What Is The Zone Diet?
Most of you have probably already heard of the Zone Diet.
It is one of the most popular diets of the last several decades, and it has spawned countless products and books.
In short, the Zone Diet aims to get you to eat a macronutrient split of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat – all without having to count calories or macros.
This is done primarily by following a very specific set of rules governing portion-sizing, and also a few rules related to meal-timing.
In this article, I’ll be reviewing the story behind the Zone Diet, the specific rules involved, some potential positives & negatives of the diet, as well as my personal thoughts on it.
Let’s get right into how it all started…
The Zone Diet was originally popularized by Barry Spears, who was a biochemist.
The diet was created to help control inflammation, which is done by balancing foods properly to create the appropriate hormonal responses in the body.
In Zone Diet parlance, this is known as “staying in the zone”.
When you’re following the diet and in ‘the zone’, your cravings for food are also supposedly limited, making it easier to avoid binging, which in turn can help with weight loss.
One of the basic tenants of the diet is that rice, bread, and pasta create inflammation, and should therefore be avoided whenever possible.
In addition, advocates of the Zone Diet claim that it can help to reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve immunity, and promote longevity (however, it should be noted that there is a good amount of evidence that many of these claims don’t actually hold up).
The Zone Diet has very specific rules – most of which relate to portion-sizing, but also to timing your meals.
You have to eat 5 meals per day (3 meals & 2 snacks), but you should wait no more than 5 hours in-between meals.
For each meal, divide your plate into 3 sections:
- In the 1st section, you should have 1 palm-sized portion of a lean protein source (like chicken, turkey or fish)
- In 2nd and 3rd sections, you should have 2 big fist-sized portions of ‘favorable’ carbohydrates (fruits or vegetables)
- Finally, you should add a ‘dash’ of healthy fats to your plate.
For example, dinner might be roughly a piece of chicken or fish, 2 big fists worth of fruits or vegetables, and a small amount of nuts, avocado, or olive oil on top.
While there aren’t specific food type restrictions, you are urged to favor low GI carbs, lean meats, and monounsaturated fats.
The Positives Of The Zone Diet
- Strives for good macronutrient ratio (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat)
- Will often automatically create caloric deficit when followed correctly
- Fairly simple to measure portions based on visual estimates
- Micronutrient rich, due to the heavy focus on fruits and vegetables
The Negatives Of The Zone Diet
- It requires eating 5 meals each day
- Never get to eat larger meals
- May require meal prep
- Restrictive food choices (no fatty food, red meat, starchy carbs, etc)
- No built in cheat days
Is The Zone Diet Right For You?
In my opinion, the Zone Diet is a good potential option for someone that wants a rule-based diet with a lot of structure.
It provides adequate protein and carbs, while keeping dietary fat low and controlling calories, so it fulfills the basic 3 tenants of a good rule-based diet for people that lift weights and are interested in improving their overall body composition.
In addition, the rules are pretty straightforward, and portion sizes can be measured fairly easily once you get used to it.
That being said, the 5 meal a day aspect won’t work for all people, so this alone can be a potential deal breaker.
Further, the foods that you eat are pretty bland and limited (think lots of lean meat and vegetables), so this can get tiring pretty quickly if you have a sweet tooth or enjoy eating certain foods with a higher fat content.
Now, obviously this is all just a basic overview, so if you’re interested in potentially trying out the Zone Diet, then I would recommend starting with this more extensive guide.