Zone Diet FAQ: Dr. Barry Sears' authentic Zone FAQ
Making Fat Your Friend
This page contains Dr. Barry Sears' Zone Diet FAQ. Dr. Sears Answers Common Questions about the Zone Diet:
Should I be concerned about such a seemingly low daily caloric intake?
Why do I need so much fat?
What does it do?
How do I get the nutrition bars described in the book?
What other services are available?
What is the minimum amount of daily protein block intake?
How long have you been developing this program?
Why is the fat block only 1.5 grams instead of 3 grams?
Which protein powder is best?
Can I still continue to use my vitamins?
What exactly do you mean "use in moderation" when referring to unfavorable carbohydrates?
I'm supplementing my diet with flax seed oil? Should I discontinue using it, and why?
Besides salmon, where can I get EPA and how often should I eat fish each week?
In the recipe section, when you say four blocks of protein, do you also mean four blocks of carbohydrates and fat?
Am I going to be depriving myself of complete protein?
I'm still hungry, what should I do?
How long before I can expect to see results?
As I drop weight, should I drop the number of protein blocks I eat?
Should I be concerned about sodium?
Should I add (and how much if so) protein If I'm trying to gain lean body mass?
How should I alter this diet if I'm pregnant and/or nursing my child?
Can I cut back on fat blocks as long as I match my protein and carbohydrate Can I use the nutrition bar if I am lactose intolerant?
I have developed some constipation, what should I do?
Which companies make an EPA capsule which has been through the molecular distillation process?
What impact will various cooking methods have on the quality of the macro nutrients or micro nutrients?
Do I eat my meal or snack even if I'm not hungry?
Will this diet heal the damage done to my body over the years (like from drinking)?
I heard your were best off not to drink with meals. Why eight oz. of fluids?
Why don't I count all the protein, carbohydrate, and fat in everything I eat?
Will a liquid meal do the trick? If not, why not?
Can children use the diet (and the bars)?
How do I know that two years from now your program will not turn out to be like the Ornish/Atkins diets that initially produce great results?
I lost weight on the Atkins diet (and kept it off), but I don't feel great. Why?
I'm off your body fat calculation charts. What should I do?
Will a cookbook be available?
How do I get even more information?
Should I be concerned about such a seemingly low daily caloric intake?
If you have excess body fat (greater than 15% for males and greater than for females), all the calories you need are -already stored in your body. You simply need a "hormonal ATM card" to release these stored calories. The Zone diet is that hormonal ATM card- Using the Zone diet, you are eating as if you are already at your ideal percentage of body fat. Obviously it's possible to lose even more body fat. So once you reach a percent of body fat that you are happy with and wish to stabilize your weight at that point, then simply add more monounsaturated fat to your diet. This extra monounsaturated fat will act as a caloric ballast to provide the extra calories to maintain your body weight without affecting insulin levels. Why? Monounsaturated fat has no effect on insulin. It's hormonally neutral.
Why do I need so much fat? What does it do? Paradoxically it takes fat to burn fat. First, fat acts as a control rod to slow the rate of entry of carbohydrate into the bloodstream thereby reducing the insulin response. Second, it releases a hormone (cholecystokinin or CCK) from the stomach that tells the brain to stop eating. Third, it supplies the building blocks (i.e. essential fatty acids) for eicosanoids.
However, the Zone diet is not a license for fat gluttony. Most of your fat intake should be in the form of monounsaturated fat, and the amount of fat you consume is dictated by the amount of protein you consume at each meal.
How do I get the nutrition bars described in the book? The experimental bars Dr. Sears described in The Zone are now commercially available through his company. These bars can be used as a snack or complete meal replacement for the times when you can't make the correct food choices.
What other services are available? Besides the nutrition bars, there is a service we provide for the preparation of individualized Zone diet programs based on the meals that you select, which are then individually scaled to the amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fat you require at each meal to get you to the Zone.
What is the minimum amount of daily protein block intake? Regardless of your protein calculations, we always recommend a minimum of eight (8) protein blocks throughout the day. How long have you been developing this program? The program has been undergoing constant testing and revision since 1984. The present program detailed in The Zone represents the seventh generation of the original concept. This dietary program was originally developed for cardiovascular patients, tested in world-class athletes, and has been used by thousands of individuals during this developmental period.
Why is the fat block only 1.5 grams instead of 3 grams? Every block of low-fat protein contains approximately one block of "hidden" fat. Therefore by adding one extra fat block for each block of low-fat protein, one is actually consuming two fat blocks (one internal in the protein and one external) for each protein block. If you are using fat-free protein sources such as isolated protein powders, then you should be adding two blocks of fat to achieve the same ratio. Obviously if you are eating higher-fat protein choices, you would not be adding any extra fat blocks to your meal. Remember that every time you add additional fat blocks to a meal they should be composed primarily of monounsaturated fat. Which protein powder is best? Excellent sources of isolated protein would include egg and milk combinations and whey. For vegetarians, isolated soy products are excellent choices. These protein powders are available at most health food stores.
Can I still continue to use my vitamins? Of course. Vitamins and minerals are an excellent low cost insurance policy to ensure adequate levels of macro nutrients. However, a Zone diet which is primarily composed of low-fat protein, fruits and vegetables provides an excellent base of vitamins and minerals which requires much less supplementation.
What exactly do you mean "use in moderation" when referring to unfavorable carbohydrates? Try not to make unfavorable carbohydrates more than 25% of the total carbohydrate content of a meal. Use them as condiments, not the primary source of your carbohydrate intake.
I'm supplementing my diet with flax seed oil? Should I discontinue using it, and why? Flax seed oil is rich in alpha linolenic add (ALA) which is an Omega 3 fatty acid. If one is going to supplement with an Omega 3 oil it should be fish oil which is rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and has a 10 fold greater impact on reducing the production of bad eicosanoids than does ALA. In addition, ALA tends to reduce the production of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which is the building block of good eicosanoids. Therefore supplementation with EPA as opposed to ALA will have a far greater benefit in getting you to the Zone. But before you supplement your diet with any oil, try to get those fatty acids from food itself. The best source of EPA? Salmon.
Besides salmon, where can I get EPA and how often should I eat fish each week? Other sources that are rich in EPA include mackerel and sardines. Other marine sources which have a lower EPA content are common fish such as tuna, swordfish, scallops, shrimp, and lobster. Try to consume about 300 mg. of EPA per week. This would translate into one serving of salmon or four servings of tuna or like fish per week.
In the recipe section, when you say four blocks of protein, do you also mean four blocks of carbohydrates and fat? All the recipes found in the book have equal numbers of protein, carbohydrate, and fat blocks.
Am I going to be depriving myself of complete protein? Complete protein is another way of saying that a person is obtaining a complete spectrum of amino acids in their diet. A Zone diet is a protein-adequate diet, so if you are eating low-fat protein choices such as egg whites, chicken, turkey, low-fat meat, and fish you will automatically ensure that you are consuming complete protein. It is only vegetarians who have to be concerned about getting complete protein. For vegetarians, adding the new generation of fractionated soybean protein isolates to their meals ensures that all the essential amino acids are part of their diet.
I'm still hungry, what should I do? Always look back to your last meal. If you feel hungry within two to three hours after your last meal, and experience a drop off in mental focus (due to low blood sugar), it is because you consumed too much carbohydrate relative to the amount of protein at your last meal. You're making too many bad eicosanoids due to an increase in insulin secretion that has taken you out of the Zone. Simply make that same meal in the future and keep the protein constant, but reduce the carbohydrate amount by one block. If you feel hungry prior to any four to six hour cycle, but maintain good mental focus, you're actually making too many good eicosanoids which are pushing insulin too low. The brain has a sensing system that picks up low insulin levels in the bloodstream and tells you to eat to increase insulin levels even though the brain is getting plenty of blood sugar (hence the good mental focus). Simply make that meal in the future, and add one additional block of carbohydrate to the meal. In essence what you are doing is adjusting your personal hormonal carburetor to get to the center of the Zone. In either case, you should add more monounsaturated fat to either meal as fat releases the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) that promotes a feeling of fullness which is known as satiety.
How long before I can expect to see results? Within two to three days you should see a noticeable reduction in your carbohydrate cravings with increased mental focus. Within five days you will notice a significant increase in your lack of hunger throughout the day coupled with better physical performance. Within two weeks, although you will not have lost much weight, you will notice that your clothes are fitting much better. Keep in mind the maximum fat loss you can expect to lose is one to one and a half pounds of fat per week. It is simply impossible to reduce excess body fat any faster.
As I drop weight, should I drop the number of protein blocks I eat? No. The weight you are dropping is pure fat. The program is designed to maintain your LBM which requires protein to maintain it. In essence on the Zone diet you are eating as if you are at your ideal body weight. The only time to change your protein block intake is when you change your physical activity level or see a significant change in your LBM which you can measure using the Tables found in The Zone.
Should I be concerned about sodium? Not if you are following a Zone diet because it is excess insulin which activates another hormonal system that promotes sodium retention. However, it always makes sense not to use excessive amounts of sodium.
Should I add (and how much if so) protein If I'm trying to gain lean body mass? Building one pound of new muscle mass per month is a noble goal. To do so, however, requires only one extra protein block per day in addition to the number of protein blocks required to maintain your existing lean body mass. Remember one pound of new muscle equals 454 grams. But muscle is 70% water, which means that one pound of new muscle contains about 136 grams of protein. Divide 136 grams by 30 days, and you -get 4.5 grams of extra protein per day required to build new muscle. Taking in one extra block of protein (7 grams) per day will be more than adequate.
How should I alter this diet if I'm pregnant and/or nursing my child? If you are pregnant or nursing you should be using a Zone diet to ensure adequate protein intake. For pregnant women, whatever your physical activity requirements are, increase it by two levels. For example if you have a physical activity level of 0.7 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, then increase it to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. For nursing mothers, increase your physical activity factor by one level over your actual physical activity level.
Can I cut back on fat blocks as long as I match my protein and carbohydrate requirements? You can, but ironically you will not lose as much fat. The small amount of added fat acts as a control rod to reduce the rate of entry of carbohydrates into the blood stream thereby reducing insulin secretion. By reducing insulin, you can access your stored body fat more effectively. Also the fat causes the release of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) that promotes satiety between meals. Of course, any added fat to your diet should be primarily monounsaturated fat such as olive oil, guacamole, almonds, or macadamia nuts.
Can I use the nutrition bar if I am lactose intolerant? Some of the bars contain no lactose, and thus would be ideal for the lactose intolerant individual. If you have any type of food allergy we recommend the following: Take a nutrition bar and cut it into three equal pieces. Eat one piece every two hours. After six hours, if you have not experienced any hypersensitivity, then it is very likely that you will be tolerant to the bars.
I have developed some constipation, what should I do? A Zone diet will switch your body to a fat-burning metabolism instead of a carbohydrate-burning metabolism. The metabolism of fat requires greater amounts of water on a daily basis. So the first step would be to increase your water intake by 50%. If this isn't sufficient to reduce the constipation, then it means that you are probably releasing stored arachidonic acid from your fat cells. For about 25% of the population, there will be a transitory release of stored arachidonic acid, the building block of bad eicosanoids, from stored body fat. The build-up of extra arachidonic acid in your stored fat is a result of your previous dietary patterns. This temporary increase in arachidonic acid can give rise to constipation by reducing water flow into the colon. Adding extra EPA to your diet will minimize this transitory effect. The best source of EPA is fish, but another good source are fish oil capsules as long as the fish oil has gone through a molecular distillation process.
Which companies make an EPA capsule which has been through the molecular distillation process? Very few. The best indication that a fish oil capsule containing EPA has been molecularly distilled is that it is cholesterol-free. This means that any residual PCB's that might be found in crude fish oil have been removed.
I'm a vegetarian, how can I make this diet work for me? Simply add protein-rich vegetarian foods to your existing diet to maintain the correct protein to carbohydrate ratio. Ideal choices would be firm and extra firm tofu and isolated soybean protein powder. Traditional vegetarian protein sources such as beans, have an exceptionally high amount of carbohydrate for the amount of protein they provide and therefore makes it impossible to achieve the desired protein-to-carbohydrate ratio to enter the Zone.
What impact will various cooking methods have on the quality of the macro nutrients or micro nutrients? Cooking has little effect on the macro nutrients (except that excessive heat can damage and cross link macro nutrients). However, with regard to micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals) cooking can have a significant negative effect. Vitamins are extraordinarily sensitive to heat. And minerals can be leached out of food when cooking with water. Therefore steaming vegetables is an ideal preparation method to retain micro nutrients and yet make the vegetables more digestible.
Do I eat my meal or snack even if I'm not hungry? Yes. This is the best time to eat in order to maintain hormonal equilibrium from one meal to the next. Will this diet heal the damage done to my body over the years (like from drinking)? The body has a remarkable ability to repair itself given the appropriate tools. The best of those tools is the diet, especially one which orchestrates the appropriate hormonal responses that accelerate the repair process.
I heard your were best off not to drink with meals. Why eight oz. of fluids? There is concern that the extra fluid might dilute the pH of the stomach. However, it is more likely that a person will not be consuming the minimum of 64 oz. of fluid that they need in a day. If you're consuming adequate fluids throughout the day, eight oz. of fluids at a meal would not be required, but for most people eating is one of the few times there will be an opportunity to consume fluids.
Why don't I count all the protein, carbohydrate, and fat in everything I eat? Because you would probably need a mini-computer to make all the calculations. This is why we devised the block method that takes into account fat content and protein digestibility making your calculations for preparing each meal exceptionally simple.
Will a liquid meal do the trick? If not, why not? A liquid has a much greater surface area than a solid food. As a result, the digestion and entry rate of macro nutrients into the bloodstream cannot be controlled and there is a corresponding decrease in the desired hormonal control. Liquid meals are more convenient, but they are not as hormonally desirable.
Can children use the diet (and the bars)? The diet (and the bars) are ideal for children because they need to be in the Zone even more than adults. For children, assume that they have 10% body fat in order to make their lean body mass calculations. Then, whatever their activity factor actually is, increase it by two levels. This is to ensure more than adequate protein for growth spurts. For children, 1/2 of a nutrition bar is a great snack, whereas a whole nutrition bar is an excellent meal replacement.
How do I know that two years from now your program will not turn out to be like the Ornish/Atkins diets that initially produce great results? The Zone diet is not a diet, but a life-long hormonal control program that allows you to maximize your full genetic potential. Both the Ornish and Atkins diets are based on gluttony. Either eat all the carbohydrate you want (i.e. Omish) or all the protein and fat you want (i.e. Atkins). The Zone diet is based on moderation because of the limits on the amount-of protein, carbohydrate, and fat consumed at every meal.
I lost weight on the Atkins diet (and kept it off), but I don't feel great. Why? On the Atkins diet you are always in a state of ketosis, which means that you have no glycogen reserves in the liver to maintain blood sugar levels. Also in a state of ketosis, the body is also constantly breaking down muscle mass in order to make carbohydrate that is necessary for brain function.
I'm off your body fat calculation charts. What should I do? Assume that you have 50% body fat. With time you will lose sufficient fat so that you can follow the per cent body fat charts.
Will a cookbook be available? Look for the ultimate Zone cookbook to appear in 1996.
How do I get even more information? Call the laboratory for an update on our upcoming Home Page on the World Wide Web and soon to be available fax-on-demand technical updates.
Can I pay Dr. Sears to put me on his plan, monitor and assist me? Dr. Sears doesn't accept any pay for personal consultation. Ms primary responsibility is running his biotechnology company, Surfactant Technologies, whose focus is on the development of innovative drug delivery systems for treating cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, he does offer services and product-, that can assist you with your diet along with access to his technical staff for your continued support. Why does he do this? Because he feels that the practical application of his research described in The Zone will have a powerful and beneficial impact on the future of the U.S. health care system. Barry Sears (copyright 1995)
01. Creative Plan
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