Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CrossKitchen: Enter The Zone

From CFEB; By Daniel on September 28, 2009 9:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

I'd like to take a moment to call out our friend and fellow athlete Raphael Dozzi. Now, athletically speaking, Raph has a few things going for him that make him a great CrossFitter: yes, he's young and has good genes, but he's also dogmatic about coming to as many workouts in a week as he can, and making up those he can't. And we've all seen the passionate intensity he brings to his workouts.

All of this is great, but I could also point to several other CFEB regulars who share the same traits. So why am I focusing on Raph this week? Because lately Raph has an ally in his corner that, to my knowledge, none of the rest of us (besides Max) do: the Zone diet. Since he started zoning strictly, Raph's performance has gone through the roof - he's been shedding bodyfat noticeably, his Clean & Jerk is one of the best in CFEB, and his Fight Gone Bad went from an already respectable 270 to a very impressive 306. At that level, a 36 point jump in your Fight Gone Bad score does not just happen - it is a solid indicator of athletic improvement.

His story, while impressive, is not unique - you read about it all the time from CrossFitters who fix their diet, typically by starting the Zone. The Zone Diet is the official diet of CrossFit. While variations of Paleo are also popular, Zone is what they taught me at my level 1 cert, and Zone is the first thing they advocate on CrossFit.com. Nearly all the top performers at the Games swear by the Zone. I've even heard that CrossFit NorCal (Robb Wolf's box), flat out will not let you join the gym unless you agree to eat Zone.

I blush to confess that I have never personally tried the Zone. I am intimidated by all the math that's involved. I almost never use measuring implements when I cook, much less the scale. But inspired by Raph, I've resolved to put my misgivings behind me and commit to going strict Zone for the month of October - and I invite you to join me. I will dedicate CrossKitchen for the month of October to an exploration of the Zone, and share with you any recipes, tips and insights that I gain, and hope you will do the same. 30 days, and we can blow it all out in style on Halloween. Let's do this thing!

OK!...but...uh...what is the Zone?

Sorry. I got ahead of myself there. First things first: the Zone Diet is a somewhat unique take on dieting invented by Dr. Barry Sears. His theory is that the human body performs optimally on a diet wherein the ratio of each meal is 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates. When eating this way, the body enters a "Zone" where it is firing on all cylinders, easily converting bodyfat to energy and sidestepping the rollercoaster of hormone release caused by eating things all out of proportion.

You can read more at the official Zone Diet website, but it's something of a marketing nightmare. I would encourage you instead to consult the Bible of the Zone for Crossfitters: Journal issue #21. It's freely available, and packed with far more practical information in an easy-to-read format than any of the Zone materials I've read. I will endeavor to provide a quick overview here, but if you're serious about trying this I highly recommend reading the journal article at least.

A quick rundown: Meet the Block

The Zone Diet is built out of "blocks." A block is made of 7 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat and 9 grams of carbohydrates. Consuming food in these proportions will meet the 30/30/40 requirement.

The next step is figuring out how many blocks you should eat in a day. There is a calculation for that. Here's what you do: head over to my blog, and on the right you'll see a bodyfat calculator. Fill in your numbers, and you'll get a lean body weight. Multiply this number by 0.7, then divide by 7 for your block count. Using me as an example: a lean body mass of 157 times 0.7 comes to 110, divided by 7 comes to 15.7, so I can eat 16 blocks a day. This could be four 4-block meals, or (more likely) three 4-block meals and two 2-block snacks, or... well, the permutations are extensive.

(Side note: if you are already at a very low bodyfat (ie, 8% for men, 13% for women), then you should double or triple the amount of fat you're allowed in each block, or risk losing too much weight).

Practical application

CFJ #21 is full of helpful tips on how to convert all these numbers into actual food that you can eat. Take one food from the protein column, one from carbs and one from fat and you have a block of food - multiply quantities for more blocks. Or just pick something from the sample menus. There are also plenty of online resources for zone recipes. If I find anything particularly compelling, I'll be sure to share it - I hope you'll do the same for me.

So who's on board?

Anyone else ready to take the plunge? Sound off in the comments! Questions? Fire away and Max, Raph and I can do our best to clear up confusion.


Samantha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Polly said...

I think it is funny how, using the zone measurements, I am at 27.8% body fat as a woman and just for fun, if I put in my measurements as a man - 5% body fat. It doesn't matter if you put in how active you are! Do you think the average would be the most accurate? http://www.drsears.com/ZoneResources/BodyFatCalculator/tabid/414/Default.aspx

Maximus Lewin said...


I would use the CF Journal # 21 "Athletic well-muscled female" category and try 14 blocks.


The BMI calculator in question is based on population studies, and you are off the charts (literally) in terms of female body comp.

I am guessing you are around 19% bodyfat, on the leaner side, but not yet ripped. I think you will be amazed by the performance side of the zone more than anything.