The Zone Diet was developed by Barry Sears, PhD, and popularized by his best-selling book, The Zone: A Dietary Road Map to Lose Weight Permanently: Reset Your Genetic Code: Prevent Disease: Achieve Maximum Physical Performance: Enhance Mental Productivity. Dr. Sears believes that the ideal diet should be 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat. He also encourages athletes to follow a Zone Diet eating plan for maximum athletic performance.
- Zone dieters follow a 1-2-3 plan: for every 2 grams of protein, eat 3 grams of carbohydrate, and 1 gram of fat. There are very specific ways to achieve this ratio, which are outlined in Dr. Sears’s book.
- Choose low-fat protein sources like poultry, beans, or fish.
- Keep breads, starches, and grains to a minimum. Carbohydrates are classified as “favorable” (broccoli) or “unfavorable” (pasta). You can eat more of the “favorable” carbs and fewer of the “unfavorable” ones.
- Eating snacks is encouraged, and dieters are told to eat at least five times per day, and not to go more than five hours without eating either a snack or a meal.
Zone in: Start with lean protein sources like poultry and fish, fill in your meal with favorable carbohydrates, and round it out with a few nuts or olive oil. The Zone diet can be complex and confusing; consult a healthcare professional before making drastic changes to your eating plan.
More about this diet
The foundation of the Zone Diet is the relationship between the hormone insulin and substances called eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are hormone-like substances that control many vital physiological functions, including those of the cardiovascular system, immune system, and nervous system. Dr. Sears believes that certain eicosanoids are “good” and others are “bad.”
Here’s where insulin enters the picture. When insulin levels are high, “bad” eicosanoids are produced. Dr. Sears contends that his Zone Diet, which contains 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat, is the ideal diet for keeping insulin levels in check. This translates to a 1-2-3 plan, where for every 2 grams of protein you eat, you should eat 1/2 that amount in fat, and 1 1/2 times that amount in carbohydrates.