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Zone Diet and Paleo

by (106)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:36 PM
Created January 03, 2012 at 10:28 PM

Has anyone here had success eating Paleo while on the Zone Diet? I don't measure my food or even weight it, just eat until I'm satisfied and only eat when I'm hungry. But recently, I was reading about Zone and how important it was to measure your food and how CrossFitter's best performers are Zone eaters. It seems Zone can accelerate and amplify the effects of CrossFit. I'm looking to get leaner, but stronger and was wondering if my "eye ballin'" my food was what has been holding me back. Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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15003 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Lauren, portion control is a pain in the ass. But it's very likely useful for some/many of us ... at least to get a handle on how much we're eating vs how well we're doing. For many of us, just going by eyeballs often results in a PH question like "I've been doing paleo for three months and not losing weight. What gives?" That said, I don't typically weigh and measure. My proxy for this has been hunger. If I'm always hungry, I'm not eating enough. If I'm never hungry, I'm eating too much.

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5132 · January 04, 2012 at 7:12 PM

I don't follow zone but I agree with measuring and counting ... for the first few weeks. If you've never done counting for at least a week, you'll never have the feel for how much you're actually eating. For those who claim to be doing 30% protein, I really think you're doing ~20% due to an error on your part. It's mighty hard to eat 30% protein, as your body simply bridles against it.

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3924 · January 04, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Great article, Julianne. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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3924 · January 04, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Thanks, Namby. Right now I'm probably only eating about 1400-1500 calories a day (not counting really and not hungry!) as I'm trying to lose the last 15 pounds of stubborn pregnancy fat. This is working for now although I'm slowly tinkering with adding more fat.

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5132 · January 04, 2012 at 7:44 AM

40% protein is about 285g of protein in a 2000 calorie diet. I think that's quite a lot. I never even approached 250 in my VLC days when I was eating unrestricted fat and protein. Satiety just kept me from eating more.

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2341 · January 04, 2012 at 4:14 AM

lots of people don't like to weigh or measure. I don't any more. However if you are curious as to whether it will work for you - just try it. I feel very good when I'm close to the ratio and amount that work for me - and I only found that out by starting with the zone and tweaking.

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2890 · January 04, 2012 at 12:57 AM

I think you need to evaluate your priorities. If you don't want to count calories, that's your priority. If you want to eat like your chosen guru *thinks* our ancestors ate, that's your priority. If you want to be as good as you can at crossfit, you need carbs.

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15003 · January 03, 2012 at 10:54 PM

Ha! I was going to recommend Julianne's blog and this specific post ;). Be sure to check it out ... she's your real go-to for the best of both worlds!

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106 · January 03, 2012 at 10:52 PM

it seems more like portion control and I'm not accustomed to eating three times a day. Plus don't have the necessary equipment to start measuring food. I could try it like you said and see how it goes

318374167f4c3bf3ac0f13ce48211c75
106 · January 03, 2012 at 10:49 PM

my weight loss has been stalled, but it may be due to high stress levels and CrossFit 4x a week. Working on the stress and have brought it down a lot recently without seeing a difference in weight though. But I can't imagine starting to count calories and stuff....way more effort then I want to give. It also seems like a lot of carbs and not enough fat. I don't want my body to run on carbs like that, it's supposed to use fat storage for energy like our ancestors did. What do you think?

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3924 · January 04, 2012 at 2:46 AM

I was on a modified Zone Diet for almost fifteen years before I went Paleo, but even now I follow some of the basic tenets. The Zone Diet was great for me for controlling my blood sugar issues while helping me to stay competitive in tae kwon do (I had severe hypoglycemia and fatigue issues, although I wasn't overweight or insulin resistant). But I was hungry all of the time when I was following the diet exactly! I finally decided my "protein prescription" wasn't high enough and started eating 16-17 blocks of protein a day versus the 13 on my prescription. I also reduced the carbs a little (I was probably 35% carb, 35% protien, and 30% fat.) I also only measured proportions for the first month or so until I was confident with my ability to eyeball a "block" of protein, carb or fat. It becomes pretty easy after awhile and the idea was never to be exact--just to be close.

The Zone Diet was the best diet I had found until I found Paleo. I still use some of the ideas. Finding an optimal macronutrient balance for your body and then trying to eat close to this balance each time you put food in your mouth is a really good practice IMO and one I still follow. I will never eat carbs without some fat and protein to balance them (and reduce blood sugar spikes/dips). I don't measure anything--but I do eyeball proportions to make sure a reasonable balance is achieved (I'm doing well on about 20%C/40%P/40%F right now). This is the best idea in the Zone Book I think. Dr. Sears also recommends that athletes make up their extra calorie needs with fat, not protein or carbs (this is already assuming you are eating about 150-200 grams of carb a day), which I also think is a good idea and close to what a lot of people in the Paleo community recommend.

Edit: Oops, forgot to answer your main question. Whether to measure depends on your confidence in your ability to eyeball proportions and how exact you want to be. I'm pretty confident I can eyeball proportions well enough to be close enough to my ideal "macronutrient balance." Every once in awhile I measure something just to make sure my portion sizes haven't migrated too much.

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3924 · January 04, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Thanks, Namby. Right now I'm probably only eating about 1400-1500 calories a day (not counting really and not hungry!) as I'm trying to lose the last 15 pounds of stubborn pregnancy fat. This is working for now although I'm slowly tinkering with adding more fat.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · January 04, 2012 at 7:44 AM

40% protein is about 285g of protein in a 2000 calorie diet. I think that's quite a lot. I never even approached 250 in my VLC days when I was eating unrestricted fat and protein. Satiety just kept me from eating more.

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2341 · January 03, 2012 at 10:47 PM

I started off doing the Zone Diet in 1996, and added paleo in 2009. I like the zone diet because without the portion control and balanced meals I put on weight. My blood sugar control is way better too. In my experience paleo food choices are far superior to zone diet balance, but there are benefits to combining the two. Try it and see. I wrote a post about my thoughts on the zone diet on my blog if you are interested. http://paleozonenutrition.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/my-current-view-of-the-zone-diet/

I would also like to mention that there is a misconception about the 30:40:30 aspect of the zone diet.

The first thing that is useful about the Zone diet is that you work out how much protein you need, and that is based on fairly well researched amounts. I.e. .5 gram to 1 gram per pound of lean mass. It is NOT as people continue to say a percentage of total caloric needs - it is only 30% if you are on the version to lose weight which is a reduced calorie diet.

Then you add carbs in a ratio of 4 grams of carbs to each 3 grams of protein, hence a ratio of .7:1 of protein to carbs (approx) however Sears emphasises that each person is different, and some do better on less carbs and some on more. So the total amount of carbs and protein is never very high. The calories that can change is the amount from fat - if you need a lot of calories - add sufficient quality fat (mainly mono-unsaturated) to increase your calories. So you could in fact end up with a 2500 calorie diet that has a 20% calories from protein, 25% from carbs and the balance from fat.

Many people wrongly assume you work out your calorie requirement first and then eat 30% cals from protein. This is not how the Zone diet is constructed.

The eyeball method actually works extremely well for most people - I use it for clients all the time. A palm size of protein at each meal, half to 1 fist of starch, lots of non starch veggies and a splash of fat. More fat if you need more calories. A higher amount of carbs if you are active and need the fuel, less carbs if you are less active and wanting to lose weight. Less carbs if you are insulin resistant or have t2 diabetes.

If you have a different number of meals - a total of 3 - 4 palms sizes of protein per day is about right for most people.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37
15003 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Lauren, portion control is a pain in the ass. But it's very likely useful for some/many of us ... at least to get a handle on how much we're eating vs how well we're doing. For many of us, just going by eyeballs often results in a PH question like "I've been doing paleo for three months and not losing weight. What gives?" That said, I don't typically weigh and measure. My proxy for this has been hunger. If I'm always hungry, I'm not eating enough. If I'm never hungry, I'm eating too much.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8
5132 · January 04, 2012 at 7:12 PM

I don't follow zone but I agree with measuring and counting ... for the first few weeks. If you've never done counting for at least a week, you'll never have the feel for how much you're actually eating. For those who claim to be doing 30% protein, I really think you're doing ~20% due to an error on your part. It's mighty hard to eat 30% protein, as your body simply bridles against it.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f
3924 · January 04, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Great article, Julianne. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

0faecc3397025eab246241f4dcd81f5e
2341 · January 04, 2012 at 4:14 AM

lots of people don't like to weigh or measure. I don't any more. However if you are curious as to whether it will work for you - just try it. I feel very good when I'm close to the ratio and amount that work for me - and I only found that out by starting with the zone and tweaking.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37
15003 · January 03, 2012 at 10:54 PM

Ha! I was going to recommend Julianne's blog and this specific post ;). Be sure to check it out ... she's your real go-to for the best of both worlds!

318374167f4c3bf3ac0f13ce48211c75
106 · January 03, 2012 at 10:52 PM

it seems more like portion control and I'm not accustomed to eating three times a day. Plus don't have the necessary equipment to start measuring food. I could try it like you said and see how it goes

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2377 · January 04, 2012 at 8:14 AM

I've been on Paleo and Zone at the same time before transitioning to Paleo-only. It does indeed work but I think it is an unnecessary burden to follow the Zone protocol. Paleo with controlled (!) carb-intake works just as well.

The Zone can help you to learn about how much protein is in meat, eggs vs carbhohydrates in vegetables etc. But even that can be learned elsewhere.

Dr. Sears is a very nice and incredibly smart person - and as far as I know hes is also a friend of Greg Glassman. That might be the reason for CrossFit pushing the Zone. I do not believe that pure "Zoners" outperform pure "Paleos".

If you want optimum performance, you need to find out what works best for you, when to eat what and what to eat. No one else can do that for you.

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2890 · January 03, 2012 at 10:38 PM

40/30/30 macro breakdown is probably close to optimal for most people.

The book and the science are trash though. I think if you add up the calories it puts you on something stupid like 1200/day. No wonder you lose weight.

I personally eat more or less 40/30/30. Don't stress out about it. Whether you weigh or not is a choice that should be informed by your goals and your current state. As the goals get loftier or weight loss stalls, counting calories is very helpful.

Tl;dr don't read the zone book, it's trash. The macro breakdown it recommends is where I think everyone should start (moderate everything) and then titrate according to their feeling.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63
2890 · January 04, 2012 at 12:57 AM

I think you need to evaluate your priorities. If you don't want to count calories, that's your priority. If you want to eat like your chosen guru *thinks* our ancestors ate, that's your priority. If you want to be as good as you can at crossfit, you need carbs.

318374167f4c3bf3ac0f13ce48211c75
106 · January 03, 2012 at 10:49 PM

my weight loss has been stalled, but it may be due to high stress levels and CrossFit 4x a week. Working on the stress and have brought it down a lot recently without seeing a difference in weight though. But I can't imagine starting to count calories and stuff....way more effort then I want to give. It also seems like a lot of carbs and not enough fat. I don't want my body to run on carbs like that, it's supposed to use fat storage for energy like our ancestors did. What do you think?

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0 · March 11, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Hello The Zone was the missing piece to the puzzle for me and a pinnacle discovery in my training. I started feeling better both mentally and physically, which allowed me to push harder within my training and performance, thus resulting in a leaner, stronger, happier, and fitter me!!! My thoughts and experience on the Zone Diet below: http://myjourneyrx.com/2014/03/11/my-experience-on-the-zone-diet/ Take Care,

Michelle

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