Dr Barry Sears is the creator of “The Zone” diet. He came from a family that had a history of men with early deaths due to heart disease. Dr. Sear’s contention was that he could save his own life, despite overwhelming risk factors, by changing the way that he ate. His hypothesis was that by balancing macronutrients to specific quantities he could control the hormonal responses in the body that could have negative effects on health.
The idea of “The Zone” is a term used commonly in sports. When Michael Jordan scores 50 points and says the basket just looked bigger, like he couldn’t miss or when a pitcher throws a perfect game and describes how he could just put pitches wherever he wanted that day people refer to that athlete as being in “The Zone”. This is an area where an athlete just thrives, where things appear to move slower and be easier all of a sudden. Dr. Sears believes that you can create a parallel environment in your body by avoiding sugar spikes throughout the day and controlling quantities of macronutrients to allow the body to achieve a solid state of homeostasis. The premise of the zone is as follows:
- 40% Carbohydrates
- 30% Protein
- 30% Fat
These precise quantities will be represented in a prescription using a measurement called a zone “Block”. One “Block” is:
- 9 grams Carbohydrates
- 7 grams Protein
- 1.5 grams Fat
Based on your activity level and lean body mass you can calculate a starting block prescription of how many blocks you should be eating each day. The formula is as follows:
lean body mass x .7 activity level
7 grams of protein = daily block prescription
So if you are a 200lb male with 10% body fat you have 180lb of lean mass, here is how this formula would work:
180lb (lean body mass) x .7=126 gram per day
7 grams of protein in 1 block=18 blocks/day
The next step is to divide the 18 block into meals no bigger than 5 blocks each throughout the day. This may mean that you are eating more frequently and possibly never to the point to you feel really full. Think of this as putting just enough fuel in your car to keep it running fast, but not weighing it down.
The big point for athletic performance here isn’t the exact block prescription you choose or whether you eat 40/30/30. The point is that now you have all the tools to dial in the exact quantities to figure out what prescription will put your body in the zone. Being able to measure these variables will help you find the right diet to make your body thrive. Some athletes eat more protein or carbohydrates or fat than the baseline prescription but knowing exactly how much you are eating of a specific macronutrient is a huge advantage to be able to make navigational changes in your diet.
For a sport like CrossFit that has a huge metabolic demand, being able to effectively utilize sugars and fuel sources in the body more effectively directly correlates with performance in WODS. If your score are getting better, if you are getting stronger and faster and recovering better this probably mean that your diet is taking you in the right direction. If progress plateaus or starts trending negative, look to your diet to see if you can improve the chemistry in your body to favor high performance.