The Zone Diet is brought to us by author Barry Sears, PhD. and fellow author Bill Lawren. They have written Enter The Zone and their new book called The Anti-Inflammation Zone both of which espouse the Zone diet and they are proving to be quite popular. The “zone” that they are talking about is one where we “feel alert, refreshed and full of energy”. The books promote their style of wellness, not just strictly a diet.
The key to reaching the ‘zone’ is to monitor your intake of food and be sure that your consumption takes the form of a 30-30-40. This means that every meal should contain 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrates. If you are able to do this the authors maintain that you can lose weight, improve athletic performance, and turn back heart disease, high blood pressure and even diabetes.
Sears is a former scientist at in bio-technology at MIT and he devotes much of his books to discussing the theory behind his diet. He states that the diet is a “metabolic state in which the body works at peak efficiency”. To reach this peak efficiency you must eat foods in the proper ratio, namely the 30-30-40. There are many success stories in his books and his diet has some celebrity converts including Madonna, Demi Moore and Jennifer Aniston, but there is no independent scientific studies that support his claims.
What You Can Eat
In order to reach that magic ratio Sears recommends you eat the following:
- For every meal eat a small amount of protein (approximately the size of your palm). This includes snack times too – late afternoon and late evening.
- Carbohydrates roughly twice the size of the protein – vegetables, beans, lentils, most fruits and whole grains. This group is called “favourable” carbs.
- “Unfavourable” carbs are allowed, though in a smaller proportion. These include bananas, mangos, bagels, tortillas, brown rice, pasta, carrots and all fruit juices.
- You can eat dairy products, but Sears explains how they generally release glucose into the body. Instead he recommends egg whites, and low-fat or no-fat milk and cheeses.
- Saturated fats should be kept to minimal amounts. These include olive oil, macadamia nuts and avocados.
The authors spend time teaching us that the proportion of carbohydrate/fat/protein is very important and the amounts will be different for each person, depending upon body type, size, age and activity level.
The science behind the theory states that we must use our diet to regulate our body’s production of insulin. Insulin is used to covert sugar into fat for later use. The purpose of diet is then to ensure that there is a balance between insulin and the hormone glucagon, which is used to release the stored fat back into sugars for immediate use when the body needs the extra energy.
The diet is a pretty good one. It is relatively easy to follow; just a bit of protein at each meal and fill your plate up with fruit and vegetables. The science behind the diet had not had any third party corroboration and several experts have claimed that the entire process is more complicated than Sears makes out. Insulin has multiple functions and there is more going on than what we read in the books. However the diet behind the books do seem to work. You must remember that the ratio is for every meal and this eliminates any confusion making it fairly easy to follow.
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