Using the Zone Diet to Improve Performance

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Some CrossFitters are choosing to get in the “zone”, but it’s not what you think. The “Zone” is referring to the eponymous diet that was coined by Dr. Barry Sears. As a nutritional plan with a balanced approach, the Zone Diet has numerous advocates who say it helps improve their performance in – and out of – the box.

The Zone Diet in a Nutshell

The Zone Diet is a little different than other diets in that it suggests that your calories be divided evenly at each meal. Dr. Sears says the optimal ratio is 30:30:40; this translates to 30 percent of your calories from fat, 30 percent from protein and 40 percent from carbs. The trick is that the dieter must stay within this proportional guideline every time he or she eats during the day. This means a CrossFitter cannot opt for a protein-heavy shake directly before or after the WOD; all meals are supposed to be 30:30:40.

CrossFitters interested in the Zone should also note that they are supposed to eat three main meals and two snacks a day. In general, five hours should never pass without having some food. Again, Dr. Sears reports that this balances sugars and hormones, ultimately helping to avoid spikes in energy, mood and stamina. Men and women who swear by the Zone talk of not having those two o’clock “crashes” that always seem to encourage a visit to a fatty food vending machine.

The Zone Diet Benefits

In terms of benefits, the Zone does have plenty going for it, even for athletes. For instance:

• It’s very high in veggies and fiber. This translates to a boost of vitamins and minerals from natural sources, something any dentist or doctor is going to recommend.

• It promotes a better understanding of the way food can affect living. Those on the Zone nutritional plan learn how to adjust their eating habits, and seem to have a good grasp on the value of each food they are eating.

• It can be vegan and vegetarian friendly. Not a fan of meat or dairy? No problem! You’ll find something to fit into the 30:30:40 rule.

• Those with food allergies or medical conditions can join the Zone. There’s enough variety in the “allowable” food groups for those who can’t eat gluten, sugars, etc., to feel good about doing this diet.

• There are recipes galore online. Not only is there a book on the Zone, but it has spawned untold websites dedicated to sharing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack plating options.

One other “pro” that should be mentioned is that even though the Zone is meant to be followed religiously for maximum power, it can be peppered with “cheat days”. For instance, some Zone dieters like to pick a weekend day to eat whatever they want, just so they don’t become bored or feel like they’re missing out.

The Zone Diet and CrossFit

With so many advantages, it’s no wonder that the Zone has gained momentum among CrossFitters. Yet there is a precaution that has to be addressed by every CrossFit enthusiast: The daily calorie count.

On the Zone diet, most women will eat around 1200 calories a day; most guys will be in the 1500 calories per day range. This is woefully low by any standards, and though it will speed up weight loss, it might not be enough to get through a tough WOD. Of course, the way to combat this issue is simply to add more meals or snacks to the program. However, it may be tough to do so because so many Zone dieters claim they just aren’t hungry because of the program’s “balancing act”.
Still, it may be worth the time to look into “zoning out” for a few weeks. If nothing else, it will give you a new appreciation of the way that food can totally change your body’s responsiveness in the box.

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