“The Zone, I’ll say, isn’t by far the worst diet out there. It gets a few key things right or somewhat close. That said, however, I think there’s big room for improvement.” – Mark Sisson
I hear it all the time from crossfitters – “Zone/Paleo is the best way to eat.” I’ve not had one of those people able to tell me why. Although I would rather see people that insist on eating a zone diet eliminate harmful grains and legumes from their diet, the 40 carbs/30 protein/30 fats breakdown misses the mark when it comes to optimal nutrition. It is proportionatly much better than the modern industrialized diet and that is why many experience results with it.
Let’s look at the carbohydrate load here. Carbohydrates are sugars, so we’ll call them just that to avoid confusion. Your body does need some sugar to run and that’s fine. You body does not need 40% of it’s energy to come from sugar. There are many reasons for this but I would look up AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End products – Think of sugar caramelizing on the stove and then think of that happening in side your body) and that should be enough to scare the crap out of you.
Protein. If you are crossfitting then you know you need your protein…30% of your diet is simply not sufficient. You are really pushing your body, trust me I know, so fuel it fuel it properly. Also, soy, as Dr. Sears recommends is not an optimal source of protein and studies show that it lowers testosterone. Eat more protein. How much? Try going paleo for 30 days and then your body will tell you once your hormones are back to normal. You don’t need to weigh and measure. The human body is indeed an amazing machine.
Fat is good for you. Good fat. By good fat I mean olive oil, avocado, wild caught fish and wild, pastured and grass finished meats and the like. Fat is satiating and is designed to be used as a primary source of energy. The zone limits fat intake below what most paleo eaters consider optimal.
All in all a solid paleo diet consists of quality protein, fat, vegetables and some fruit, nuts and seeds. The zone diet does not reflect this proportion as you see in the food pyramid below.
It’s not just about eliminating grains and legumes. That’s an important part and if you do that you are really on your way to better health. The energy source for the diets is just plain different. Paleo seeks to get your body back to a nutural state where it burns fat for fuel most of the time and sugar when appropriate. Bottom line…to Zone is not Paleo.