and us consumers, is how long will we remain motivated to continue using the device? The answer is obvious for professional athletes, but for ordinary people it would need quite an effort by Lumen, I believe, to maintain our interest by maybe enhanced app updates or other creative initiatives as our collective knowledge of nutrition and metabolism expands.
Another major improvement could be for Lumen to provide the option to connect you to experts who—with your consent—will review your data and provide useful and unique feedback—through a live-chat platform maybe—to help you make better decisions going forward.
At the end of the day, Lumen has enormous potential to provide important guidance to a growing number of people who are looking to live healthier, eat wiser, and lose weight in a natural and lasting process. Remember, it all comes down to how determined you are in putting in disciplined work to get actual results while Lumen provides data and guidance feedback. Lumen delivers its own style of inspiration that can energize your motivational engines into becoming a healthier new you.