So, you’ve been following a clean food diet (paleo, clean, primal, etc.) for quite some time and you’ve had some good results, but you aren’t quite where you want. What’s the next step to improving your nutrition and getting your body on track? The Zone Diet might be your answer.
Like following a paleo or gluten free lifestyle, the Zone diet is primarily concerned with controlling your hormones. Hormonal balance affects all important components of your wellness: body composition, energy utilization, blood chemistry, and much more. Ingesting food changes your hormonal profile- and it can be good or bad- depending on what you eat and what your body needs. Ultimately, it is food that can bring about positive or negative changes in your body.
The Zone Diet isn’t about eating “low-carb” or “high-protein” or anything like that. It’s a diet balanced in:
• Protein (lean, natural meats are preferred)
• Carbs (mostly low glycemic-load fruits and vegetables)
• Fat (one of the most important macronutrients!)
With the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats, you can control three major hormones generated by the human diet – insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids. Balancing these hormones is vital to creating the most efficient metabolism possible. With a humming metabolism, balanced hormones, and quality food intake- you will see major improvements in mood, body composition, skin health, and even performance. Read more by checking out this book:
The glycemic index is a simple measure of a food’s impact on blood sugar. High glycemic foods tend to raise blood sugar levels (sugar high) which then results in an insulin spike, which quickly drops blood sugar (sugar crash). This constant battle creates a toxic environment within your metabolism that can ultimately result in illness & disease, including diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome and others.
High glycemic foods are typically starchy, sweet, or processed foods like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, grains and of course sugars. These items tend to be processed and designed to have a shelf life. These are items we should avoid when possible- with a few notable exceptions- due to their chemical and glycemic properties.
Low glycemic foods tend to be meats, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds and come in a natural state. These items can be cooked- but typically need to be eaten quickly to ensure freshness. These are also items you tend to find in the perimeter of the store due to high turn-over. These are also the foundational foods of the previously mentioned lifestyles (paleo, primal, clean, etc.). You’re ultimate goal is to eat primarily low glycemic foods with the occasional high glycemic. As always- we don’t advocate complete elimination of any particular food- unless you have an autoimmune issue- because it’s just not possible to maintain in the long term. If there seems to be a particular food you enjoy and it doesn’t hinder your performance or results, build it into your plan. Be realistic with yourself and partake in the occasional indulgence and eat food you enjoy, just be smart and prepared.
Here are some examples of Low Glycemic (“Good Foods”) and High Glycemic (“Bad Food”) options.
How to Start:
To begin, you must identify what nutritional needs you have. These are typically based on your size and activity level.
The Zone Diet works utilizing ratios of macronutrients to optimize your bodies metabolic performance. They break each macronutrient into what is called a “block”. A block is a unit of measure used to simplify the process of balancing your meals.
1 Block= 7 grams Protein
1 Block= 9 grams Carbohydrate
1 Block= 1.5 grams Fat
Each meal/snack will consist of equal blocks of each macronutrient. This creates the optimal ratio of 40% of calories from carbohydrate, 30% of calories from protein, and 30% of calories from fat. How many blocks of each you need to eat is based on your size, activity level and goals. Cutting calories to lose weight is not the purpose of the Zone Diet- but rather giving your body the proper nutrients to balance your hormones and metabolism. Don’t short change your daily requirements- focus on the quality of foods you are eating and how you’re body feels.
A sample block chart is provided to help assist you in planning meals. Each item listed= 1 Block. Ensure you are planning equal blocks for each macronutrient (Carb, Protein, Fat).
We recommend anyone following “The Zone” weigh and measure portions for their initial week. This will set the stage for accurate proportions and will help you develop an eye for proper sizes/amounts.
The Zone may seem intimidating, but those who eat within the zone parameters lose body fat quickly and find it easily adhered to. Adjustments are required once you’ve reached your goal weight/performance level, but they are small and easy to implement. It is a very maintainable lifestyle with minimal effort. Paleo, vegan, fast food or fine dining… The Zone is the undoubtedly the best way to advance your nutrition and get to your next level.