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March 2017
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THE ZONE DIET

THE ZONE DIET

There are days when everything seems perfect. You wake up on form, fresh and full of energy. Your mind is relaxed but aware, your body is strong and cannot get tired.... Maybe you did not realise, but most probably you find yourself in this somewhat magical yet real state when the mind and body are at their best, when you are in the ‘zone’.

How to get to the ‘zone’

A recent study, carried out in the United States, claims that reaching such a state is possible thanks to... food, the most common and powerful drug we have available. Barry Sears, the author of the book 'Enter The Zone' describes the physiological mechanisms that are the foundations of this theory and the necessary dietary steps you must take.

Here is a short summary of these steps and foundations.

Carbohydrates, weight gain and hormones

When you put too many carbohydrates in to the body it causes a rapid increase of glucose in the blood. To compensate for this increase, the pancreas secretes a hormone, insulin, that lowers blood sugar levels and stimulates the storing of stocks (the accumulation of fat cells). An important part in the understanding of this phenomenon is the rapid entry of carbohydrates in the blood: the glycemic index (GI).

The glycemic index is influenced by:

  • the structure of the sugars;
  • the fibre content;
  • the fat content.

All complex carbohydrates can be split up into simple sugars. Carbohydrates rich in glucose, like pasta and bread, pass very quickly into the blood stream and cause weight gain, due to the effects of insulin. Fructose (contained in fruit) and galactose (in dairy products) however, are absorbed more slowly and fibre, being a non-absorbable carbohydrate, slows down the absorption of other carbohydrates.

Fruit (but not bananas and dried fruits) and vegetables rich in fibre (except carrots) have a low glycemic index (GI), which is not the case for cereals, starches, bread and pasta, that have a very high GI and are very fattening.

Proteins

A large part of the human body is made up of proteins. Proteins are composed of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in total and 9 of these cannot be produced by the body and thus must be present in the foods we eat.

Fats

The zone diet takes an ‘original’ position on fats in the diet. It claims that:

  • nutritional fats do not cause weight gain;
  • fats that ‘burn’ other fats should be eaten.

The proof of these ideas is in still in the experimental phase however studies on groups of people have shown that, statistically, the theory is valid. It is based on the function of eicosanoids, super hormones that control all the hormonal activities of the body.

How to calculate your own ‘in the zone’ diet

You need to calculate your bodies daily protein needs and then the amount of other nutrients you require (carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals) will be worked out according to a fixed ratio.

You need to know the following information:

Calculation of your BODY'S PROTEIN NEEDS

Weight kg
Body fat percentage %
Physical activity
None
Light activity (occasional walks)
Moderate (do exercise 3 times a week)
Moderate aerobic exercise with weights EVERY day
Intense daily exercise with weights
Intense daily exercise with weights as well as an intense daily sporting workout, or 2 sporting workouts a day



Your lean body mass

kg

DAILY PROTEIN NEEDS g/day

The daily protein needs are then divided once again into blocks of 7 grams (rounded up or down to roughly 7 grams) and then the 7g blocks are consumed separately during the course of the day according to the table below. N.B.: the concept of ‘7g blocks’ has been introduced to simplify the exact number of grams: standard blocks of protein, fats and carbohydrates are available, as illustrated below.

Total number of protein blocks
(of 7 grams)

---- rounding up or down to a whole number of blocks ----

Breakfast blocks
Lunch blocks
Snack blocks
Dinner blocks
Evening snack blocks

The number of blocks of carbohydrates and fats will be provided by the following table (for this, you will need to insert your weight and body fat percentage into the first table too).

Total number of blocks per day

PROTEIN CARBS FATS
Breakfast
Lunch
Snack
Dinner
Evening snack

… but what does ‘a block’ mean?

Here are some examples:

PROTEIN (for more information see appendix C of the book Enter The Zone)

Meat protein
1 block =30g of chicken breast without skin / 30g of lean pork

Fish protein
1 block =45g of cod / 30g of tuna

CARBOHYDRATES (for more information see appendix C of the book Enter The Zone)

Favourable carbohydrates
1 block =120g of courgettes / 120g of broccoli

Unfavourable carbohydrates
1 block =30g of pasta / 1/3 banana

FATS (for more information see appendix C of the book Enter The Zone)

Fats
1 block =1/3 teaspoon of olive oil / 1/2 teaspoon of butter / 1 teaspoon of light mayonnaise

Conclusion

The zone diet was created keeping in mind our genes, our inherited metabolism, how hormones react to different foods (in particular the balance of insulin/glucagon) and how eicosanoids work.

The principle difference in respect to official dietetics is that stodgy carbohydrates or those with a very high GI, like cereals, bread, pasta and rice, are considered the main foods responsible for creating fat and the relative consequences of it. Such foods must not be completely abolished though, but definitely eaten less often.

In this case, the ‘healthy eating pyramid’ is completely ignored!

The increase in the consumption of carbohydrates in the United States is considered responsible for the huge increase in obesity and number of cardiovascular illnesses.

But... if this is true, why are Italians not obese?

Italy is the only country in the world where pasta or rice are eaten as a starter everyday and a large amount of bread is consumed daily..... but is Italy the most obese nation or the country with most cardiovascular illnesses?

No, therefore this theory should be considered as a useful dietetic example, which is interesting because it is based on a complex interpretation of our metabolic mechanisms, but it should not be believed to be an absolute truth.
It is recommended that you reduce the number of carbohydrates you consume, including those in pasta and bread, but do not eliminate then completely from your diet.

THE ZONE DIET

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