Making the Zone Diet Work for You by John Erikson

Just one Zone Diet meal is powerful enough to invigorate the mind, strengthen the body and cultivate your emotional state of well-being. The Zone Diet offers a wide range of benefits, without deprivation. Compared to most other diets, zone diet meals are healthy, plentiful and delicious. The Zone Diet is based on the cutting edge research pioneered by Dr. Barry Sears, Ph.D. and many "Zone" Diet companies helped spread Zone Diet awareness throughout society. Today, millions of people worldwide are dedicated zone diet followers.

The Zone Diet is a "40/30/30" balanced diet consisting of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. This ratio of food works to stabilize your blood sugar on a moment-to-moment basis. Blood sugar levels are extremely important because sugar (glucose) is the main source of fuel used by your brain and central nervous system. In fact, going without sugar for more than 10 seconds will result in unconsciousness.

Once you experience what it's like to be "in the zone" you will never look at food the same way again. Within only a few days of starting the Zone Diet, most people experience increased mental focus, greater physical energy and decreased food cravings. These benefits are mainly attributed to the intricate connection between food and hormones. When we eat carbohydrates, they are digested into simple sugars, pass through the wall of the small intestines and then enter into the bloodstream. The pancreas senses this rise in blood sugar and secretes the hormone insulin. Insulin drives blood sugar down by pushing it into muscle, fat and liver cells. This effect is counter-balanced by eating protein, which directly causes the secretion of the hormone glucagon. Glucagon raises blood sugar by causing the liver to release its stored sugar (glycogen) into the blood. The simultaneous interaction of these two hormones (insulin vs. glucagon) keeps your blood sugar at a constant level throughout the day.

The concepts of the Zone Diet require that most of your daily carbohydrates come from low-glycemic, or slow-absorbing fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These types of foods are beneficial because they take a longer time to convert into blood sugar and subsequently less insulin is needed to bring the sugar back down to normal levels. This sustains the availability of sugar and ultimately extends the time between meals. Fast-absorbing carbohydrates, on the other hand absorb quickly and command greater amounts of insulin, bringing about greater blood sugar swings.

Like protein and carbohydrates, fat also acts as a potent hormonal regulator within the body. Dietary fat causes the small intestines to release the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK travels to the brain where it provides you with a feeling of fullness. Feeling satisfied is essential for long term dieting success. Most of your fat should be in the heart healthy, monounsaturated form. Examples include olive oil, nuts, avocado, guacamole, natural peanut butter and Smart Balance(r) Light buttery spread.

A fish oil supplement is strongly suggested while following the Zone Diet because it contains two types of fat that amplify the effects of a 40/30/30 regulated diet. The primary omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are eicopentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fats are essential to life and cannot be manufactured by the body. Scientists initially called these fats "vitamin F," (for fat) an old term that shouldn't be lost. Benefits of omega-3 fats include improved skin and hair, improved cholesterol profile, improved sleep and a decreased risk for inflammatory conditions like heart disease, arthritis and auto-immune disease.

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xercise is a major component to a Zone Diet lifestyle, but results rely mostly on dieting. Your overall fat loss results are estimated at 80% from dieting and 20% from exercising. Meal timing strategies need to be followed during times of activity to enhance performance and to maximize fat loss. Treadmills and stationary bikes can tell us how many calories we burn while performing a physical activity for a given amount of time, yet they can not tell you what you are burning. Muscle cells can burn carbohydrates or fat. What they burn depends on your hormonal levels.

A person who exercises moderately for longer than 20 minutes begins to use less glucose and utilize more fat as fuel. But what did this person just eat? A high carbohydrate meal eaten before the gym will cause insulin to rise in the bloodstream. Insulin causes muscle cells to burn sugar instead of fat. This will increase the amount of time it takes to shift your body into a fat-burning mode. If you show up at the gym with stabilized blood sugar (and therefore stabilized insulin) you can start burning fat right away. You may not have to wait 20 minutes to achieve fat loss!
Getting "in the zone" is easier now than ever before. You can be taught how to create your own zone diet meals, or have them freshly prepared and delivered to your front door. Either way you choose, following a zone diet lifestyle leads to lifelong hormonal control, plus multiple anti-aging benefits and an education of food that is worth its weight in gold.

John Erickson is a Zone-certified nutritionist and author of the "Zone Diet Manual." To obtain proper Zone Diet guidance, and to receive fresh Zone balanced meals delivered right to your home, please contact John at (631) 585-2911 or visit his website at www.usadietplans.com.