Zone Diet and Paleo

by 106 · March 11, 2014 at 3:56 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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3929 · 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.

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.

2316 · 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.

2902 · 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.

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,


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