The Zone Chronicles: 10 Weeks In the Zone

  • By TJ Murphy
  • Published Nov 19, 2011
  • Updated Dec 17, 2012 at 4:14 PM UTC

As reported in the Nov/Dec issue of Inside Triathlon, Dr. Barry Sears and the Zone Diet have had a long relationship with top triathletes. What is the Zone Diet all about? Between Monday, November 20 to January 28, right through the holiday season, we put the Zone Diet to the test and explore the value, challenges and benefits of following the Zone protocol.

Photo: Scott Draper

In the Nov/Dec issue of Inside Triathlon, I wrote about Dr. Barry Sears and the Zone Diet, the 40% carbs/30% protein/30% fat approach to eating that is meant to stabilize the hormonal response to food. Why stabilize the hormonal response to food? In particular the balance between insulin response (produced by carbohydrate intake) and glucagon (produced by eating protein)? According to Dr. Sears, being in the Zone is particularly valuable for the athlete in this regard is that it maximizes energy levels, enables a higher percentage of fat burning and sets the stage for a maximum release of natural human growth hormone.

As Dr. Sears has said himself, following the diet is not an especially easy task, and most of his books include chapters, advice and recipes designed to make following a Zone diet as simple as possible.

Throughout the next 10 weeks I’ll report on what it’s like to put this advice into action and report as objectively as possible about what the Zone diet does for me or what it doesn’t do for me.

In the sport of triathlon, as I reported in Inside Triathlon, the Zone Diet has a special place, as some of the first athletes to try and report success with the 40/30/30 protocol were triathlon greats like Mark Allen and Mike Pigg.

While working on the story I had my first experiences trying out the Zone Diet and was surprised that it was not what I expected it to me. My expectations were originally that it was very high in protein and that I’d be consuming meat by the plate-full. That was not the case. Interestingly enough, it was vegetables that seemed to dominate my diet, with smaller portion sizes of protein (for example, a palm-full of chicken) and fat (teaspoons of olive oil dressing).

In the next 10 weeks I will test the overall practicality and effect of following the Zone Diet. I will also be measuring the AA/EPA ratios in my blood. What’s this all about?

From Dr. Sears, published on

Measuring Your Future Wellness

We all desire to have a clinical marker of our future state of wellness. It is my opinion that the AA/EPA ratio in the blood is the best marker of that elusive goal because it measures the level of cellular inflammation in the body.

What is Cellular Inflammation?

Cellular inflammation is the type of inflammation that is below the perception of pain. What it does is to disrupt hormonal signaling at the cellular levels that leads to increased fat accumulation, acceleration of the development of chronic disease, and decreased physical performance. You can’t feel cellular inflammation, but you can measure it. The only way to measure cellular inflammation is by testing the ratio of two essential fatty acids (AA and EPA) in your blood.

What is the AA/EPA Ratio?

The AA/EPA ratio is an indication of the levels of cellular inflammation in your body. High levels of cellular inflammation do not mean you have a disease state, but it does indicate that you are not as well as you could be. Your future state of wellness can be determined by the levels of cellular inflammation in the blood as shown below.

For more on AA/EPA ratios and the Zone Diet, visit the following link:

RELATED – The Zone Chronicles: An In-Depth Look Into The 40-30-30 Diet

FILED UNDER: InsideTri / Nutrition / Recipes TAGS: / /

TJ Murphy

TJ Murphy

T.J. Murphy is a 2:38 marathoner and five-time Ironman finisher. He is the former editorial director of Triathlete Magazine, Inside Triathlon and Competitor Magazine. His writing has also appeared in Outside Magazine and Runner’s World. He recently authored “Inside the Box: How Broke All The Rules, Stripped Down the Gym and Rebuilt My Broken Down Body.”

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