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You’ve heard it said that exercising without eating right will not get you the fitness results you want. The same is true if you do Crossfit workouts and don’t eat right.
You can’t expect to make gains in the amount of weight you lift or have the energy you need to get through a workout without feeding your body properly.
The Zone Diet. It’s what Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, recommends for overall wellness.
Some of the benefits of the Zone Diet are enhanced health, improved energy, and mental clarity. This diet also helps athletes stay on top of their game.
What Is The Zone Diet
The Zone Diet was created by Dr. Sears. He designed it to be a hormonal balancing/anti-inflammatory diet.
His research concluded that chronic inflammation in your body accounts for weight gain, diseases, and faster aging. With the Zone Diet, you keep your body in its zone so it functions as it should at a cellular level.
Simply put, when the body is hormonally imbalanced it creates a chronic inflammatory environment.
If not corrected, the unwanted effects of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes (just to name a few) are what inevitably come next.
Since the Zone Diet is designed to correct this path, EVERY meal on the Zone Diet – even the snacks – are 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbs.
The ingredients consist of low-fat protein, carbohydrates that are rich in polyphenols (antioxidants), and fat that is low in saturated and omega-6.
What Can You Eat On The Zone Diet?
On the Zone Diet, you can pretty much eat anything. The portions are key. You are encouraged to eat as healthy as you can but bagels and alcohol are not ruled out.
Just keep in mind that your meals need to be balanced in order to get your body in the zone.
Examples Of Foods In The Zone Diet:
Carbs (preferably low glycemic-load): Couscous, English muffin, granola, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, cucumber, apples, oranges, berries
Protein (preferably as lean as possible): Beef, chicken, turkey, pork chop, salmon, tofu
Fat (preferably rich in monosaturated): Almond butter, cashews, peanuts, avocado, olive oil
Are you a vegan or need to eat dairy or gluten-free? No worries! You can still do the Zone Diet and be successful with it.
When To Eat
The Zone Diet requires you start your first meal within an hour of waking up. After that, plan to eat every 3-4 hours. You should be eating three meals and two snacks every day.
This part takes planning. Dr. Sears recommends keeping a journal of what you eat. If you already keep a CrossFit journal, all you need to do is add what you eat and when.
If not, it’s a good idea to write down what you eat so that you can see if you’re eating the right foods.
To know if you’re doing things right, Dr. Sears suggests you assess your hunger status before eating a meal (not counting breakfast). Give yourself either a +1 (you are not hungry) or -1 (you are hungry).
If you gave yourself a +1, that means that your last meal was spot on. If you gave yourself a -1, then you need to play around with the combination of blocks or add more blocks.
Zone Diet “Blocks”
“Blocks” are another way of saying “portion”. To make things simple, the following are what’s considered a block.
1 block = 7 grams of protein OR 9 grams of carbs OR 1.5 grams of fat
The ideal number of blocks for women is 11 and for men, it’s 14. These numbers can increase depending on your activity level.
Below is a sample of the Zone Block Guide taken from Dr. Sears’ Zone Diet site.
Zone Block Food Guide
|Meat and Poultry (low in saturated fat) — Best Choices|
|Beef (range fed or game)||1 oz.|
|Chicken breast, skinless||1 oz.|
|Chicken breast, deli-style||1 ½ oz.|
|Ground beef (Less than 10% fat)||1 ½ oz.|
|Lean Canadian Bacon||1 oz.|
|Turkey breast, skinless||1 oz.|
|Turkey bacon||3 strips|
|Fish and Seafood — Best Choices|
|Bass (freshwater)||1 oz.|
|Bass (sea)||1 ½ oz.|
|Bluefish||1 ½ oz.|
|Calamari (squid)||1 ½ oz.|
|Catfish||1 ½ oz.|
|Clams||1 ½ oz.|
|Cod||1 ½ oz.|
|Low Density Carbohydrates – Cooked Vegetables|
|Artichoke Hearts||1 cup|
|Asparagus (12 spears)||1 cup|
|Beans, green or wax||1 ½ cups|
|Beans, black||¼ cup|
|Bok choy||3 cups|
|Low Density Carbohydrates – Raw Vegetables|
|Cabbage, shredded||4 cups|
|Carrot, sliced||1 cup|
|Celery, sliced||2 cups|
|Cucumber (medium)||1 ½ cups|
|Cucumber, sliced||4 cups|
|Lettuce, Romaine, chopped||10 cups|
|Low Density Carbohydrates – Fruits – raw unless specified (if frozen, use unsweetened)|
|Applesauce (unsweetened)||⅓ cup|
|Best Choices (rich in mono-saturated fat) (If choosing a fat-free protein source, just use 2 fat blocks instead of one for a total of 3 grams)|
|Almond butter||½ tsp.|
|Almond oil||⅓ tsp.|
|Olives, large (14g) (slivered)||3|
|Olive oil||⅓ tsp.|
Source: Zone Blocks Guide
CrossFit and The Zone Diet
Zone Diet Meal Plan
So now that you’re familiar with what the Zone Diet is and what foods you can eat, it’s time to learn how to plan your meals. And yes, you need to plan ahead.
Below is a sample day plan for a sedentary female (11 blocks) with times and number of blocks:
|3 blocks||1 block||3 blocks||1 block||3 blocks|
So for each block you’ll be picking foods from the protein, carb, and fat list. It will look something like this:
|4 egg whites with 1 oz nonfat cheese|
3 cups of broccoli
½ a small bagel or 1 slice toast
|¼ cup low-fat cottage cheese|
½ cup blueberries
|3 oz skinless chicken breast|
2 cups zucchini
|Spinach Salad (3 cups raw spinach, ½ raw onion, 1 raw tomato)||4 oz grilled fish|
2 green or red peppers (cut)
This is where your journal comes in handy. If you’ve followed the sample plan and found that you were very hungry before eating lunch (for example), then you might want to try a different breakfast combo or morning snack the next day.
You will find that you will be making more trips to the grocery store but it won’t hurt your wallet because you won’t be buying expensive processed junk.
Recipes To Start You Off
If you’re still stumped about what to eat or how to cook, below are some recipes taken from zonediet.com:
Baked Oatmeal (Yields 4 servings)
- 3/4 cup Steel Cut Oats
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 7g Zone Protein Powder (1 scoop)
- 1/2 cup Applesauce – unsweetened
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 2 cups Egg Beaters-whites
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 2 1/2 tsps Olive Oil
- 2/3 cup Strawberries – sliced
- 1/3 cup Slivered Almonds
- Olive Oil Cooking Spray-Pam
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl except for fruit. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl.
Add the wet to the dry until well incorporated. Fold in strawberries and almonds. Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Place mixture into pan. Bake about 30 minutes. Test the center with a toothpick.
Curried Chicken Salad
(Yields 4 servings; 20 minutes prep time)
- 10 oz cooked skinless chicken breast – and diced into large chunks
- 5 cups celery – sliced
- 2 cups grapes
- 2 apples – cut into 1/2
- 1/4 cup peanuts
- 8 tsp light mayonnaise Hellman’s
- 2 tsp plain low-fat yogurt – if you like it saucy
- 1/2 tsp curry powder – to taste
- 12 lettuce leaves – 3 to 4 leaves of romaine per plate
- 2 cups strawberries – sliced
Combine the chicken breast, celery, grapes, apple and peanuts in a bowl. Combine the mayo, yogurt and curry powder. Start with 1/4 teaspoon curry, especially if you make your own curry, or it’s a fresh bottle.
Toss the curry/mayo with the chicken mixture. Divide into four equal portions. Serve on red and green romaine along with 1/2 cup of strawberries.
(Yields 1 serving; 15 minutes prep time)
- 2 cups Broccoli – chopped small
- 3 oz Chunk light tuna in water – drained
- 1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy
- 1 tbsp Walnuts – chopped
- 1 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Apple
Mix broccoli, tuna, and seasoning and warm in the microwave if you want. It’s great raw too. The flavor is good, it takes a few minutes, and you can store almost all the ingredients at work or in your car for those days you don’t have time to cook. After cooking, sprinkle chopped walnuts and drizzle extra virgin olive oil into the dish. Have an apple for dessert.
Celery with Hummus
(Yields 1 serving; 5 minute prep time)
- 6 stalks celery – halved lengthwise
- 1 oz cooked skinless chicken breast – cut into small pieces
- 2 tbsps hummus spread
- 3 tbsps 3 tbsps salsa
You can fill the well in the celery stalks with hummus and chunks of chicken or just cut the chicken into the hummus and use the celery like a spoon.
You may have a rocky start but don’t give up. Just like when you started doing WOD’s, it will take time, to get used to. But when you finally get into your zone (pun intended), you will wonder how your body functioned before it got there.
Remember, the key is planning. Take time every week to plan for the following week so that when you go into the grocery store you’re not buying things you don’t need. When at the grocery store, start at the perimeter. That’s where almost all the healthy foods are.
Good luck and let us know if you have questions. We’re here to help you on your journey.