Zone Diet FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the Zone Diet

How do I know if I'm in the Zone?

There are a number of things that you may experience when you are in the Zone. You may have more energy, better mental focus, or reduced hunger and cravings. You won't get that tired feeling that many experience late in the day. Basically, you should have a feeling of overall well being. If you are not experiencing these things after following the program for a couple of weeks, you are probably not in the Zone.

When can I expect to see results?

You'll be happy to learn that some changes will become apparent almost overnight. You will likely notice an increase in urination as your body naturally rids itself of excess sodium and water. Any swelling of your legs (edema) will begin to disappear. A weight loss of over five pounds in the two weeks is not unlikely but this is not true fat loss. You can expect weight loss to even out after an initial two week period. Loss of body fat occurs at a rate of a pound to a pound and a half per week. This the safe and desired physiological rate for most people and will become apparent by the third week of the ZonePerfect Nutrition Program.

As you harness the power of food, you can expect increased energy levels and better mental focus within 48 hours. Your cholesterol profile - especially the triglyceride and HDL levels - will show dramatic improvement at about six weeks.

Is the Zone a high protein diet?

No, the Zone is protein adequate. High protein diets usually allow you to eat as much protein and fat as you want and severely limit your carbohydrate intake. The Zone recommends eating only enough protein to satisfy your body's requirements. Because you are always consuming more carbohydrates than protein with the Zone you will not experience ketosis.

Can you follow the zone if you are pregnant? What adjustments do I have to make?

For pregnant women, increase your daily blocks by three adding one block to each of your major meals. This increase is to ensure adequate protein for both mother and child. Be advised, regardless of your calculations, a pregnant woman should eat a minimum of 14 blocks a day.

Can I safely breastfeed while on the Zone? What adjustments do I have to make?

For nursing mothers, increase your daily blocks by one and a half to two blocks by adding approximately one half block to each meal. If you were following the Zone throughout your pregnancy you will actually be decreasing your blocks by one to one and a half. The minimum blocks for any nursing mother is 13 blocks a day.

Can children follow the Zone?

Children can safely follow The Zone diet. Since they are still growing, however, calculation of their correct protein needs is difficult. We recommend that you supply all meals and snacks to children in the proper ratio of protein/carbohydrate/fat, but be generous with their total block count. Once they begin to get used to eating in the Zone, and any carbohydrate addiction comes under control, your child will begin to eat more appropriately which will ensure an adequate nutrient intake. You can start easing them into the Zone Program by eliminating all soda and fruit juice, cutting up fruit and combining IT with string cheese, and eliminating all foods containing partially hydrogenated oil (especially prevalent in most peanut butter).

Is the Zone safe for diabetics?

The Zone is safe for both type I and type II diabetics. Type II diabetics will likely have much improved blood sugar control by following the ZonePerfect Nutrition Program. All diabetics should be in close contact with their physicians as they embark on the ZonePerfect Nutrition Program. Type I diabetics will likely see their insulin dosage greatly reduced almost immediately and should be working closely with a health care professional.

What is the best way to get started?

There are many ways to learn about the Zone. The ZonePerfect web site is a great place to start. It is loaded with informative resources, articles that are updated daily, and support from other Zoners. We also suggest reading at least one of Dr. Sears' books. most people who are on the Zone advise beginners to read at least one book so they will have a good background in how and why the Zone works.

ZonePerfect Nutrition has several products available for purchase that are designed to help get you into the Zone quickly and easily. The Quick Start Kit is a perfect example. It is filled with ZonePerfect Nutrition support products and ZonePerfect Food products to help you get a sense what it means to be in the Zone. You get to try the ZonePerfect Nutritional products as well as get all the information you need. We especially recommend the video, The ZonePerfect Nutrition Program Made Simple and Easy. This video is included in the Quick Start Kit as well as being offered for purchase by itself or with the ZonePerfect Handbook. For more information on any of these products you can call 800-390-6690 and speak to a sales associate or visit our web site store.

Visiting some specific areas on this website will also provide you with a lot of useful information. The Guide to the Zone and the Mastering the Zone sections offer two choices for an informative overview of the program. This FAQ section contains the most frequently asked questions, while the Health Zone Q&A section offers daily answers to reader questions by one of our health experts, Jeanne Rhynsburger RN. The discussion board is another resource that is very useful as it offers a place for readers to share tips, ideas, recipes and support.

What is a Zone Block?

The block system was developed to make entering the Zone easier. A Zone block is made up of a mini-block from each macronutrient category (protein, carbohydrate and fat). By balancing your mini-blocks in a 1:1:1 ratio, you can easily attain the proper caloric ratio of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat without having to measure grams.

What is a mini-block?

A mini-block refers to one block of carbohydrate or protein or fat. One mini-block from each macronutrient, when put together, make up one block. One mini-block of carbohydrates is equal to 9 grams. This could be a half of an apple or a cup of green beans. One mini-block of protein is equal to 7 grams. An ounce of chicken or lean meat is a good example of a mini-block of protein. One mini-block of fat is equal to 1.5 grams (or 3 grams - see below). This could be 1/3 tsp. of olive oil or a few nuts. See our online food database for more information on serving sizes for thousands of food items.

How many grams in a fat block?

Technically speaking, each fat block is 3 grams. In his writings, Dr. Sears has assumed one would be using a Low-fat protein source (not non-fat), such as chicken, for their protein requirement. In each block of low-fat protein, there is approx. 1.5 grams of "hidden" fat. Therefore, you only need to add 1.5 grams of fat to get the desired 3 grams. If you are using a NON-fat protein source, such as non-fat cottage cheese or protein powder, you should double your fat blocks from the amounts as they are listed in the books in order to get the full 3 grams of fat per block. Making this adjustment will yield the 30%P, 40%C, and 30%F Zone ratio depending on which type of protein you are using. Likewise, if you are using a protein source which is higher in fat, you shouldn't add any additional fat.

How do I find out how much food I should be eating?

Go to our online calculator to get your personal profile. It will tell you how many blocks you should be eating.

The book says I should eat 8 blocks a day and the online calculator says I should eat 11 blocks a day. How much should I eat?
The minimum number of blocks an adult should have is 11 blocks. This minimum was adjusted, due to added research, after Dr. Sears' first three books were written.

My weight is off the charts. How do I know how many blocks I should eat?

If your weight or measurements are off the charts, assume that you are 50% body fat and calculate your blocks from there. Also, estimate your activity level at least one level higher than it actually is. Once you start losing weight and your measurements are within the charts, recalculate your blocks using the calculations in the books or the online calculator.

Is a block of fat 1.5 or 3 grams?

Technically speaking, each fat block is 3 grams.The Zone assumes that one would be using a low-fat protein source (not non-fat), such as chicken, for their protein requirement. In each block of low-fat protein, there is approx. 1.5 grams of "hidden" fat. Therefore, you only need to add 1.5 grams of fat to get the desired 3 grams. If you are using a NON-fat protein source, such as non-fat cottage cheese or protein powder, you should double your fat blocks from the amounts as they are listed in the books in order to get the full 3 grams of fat per block. Making this adjustment will yield the 30%P, 40%C, and 30%F Zone ratio depending on which type of protein you are using. Likewise, if you are using a protein source which is higher in fat, you shouldn't add any additional fat.

What type of fat should I use for my required fat blocks?

You should choose monounsaturated fat sources for your added fat. Some good sources include olives, olive oil, almonds, macadamia nuts and avocados. Some saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are required by the body but most people will likely get more than enough from their low fat protein sources.

How strict do I have to be with my fat blocks?

Since monounsaturated fat has no effect on insulin levels, strictly counting every gram is not necessary. This is not to say that you can have as much fat as you want. Remember that each gram of fat has 9 calories while each gram of protein and carbohydrate has only 4 grams. This means that those fat grams can add up rather quickly. While keeping the appropriate protein to carb ratio is important on the zone, also important is keeping total calories consumed low.

So if you are trying to lose weight, it is important to keep close to 30% fat. If you are maintaining your weight, you should be adding more fat blocks to help stabilize weight loss. See maintenance.

How do I put together a Zone meal?

A mini-block of protein is equal to 7 grams of protein, a mini block of carbohydrate is equal to 9 grams, a mini-block of fat is equal to 1.5 grams (or 3 grams when Zoning labels or when your protein source is completely fat free). To be in the Zone, you need to have your meals balanced in a 1-1-1 ratio, one mini-block of each macronutrient is equal to one block. To make a three block meal, you can put together three blocks any way you want, as long as it's balanced.

To construct a meal, look at the mini-block guide or the online block guide for a more comprehensive listing of individual food items and their one mini-block serving size. Following is an example of how to make a 4 block meal.

1. All foods listed in these resources show a one block serving size. Chicken is 1 oz. per block. You need 4 blocks so, you would need 4 ounces of chicken. 4 x 1 oz = 4 oz.

2. Do the same with carbohydrates.1/2 apple is 1 block of carbohydrate.
You would need to eat 2 apples to make 4 blocks. 4 x 1/2 = 2 (apples); or 1 apple (two blocks) and two cups of green beans (two blocks).

3. Then follow the same procedure with fat. You can add 3 tsp. of slivered almonds to your green beans or use 1 tsp. of olive oil to cook the chicken.

When measuring protein blocks of meats do I go by the weight before or after cooking?
The measurements are for uncooked portions unless otherwise noted.

How do you measure 1/8 of a teaspoon or 20 Cups?

Because of the unfavorable nature of some food items, their serving sizes appear to be very small, while other very favorable foods may appear to be so high that a person could not possibly eat one mini-block's worth at a sitting. These serving sizes should serve as an indicator of a food item's place in the Zone diet. For example, if 1/8 tsp. of an item is equal to one mini-block you may wish to choose another food with which to finish off your meal since the serving size is an indication that the food item is not very favorable. Conversely, if 20 cups of a food item makes one mini-block, you should treat a small serving of a cup or so as a "freebie" when eaten with your meal.

What types of food should I be eating while on the Zone?

On the Zone we recommend that 30% of your calories come from protein, 40% of your calories should come from carbohydrates and 30% of your calories should come from fat, primarily monounsaturated fat. See our Seven Day Meal Plan for an example of some Zone meals. You can also use our Online Cookbook to make your own meal plan.

What is the difference between a favorable and unfavorable carbohydrate?

Unfavorable carbohydrates are so labeled because of their glycemic index. If a food has a number high on the glycemic index, this means that it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream - the higher the number the more quickly it is absorbed. Your insulin levels will rise faster and you will get hungry sooner after a meal with high glycemic carbohydrates. You can still follow the Zone and use some unfavorable carbs, but the fewer you use, the more benefits you will likely see. We usually recommend that no more than 25% of your carbohydrates at each meal should come from unfavorable sources.

Some examples of the most unfavorable or high glycemic carbohydrates are highly refined food sources such as pasta, white breads, potatoes, and breakfast cereals. Some examples of the most favorable carbohydrate sources are fruits and vegetables. For a more complete listing of favorable and unfavorable carbohydrates, along with their serving sizes, see our mini-block food guide.

Can I ever have bread or potatoes again?

The Zone is not about completely avoiding certain foods, but more about making wise choices and balancing your foods. No food is absolutely banned on the Zone. While these food items should not be used often, it is ok to include them with your meals on occasion. As a general rule, you should try to keep unfavorable carbohydrates to 25% or less of your total carbohydrate allotment.

Can I have my morning coffee on the Zone?

We do not recommend the use of caffeinated beverages, including coffee and some teas, as caffeine can have a negative affect on your insulin levels. Try switching to decaffeinated coffee or limiting your coffee intake to one cup a day.

How do artificial sweeteners fit into the Zone?

Some artificial sweeteners are better than others. We do not recommend the use of many artificial sweeteners as they can stimulate insulin. Fortunately, there are some sweeteners that have a place in the Zone, Sucralose is a good Zone sweetener. It has no carbohydrate calories and it has little or no effect on insulin. For more information see the Health Zone article titled Glycemic Index of Sugar and Sweeteners.

What can I drink?

Water should be your main beverage. You should drink at least 64 oz. of water every day. The caffeine and artificial sweeteners found in coffee, tea, and soft drinks can have a negative affect on your insulin levels and should be kept to a minimum or totally avoided. You can add lemon or limes to your water or drink commercial bottled waters that have a hint of fruit flavor added to them. Remember to read the labels to be sure there are no carbohydrate calories in them.

If fat has no effect on insulin, why do we have to limit fat intake at all?

Fat, especially monounsaturated fat, has no effect on insulin, but that is not an excuse for fat gluttony. Remember that any incoming calories have to be metabolized for use as immediate energy or stored for future use. Fat is a very dense calorie source with one gram of fat containing nine calories and it is very easy to consume too much. If you consume more fat blocks than can be used immediately, the excess will be stored as fat. You will also be allowing the production of free radicals and accelerating aging.

When should Zone meals and snacks take place?

We recommend starting with a basic schedule of three major meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and using snacks in the late afternoon and right before bedtime. This schedule, however, is not set in stone. You should feel free to move your blocks around your day in any way that fits your lifestyle. In fact, many people find that eating five or six small meals throughout the day works better for them.

How frequently should I eat?

The Zone recommends eating 5-6 times a day. You shouldn't go more than 5 hours without a Zone meal or snack. You should eat a Zone meal or snack within an hour of waking and a snack should be consumed within an hour of going to sleep. This schedule will help keep your insulin at an even level during your night's sleep. A meal should sustain you for about five hours while a snack is designed to hold you over for about 2 hours.

I'm a pure 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. The new generation of soybean-based imitation meat products (hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, etc.) are another excellent way of getting protein-rich vegetarian foods into your existing meals. You don't have to eat meat to enter the Zone.


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