One popular diet you likely have heard of before as it's highly touted by the media for being the one so many celebrities seem to use is 'The Zone Diet'. Founded by Dr. Barry Sears, The Zone Diet's basic premises is that it 'turns your gene's on and off'.
He believes that while you cannot change your genetic make-up, you can alter their expression. He feels that by doing so, you can influence how much energy you feel on a day-to-day basis, what kind of health status you maintain and how effectively you are able to lose and maintain your weight.
This diet is very big on helping you to control your insulin and the rate at which carbohydrates are used by the body. For this reason, it is quite similar to a keto type diet but yet still highly different because you are allowed a much higher number of carbohydrates.
Dr. Barry Sears does state however that some high level training athletes will need to consume up to 60% of their daily intake from fats, which is almost on par with keto levels. He doesn't push protein up to 35% though as keto does.
Basically the zone focuses on a '1-2-3' approach where you eat fat, protein and carbohydrates in a 1:2:3 ratio (so say 10 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbohydrates per meal - these individual grams will be adjusted depending on your calorie intake).
The program separates out individuals who have different goals, being weight loss, chronic disease, woman's health, men's health, children's health and athletic performance and gives specific recommendations for each one.
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Author, Shannon Clark.
What You Can Eat
This diet is a good one for someone who does not want to give up any of their favourite foods. Nothing is put 'off limits' on this diet, however it still does need to stay within the guidelines of the program.
There are no phases or stages on the zone diet which is nice because it creates slightly less confusion and tracking in that regard and you will basically be eating the same type of meals each and every day, making planning quite straightforward.
The diet favours low-glycemic carbohydrate choices and this would include things such as spinach, beans, berries, cucumbers, celery, salsa, green peppers, oatmeal and barley.
Foods like bread, sugar, bagels, rice, pasta, cereals, other white-flour products, dried fruits, peas, mangoes, corn, raisins, bananas, potatoes and carrots are discouraged but you can still eat them if you really want and they fit within your plan (the 1-2-3 requirement).
When it comes to protein, the diet recommends eating foods such as fish, low-fat lean meats like chicken, turkey, beef and pork, egg whites, low-fat cheeses, soy products and protein powder.
Lastly, on the fat side of things, which is very key with this plan, you will need to consume your fat from sources such as almonds, cashews, avocados, peanut butter, olives and olive oil, salmon and Omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
The good things about this diet is that it will be well suited for those with blood sugar issues, diabetes or those with a tendency to gain weight easily on a higher carbohydrate diet. Some people simply do not tolerate carbohydrates well and end up feeling sluggish and tired after consuming them so this plan would also be perfect for them.
Another great thing about the diet is that due to its make-up, it is unlikely that you will experience too much hunger on it since all meals will have a combination of both fat and protein (both of which are high satiety macronutrients).
There are a few drawbacks to this diet however.
First is the planning involved. While you may eat many of the same type of meals, if you want to have variety in your diet with regards to these meals, you are going to have to do a fair amount of planning, measuring and calorie/macronutrient counting.
For many who are heavily involved in fitness this isn't too big of an issue as you likely already do this but for someone who is just looking to improve their health or lose weight, it can become burdensome.
The second drawback is that because carbohydrate intake is lower than some other plans, endurance or high intensity athletes may struggle to meet their energy demands and find themselves faltering through workouts. If this is the case, the diet could still be used but it may be beneficial to look into adding a special 'carb-up' period once a week to top off your stores.
The third drawback is that the diet is quite rigorous to keep up with. In addition to the planning you must do with your meals, there are also quite a few rules that you need to follow in terms of when you should be eating. For example, you must eat within an hour of waking and then every 4-6 hours after a meal or 2-2.5 hours after a snack. For those who prefer eating fewer meals per day this could pose a problem.
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Author, Shannon Clark.
So in terms of fat loss, this diet is very good so long as you are willing to put in the effort required. If you are looking for a simple plan however, where you can eat out easily and don't always need to be watching the clock, this likely isn't a good choice.
With regards to muscle building on the other hand, it can definitely be used and again is probably preferable over keto for muscle building as there are more carbohydrates allowed.
Generally speaking carbohydrates tend to be quite anabolic, moreso than fat due to their effect on insulin so this diet caters to that more effectively. The nice thing about this diet with respect to that issue also is that it gets you seeing the benefits of insulin but within a controlled environment because it's still not as high in carbohydrates as some typical bulking plans.
Overall Diet Rating: 4/5