Going for the Zone? Try Pursuing your Path Instead

Blog Post by Adam Yaney-Keller

The Zone Diet, as told by biochemist Dr. Barry Sears in his 1995 book “The Zone”, takes the approach that weight gain, sickness and premature aging are caused by inflammation in the body. The diet proposes a specific macronutrient ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat for each meal (commonly known as the 40/30/30 rule) to reduce this inflammation, and get your body in “The Zone”, a clinical state which can be measured by testing certain biomarkers in your blood, such as blood sugar and cholesterol. According to Sears, if you achieve “the Zone” through the diet’s rules, you’ll reap the benefits, including “performing better”, “thinking faster” and “losing excess body fat at the fastest possible rate”[1]. If these sound like a very broad range of benefits, it’s because it is. And while for many achieving “the Zone” may work, for significantly more people it probably won’t. That’s because, simply put, everyone’s “Zone” is different.

An easy way to look at the problems with the Zone Diet is to examine what it does and does not allow you to do. While the Zone does not strictly forbid any foods, it somewhat resembles a Mediterranean diet in what it suggests you avoid and recommends you eat, namely lean proteins (e.g. egg whites, turkey, fish), monounsaturated fats (e.g. avocados, nuts, olive oil) and low glycemic carbs (e.g. oatmeal, spinach, berries). Since the Mediterranean diet is well known to be one of the healthiest globally [2] [3], it works for many people to reduce weight. But, research has shown that the Mediterranean diet doesn’t work for every circumstance[4] . This makes sense because overall health depends on biology, dietary history, environment, and other factors – no one diet is perfect for everyone, since no one person is the same as another.

If you have a more complex goal, such as increasing endurance and energy for athletics, the Zone diet may not be ideal [5] . The Zone diet does not allow for shifting your macronutrient consumption to different times of day, such as more carbs before workouts and more proteins after (which has been shown to work well for athletes to build muscle [6] [7]) – it’s 40/30/30, every meal, every day. And if you have allergies to certain foods, or you simply don’t like them, you may find it challenging to meet the restrictions required by the diet. Measuring out macronutrients is a chore, and over time the burden of it adds up, especially when the diet’s benefits may not align with your goals or preferences. But with the Zone diet, your individual activity and desires are not as important as getting into “the Zone”. That means this diet doesn’t work for you – you work for it. And in the long run, that may not work at all.
So, what’s the alternative? Well, the good news is that there are many. Making your diet work for you is about tailoring a personalized diet plan to your body and your needs. At NutriFit, our process is to ask questions about your history, goals and preferences. We’ve found that by taking this highly-customized personalized diet plan approach (for over 30 years), the best strategy is one that minimizes your headaches and maximizes your preferences, while keeping the end goal in sight. And that doesn’t mean doing the same thing over and over – your needs may shift from year to year, and day to day, as does your health. We commit to you by working to find a customized solution and staying dynamic in that role by seeing your results and changing with you. It doesn’t mean you still won’t restrict some foods and eat more of others – this is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle.

The truth is, the problem with the Zone Diet is that everybody’s “Zone” is different. Each of our bodies has different shapes, make-ups, histories, and needs. Instead of thinking in “Zones” we must achieve, we should rather think of “Paths” we can go down, paths which may lead one way at one stage in life and a different way in another. But each person’s path is different and finding the one you like doesn’t mean committing to the strict Zone Diet ratio every day, for the rest of your life. We can help you find your path, and help you stick to it.


[1] https://www.zonediet.com/the-zone-diet/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28710052/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20929998/

[4] https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/46/5/1478/4056503

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11834107/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28919842/

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17609259/