The Zone Diet 101
The Zone diet gets its name from the zone in which the diet keeps your blood sugar level in order to shed fat, support exercise, and experience amazing levels of energy and concentration. When you are in The Zone, you’ll know it.
The Zone Diet gives us a scientific method for keeping “intake to levels that will support exercise, but not body fat.” Without a structured approach to the quantity aspect of your diet, you are just taking a shot in the dark when trying to figure out how much to eat.
The Zone breaks up the three macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) into blocks, which are the portions that you will use to weigh and measure your food.
In order to find out how many blocks you will eat in a day, some data needs to be gathered. The portions are based on a quotient that is derived from taking your lean muscle mass and multiplying it by an activity factor. We find your lean muscle mass by gathering a few body measurements and calculating your body fat percentage. We take your BF% times your weight to give us how much fat mass you are carrying. We subtract that number from your total weight, and voila, we have your lean muscle mass.
Your activity factor is in line with how much you exercise in one week. If you are a doing CrossFit 5-6 days per week, then your factor is 1. If you only participate in CrossFit as a spectator and your couch and ESPN2 are involved, then .5 is your activity factor. By taking your lean muscle mass and multiplying times your activity factor; we get how many grams of protein you are going to eat in one day.
Here is an example to help illustrate:
Joe Schmoe weighs 200 pounds and does CrossFit 6 out of every 8 days.
His body fat percentage is 17%
200lbs x .17 = 34 pounds body fat
200lbs - 34lbs = 166lbs
Joe’s activity factor is 1.
166 x 1 = 166 grams of protein per day
Now, here is how the blocks are broken down:
1 Protein Block = 7 grams
1 Carbohydrate Block = 9 grams
1 Fat Block = 1.5 grams
We use the protein grams per day that we calculate above of 166 and divide it by 7, which give us 23.5 blocks.
So, Joe is going to eat 23.5 blocks of protein, carbs and fat each day. Furthermore, each time he eats, he will balance his blocks of protein, carbs and fat.
Here is an example daily meal breakdown for Joe:
6:00am – 2 Block Snack before hitting the gym
7:30am – 4 Block Post WOD breakfast
9:30am – 2 Block Snack
11:30am – 5 Block Lunch
2:30pm – 2 Block Snack
4:30pm – 2.5 Block Snack
7:00pm – 5 Block Dinner
9:00pm – 1 Block Snack
Total: 23.5 Blocks
Now, you’re probably wondering what a Zone portioned meal looks like. So, here is a quick example of a four block breakfast:
3 Eggs (1 block each)
3 Pieces of Bacon (1 Block)
4 Cups Strawberries (1 Block per cup)
4 Macadamia Nuts (1 Block per nut)
Now, I know this doesn’t seem glamorous, but it is a simple, straightforward example of how to eat your way into The Zone. You’ll have to subscribe to PaleoNick.com in order to find amazingly simple ways to prepare tasty, Zone portions of Paleo (favorable) foods.
There are many other facets to The Zone diet, which I will discuss in detail in other articles on PaleoNick.com. This article is intended only as an introduction to help you understand what The Zone Diet is and to help you get started…
How to Get Started on The Zone Diet
The first step is to figure out your daily block requirements, which we derive from taking body measurements and calculating your body fat percentage.
Men use two measurements, the waist and the wrist. The waist is measured parallel to the floor at the belly button. The wrist of the dominant hand is measured between the protruding wrist bone and where
the hand begins to widen. Measure each three times and calculate the average. Then, subtract the waist from the wrist and you have a number that you’ll use to find your body fat percentage.
Waist Measurements (35.5”, 36”, and 36.5”): Average = 36
Wrist Measurements (7”, 7”, 7”): Average = 7
Waist (36) – Wrist (7) = 29
Now, you will use this number, along with your body weight to determine your body fat percentage. There are several calculators online to help you with this, or you can use any of the Zone books, which include tables in the index which will give you your body fat percentage. PaleoNick.com will eventually have a body fat percentage calculator, so stay tuned…
Women will take three measurements, waist, hips and height. The thing that I love about this method of calculating body fat for women is that you don’t even need to know their body weight. I use this opportunity to make a point that this indicator of health is derived from body composition, not body weight!
The waist is measured parallel to the floor at the belly button. The hips are measured at their widest point. Height is measured by standing in bare feet with back against the wall and using a book, ruler or clipboard held parallel to the floor and touching the top of the scalp. Make a mark on the wall where the chosen apparatus touches, and then measure from the floor to that mark. FYI: Women will almost always tell you that they are taller than they actually are, by at least ¼ inch.
Measure the waist and hips three times each and then take the average of each. I only measure height once. Once you have your three measurements, you will plug them into an online Zone body fat percentage calculator or use the index at the back of any of The Zone books.
For Both Men and Women
This method is one way of calculating body fat percentage. There are other methods, this one just happens to be available to anyone with a tape measure. I have used it on many different people with various body types and was able to track their results. Feel free to use any other method to find your body fat percentage, just be sure that, as with any experiment, your method remains consistent.
How to Define Macronutrient Blocks
Macronutrient blocks are broken down as mentioned above:
Protein = 7 grams per block
Carbohydrate = 9 grams per block
Fat = 1.5 grams per block (or 3 grams per block if eating lean protein)
Now, to illustrate how we’d calculate block break down from any given food label, we will use a label from PaleoKits:
Now, I know that they use lean beef in their kits, so we are going to use the 3g per block measurement for fat. A quick look will tell us that we have:
12 grams Fat
36 grams Carbohydrate
28 grams Protein
Simple math shows us that we have a conveniently packaged, 4 block meal because 12/3 = 4, 36/9 = 4 and 28/7 = 4.
Now, I will encourage you to only eat foods that do not have a label, but I want you to be prepared to make the macronutrient calculations. Also, you can find the same nutrition fact in the fruit and vegetable book in the produce department of your local grocery store. There are several online tools to help you, as well as charts that break down all foods into blocks.
This is Zone 101, we’ll get into more details in the next installment. In the meantime, get out there, eat real food, be aware of what you put in your mouth and do your best to, “Keep It Pale"