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The Zone Diet Promise
Experience rapid fat loss on the Zone. Drop 1-2 pounds weekly with the Zone Diet!
About the Zone Diet
Developed almost 30 years ago by Dr. Barry Sears, a research scientist in biotechnology from MIT, the Zone Diet, simply known as “The Zone”, claims that by following the diet plan, you can lose those unwanted pounds, improve your physical and mental health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases significantly and live a longer and more fulfilling life. Heavy claims, we know, but before you dismiss the diet and “zone” out, let us tell you why exactly this diet could work wonders for you!
If you’re looking for a quick fix diet, that is exactly what the Zone Diet is not! Instead, it is a dietary plan for a lifetime based on science predominantly created to reduce inflammation that is diet-induced. In fact, Sears asserts that the science behind The Zone is based on 15 years of his research in bio-nutrition and has met with plenty of success. Considering that the diet is endorsed by several celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker and Sandra Bullock, we totally believe the part about the success!
According to Dr. Barry Sears, food has the ability to affect the hormonal response in the body, and in turn, there is a change caused in insulin production. A diet plan with a combination of 40 percent carbs, 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein is optimal for the manner in which the human body is programmed genetically and aids the body to attain an efficient state of metabolism, called “The Zone”. Therefore, the focus of the diet is more on maintaining this optimal ratio rather than on cutting calories.
The Zone Diet plan recommends eating a small portion of protein 5 times a day, divided between 3 meals and 2 snacks, and “healthy” carbs which include most veggies and fruits, whole grains and beans. The diet also recommends eating “good” unsaturated fats from avocados, olive oil and nuts. An important component of the Zone lifestyle is that you must follow a moderate exercise routine for at least 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
By giving the body’s metabolism a complete restoration with the golden ratio of 40-30-30, the Zone Diet claims to reduce the risk of many diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, and slow the process of aging by embracing an “anti-inflammatory” lifestyle1. The Zone Diet promises to reduce silent inflammation2 and boost the function of the immune system through regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids3.
How Does the Zone Diet Work?
The Zone Diet is based on the genetic makeup of human beings and is closely related to the concept of human evolution. As the environment changes, human genes also undergo a change. The Zone Diet takes this aspect into consideration and the diet plan recommends foods that we should consume according to our genetic composition. The key premise of the Zone Diet is that it “turns your genes on and off”.
The Zone advises reducing your carb intake in order to ensure that your insulin levels are healthy4 and also recommends consuming plenty of polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids to prevent diet-induced inflammation5. These dietary changes will lead to lesser sickness, slower aging process6 and weight loss7.
When on The Zone, your calorie intake need not be reduced; what you need to change is what you are eating. This means five small meals that contain a small portion of protein and carbs whose portion must be twice that of the protein portion. “Favorable” carb sources are whole grains, fruits, veggies, lentils and beans. The great part is that you can also consume a very small portion of “unfavourable” carbs such as pasta, bread, brown rice, breakfast cereal, bagels, and fruit juices, to name a few. The meal or snack must also contain “good” fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocado, and fish oils and the diet plan recommends that men should consume around 1,600 calories per day while it recommends 1,200 calories for women daily.
Typically, your meal should begin with a low-fat protein and you can then add carbs with a low glycemic index such as fruits and veggies, later adding the good fats.
Before every snack or a meal, make sure you assess your hunger level. If your mind is clear and you are not feeling hungry, then you are in the Zone!
The idea of the Zone Diet is to control carbohydrate consumption. The more carbs you consume, the more insulin is secreted, which converts the excess carbs into fats that are stored in the body8. However, certain fats contained in the food do not produce insulin9. Consuming the correct proportions of low-density carbs, protein and fat can help to control the secretion of insulin. Keeping the insulin within the “therapeutic zone” helps to burn the excess fat effortlessly and keep it off forever10.
The four pillars or goals of the Zone Diet are:
- Restricting calories without feeling fatigued or experiencing hunger
- Maintaining the levels of the inflammation at acceptable levels
- Using polyphenols for improved wellness
- Controlling inflammation caused by gut microbes
Rules of the Zone Diet
- A snack or a meal should be eaten within 1 hour of waking up in the morning.
- There should be an interval of 4-6 hours between meals.
- You should eat a meal 2- 2.5 hours after a snack, regardless of whether you feel hungry or not.
- Consume 8 8-oz glasses of water daily.
The Zone Diet and Hormonal Control
The Zone Diet is all about hormone control. The blood chemistry, energy metabolism11, and body composition12, are all affected by hormonal balance, which is in turn affected by the foods that we consume. As we said, being in The Zone is all about eating the right balance of foods: protein, carbs and fats, and with the correct balance of these three components, you can control the hormones, glucagon, eicosanoids and insulin produced in the body.
- Glucagon: This mobilization hormone instructs the body to release the stored carbohydrates at a steady rate into the bloodstream and helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels13. This is essential for optimum physical and mental performance.
- Eicosanoids: These hormones are responsible for controlling the silent inflammation that occurs in the body14 and also coordinate the performance of the other hormonal systems in your body.
- Insulin: It is a storage hormone, the excess of which makes you put on weight, as mentioned earlier. This hormone also hastens silent inflammation in the body15.
What Are Food Blocks?
The Zone Diet recommends following a certain number of food blocks that you are permitted each day, that is divided between each meal and snack you consume. The food blocks that you can consume in a day depend on your height, weight, and measurements of your waist and hip circumference.
Most women will need 3 blocks each of carbs, protein and fat for each meal (approximately around 11 blocks per day), while men will require 4 blocks of each of all three categories, averaging around 14 blocks daily. Both men as well as women are allowed 2 snacks a day, which are equivalent to 1 block each.
How Does the Food Block Work?
The Zone Food Blocks are the most accurate way to balance carbs, proteins and fat in order to optimize the hormonal balance when following the Zone Diet. These food blocks are divided into carbs, proteins and fats and within these categories, you can have best, fair and poor choices.
Each item in a food group list is a block. A woman should have 3 ounces of protein while a man should have 4 ounces. Each carb block has 9 gm of carbs, the fat block has 1.5 gm fat and every protein block consists of 7 gm of protein.
What’s on the Menu?
- Meat and Poultry: Deli-style turkey breast, turkey (ground), range-fed or game beef, chicken breast (skinless), chicken breast (deli-style), Canadian bacon, skinless turkey breast, lean turkey bacon, and ground beef (less than 10% fat)
- Fish and Seafood: Bass (freshwater), swordfish, and tuna (canned in water), bass (sea), bluefish, shrimp, clams, crab, trout, sardine, scallops, snapper, tuna (steak), calamari, catfish, cod, haddock, halibut, lobster, mackerel, and salmon
- Eggs: Egg substitutes and egg whites
- Dairy: Low-fat cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat milk, and plain yogurt
- Cooked Vegetables: Artichoke, yellow squash, zucchini, artichoke hearts, leeks, lentils, beans (wax or green), onions, okra, black beans, bok choy, chickpeas, collard greens, eggplant, kale, spaghetti squash, spinach, Brussels sprout, cabbage, asparagus, kidney beans, Swiss chard, turnip, broccoli, cauliflower pieces, turnip greens, mushrooms (boiled), and sauerkraut
- Raw Vegetables: Alfalfa sprouts, lettuce (iceberg, romaine), mushrooms, bean sprouts, cucumber, endive, spinach, tomato, water chestnuts , bamboo shoots, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, escarole, green or red peppers, onion, radishes, and snow peas
- Fruits: Apple, cherries, cantaloupe, cranberries, grapes, apricots, kiwi, lemon, lime, blackberries, blueberries, mango, dates, boysenberries, pear, plum, grapefruit, nectarine, peach (fresh or canned in water), fig, guava, raspberries, strawberries, orange, mandarin (canned in water), tangerine, honey melon, kumquat, papaya, pineapple, prunes, and watermelon
- Grains, Cereals and Breads: Tortilla, waffle, barley (dry), oatmeal (dry, cooked), bagel, biscuit, breadstick, cornbread, corn starch, couscous, buckwheat, graham cracker, saltine cracker, triscuit, English muffin, granola, grits (cooked), melba toast, millet, blueberry muffin, noodles, pancake, pasta, bread crumbs, bread (whole grain or white), pita bread, croissant plain, crouton, doughnut plain, popcorn, brown rice, white rice, hamburger roll, taco shell, bulgur wheat, cereal, cracker, rice cake roll, and dinner rolls (small)
- Other Vegetarian Protein Foods: Protein powder, sausage links, soy sausages, soy burgers, tofu (soft), soy hotdogs, and soy tofu (firm or extra firm)
- Fat: Almond butter, guacamole, pistachios, almonds, natural peanut butter, peanuts, tahini, avocado, macadamia nut, peanut oil, olives, cashews, canola oil, sesame oil, olive oil/vinegar dressing, and olive oil
- Alcohol: Beer (light, regular), distilled spirits, and wine
- Fruit Juices: Apple, lime, cranberry, fruit punch, apple cider, grape, orange, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon (unsweetened), and tomato
What’s off the Menu?
- Foods high in starch and carbohydrates
- Red meats
- Sweets and sugary products
- Bread and bread-like products
- Processed foods
- Egg yolks
- Potato chips
Advantages of the Zone Diet
- Weight Loss: Like any other diet, the Zone Diet helps to lose weight, but the best part is that it does so quickly, helping to lose body fat at a very rapid rate.
- Health Benefits: The Zone Diet claims to have several health benefits and helps in overall wellness16. As mentioned earlier, by following the diet plan you will experience improved mental and physical performance. It also slows down the aging process17. The Zone Diet also helps to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases and also improves the functioning of the immune system18.
- Control Diet-Induced Inflammation: Inflammation that is caused due to diet is a problem that disturbs the hormonal communication in the cells of the body and does not allow the body to reach optimal performance19. The Zone Diet helps in controlling diet-induced inflammation20.
- Helps in Satiety: Since the diet is quite high in both fat21 as well as protein22, which help you feel full, you will not feel hungry when on the Zone Diet.
- Encourages Good Eating Habits: In an age where we’re fueled by junk food and quick meal fixes, the diet plan inculcates good eating habits such as reducing sugar and portion control. The diet also encourages you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Disadvantages of the Zone Diet
- Time Consuming: A lot of planning and preparation is required for this diet and food needs to be prepared from scratch. This can be pretty time-consuming and tedious, acting as a demotivating factor especially for those who already lead busy lives.
- Complicated: The Zone Diet can be quite difficult to understand and can be complicated as you need to keep track of the blocks of fats, carbohydrates and proteins that are permitted each day. It is quite difficult to get the correct balance of nutrients and you need plenty of the “C” word to see this diet through. Yes, we’re talking about the same word that used to send shivers down Chandler’s spine: commitment!
- Expensive: The Zone Diet may help you drop the pounds, but may also burn a hole in your pocket at the same time. Fresh ingredients are required each day which may be more expensive than take-away or processed food options. The readily available Zone Diet foods can also be quite expensive.
- Difficult to Maintain: Many people find it quite difficult to maintain the Zone Diet in the long run, because let’s face, this diet can seem harder than Math class.
- Calcium Intake: The Zone Diet does not recommend dairy products as part of the diet plan and if milk products are eliminated, your calcium intake can be restricted. This could end up giving you serious health problems23.
- Nutritional Deficiency: The food restrictions results in the lack of vital nutrients such as minerals, vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.
- Strict Dietary Ratio: The 30-30-40 ratio is recommended for all people uniformly. However, just as not all Minions are the same, some people may have a different nutritional requirement to lose weight and also to remain healthy. The Zone Diet does not take varied nutritional requirements into consideration, and thus loses major brownie points for being adaptable.
- Rigorous Diet: Like we said, the Zone Diet is quite rigorous to follow and maintain. Not only is there quite a lot of planning involved, there are many rules to be followed, such as eating within 1 hour of waking up in the morning and having a meal every 4-6 hours or 2 hours after a snack. For people who prefer to eat fewer meals in a day (and for people who have major commitment issues!), this could be quite a problem.
- The Zone Diet is low in carbohydrates, which result in fluid loss as the carbohydrates hold the fluids in your body. When the carbs are reduced, the fluids in the body are also reduced, which can cause dehydration24. When on the Zone Diet, make sure that you drink plenty of water and fluids.
- When following the Zone Diet, you decrease the number of calories that you are consuming for the purpose of losing weight. This could lead to loss of lean muscle mass. The idea of the diet is to improve health and also lose weight. Hence, you must ensure that you are getting adequate number of calories and make adjustments to your diet plan accordingly.
- If you are suffering from diabetes, then you must be cautious when on the Zone Diet, as a low carb diet can lead to ketosis, which could result in a diabetic shock, if not properly managed25.
- Low-carb diets are also associated with health problems such as stroke and cardiovascular diseases26.
Common Myths and Misconceptions of the Zone Diet
Timing of Meals Can Be Adjusted When Following the Zone Diet
When on the Zone Diet, the idea is to consistently maintain the carbohydrate and protein utilization by the body. You must target to eat at least 3 meals and 2 snacks in a day. The meal should be able to satiate you for around 4-5 hours, while the snack lasts for around 2 to 2.5 hours. Also, you should eat within one hour of waking up in the morning. There’s absolutely no skipping your afternoon and late-night snack. To stay in the Zone, you must eat every 4-5 hours whether you are hungry or not. Meal and snack times must be planned throughout the day.
You Can Never Have Pasta, Rice and Bagels Ever If You Follow the Zone Diet
You can have these foods once in a while, but “moderation” is the golden word. You must ensure that most of your carbs come from “favorable” sources such as veggies and fruits and reduce the consumption of starches and grains.
For the Diet to Be Successful, You Need to Be Obsessive About the Rules
You do not have to be obsessive about following the rules; however, we don’t need to tell you that rules exist for a reason (because you should already know this), and that is to get the best desired results. It is a good idea to keep a close watch on your hunger and mental focus 4 to 5 hours after a meal.
The Zone Diet Is a High Protein Diet
The Zone Diet is not a high-protein diet but is quite adequate in protein. The diet does not recommend excessive amounts of protein and you should not consume less than that required by the body. Most females should have 3 oz of protein per meal and men should have 4 oz. Both snacks should have 1 oz of protein.
If You Eat Frequent Meals in the Day, You Cannot Stay in the Zone
The more the number of meals you consume, the better your insulin control. This way of eating is called “grazing” and is recommended by the Zone Diet.
You Can See Dramatic and Rapid Weight Loss on the Zone Diet
You must keep in mind that this diet is a fat loss program and you should not expect immediate or rapid weight loss. Even if you exercise and follow the diet very strictly, you can lose only up to 1-1.5 pounds per week. But remember, like we’ve always said, good things come to those wait. You will find increased mental focus and reduced carb craving within 2-3 days of the diet. In 5 days you can see a considerable reduction in hunger through the day along with improved physical performance and lesser fatigue. Though the weight loss will not be dramatic, you will definitely be able to see changes in your body composition, and these results are well worth the slow pace.
You Don’t Need the Zone Diet If You Are Not Overweight
As we know, the Zone is not a diet. It is a way of life and a hormonal control program for life. Loss of fat and weight are only pleasant side effects of the diet. The Zone also helps to reverse the aging process. If you are not overweight, have an optimum body fat percentage and you want to live a longer and healthier life, then the Zone Diet is as right for you as Derek is for Meredith Grey. Except, of course, this diet can’t technically die unless you let it!
You Must Definitely Take Vitamins and Minerals When on the Zone
The Zone Diet mainly comprises fruits, vegetables and low-fat proteins that are fantastic sources of vitamins and minerals. Hence, there is no need to take too many supplements when on the Zone Diet. However, a vitamin and mineral supplement can’t hurt and can definitely enhance the program.
The Zone Diet Is Not for Vegetarians
Unlike other non-inclusive diets, you can make the Zone Diet a vegetarian one by simply adding protein-rich vegetarian foods to your diet to maintain the right carb-protein ratio. You can use isolated soybean protein powder, firm and extra firm tofu and soybean-based meat substitutes such as sausages, hamburgers, and hot dogs to convert your meals into complete vegetarian options.
You Can Skip Your Meal or Snack If You Are Not Hungry
Very shortly and to the point, no! You absolutely cannot skip any meals or snacks! To maintain the hormonal balance from one meal to another, you must not skip your meals or snacks, even if it means having to manually stuff yourself though you’re not hungry. To maintain your insulin level in the Zone, it is necessary to eat every 4-5 hours, and hence, it is a must that you consume at least 3 meals and 2 snacks in a day.
- The Zone Diet helps to control insulin levels and thereby helps in promoting better health27.
- The Zone Diet can also be used to prevent chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure28.
Variants of the Zone Diet
A variant of the Zone Diet is the “Soy Zone”, in which soy is used as the protein source as it has a lower impact on insulin levels and generates superior hormonal responses. It also helps to maintain the insulin at optimal levels29.
Who Is It For?
- The Zone Diet is suitable for people with diabetes, blood sugar and those who have a tendency to gain weight when on a high-carb diet.
- Some people feel very tired and sluggish after consuming carbs, so the Zone diet is perfect for people who do not tolerate carbohydrates.
- If you do not want to give up your favorite foods, then this diet is suitable for you as no foods are “off limits” in the Zone Diet, (although you need to stay within the guidelines prescribed by the diet plan).
Who Is It Not For?
The Zone Diet may not be suitable for:
- Athletes, as by following the diet they may lose weight as well as their stamina very quickly and also feel tired and fatigued during physical activity
- People suffering from kidney disease
- People with certain health conditions as the diet may cause ketosis which can be quite dangerous
- Women who are pregnant and nursing
- People suffering from diabetes and high cholesterol levels
Like said, the Zone Diet made some pretty heavy claims, but as you also surely saw, these claims are completely justified. Not a fad diet but a practical approach to healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, the diet promises that you will be able to lose fat and weight very quickly, avoid “hunger pangs” and the feeling of deprivation by balancing the daily consumption of nutrients.
The positive aspect of the Zone Diet is that you will be eating plenty of nutritious foods with a focus on fresh fruits and veggies, low-fat protein and also follow a regular exercise routine. Due to the fact that you’ll be making healthy food choices and calorie restrictions, you may be able to lose weight when on the Zone.
In terms of shedding fat, the Zone Diet is quite effective, but only as long as you are willing to put in the required effort. At times it can become quite tedious having to keep a watch on mealtimes and eating at regular intervals, even if you are not hungry, and eating according to the food blocks. We get it! But would J K Rowling have made it this big if she’d given up on the very first rejection? Would Cersei have made so many fans if she wasn’t continuously plotting and killing people? You get the drift. Good or bad, things take effort, amigos!
The Zone Diet is probably a better diet than the Keto Diet when it comes to muscle building as there are more carbs allowed on the Zone Diet when compared to Keto.
The Zone Diet states that by rejigging the body’s metabolism with the 40-30-30 ratio, and by doing so, it can minimize the risk of several diseases and also put a brake on the aging process. By following the Zone Diet, you can gain a lifetime of wellness, so really, ditch the comfort zones and “friend zones” and “bro zones”, and think about getting into this zone instead.