Inside Dr. Barry Sears’ Zone Diet

  • By T.J. Murphy
  • Published Jun 14, 2013
  • Updated Oct 7, 2013 at 8:55 PM UTC

Checking The Zone

Common criticism of the Zone diet has held that it’s a high-fat, high-protein diet that’s too low in carbohydrate. In following the diet for two weeks, this is how I see it.

It’s not a high-fat diet. Sears recommends relying on “healthy fats” like olive oil and avocados and limiting the saturated fats that come with whole eggs and red meat. And even then 30 percent, in practice, sure doesn’t seem like much—in a Zone snack, for example, you get your recommended fat contribution from one single macadamia nut. That’s right, one nut. How can that possibly be high-fat?
It’s not a high-protein diet. At dinner I would have four or five ounces of chicken, or maybe six ounces of fish. “It should be about as much as you can fit in your hand,” he says. It’s not like ripping through a porterhouse steak at Outback. Again, it’s not high-protein.
You definitely eat carbs because it’s a high vegetable-and-fruit diet. Even though the Zone calls for less carbohydrates than what the likes of the American Heart Association calls for (40 percent for Sears as opposed to 70 percent for the AHA), the Zone diet emphasizes making an effort to get most carbs from vegetables and fruits, and to achieve the 40 percent level you have to eat a ton of vegetables. I’m eating more vegetables than I did when I was vegan. Fruits—Sears recommends berries in particular—help keep things manageable. In meals in which I try to get all my carbs from vegetables I am not messing around. Considering my lean body mass and activity level, if I were to try to get all the carbs prescribed through asparagus, for example, I would need 60 asparagus spears to close the deal. I’ve done it and it’s a lot. I can’t imagine what it would be if I were trying to match the 70 percent goal.

Zoning Out

The Sept. 2, 2011, diet of the author, using Zone diet recommendations.

6:30 a.m.
2 cups low-fat milk
1 scoop whey protein powder
15 almonds
2 cups strawberries
½ cup blueberries
2 grams high-grade fish oil
5 Zone blocks

10:30 a.m.
1 ounce turkey breast
1 macadamia nut
½ apple
1 Zone block
2 p.m.
5 ounces chicken breast
Massive spinach salad with onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli
5 teaspoons olive oil and vinegar dressing
5 Zone blocks

5:30 p.m. (half-hour before workout)
½ apple
1 macadamia nut
¼ cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 Zone block
7:15 p.m. (15 minutes after workout)
Whey protein powder mixed with coconut water
1 Zone block

8:30 p.m.
6 ounces broiled salmon
Bag of mixed vegetables from Trader Joe’s with four tablespoons of guacamole
4 ounces red wine
2 grams high-grade fish oil
5 Zone blocks
Daily Zone tally: 17 blocks

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