If you’ve been at the gym for a while now you’ve probably caught wind of the “paleo vs zone” debate. Heck, you’ve probably wrestled with it yourself trying to figure out which works best for you in your nutrition endeavors. And if the words Paleo and Zone don’t mean anything at all to you, please see a CFK trainer ASAP; you’re leaving valuable body composition and performance gains on the table. As far as CrossFit Kinnick is concerned, there isn’t any Paleo vs Zone debate. It’s simple…DO BOTH! You might think we’re Zone Nazi’s here at CFK, but what we really advocate is a Paleo + Zone diet. That is to say, use Paleo quality foods within the Zone portion parameters.
What Is Paleo?
A Paleo Diet is a diet consisting of only natural foods to help achieve optimum health. The idea? The human body evolved, and thrived, for more than 2 million years with the food found in nature: meat, fish, vegetables, wild fruits, eggs and nuts. It was a diet high in animal fat and proteins and low in carbohydrates. Things changed though when we introduced unnatural foods to our bodies. The foods that we started eating in large quantity at the time of the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago are completely alien to our genes and, it’s argued, wreak havoc on our bodies. Studies show strong connections between diets based on processed grains and sugars and diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and a host of other conditions that were unknown to our ancestors.
It is important to note that no strict portions for any of the macronutrients are required, although a high-protein, high-fat, low-carb prescription is most commonly used. Oh, and yeah, cavemen weren’t overweight.
What Is Zone?
The Zone diet utilizes portions to control blood sugar and insulin levels, which ultimately have tremendous effects on weight control. Dr. Sears, the founder of the Zone diet, has done extensive research on macronutrients and their effects on our bodies. He’s found that a diet consisting of a 40%:30%:30% ratio of calories obtained daily from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, respectively, keep your body in hormonal balance. Hormonal balance, mostly that of insulin, keeps you from storing excess sugars as fat. In addition, your body will release the fat you have stored, as adipose tissue, for energy. This results in body fat loss and lean mass (muscle) gain/maintenance. It is important to note that all foods are acceptable on the Zone diet (any and all processed sugars), just so long as the 40:30:30 ratio is maintained.
The Zone diet offers another very important aspect of eating that most people tend to overlook: a reference point. Because you are eating very specific amounts of food each day, you’ll easily be able to adjust your intake based on your goals/needs. For example, if you’ve been allotted 15 blocks for the day, but you haven’t been experiencing your desired fat loss, your total blocks can be reduced to 13 or 14. In addition, we’ll know exactly how many of your blocks are coming from what types of foods. Too much fruit, as opposed to vegetables for carbs, because of it’s natural sugary make-up, can stunt your progress. It would be difficult to recognize that fact and make the necessary adjustments if portions weren’t strictly controlled.
Alone, the Paleo and Zone diets are good. Together, nothing compares. A Paleo-Zone diet gives you all of the benefits of eating clean, natural foods, plus the chemistry and science behind eating carbs, proteins, and fats in specific portions. One does not have to mean the expense of the other, as many tend to claim. In fact, given the flexible nature of both, they seem to fit perfectly together.
We’ve had a ton of success at our gym with those who have committed themselves to a strict Paleo-Zone diet for at least 2 weeks. Look no further than our very own Jeremy Kinnick for the results it has to offer. In fact, all of our “competitor” athletes at CFK follow a strict Paleo-Zone diet and it’s no coincidence that they also happen to regularly put up the top numbers at the gym. Almost immediately, you’ll begin to feel the power of such a diet via more energy for both your daily life and your workouts.
If you are struggling with the weighing and measuring of foods that comes with the Zone diet, I highly recommend starting with a Paleo based diet first. Work on eliminating all of the processed foods in your life. Once you’ve mastered that, we can begin to hone in on the specific measurements required to optimize your energy levels.