What is the Zone Diet: What Foods to Eat and How it Works

What is the Zone Diet: What Foods to Eat and How it Works

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An anti-inflammatory diet, the Zone Diet is recommended by crossfit and primarily about blood sugar control and decreasing inflammation.

The Zone or Crossfit diet offers a new approach towards healthy eating that allows you to stick to the plan and eventually accomplish your goals. Inflammation is a controllable factor when it comes to the battle against the bulge, the war against the weight, the fight against the fat. By taking control of your inflammation and your blood sugar, the weight will fall off in naturally healthy ways leaving you with more energy to increase your health gains with exercise.

The Zone Diet Plan

The basis of the diet is to make sure that the body can consume the ideal balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The aim is to help anyone fight inflammation by simply following a couple of ground rules. For anyone that has ever experienced body inflammation or is in a constant battle, it can be quite exhausting. Inflammation is the key culprit in weight gain, fatigue, premature ageing, and it also increases the risk of chronic disease. Despite its huge impact on your health the vast majority of people live with inflammation day in and day out, and don’t even know it.

Three important hormones and their function

That's where the Zone diet comes into play. By carefully planning your meals, you are helping your body heal itself in the most natural way, and you are providing it with key nutrients it needs to function properly. Reducing inflammation, blood sugar imbalances and the body's fat storing state is accomplished by balancing the basic macros. When your basic macros are in balance you are influencing the three major hormones that are produced while eating.

The three major hormones that balance these factors above are Insulin, Glucagon, and Eicosanoids. The insulin is the storage hormone and having a surplus of insulin can stop you from getting rid of extra body fat. It also initiates body inflammation. Next, we have the glucagon which is the hormone that regulates normal blood sugar levels by carefully informing your body to start releasing carbohydrates bit by bit. And finally, there is the eicosanoids or the hormones responsible for regulating silent inflammation in the body and organizing a whole range of hormones in different areas in the body.

The three major hormones

By controlling your diet through the careful planning of your macro intake, you will assist the 3 major hormones (insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids) in doing their job properly and getting the results you need.

What foods you should be eating on the Zone diet

At each meal time, divide your recipes into three equal parts or blocks:

  • A block of protein is 7 grams;
  • A block of carbs is 9 grams; and
  • A block of fat is 1.5 grams.

For an easy reference on your plate, 7 grams of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm which makes one-third of your plate. Next, fill in the other two-thirds of your plate with 9 grams of carbohydrates, then top it with 1.5 grams of fat.

I suggest picking up a food scale, available in most stores with a kitchen section, to accurately track what goes on your plate. I wouldn’t recommend doing the eyeball method until you have had time working with the science of the diet by accurately measuring, even after becoming used to the diet it's much better to accurately follow it then roughly guessing your way through.

Always bear in mind that the macronutrients must be in balanced proportions. Therefore:

  • A one block meal equals: 7g of protein, 9g of carbs, and 1.5g of fat;
  • A two block meal is: 14g of protein, 18g of carbs, and 3g of fat;
  • A three block meal has: 21g of protein, 27g of carbs, and 4.5g of fat; and
  • A four-block meal would be: 28g of protein, 36g of carbs, and 6g of fat.

Having more than a four-block meal in one sitting is pointless for absorbing the correct macronutrients since the body naturally cannot intake value from more than 4 or 5 blocks of protein over such a short time frame.

It is important to note however that there are types of proteins, carbs and fats that are good that should be included in your diet and types that are bad and should be avoided.

You should focus on including:

Good proteins

  • Meats: lean beef, lamb, veal and game, skinless chicken and turkey breast, fish and shellfish.
  • Vegetarian Proteins: Tofu and other soy products.
  • Dairy Proteins: Egg whites, low-fat cheese, low-fat milk and greek/unflavoured yogurt.

Size Example: A block of protein is 1 ounce of beef.

Slow Burning Carbohydrates

You can include fruits and vegetables but avoid fruit with high sugar content.

  • Fruit: Berries, mangoes, apples, oranges, plums…
  • Vegetables: Cucumbers, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, squash, chickpeas…
  • Grains: Oatmeal and barley.

Size Example: A block of carbs is half an apple or 3 cups of broccoli.