I recently wrote about several modern diets and out of those I
recommended the Zone diet over all of them. So I thought I
would write about why you will get more gains with this diet
than any other.
Let me start by clearing up something I feel is a
misunderstanding about the Zone. Most everyone familiar
with the Zone knows that it's based on 40-30-30 nutrition, i.e.
getting 40% of calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein
and 30% from fat. But, as a point most people miss, this is
only a starting point. 40-30-30 is what a majority of people
will do well on. But as everyone is different in regards to
genetics and activity level this equation needs to be modified
and fine-tuned. I personally have to have a little more carbs
than 40%, some else may need a lot less. So if you've ever
heard anyone say that they've not done well on it, know that
they actually didn't follow it correctly because you tailor
make this diet for yourself.
The main focus of the Zone diet is the control of your body's
hormones; control your hormone levels and you control how
well your body operates. The diet accomplishes this through
tight regulation of insulin levels. Insulin regulates blood
sugar and is also the 'fat storage' hormone. Raising insulin
too high tells your body to store fat AND tells it to not release
fat. A double blow. How do you raise insulin levels too high?
Several ways: by eating too much protein or carbs, by eating
'bad' carbs, having to much caffeine, eating carbs by
themselves (without protein and fat).
Insulin also affects other hormone levels in your body. To
build muscle and lose fat you must maintain good levels of
two hormones: growth hormone and testosterone. Human
growth hormone (HGH) is the most powerful fat-burning
hormone in your body and it also allows your body to build
new muscle. When you raise insulin, however, you inhibit
the release of HGH from your pituitary gland.
If you want to combine diet an exercise maximally there are
four windows of opportunity for applying this diet to enhance
1) About 30-45 minutes before exercise eat a Zone snack to
'set the stage' for hormone release and to have good energy.
2) You actually release HGH 15 to 30 minutes after you work
out. This is the best time to eat a Zone favorable snack or
meal. It will keep insulin levels low in order to max HGH
release. Yet many people have a sports drink right after
they work out. This will jack your insulin levels and inhibit
3) 2 hours after the end of any exercise you need to eat a
large Zone meal as insulin levels continue to return to
4) Another time that HGH is released in the body is during
stage 3 and 4 sleep just prior to REM sleep. This is the
time in which your body repairs itself for the next day.
You should always have a Zone snack before bed. This
insures that your blood sugar and insulin levels remain
stable. If you don't your blood sugar could drop to low
and you might go into Fasting Hypoglycemia (low blood
sugar due to not eating). This could not only give you
insomnia but will inhibit HGH release.
Insulin levels also control testosterone. While raising
insulin levels increase the amount of testosterone in
females (not desirable) it will decrease the amount in
males (obviously not desirable). You want to work out
with your testosterone levels high. If you eat
incorrectly and spike your insulin levels you will lower
your testosterone level. Also, testosterone is higher in
the morning (before 3pm) so it's best to work out during
the day than at night.
Aside from controlling these two hormones there is
another reason why the Zone diet will improve your
gains: the free radical. You've probably heard of free
radicals. A free radical is the name for a molecule that
has an unpaired electron. Free radicals are necessary
for life as they are needed in producing cellular energy
from food, defending you against infections, and
balancing hormones so that your body can maintain
This sounds fine until you realize that excess free
radicals are very damaging. Any free radical not
immediately used in a chemical reaction will steal
another electron from some other molecule to make
itself whole again. This forms another free radical and
a chain reaction is started. Many negative things
happen in the body because of this, such as the
oxidation of fats, proteins and DNA. To put it another
way, excess free radicals destroy proteins, fats,
organs, and MUSCLE!
So how are excess free radicals formed? One main
reason is overeating. It's been known for 60 years
that eating a calorie restricted diet (eating only what you
need and no more) prolongs life span. This is the
reason why. So all that extra protein that you're told
you should eat to build muscle only creates free
radicals that destroy your body, causes you to have a
greater recovery time and even shortens your life. Say
it isn't so!
On the Zone you find out exactly how much food you
need to eat and that is all you eat. This is based on
your size, amount of body fat, and activity level (you
do need more as a lifter, but you need to find out
exactly how much more). Also, on this diet you focus
on foods that contain antioxidants (vitamins C and E)
that kill off excessive free radicals.
Read the book and follow it strictly. The Zone diet
will not only give you the best gains, it will also trim
you down. Yes, you can do both at the same time.
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