Then… 3 Rounds of:
15 Box Step Over @ 20/16
3 Rope Climb
2 Power Clean @ 225/155
Notes from the Zone Talk
I was happy to see such a good turnout for the Zone Diet talk on Tuesday. Not everyone who wanted to attend was able so here are some main points that we discussed:
What is the Zone?
The Zone is a way of eating that requires you to weigh and measure your macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and keep their intake within a specific ratio. The standard or starting ratio is 40/30/30 of carbohydrates, protein and fat respectively. The Zone takes this idea one step further by creating “blocks” to help keep intake measured and consistent. A block is complied of mini-blocks made up by those macronutrients.
- 1 mini block of carbohydrates = 9g carbs
- 1 mini block of protein = 7g protein
- 1 mini block of fat = 1.5 – 3g fat
When these mini-blocks are combined, they make up a block. In other words, one block of food consists of a mini-block of each macronutrient. So, let’s assume we have a female athlete who eats 12 blocks, here is what a 3 block breakfast would look like:
3 block breakfast
- 3 eggs = 3 mini-blocks of protein
- 1 apple = 2 mini-blocks of carb
- 7 cherries = 1 mini-block of carb
- 9 almonds = 3 mini-blocks of fat
The Zone is recommended by CrossFit because it is measurable and repeatable. Just like we track the weights used, distance traveled, reps completed and times for your WOD to track your progress, we are keeping track of macronutrients consumed, and consuming them in a consistent manner. This consistency allows us to look at an athlete’s performance and see if what they are eating is improving their fitness or if their diet still needs some fine tuning.
After a few weeks, the diet can be adjusted or tweaked to better meet the needs and support the performance of the athlete if necessary.
Keep in mind that the Zone isn’t Paleo. It is a way to control food quantity, not quality. So you can Zone a donut or ice cream or a Big Mac. You will just end up eating a much small amount of those foods as compared to most fruits and vegetables. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, try combining the macronutrient control of the Zone with the quality emphasis of a Paleo or whole food way of eating.
- Not starting—Not sure how many blocks you should eat? Here’s a quick and easy method, grab a t-shirt out of your draw. Look at the size on the label. Compare that size (small, medium, large, etc) to the block prescription chart in the CrossFit Journal Zone article. Done! Sure, it might be a few too many blocks or not enough, but you won’t know unless you get started.
- Quitting after a week. Chances are you will feel hungry, tired or sluggish the first few days. It should subside. But stick with it! If you are still feeling tired and rundown beyond that, we can talk about adjustments.
- Confusing mini-blocks with your block prescription. Remember, a block consists of a carb, protein and fat mini-block.
- Grossly over/under estimating blocks. Many online Zone block estimators will have you estimate your activity level. Chances are it’s not as high as you think (i.e. you are not an “Olympian”), even if you are working out 5 days a week. On the other hand, if you are looking to lose weight or lean out, that doesn’t mean you should drastically cut your block intake. Instead, you need to eat for the size you are now, not the size you want to be. As you lose weight, as your body starts using energy more efficiently, you will lose weight and require fewer blocks. If you are a “hard gainer” then you will need to eat more blocks.
- Changing too many variables at once. After two weeks, we can start adjusting your blocks or macros if needed. What you don’t want to do is change a bunch of things at once. If you do, we won’t know what’s help or working against you. Make one change, stick with it for a few weeks to evaluate its impact on your performance.
- Getting bogged down by vegetables. I’ve done it myself. You are starting the Zone and want to make the healthiest choices possible, or you think fruit is the devil, so you stick with only the “favorable” vegetables. Well, 4 cups of raw spinach is one block of carbohydrates, so buckle up if you are going that route, you are going to be doing a lot of chewing! Instead, try cooked vegetables to cut down your volume or fruit. You can even, gasp!, use some unfavorable carbs in larger block meals. The carbs on that list are higher glycemic, meaning they raise your blood sugar faster. However, there are some perfectly healthy foods on that list, like squash and sweet potatoes. You won’t be eating as much, but that’s the while point.
I have Zoned off and on for the last 5 years. Recently, I have been zoning for about a month. I had been thinking about getting back on the Zone for months but was worried that it would take too much time. Finally, after thinking and then talking about it, I just started incorporating it into my meals. I started with just breakfast for a day of two. Then I decided to see what a Zoned lunch would look like. Unlike other times starting the Zone, I didn’t make a big ordeal out of it. I didn’t change what I was eating, I simply modified the portions and ratios.
I am currently eating 11 blocks at 2x fat. This is the first time I’ve played around with 2x fat and I am much happier for it. I actually started off with more blocks, but “leveled out” to 11. I’ve lost about six pounds, but more importantly, I have been feeling great during the WODs. I’ve PR’d WOD times I wasn’t sure I would get near again, like “Karen” and the 1K Row. Honestly, as nice as it would be to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, I’d rather take a PR on a pre-pregnancy WOD any day.
Compared to what I was eating previously, I am eating more carbs and less fat with no real change in protein. Importantly, I’m not hungry all the time. You should never be hungry all the time! I’ve also noticed that I am saving a small fortune by not going through dark chocolate as quickly and by not going Starbucks nearly as often. I drink Americanos with heavy whipping cream, and since I don’t know how much they are putting in the drink, I’ve opted to make coffee at home more often. Or I order it black and add the cream myself so I can control the amount.
I am also not living for my cheat meal. I think it is in part because my blood sugar is better regulated, but also because I see this stuff working for my performance and I want to keep that momentum going.
If you are interested in reading more, start with the previously mentioned CrossFit Journal article. And if you have questions about the Zone or food in general, please ask!