Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Eat to Thrive

From "World-Class Fitness in 100 Words":
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.
I'm leaping on the Paleo-Zone bandwagaon. The Zone Diet is a restricted-calorie diet (as Nicole Carroll put it succinctly, we tend to overeat, and by overeating we fail to thrive -- we'd do better on threshold calories) and so I'll be using an Intermittent Fasting (IF) protocol to make it slightly more manageable. My fasts will range from 16-18 hours in length (10 p.m. to 2 p.m.-4 p.m.).

I've had success using a cyclical ketogenic diet protocol (a la the Anabolic Diet). High fat, moderate protein, almost negligible carbs. So why fix something that ain't broke?

I'm not seeing gains of the magnitude that I'd like to see, by doing the AD alone, and weekends are kind of a free-for-all. If you know me well, I can be quite immoderate at times. So I'd like to bring it back to basics for two weeks or so and then black-box my diet from then on. To be honest, I've never given the Zone a fair shot before -- one of the things that irks me about it is coming up with a halfway decent meal based on block prescriptions (which is the foundation of the Zone Diet itself). A selection of various foods does not equal a meal, in my opinion. For instance, a 4-block meal might comprise 4 oz turkey breast, 12 almonds, and 2 apples. Hardly close to something you'd find in a gourmet restaurant. But for the sake of performance I'm going to suck it up and partake of several such food selections. And I've discovered several good Zone recipe blogs which I fully intend to peruse over the next couple of days.

While I'm going to stick by the block prescriptions, I'm going to be a little looser when it comes to other aspects of the Zone -- i.e. my topmost goal is to hit the targeted number of blocks by the end of each day, so I'm not too concerned about perfect macronutrient proportions at individual meals. In fact, doing Zone on an IF protocol is counter-intuitive to Zone principles themselves, since you should never allow more than 4-5 hours to lapse between meals.

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but it looks as though I'll potentially tweak my nutrition by dropping some carb blocks and upping the fat to reach and sustain an optimal state of performance. Based on the 11-block Zone recommendation that I came up with using the block calculator, I've already tinkered a little with the plan that I'm going to experiment with for the next two weeks, and come up with this:

Daily Zone Block Intake
Protein: 12 blocks
Carbs: 9 blocks
Fat: 12 blocks

So basically I've upped my protein and fat blocks by 1, and taken 3 blocks off my carb total, which will give me an approximate macronutrient ratio of 36% C/33% P/33% F. Not too far off the golden Zone ratio of 40% C/30% P/30% F.

The common refrain in the CrossFit community when it comes to a nutritional protocol is that Zone is for quantity, and Paleo is for quality. According to Nicole Carroll, maximizing performance in CrossFit lies on a continuum -- starting out with Paleo is good, going Paleo-Zone is the best.

So for the Paleo aspect of things, I'm going to adhere to Paleo guidelines as far as possible, which essentially means cutting out grains, legumes, and dairy from my diet and dosing up on lean meats, copious amounts of fibrous, non-starchy vegetables, some fruit, and nuts to round out my healthy fats. That being said, I won't sweat it if I have an ounce or two of cheese on my salads once in a while (an ounce of cheese = one block of protein), as well as supplementing with Optimum Nutrition whey protein as a quick source of protein, but other than that, I intend to stay on the Paleo straight and narrow.

Whew. That's quite a bit to digest (pardon the pun)! I'll report back daily on how it goes. I need the accountability, so thank you for reading!

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