Introduction To The Zone Diet

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Today’s article features a new guest writer to The Strength Agenda. Tim Rawlings is a member of Team MDUSA and also happens to be my roommate. Both Tim and his brother, Will Rawlings owner of Superior Athletic Advantage in Barrington, IL, have studied and implemented the Zone Diet in their training programs with success. This diet allowed for them to lose weight, increase muscle mass, and limit soreness after training, while still  increasing their strength. If you get one thing from our content it’s that there is more than one way to get your goals accomplished. With all the diets and fads out there it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I have seen many strength athletes and competitive crossfitters use the Zone or a variation of it with success. Since I am unfamiliar with this approach we wanted to find someone who not only knew about it, but implemented this plan with success.  While following the Zone, Tim has snatched 140 kilograms (308 lbs) and clean and jerked 177 kilograms (390 lbs) while maintaining a body weight of 105 kilograms (231 lbs). We have the right guy setting the record straight, so get your learning on and see if it’s right for you.  Remember this is one approach that is flexible and can be tweaked for individual goals!

The Zone diet can be very complex and overwhelming when first learning about it. The best thing to do is learn the basics and try to get started somewhere. Stick to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) and trust that Barry Sears, the creator of the Zone Diet, took care of the hard stuff. Barry Sears was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982 for many of his discoveries. His research considers food as a very powerful drug because of the hormonal responses that take place after eating. The Zone Diet is simply eating macronutrients in specific ratios to optimize our body’s hormones and lower inflammation.

If you understand what a “block” is, you will have a much easier time eating Zone. A block consists of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. This breaks down to 9 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein, and 1.5 grams of fat. It is technically 3 grams of fat, but it is assumed that you will be getting about 1.5 grams of fat per block of protein considering it is coming from a lean meat source.

1 BLOCK= 9 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat

Example of 1 block: 1 egg, 1 cup of strawberries, 3 almonds

Next, you need to find out how many blocks you need to eat per day. Keep in mind, if you are eating for performance, you want to support your lean body mass. What that means is you can either estimate your body fat percentage, or get an accurate reading. While there are a couple different methods for finding your body fat, the easiest way would be to go online and find a body fat calculator. All you have to do is take a couple measurements, enter them in, and hit ‘calculate’! Once you have your body fat percentage, subtract that number from your total body weight. Now you have your lean body mass! Because The Zone diet bases the block off of protein, you would then divide your body weight by one block of protein (7 grams) to find out how many blocks you need. The amount of blocks also depends on activity level and the goal of the person. Certain deviations can be made, but we are keeping it simple for now!

Lean Body Mass= total body weight – body fat

Number of Blocks= lean body mass/ one block of protein (7)

The key to zone is that it takes out the guesswork. You are eating precisely to optimize your body’s hormonal response to eating. In order to make your life much easier, you will need to buy a couple measuring devices including a scale, as well as print out a list of different foods and the quantity you need to fulfill a block. (See attachment)

All that said, making healthy choices is also key. In my opinion, eating “Paleo Zone” is the best way to do it. Paleo consists of, meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. It also helps to prepare multiple meals at once. The more you do it, the easier it will be to memorize how to make blocks. Don’t split hairs, and just try to be as accurate as possible with your weighing and measuring. Good luck and remember you need to start somewhere!






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