The Zone Diet Plan

The Zone Diet plan is tailored to get your body into its peak performance zone where it burns fat more than anything else. It claims to do this by limiting the amount of carbohydrates you eat (starches and sugars). It represents one of many low carb diets on the market.

Type - Low Carb

Are special products required - No

Is eating out possible? - Yes

Is the plan family friendly? - Yes

Do you have to buy a book? - Yes

Is the diet easy to maintain? - No

So how does it work?...

Instead of controlling what specific foods you eat, the Zone Diet plan seeks to balance the types of food energy (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) in order to alter your hormone levels.

The levels of different kinds of hormones, like insulin, affect your body’s ability to burn calories and fat. The author’s unique diet plans to influence eicosanoids, which are complicated chemical messengers affecting your metabolism.

The author of the Zone Diet Plan claims that 75% of people are predisposed to producing too much insulin after eating carbohydrates. This excess insulin steals sugar from your blood until you get to that classic “crash” from low blood sugar.

The crash often leads people to seek more carbohydrates for a quick boost, which results in overeating.

His simple test to see if you are in this unlucky majority is to eat a meal high in carbohydrates (a pasta dish) at noon, and check to see how you feel three hours later at 3pm.

Those who experience a huge “crash,” defined as feeling overly sleepy, irritable, and hungry represent the group of people who do produce too much insulin.

The Zone Diet plan lays out a clear path to avoid crashes and control insulin levels.

The Diet Plan...

The meal plans offer a degree of customization based on gender, current percentage of body fat, and activity level – all of which together can tell you how high your metabolism is before starting the diet plan.

All Zone Diet meals and snacks follow the same basic ratio of where the calories need to come from: 40% of all calories should from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat.

Typically the average person’s diet is 50-60% carbohydrate and 35-40% fat. This high percentage of carbs is blamed for the over production of insulin which causes weight gain and obesity. On the other hand, protein causes the body to release glucagon, which lowers insulin levels so raising the amount of proteins one eats will lead to increased fat burning and faster metabolism.

In addition to controlling the ratio of carbs/protein/fats eaten, the Zone Diet also calls for smaller portions eaten five times a day. The author states that eating roughly every four and a half hours keeps your body’s metabolism in a fat burning mode.

Going six or more hours between meals, like the average person does, sends your body into “storage mode” because it’s not sure when you’re going to eat again. By continuously eating throughout the day, you keep your body happily in a burning mode.

The Zone Diet suggests three meals and two substantial snacks every day.

Another key idea of the Zone Diet is the way to organize your plates to better see what you’re eating and make sure that it follows the plan.

The trick is to divide the plate into equal thirds. One third should be low-fat proteins like chicken – assuring that the portion is no more than about an inch thick. You can then fill the remaining two thirds with as many vegetables as you want, plus some fruits.

Is it good for you?...

While the Zone Diet plan adheres to many common sense principles of weight loss, the specific plan is still scientifically unproven.

Studies have yet to show that this diet decreases insulin production and alters eicosandroid levels as it claims to, nor that these changes produce weight loss as advertised.

The genetic predisposition that the author proposes is also suspect, as your insulin levels and metabolism can be almost fully controlled by your usual diet and activity levels. It’s more influenced by how many foods high on the glycemic index you eat, which should be few anyway.

Looking at the glycemic index is probably less complicated than the Zone Diet plan which many people have trouble following with accuracy. This low carb diet is also potentially high in saturated fat, and the low carb/high protein combination could lead to problems like bone loss that the author fails to address properly.

Example Day...

• Flour tortilla wrap with grated reduced-fat cheddar or other cheese, grilled and chopped lean bacon or lean cooked ham, and chopped spring onions, green pepper, and tomato, served with reduced fat guacamole
• Grapes

• Open face sandwich of wholegrain or wholemeal bread topped with sliced reduced-fat cheese and grilled lean bacon, with lettuce and sliced tomato
• Low fat plain yogurt with chopped peaches

• Pork medallion and sliced apple sautéed in white wine with Dijon mustard and chopped fresh rosemary
• Steamed broccoli
• Large green salad with an olive oil and vinegar dressing

• Small cooked chicken breast, slice of melon, and a few nuts
• Low fat cheese and a small orange

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