Leading up to an important martial arts grading, I decided to try eating healthier. A martial artist friend of mine recommended the “Zone Diet”, featured in the book Barry Sears’ book, Mastering the Zone. It’s not so much of a diet specifically for weight loss and more a way of eating on an ongoing basis that helps you achieve peak performance physically and mentally.
Sears’ concept of “The Zone” changes the way you look at nutrition, weight loss and performance. It stresses getting more of your calories from fat and protein and fewer from carbohydrates, but it’s not about getting rid of carbs altogether. It’s about eating the right amount of protein relative the the amount of carbs you’re eating to maintain the right levels of insulin production in your body.
If you’re eating too much carbs for the amount of protein you’re consuming, your insulin levels go too high resulting in hunger, sluggishness, poor mental focus and weight gain (over the long term). If you eat too much protein for the amount of carbs you’re consuming, you may feel ok, but you’ll still get hungrier faster than you should. Staying “in the zone” means you eat the right amount of food you need and your insulin levels are at optimum levels. You don’t feel hungry less than 3 hours after eating and you feel energetic and focused.
“The Zone” is about balancing your eating, but also maintaining good eating practices. Other important practices include:
- Drinking the right amount of water you need per day. Most people don’t drink enough water. It helps keep your energy up, detoxifies your body, protects your joints and muscles, helps you lose weight and more. Calculate your optimum water consumption level.
- Drinking one 8-oz glass of water 30 minutes before eating a meal. This helps you metabolize your food, as well as making you feel less hungry so that you don’t consume too much.
- Eating more frequent meals with fewer calories. This keeps your body from getting bogged down with the digestive process. Sears suggests that you should never go 5 hours without eating a properly balanced meal or snack.
- Eating more fruits and vegetable and less pasta, breads, grains and starches during the day. Starchy, high-density carbs give you way less fibre, vitamins and minerals for the same amount of insulin-promoting carbohydrate.
Sears’ system of eating can seem complex at first, and truthfully, it does take a bit of work to make it consistent in one’s lifestyle. He does help you by giving you the “eyeball” method, which can make it easier, but I think doing all the calculations he provides in Mastering the Zone, is worth it. Within 2-3 weeks of trying his system, I found myself feeling more energetic, more focused, and I also leaned up a bit, losing about 4-5 lbs, which comprised of the extra bit belly fat I had been carrying for quite some time, but found myself unable to shake despite my active lifestyle. I’m not even 100% consistent with the diet. I sometimes give myself a bit of a break on weekends, particularly when I go out to eat.
If you decide to give it a shot, here is a good website with a collection of Zone Diet recipes. If you don’t mind making the effort, it’s well worth it.