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Old 12-02-2009, 11:47 AM   #1
Barry Cooper
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What is the Zone?

Apropo of nothing, I thought I might make a comment on what the Zone is, and possibly correct some misconceptions I see out there.

The Zone is a diet intended to generate an optimal balance between insulin and glucagon. As you all know, insulin is a hormone which, in excess, signals your body to store fat. Glucagon--and information on this may have evolved past Mastering the Zone--is a hormone which causes your body to burn fat.

Your body has no dietary need for carbohydrates in any form. It does, however, function better with some carbs. Your brain can run on the byproducts of fat metabolization, but prefers glucose. Some of you may dispute that, but in my own experience my own mental clarity is always better when I get enough carbs.

Your body does need both fat and protein. Rough estimates can be made of the amount of protein needed to maintain your lean body mass. This is the starting point of the Zone.

Since both protein and carbohydrate can cause insulin spikes, the quantities of both are regulated in terms of quantities, and "dosing" intervals.

Fat is not regulated. People who haven't actually bothered to learn this diet in detail miss this point. The amounts of protein and carbohydrate are tied to how much work you do, but are largely limited with a range. Fat is not. Fat is metabolically neutral, and the only reason not to eat as much fat as you want is that calories do count. They either get burnt, stored, or pooped out. What different foods tell your hormonal system to do matters, of course, but 10 pounds of meat per day would make all of you fat in short order. Muscular, but fat.

Now, the Zone is intended as a Black Box. ALL of Sears books tell you that if you don't feel good, you are doing something wrong. What many of the whiny people seem to not be realizing is that if you are hungry, you should eat a handful of almonds, or half a cup of peanut butter. That's perfectly acceptable, once you have leaned out.

Moreover, Sears grades different types of carbs, protein sources, and fats. He believes that saturated fats are bad for you. Some people disagree. Personally, I don't care, but I haven't seen any convincing case that saturated fats are NECESSARILY better. Some people say they are less prone to rancidity, but if the Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Grapeseed oil you are using isn't rancid, then the point is moot, as far as I can tell. The evidence of olive oil working to clear your arteries seems to be good, although I am happy to listen to alternative viewpoints.

The A Tiers are Lean meats, dairy, and soy products, for proteins; unsaturated fats and most nuts for fat; and fruits and vegetables for carbs. These are the primary recommendations of the Zone. If you don't like soy, don't eat it.

These are all "real" foods. And they are right there, in his books.

Most of us would agree that the Zone bars aren't food, but they are nonetheless vastly better than the Cliff Bars and Powerbars that were the norm when he came out with them. How many of you remember those? Even today most of the bars are mainly carbohydrate.

Finally, I will note that the Zone is also intended as a longevity diet. Calorie restriction is one of the only reliable means of increasing lifespan ever found. The Zone is a calorie restricted diet. If you are in training, add as much fat as you like, but if not, eating good foods in limited quantities will almost certainly add to your lifespan.

People should try to understand what they are criticizing. That is not asking too much.
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:03 PM   #2
Katherine Derbyshire
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Re: What is the Zone?

From Dr. Sears' own site:
Quote:
The Zone Diet is about balancing your hormones within a specific range to control hunger on fewer calories while still getting the proper nutrients your body needs for long-term health. The Zone Diet can best be described as a moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, moderate fat diet that has approximately one gram of fat for every two grams of protein and three grams of carbohydrates (the Zone 1-2-3 Method™). These ratios represent the newest dietary recommendations from the Joslin Diabetes Research Center at Harvard Medical School for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.


With the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats, you can control three major hormones generated by the diet – insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids.
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:13 PM   #3
Barry Cooper
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Re: What is the Zone?

That's not for Athletes. You add fat for athletes. He says this in Mastering the Zone. I will admit he could be more clear about this, but it's in there, and the people who follow this carefully all know this.

There is no reason we can't evolve this template to factor in the fat requirements for active people. In fact, I would expect that to happen. He likes writing books, so why not a Zone for Athletes?
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:29 PM   #4
Katherine Derbyshire
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Re: What is the Zone?

I just think it's remarkable that the impression I get from your post is so much more coherent and reasonable than The Zone's own web site. I really appreciate your dedication in distilling his approach for those of us who don't have the patience to slog through pages of ads for "SuperZone Molecular Baked" bagels and muffins.

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Old 12-02-2009, 12:37 PM   #5
Barry Cooper
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Re: What is the Zone?

I will readily admit money makes everything and everybody funny. This does not detract from the quality of, particularly, his early work. His later stuff may be good, too, but I stopped reading after the Omega RX Zone.

I have never been to his website, either. I do buy Zone bars on occasion, since they help stave off even worse dietary sins.

Better, though, would be baggies of quality jerky (no nitrates), dates or something like them that doesn't spoil, and nuts, in Zone ratios.

And if you are less than 15% or so body fat (for a man; a bit more for women), you can snack on nuts and olives "ad libitum".
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Old 12-02-2009, 12:40 PM   #6
Will Armstrong
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Re: What is the Zone?

Is the Zone for people who what to lose fat or just a general diet? My personal experience is that low carb diets give me more energy than low calorie diets.

I have perceptibly different brain function when my body enters ketosis though. Probably better for a guy like me to stay on the "fringe".

Will the Zone help me GAIN weight?
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:12 PM   #7
Barry Cooper
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Re: What is the Zone?

The Zone is really intended as a lifestyle. If you stick to a strict block count, you will shed fat steadily. Sears advocates a bodyfat around 15% for normal people, although of course that may be more than an athlete would want to lug around. For whatever reason, some diseases like cancer seem to go up at very low body fat percentages.

No, it is not intended to add body mass. CrossFit as a whole is really not intended to add body mass. You can get really cut, but you're not going to get enormous. That would affect performance. For people who have NO background in weight training, they will add muscle weight, but not get huge.

I've seen things go back and forth, but in my honest opinion neither CrossFit nor the Zone are optimal for hypertrophy. They are optimal for increasing work output, which is what they are intended to do. You want to be as strong as possible at as low a bodyweight as possible. That is the goal.
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:40 PM   #8
Shane Skowron
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Re: What is the Zone?

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Originally Posted by Barry Cooper View Post
I've seen things go back and forth, but in my honest opinion neither CrossFit nor the Zone are optimal for hypertrophy. They are optimal for increasing work output, which is what they are intended to do.
Except that for a lot of people, hypertrophy is needed to increase work output.



Are there any studies done on the Zone that show it used for something other than weight loss or pre-existing conditions?
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Old 12-02-2009, 01:46 PM   #9
Will Armstrong
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Re: What is the Zone?

Yea I don't think hypertrophy and work output are mutually exclusive, but...

'there are no facts, only interpretations'

...if you reject the correspondence theory of truth...
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Old 12-02-2009, 02:51 PM   #10
Eric Montgomery
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Re: What is the Zone?

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Will the Zone help me GAIN weight?
Not if you eat the zonediet.com prescribed Zone. But if you add a block or two to whatever the block calculator spits out, then go 3x or 5x on fat, maybe cut carbs back a little and replace them with fat since you say you have more energy on low carb diets...then yes, you can add mass. But at that point can you really say it's still the Zone? At 5x fat you're looking at something like 20%C/15%P/65%F rather than the 40/30/30 that is supposedly a magical ratio. Maybe it's not the Zone, but it's a more attractive option than eating 35 balanced blocks a day in an effort to get enough calories.
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