Let’s analyze the Zone Diet to see if it is actually healthy
Currently, there are many types of diets for many different purposes. For example, you have probably heard about the artichoke diet, the weight watchers diet, the Mediterranean diet, the ketogenic and Paleo diets, etc.
But all of them have something in common:
To distribute the macronutrients and food that will help us stay healthy
In this article, we will talk about a diet that is becoming quite trendy. Moreover, we will see how useful or harmful it can be four our health.
- 1 The origins of the Zone Diet
- 2 Percentages of the Zone Diet
- 3 Regulating Insulin, the Objective of the Zone Diet
- 4 Can caffeine improve the insulin sensitivity?
- 5 Meal Distribution in the Zone Diet
- 6 Summary of the Zone Diet
- 7 Macronutrients of the Zone Diet
- 8 Macronutrient distribution per calories
- 9 Conclusions about the Zone Diet
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 Related Entries
The origins of the Zone Diet
The zone diet was created by Barry Sears, an American biochemist
According to Barry, the macronutrient balance that we have followed up until now is not correct, which is why it causes several pathologies. That macronutrient balance would be 15-20% of protein, 20-25% of fat and 50-60% of carbohydrates
This researcher from the Medicine School of the University of Boston studied lipids for 30 years.
Percentages of the Zone Diet
Like we said, he did not accept the distribution and he redefined the macronutrient percentages as:
- 30% Protein
- 30% Fat
- 40% Carbohydrates
Regulating Insulin, the Objective of the Zone Diet
As we already know, a carbohydrate excess in our body increases the amount of insulin released by the pancreas. Consequently, we may compromise this substance that will lose its efficacy with time.
Moreover, let’s not forget that it is a anti-lipolytic hormone. This means that as long as it is present in the blood, it will hinder our ability to use fat as energy.
- Insulin will be more efficient when it comes to transporting the nutrients inside the cell
- The body will be able to use fat as energy
- It will produce more satiety
Can caffeine improve the insulin sensitivity?
Some studies suggest that taking caffeine could alter the absorption of glucose by the muscle tissue. This happens not because of caffeine, rather, it is due to the high epinephrine levels.
It seems that this substance would be responsible for the deterioration of the insulin sensitivity and the ability to absorb glucose by the muscles
Meal Distribution in the Zone Diet
This is not only about changing the macronutrient distribution that we mentioned previously. In fact, it would also involve:
Moreover, we should eat every 5 hours and the carbohydrates will need to have a low glycemic index. Therefore, you will have to avoid all those products and refined sugar with a high glycemic index.
Like any healthy diet and lifestyle, they suggest doing physical exercise regularly throughout the whole week
Summary of the Zone Diet
This would be the base of the zone diet. As we can see, it is just a diet to meet our daily calorie requirements with:
- Natural products such as good quality and high biological value protein (rich in essential amino acids).
- Moreover, healthy fat with a good supply of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Finally, complex carbohydrates, specially those with a low glycemic index.
Macronutrients of the Zone Diet
The recommended daily dose of protein is between 1.2g/kg of body weight, up to 2.5g/kg of body weight. Obviously, this will depend on several factors such as sports that demand a higher supply of this macronutrient
The zone diet does not establish a fixed amount of protein per kg of body weight. Instead, this amount will equal a percentage of our daily calories. As we have seen before, this diet establishes a 30% of the daily calories.
The reasoning behind these amounts is nothing else than taking advantage of the effects of protein:
- Satiating effect.
- Enhanced thermogenesis.
- Less blood glucose.
The fat supply also increases when compared to the values of a traditional diet. A 30% against a 20-25%
This number us based on the utilization of omega 3 monounsaturated fatty acids. These elements will support our cardiovascular health, with the following properties: preventing the onset of diseases on the arteries and nervous system, lowering the LDL cholesterol (bad) and triglycerides and increasing the HDL (good). Moreover, it has a anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effect, it lowers the blood pressure, etc.
Surprisingly, carbohydrates are more limited than usual in this diet
We will only take a 40% of the daily calorie requirements. As we mentioned previously, they need to be low glycemic index carbohydrates in order to avoid triggering insulin resistance.
Oats is a cereal with a very low GI, which is ideal for this type of diet.
Macronutrient distribution per calories
Now that we have seen what this diet is all about, I will give you my point of view:
When it comes to the protein, I think that the percentage is a little bit high. However, with a good diet and plenty of water, this should not be an issue
But this amount of protein would be extremely high in hypercaloric diets. For example, a person that weighs 80kg and follows a diet of around 4000 kcal/day:
- Calories from protein: 4000 kcal x 0.30 = 1200 kcal from protein (total calories)
If we divide this result between 4kcal from 1g of protein:
- 1200 kcal / 4 kcal/g protein = 300g protein/day
As we can see, a person that weighs 80kg would have to eat 300g of protein a day. This supply is considerably higher to 2.5 g/kg of body weight.
If this person would follow the 2.5g/kg of weight:
- 2.5 g/protein x 80 kg of body weight = 200g protein/day
When it comes to carbohydrates, the 40% is more moderate that the current recommended intake. In fact, we could even say that it is even low in some cases. Nevertheless, we will be able to control the insulin levels.
When our insulin does not work properly, our health can be compromised.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy used by our body. They are the first deposits used by our cells in order to produce energy.
For instance, high performance athletes rely more on carbohydrates. This is due to the fact that they need energy immediately. Therefore, lowering our intake to just a 40% could be somehow low.
Finally, the amount of fat would be a little bit high when compared to traditional diets
This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be even beneficial for our health. Providing a moderate-high fat supply will improve our cardiovascular health, as well as helping us lose weight, lowering the cholesterol, keeping the insulin levels stable, etc.
Conclusions about the Zone Diet
To sum up a little bit, the distribution proposed by the zone diet could be quite good. However, it is a double-edged sword and we need to be careful with that.
Therefore, my advice is to not follow excessively strict guidelines. Instead, here you have some common adaptations for everyone:
- Adjust the amount of protein per gram, making a different between athletes and the general public. Most will not reach that 30% from the zone diet.
- Identify the type, amount and intensity of our daily physical activity and adjust the carbohydrates supply. If we do very intense activities, several workouts a day, etc. you should eat more carbs.
- The amount of fat, regardless of the percentage, will have a good quality. Consequently, we will make sure that the lipid profile is correct.
After all, let’s not forget that this is just my opinion about this diet.
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- 2. Donald K. Layman. Protein quantity and quality at levels higher than the daily recommended dosage for adulktos improving weight loss. Journa of the American College of Nutrition. 18 de Junio 2013. Pag 631-636.
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