We measure everything at CrossFit Crescent. When we complete a CHIPPER WOD, we record the time it takes to execute all of the movements at the prescribed repetition scheme. This allows us to calculate our average power output, and over time, measure our work capacity. Nutrition is no different. In order to maximize our output, we should measure what we put into our bodies. It has been said that if you don’t track what you eat, you haven’t truly RX’d CrossFit. The Zone diet allows us to do this without pulling out a calculator every time we eat.
The Zone diet is less about calorie counting and more about ensuring you’re eating the right proportions of macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat). Like CrossFit – which prescribes a broad, general, and inclusive fitness – it’s about balance. As we discussed in our article on the basics of nutrition, we recommend a diet that consists of approximately 40% good carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Zone is an easy way of sticking to that prescription.
Zone breaks down portions of carbohydrates, protein, and fats into blocks. Each block consists of 9 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein, and 1.5 grams of fat. (The amount of fat in each block is limited because it is assumed that whatever protein you’re eating has a certain amount of fat in it. If you’re eating a low-fat protein, simply increase the amount of fat to 3g, or double the number of fat blocks you consume.)
The number of blocks an athlete should consume is based on a number of lifestyle factors to include level of activity and gender. Dr. Barry Sears, founder of the Zone diet, developed a simple formula based on average protein requirements to help determine how many blocks an athlete should consume each day.
Number Blocks = Lean Body Mass (lbs) * Activity Level / 7g Protein
Activity level can be averaged using the following scale:
- 0.5 – Sedentary Lifestyle
- 0.6 – Light Activity
- 0.7 – Moderate Activity
- 0.8 – Active
- 0.9 – Very Active
- 1.0 – Elite Athelete
So if I am 178 lbs and 12.9% body fat, I have a lean body mass of approximately 155 lbs. If I’m an avid CrossFit’er I might fall into the very active category. I take my lean body mass (155 lbs), multiply it by my activity level (0.9) and divide by 7 (because there are 7 grams of protein per block). My result is 19.92, rounded up to 20 blocks per day.
Dr. Sears’ equation works well if you know your lean body mass. If you don’t, CrossFit.com put together a simple chart that helps an athlete determine how many blocks they should consume in a given day. However, this chart does not account for activity level. If you’re a more active athlete, you may need to increase the number of blocks you consume each day.
If you must consume approximately 20 blocks a day. Zone recommends three meals, and two snacks a day. One easy way of spreading out my blocks is to eat 5 times a day, ensuring I consume 4 blocks at each meal. No matter how I decide to do it, it’s important that I get the right amounts, of the right types of food in my body in order to support exercise.
So how do I know how much food I can put into one block? This is where I must weighing and measuring comes in. Unfortunately there is no way around this if you want to eat to fuel performance. We know that each block should contain 9g of carbohydrates, 7g of protein, and 1.5g of fat. We can simply look at the nutrition facts on my food and proportion accordingly. Once you get into a habit, this becomes a lot easier.
Thankfully, there are a number of resources out there (to include recipes) to help us plan our meals. The recipe section of ZoneDiet.com is a good place to start. The website also offers an easy to use menu that allows us to simply pick a protein, carbohydrate, and fat from each list to build our meals. It even recommends the portion. For example, 1.5 oz. of lean ground beef is one block of protein. If I broke my meal plan into 5 equal meals of 4 blocks each, I just need to make sure I have 6 oz. of ground beef in that meal. For my carbohydrate, I can consume 1 apple (2 blocks) and 1 cup of grapes (2 blocks). For my fat, I can consume 12 almonds (4 blocks).
If you’re interested in learning more, we recommend Dr. Sears’ book, Enter the Zone: A Dietary Road Map. The Kindle edition is available for as little as $8.99 on Amazon.com.
We even created a healthy Restaurant and Grocery guide specific to Amman Jordan to help you get started. Sign up and we’ll send you the free download!
The zone is an incredibly valuable tool for both elite athletes seeking the best CrossFit diet and everyday people seeking weight loss. To take your nutrition to the next level you need the hormonal balance that the Zone Diet provides. Zone breaks down portions of carbohydrates, protein, and fats into blocks. Each block consists of 9 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein, and 1.5 grams of fat. The amount of fat in each block is limited because it is assumed that whatever protein you’re eating has a certain amount of fat in it.
The Zone Diet requires that you simply balance your plate at every meal and snack with these nutrients:
- Protein – 1/3rd of your plate, add some lean protein, about the size and thickness of your palm. This could include egg whites, fish, poultry, lean beef or low-fat dairy.
- Carbohydrates – 2/3rds of your plate, add a lot colorful vegetables and a little fruit. Fruits and vegetables to avoid are those that are high in sugar (e.g., bananas, carrots, grapes, raisins) or starchy (e.g., potatoes, corn).
- Fat – Add a little bit of monounsaturated fat. This could include olive oil, avocado, or almonds.
The Zone Diet isn’t about eating “low-carb” or “high-protein” or anything like that. It’s the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Dr. Barry Sears developed the zone diet principles more than 30 years ago to reduce diet-induced inflammation. The Zone Diet will help you shed excess pounds, dramatically reduce your risk of chronic disease, and improve your mental and physical performance while living a longer more fulfilling life. The Zone Diet is not a fad diet, but a life-long dietary program based on strong science to reduce diet-induced inflammation.
Hold the Bread
By restricting grains and starches and maximizing fruits and vegetables, those on the Zone diet will observe dramatic hormonal and anti-inflammatory benefits. If you balance your plate according to the Zone Diet blueprint, you end up with a Zone Food Pyramid that looks like the following:
The Zone Food Pyramid helps assure an optimal protein-to-glycemic load balance for improved hormonal control. Furthermore, it assures you have ample polyphenol levels in your diet. Polyphenol intake is important in controlling the bacteria composition of our digestive system, as well activating anti-inflammatory and anti-aging genes.
The zone is a rigid plan. There is weighing and measuring and lots of planning to this one because each meal or snack is in blocks. You have to really lay your meals out ahead of time. Just like at CFC we measure our progress by recording our scores and times at the end of every WOD so we can see progress and hold ourselves accountable- so we must record what we eat and intentionally plan and prepare our meals within the specified zones.
We will take more time to explain the Zone Diet in another blog but for now, we want you to begin making some simple changes from the advice above. Read more at Zone Diet Explained
If you are new to Amman, or just starting your journey in fitness in Amman, you should check out our 5 Fitness Tips for Living In Amman.