[Click below to listen to an audio version of this article]
Who: Sara Salter Beemer, 40
Where: Glendora, California
Time with Levels: 3 months
Most Useful Takeaway: “With intermittent fasting and a CGM, I can see that my blood sugar levels are going down. It really hit home the idea that my body is now using fat as fuel.”
1. You’re a former fitness competitor. What were your diet and exercise habits like before?
After I had kids—I have a 9-year-old daughter and two twin 7-year-old boys—I started working out with a trainer. I saw what I could do with my body and how exercise completely changed it. Then, I began focusing on meal timing and adjusting my macros to match my workout intensity or to build towards specific goals, like enhancing my glutes. My trainer was a bodybuilder and suggested I compete, too. That was scary to me. Rather than competing, I trained like I was going into competition with the end goal of doing a photoshoot just for me. But eventually, after years of working out and eating like a bodybuilder, I finally decided to compete and chronicled my journey on Instagram (@sarabeemer). In 2019, I did two shows then took a year off in 2020 because of the pandemic.
2. What are your goals now? Why did you want to put a CGM on your arm?
Right now, I’m focusing on my body’s longevity. I turned 40, and my body has changed. Specifically, I’ve noticed that I can’t handle as many carbs as I could when I was younger. In December, I made the decision not to compete again this year. That opened up the possibility of trying different ways of eating, such as intermittent fasting and going lower carbohydrate. During bodybuilding, I was consuming hundreds of grams of carbs each day. What would happen when I pulled that back?
3. And what happened when you started eating in a new way?
IF has been successful because I now feel more in control of my eating habits, particularly snacking and grabbing food off my kids’ plates. I was against it first because I was so used to the bodybuilder way. In the past, I was waking up at 3:45 a.m. and eating before my workout. But since I’m not competing this year, I didn’t need the same strength and energy for workouts. So, I started with a 12-hour fast. That turned into a 14-, then 16-hour fast.
In previous years, I noticed that on high-carb days, I was always hungry and looking for my next meal. When I was building lean muscle–called lean bulk–I ate low-fat and high-carb. Combined with lots of snacking, my blood sugar was just spiking all day long.
Also, I used to snack all day long, but I noticed with Zone Scores in the Levels app that I’d go to eat again, and my 2-hour window [around measuring the Zone Score] hadn’t even closed yet. So, this prompts me to wait longer to eat.
Right now, I do an 18-hour fast with a six-hour eating window every other day. And my blood glucose is stable. As time went on, I noticed that my blood sugar levels were going down. It really hit home the idea that my body is now using fat as fuel.
Since making this change to low-carb/high-protein and -fat, my body is finally responding. I enjoy doing workouts fasted. My energy level during the day is consistent, and I don’t feel sluggish. I do have a chocolate treat every day, but I make sure it fits my macros.
4. What are one or two meals that consistently keep your glucose stable?
As a general rule for me, protein and fats need to go together. Fatty fish like salmon or sardines are favorites with a side of green veggies, like a big salad or broccoli, along with Parmesan cheese, which I sprinkle over everything. Olives, nuts, and avocado are other sources of healthy fat I gravitate toward. When I eat this way, my blood glucose is stable, and I get a 9 or 10 score on my meal.
This is different from when I would train, when I would stick to low-fat proteins, like egg whites or chicken. I’m loving having more fat in my diet. In the past, during my bodybuilding days, I would have one high-fat day once per week. I had forgotten how awesome those days were.
5. What non-diet things have you learned since wearing the CGM?
I need to work on my sleep. Like most people, I don’t get enough. My husband stays up later than I do, but I’d still hang out with him, fall asleep on the couch, and then get up and go to bed. On my Apple watch, I saw that this was not good for my deep REM sleep. But with a CGM, I also saw what was happening with my glucose. Every time I’d wake up on the couch, my glucose would spike while going to bed. I realized that if I just went to bed at a decent hour in the first place, I could have avoided that spike. Now, I sit on the couch with him to catch up for a bit, and when I’m ready for bed, we say goodnight. The good news is that I also feel more well-rested.