Paleo-ized Zone Diet

The post I swore I would write months ago.  Well, better late than never, I suppose.First off, I highly recommend buying the book by Dr. Barry Sears, the biochemist who pioneered the Zone diet, or better yet, get the audio book… it is a relatively short book, and for me, it was just more convenient.   It spells out all of the theories and scientific stuff that I would probably screw up if I tried to explain it to you.  So instead, I will hit a couple of the high points and show you how I follow the diet.

The Zone Diet

The basics: We are trying to achieve a ratio of 40:30:30.  Of your meal, 40% of the calories should be carbohydrates, 30% should be protein, and 30% should be fat.  This is supposed to create a hormonal balance designed to put your body “in the fat burning Zone.”  Dr. Sears equates food to medicine, and you must have the right doses for this drug called food to have the right effect.  This is the point where I would direct you to the book to get a clearer explanation of eicosanoids (the anti-inflammatory chemical produced by your body) which is regulated by insulin (lowers blood sugar levels) and glucagon (raises blood sugar) levels.  Insulin and glucagon together form a feedback cycle that determines how your body uses carbohydrates and body fat for energy.  You need this proper balance so that the insulin does not tell your body to store the incoming energy (carbs) as fat.  The glucagon signals for the fat in your cells to be released and used as energy.  To put it simply, you don’t want an excess of either one of these.  Thus the balance.

How do I Zone my meals?  To be fair, the book says you can eat ice cream and pasta all day long, as long as you Zone the meals, it doesn’t matter.  However, I am eating Paleo, so I will be showing you how to make Paleo Zone meals.  It takes a while to get used to this, because getting all of your carbs mainly from vegetables means you need to eat A LOT of vegetables.  The Zone is based on blocks.  One block of protein is 7 grams.  One block of carbohydrates is 9 grams.  One block of fat is 1.5 grams (we are assuming you are getting fat out of your protein as well).

So now you just need to determine how many blocks you need per day.  Thanks to the Kanto Plain CrossFit folks, this handy link will help you determine that: Zone Block Calculator

For example, I am 215 lbs at 23% body fat (what is my body fat?) and my activity level is medium to hard, 3 to 4 times per week.  This gives me 19 blocks.  That means during the course of the day, I need to eat 19 blocks of protein, 19 blocks of carbohydrates, and 19 blocks of fat.  To spread that food out, my breakfast consists of 4 blocks, a midmorning snack is 2 blocks, lunch is another 4 blocks, another snack is 2 blocks, dinner is 5 blocks, and a bedtime snack of 2 blocks. 

Using another link from Kanto Plain CrossFit, I made a Paleo list of foods that are one block apiece with ounces or grams as appropriate.  We had to use the grams portion of the list in Japan, because we couldn’t find a food scale in ounces. 

You are highly encouraged to weigh your food for at least a week to get a good feel for how big the blocks are.  Some foods are easier than others.  For instance, one egg is one block.  A good food scale is indispensable.  I recently found this  Food Scale, and it is awesome. 

Perfect Portion Food Scale WITH Nutrition Facts

To make things easier, there is also the plate method: take your plate, divide it in to thirds.  One third should be a protein source, the remaining two-thirds should be carbohydrates.  Imagine a chicken breast or a steak surrounded by spinach and broccoli.  There is also the hand method.  The protein should be the size of your fist or your open palm (and just as thick), if you are using Paleo carbs, should be the size of two fists, if not, only one fist.  And your fat source should be the amount you can fit easily in your cupped hand.  The macadamia nut is a fat source and one nut is one block.  Seriously. 

Zone Diet Portions except it should say Protein as opposed to low fat protein.

You should be able to tell if your balance is correct in constructing a Zone meal if you find that you are satiated and not hungry for the next four to six hours.  There are those folks that say you lose weight on the Zone diet not because you have struck the ideal balance, but because you are ultimately limiting calories.  I would suggest that the amount of weight I have lost is probably a combination of both.

Was this post helpful?  Informative?  Difficult to read?  A waste of your time?  Already written about all over the internet and this was just a waste of cyberspace?  Let me know and leave a comment on how I can improve this.

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Fitness Prize Winner!

So the announcement winner of the Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale has been a little overdue. *Go ahead and imagine a drum roll in your head*  And the winner is:

Kelsey Balch!

Her idea trying out a new fitness class is a fun way to get out, get active, and find something new that you might like.  Thanks for the great comment, and the scale is on its way!

And the other piece that I had promised a few weeks ago… pictures of the travesty that is the shaved front of me.  The pictures on the left are 20 Jun at 232 lbs and the pictures on the right are 1 September at 217.6 lbs.  The change is coming slowly but surely.

Looking like a shaved polar bear…

Side view: Not too different from the last comparison… just hairless

Short and sweet tonight.  Thanks for checking out the blog!

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

Trying to stay active with our local box even though I am 5,000 miles away (at least that is what Google Maps says), Jaime and I have signed up with the box’s Paleo Challenge.  50 days of eating clean with zero cheats.  Yikes.  The funny thing is I have been eating really well with the Premade Paleo and finding salads with plenty of chicken or some other sort of protein on top.  I’ve seen plenty of red velvet cakes, brownies, ice cream, cookies, soda, you name it, and not really thought about twice about them.  I didn’t want them.  I didn’t crave them.  But a few days after this Paleo Challenge started on 11 September.  On Day One, the cookies in the lobby suddenly looked much more delicious.  The Coke machine I passed on the way to my room suddenly seemed really tantalizing.  The Zingers in the snack machine looked like they were about to fall through that little coil-holder-thingee and into my hand.  I made it to my room without giving into the temptations, but I was stunned by my inner voice that had suddenly turned evil and clearly against me.

But it lead me to this realization: if you have made the choice of your own volition to make a healthier change in your life, you have made a mindset shift which makes losing weight, gaining muscle, losing fat, or getting fit natural and infinitely easier.  When an external force is applied to your decision making, it is taken out of your hands and it suddenly gets a lot harder.

So what is the point of all of this?  When you are ready, make that decision to change.  But YOU have to be ready.  The only way you can get yourself into the right mindset is be committed to yourself and to your goals.  To that end, once you have made that choice, start immediately.  Don’t wait until the first of the month.  Don’t wait until after the weekend. Don’t wait until Monday. Hell, don’t wait until after the next meal.  Make the change then.  Own it.  And when you slip, and you eat that cookie in the lobby (and are disgusted with yourself because it wasn’t Otis Spunkmeyer at all… somebody put Chips Ahoy in there… jerks), you reflect on what lead you to that slip, and you get back on track right then and there.  Don’t rationalize yourself into going to Five Guys and getting the double bacon cheeseburger.  And since you ate that, you might as well go to Cold Stone.  Not that I know about that from personal experience.  Reflect on where you are and where you want to go, and start again.  Right now.

Excuses, excuses

So I have started writing this post at least four times now.  Thanks to the folks who have shown enough interest to actually write and ask where the update is.  That kind of support is amazing and awesome.  To be fair, trying to get in shape just leaves you kind of busy as it turns out.  And so does going to Six Flags and riding A LOT of roller coasters… with no lines to wait in them.  But more on that in a second.

The thing I am most excited about and was taking up a lot of my time was this CrossFit Level One Trainer Course.  I was spending a good amount of time reading the associated guide so that I could pass the test at the end of the two-day class.  I had not seen any of these courses offered in Hawaii, so when I finally received a quota for the class here in Augusta, I immediately started looking for places close by and in the right timeframe.  Atlanta had been an option, but it filled up too quickly.  The only two remotely realistic places to take the class were San Diego and Orlando.  Well, as it turned out San Diego wasn’t that realistic either.  The Orlando class was already filled, so I sent a very whiny, pleading e-mail (thanks to Jason Suroweic for guiding me down that path) asking if there was anyway I could get in.  They were super helpful in taking my $800 for the course (a $200 military discount…SWEEET), and then I had to figure out how to get to Orlando.  Which takes me to last Friday.  The folks in my class actually let me out a little early so I could make the two and a half hour drive to Atlanta (because the flight out of Augusta was $300 more which the kind folks at Best Western Mount Vernon Inn were extremely happy to help me store… in their cash register.).  So doing the math: a two hour drive to Atlanta, getting there one hour and a half hours early, the one hour flight, one hour to get off the plane and get another rental car, and a thirty minute drive to the hotel… well, it actually adds up to being an hour longer than if I had just drove.  DOH!  You live, you learn.

Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  What an incredible experience.  The coaches (Chuck Carswell, JMac, Lindsey, Courtney, Leah, and Joe) were awesome, helpful, patient, and really contributed to that whole Community of CrossFit feeling.  The information put out… and the way it was presented… made ten times more sense than the Level One Guide I had been poring over for the past two months.

Me and 59 of my new best friends.

A couple of highlights from the weekend: I stayed awake and took notes (take THAT Army communications school), I hit a Personal Record (PR) on Fran of 9:35 (one of the slowest in the class, but whatever).  Fran is 21-15-9 reps of 95 lbs thrusters (think front squat that flows into a shoulder push press) and pull ups.  And I ran 8 miles on Sunday morning before class… which happens to be the longest I have ever run in my entire life.  Took the exam and felt pretty confident walking out that I passed.  We find out in a week or so.  Needless to say, walking today has been painful and difficult.

Okay, so this has already gotten longer than I expected.  So I will post more about my excuses tomorrow.

Only eight more days until I am reunited with my beautiful wife and we can start another adventure!

Travel Week #1 Update

So I have been in Augusta, GA for about a week now.  When I take a left out of my hotel, I am greeted with Wendy’s, Arby’s, Five Guys, and Olive Garden.  If I take a right, I get McDonald’s, the Devil (Krispy Kreme), Chick-fil-A, and a whole other host of Satan’s eateries.  So long story short: THANK GOD FOR PREMADE PALEO!

I ended up getting an entire month’s worth of food which luckily has not thawed out in my fridge.  So I have gotten this question pretty often:  Is it any good?  In short, it is AWESOME.  It is like down home Southern cooking in my hotel room.  A little example of the awesomeness:

Premade Paleo after 6 minutes of prep.

So these things are set up to be one portion of protein and two sides.  The protein has ranged from the White Meatloaf to Homemade Sausage to Poblano Hamburgers.  The sides include Tomato Bisque and Sweet Potato Home Fries and Roasted Broccoli. There are so many options that they don’t get boring.  And it is hard to screw up portion control like this.

So the eating has gone well.  What about the marathon training and the CrossFit?  I actually haven’t missed a WOD or a run.  Well, I missed a Saturday WOD because my alarm decided not to go off, but it was a silly WOD anyway.  At least that is what I am telling myself.  The box has been awesome and everyone has been really supportive.  And it is huge.

The ginormous box of CrossFit 4 Everyone.

I drove to Aiken, South Carolina to get my six mile “long run” in.  I have done all of my training runs around the hotel in Augusta, and there is a serious lack of sidewalks.  And/or decent driving by the locals.  Seriously.  It is scary.  I am pretty sure they are actually TRYING to hit me.  So I drove to Aiken and found Hitchcock Woods.  It is not as ominous as it sounds except for all of the horse poop on the trails… and the six inch deep sand.   It was like running on a beach that was invaded by horses… except with trees… and no water.  Or bikinis.  I slept in late so I missed the morning run and I certainly was not running in 91 degree Georgia, so I waited until a little later in the day.  Unfortunately, I waited a little TOO long.  I started running… in the woods… at around 7:20 p.m.  I should probably point out that sunset is around 7:30 p.m.  I knew it was stupid when I started, but I was going to enjoy my new running environment.  Plus you have 30 minutes after sunset of twilight, right?  Well, I didn’t do a map study of the woods and ended up four miles into my run and still heading away from my car.  And it was starting to get dark… REALLY dark.  Fortunately, right as I hit about 4.2 miles, I popped out on a road, and thanks to the Nike+ Running app, I was able to follow the map back to my car.  

Thanks Nike+ Running!

Alright, so I have been eating clean, made it to a whole bunch of CrossFit WOD’s, and ran 28 miles since my last update.  What are the fruits of this labor?   I weigh 213.2 lbs and my waist is 38.2 inches.  The post last week? 217.6 lbs and a 39.3 in waist.  I would TOTALLY post a picture of this, but I decided to, ummm, trim my chest hair for my reunion with Jaime at the end of the month.  And I ended up shaving a little too close.  I can’t even begin to explain how awkward my chest looks right now.  Its like somebody held down a grizzly bear and shaved its belly.  Seriously.  I will prove it later this week.