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Breaking Down Popular Diets

Most people that participate in strength and conditioning programs adhere to some type of diet, or focus their diet on vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. With so many different diets, they are hard to keep up with! “Paleo”, “Primal” and “Zone” are probably the most popular of these diets, so we’re breaking them down in this blog post. Paleo:  The Paleo diet, developed by Dr. Loren Cordain in 2002, is a popular diet that focuses on foods that were common with our Paleolithic ancestors. It is also referred to as the “caveman diet”. For the most part if it is processed, contains gluten, corn, legumes, dairy, added sugar, or comes in a wrapper- it is off limits. Alcohol is also off-limits on the Paleo diet. (Gasp). There aren’t strict measurements for macronutrients (% fat, carbs, protein in your daily diet) with the Paleo diet. Instead, an emphasis is placed on getting the majority of your calories from lean meats (preferably grass-fed), vegetables, nuts and seeds, and berries (and sometimes other fruits). The Paleo diet also places an emphasis on healthy fats, but encourages a lower amount of saturated fats. Reducing saturated fat intake can be achieved by eating leaner cuts of meat and fish. Primal “Blueprint”: The Primal Blueprint, developed in 2009 by Mark Sisson, is very similar to the Paleo diet as it places a strong focus on good protein, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. The Primal Blueprint differs from Paleo in regards to its recommendation for saturated fat intake. Saturated fats are limited in the Paleo diet, but not in the Primal Blueprint. Paleo places a greater emphasis on leaner cuts of meat, whereas the Primal Blueprint does not shy away from fattier cuts of meat. Zone:   The Zone diet, developed by biochemist Barry Sears, advocates consuming calories at every meal in a balanced ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. The Zone diet was developed and designed to control the expression of inflammatory genes.  This controlled state of inflammatory genes is referred to as the “Zone”, and is believed to be where your body functions optimally. The main foods for this diet are low-fat proteins like chicken and fish, colorful carbohydrates (that are high in polyphenols - polyphenols are important in the prevention of degenerative diseases and are antioxidants), and fat that is low in both Omega-6 and saturated fat. A simple way to eat Zone is to divide your plate into thirds. Fill one third of your plate with a low-fat protein, and and fill two-thirds of your plate with colorful carbohydrates. For your carbohydrates you should focus on non-starchy vegetables and fruit. To complete your meal, the Zone Diet recommends adding a fat source. This should be a small amount (a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of guacamole), and should be low in Omega-6 and saturated fat. A more complex and in-depth way to eat Zone, is to break down your meals and snacks into “blocks”.  A block is used as a unit of measure to create balanced meals. 7 grams of protein = 1 block of protein 9 grams of carbohydrate = 1 block of carbohydrate 1.5 grams of fat = 1 block of fat (There is also an assumption that there is about 1.5 grams of fat in one block of protein, so the total amount of fat in a 1 block meal is 3 grams). Based on this, a “1 block” meal or snack would consist of 7 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fat. By percentages your meal or snacks should be 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. A great place to check out the Zone diet in more depth and get some ideas on how to eat Zone is the CrossFit Journal: http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/cfjissue21_May04.pdf