Personalization of Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition

Personalizing The Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition System
In the previous chapters, I have outlined the key dietary components necessary for the Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition system to work most effectively plus the clinical markers that enable you to chart your progress. Now it’s time to put this all together in a personalized, lifelong program based on your biochemistry, your dietary philosophy, and your personal taste preferences to increase your healthspan. This is critical since everyone is not the same genetically and we all have different dietary philosophies as well as diverse personal goals at each stage of life. The power of the Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition system is that it can easily be adjusted to your genetics and dietary philosophy (neither which is likely to change) as well as achieving your goals (which will change during the course of your life).

Those changing goals (described in later chapters) may include childhood nutrition (especially in the first 1,000 days of life), achieving peak physical performance, improved weight management, maintaining wellness, or improved managing of chronic diseases to enjoy a longer healthspan. The more important these goals are to you, the more you want to follow the Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition system to reach them.  

The Three R’s of the Resolution Response
As I have mentioned earlier reaching the Zone requires an orchestrated three-pronged dietary approach that constitutes the Resolution Response. Those 3 R’s needed for optimizing your internal Resolution Response can be summarized as:

  • Reduce
  • Resolve
  • Repair

To reduce the intensity of diet-induced inflammation you must reduce the levels of eicosanoids in the blood as well as decrease the activation of the genetic master switch for inflammation (NF-kB). This is accomplished by the macronutrient balance of each meal plus consuming adequate levels of fermentable fiber to maintain a healthy gut. Both these tasks are the job of the Zone Diet.

Once you have reduced the levels of diet-induced inflammation by the Zone Diet, you then must resolve residual cellular inflammation by increasing the levels of the resolvins that control its ultimate resolution. This is the task of high-dose omega-3 fatty acids. Unless you are eating large amounts of fatty fish, to maintain adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids in your blood as well as your organs you will probably require additional supplementation with ultra-refined omega-3 fatty acid concentrates as discussed earlier.

Finally, after residual cellular inflammation is resolved, the final step of the Resolution Response is to repair the tissue damaged caused by previously unresolved cellular inflammation by maximizing the activation of AMP kinase to orchestrate your metabolism. This is the job of polyphenols, and most likely will require additional supplementation with a combination of refined water-soluble and water-insoluble polyphenols. It is only when all three steps of the Resolution Response are successfully completed, that healing takes place.

The exact levels of supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols are not only determined by your genetics, but also by how strictly you follow the Zone Diet to reduce diet-induced inflammation. Your success will be confirmed by the three clinical markers of the Zone as I described earlier.

Each dietary component of the Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition system works synergistically and in a controlled sequence to optimize the Resolution Response. You first must reduce the ongoing diet-induced inflammation with the Zone Diet before you can adequately resolve residual cellular inflammation with high-dose omega-3 fatty acids. Likewise, you have to resolve residual cellular inflammation before you can optimally repair the damaged tissue with high-dose polyphenols. This sequential progression is no different than backing your car out of the garage. First, you get behind the wheel of the car. Next you turn on the ignition. Finally, you have to put the gear into reverse. Each step must be completed in the appropriate sequence, or it is unlikely the car is going to leave the garage. The Resolution Response is no different, except that all three components must be ready to go on-demand because random injuries can occur at any time. The only way to ensure that your internal Resolution Response is ready to immediately respond to the inflammation generated by such random injuries is by making certain you are in the Zone.

So, let’s start with the first step necessary to get to the Zone: The Zone Diet.

Making the Zone Diet Work for A Lifetime
The Zone Diet is the foundation of Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition system if you want to maintain an optimal Resolution Response. It is a personalized strategy based on three factors: (1) your unique protein requirements needed to maintain your muscle mass that depends on your exercise levels, (2) your current level of insulin resistance that determines the type of carbohydrates you can eat, and (3) your dietary philosophy ranging from vegan to Paleo.

Nonetheless, there are also several important dietary habits you want to develop that are fundamental to reduce the intensity of diet-induced inflammation that in turn will reduce insulin resistance:

  • Maintain a consistent balance of the protein-to-carbohydrate at each meal to stabilize your blood glucose levels, so you are never hungry or mentally fatigued between meals. This usually about one-third more carbohydrates than protein.
  • Ensure adequate intake of fermentable fiber and polyphenols from your carbohydrate choices in the course of the day to maintain gut health.
  • Try to consume low levels of total fat, but the fat you do consume should be rich in monounsaturated fat.
  • Consume about 400 calories at each meal. This will be enough to maintain hormonal balance without feeling hungry or fatigued for the next four to five hours.

As pointed out in earlier chapters, getting adequate levels of polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids to ensure an optimal Resolution Response may likely require additional supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid concentrates and purified polyphenol extracts.

Getting Started
There are four unique factors that make the Zone Diet uniquely personalized to each individual. The first is your unique protein requirements to maintain your current muscle mass.   Once you determine this, you spread that total protein requirement evenly out throughout the day at each meal. The second factor is your current level of insulin resistance which determines the type of carbohydrates you can eat to balance out your protein for optimal hormonal responses at each meal. The third factor is type and amount of fat you consume at each meal. This means adding enough fat to increase satiety, but not too much to overload your calorie intake. The fourth and final factor is your personal dietary philosophy.   Once you optimize each of those four factors, you have dietary system to employ and enjoy for the rest of your life.

So, let’s look at each factor in more detail

Protein Requirements for the Zone Diet
The Zone Diet is based on your unique protein requirements, not how many calories you need. You most likely have plenty of excess calories stored in your fat cells for energy production, but your hormonal balance in the blood may prevent those fatty acids from being released and being metabolized primarily in the muscle cells to provide energy. Although calories do count, it’s the hormonal response of those calories after each meal that counts far more. Furthermore, the Zone Diet is designed to balance your hormones, but without hunger or fatigue because you are also stabilizing blood glucose levels between meals.

This is why making any Zone meal starts with the amount of protein you need to maintain stable blood glucose levels in the blood as well as stimulate the flow of satiety hormones from the gut to the brain. The amount of protein you need at each meal depends on your current muscle mass as well as the type and intensity of your exercise actually do.

The calculation of your protein requirements has nothing to do with your weight, but everything to do with lean body mass. To know the amount of lean body mass you have, you first must know your percent body fat. There are a lot of ways to calculate your

body fat percentage, but if you go to www.zonediet.com/resources-body-fat-calculator, you can use a simple calculator I have developed that will do all the work for you in a few seconds. All you need is a tape measure and your current weight and height.

Calculating your percent body fat instead of using body mass index (BMI) to determine your level of obesity can be an eye-opening experience. You will be surprised how many people (probably including yourself) who might be considered slightly overweight by their BMI measurements are actually considered obese by their percentage of body fat. Once that shock wears off, you now multiply your current body weight by that body fat percentage to get your total body fat. Then you subtract that number from your total weight to get your lean body mass as shown below:

Percent body fat times your weight in lbs. = Body fat in lbs.

Total weight in lbs. minus your body fat in lbs. = Lean body mass in lbs.

Finally, you must also determine how physically active you are. The more active you are, the more muscle mass is broken down during periods of physical activity and this means you need more dietary protein to replace it. Here are your daily protein requirements depending on your physical activity as shown below.

Activity Level                                                  Amount of protein required

Sedentary:                                                       0.5 grams of protein per lb. of lean body mass

Light Activity (walking):                               0.6 grams of protein per lb. of lean body mass

Moderate Exercise:                                         0.7 grams of protein per lb. of lean body mass

(30 minutes per day, 3 times a week)

If you do more intense exercise, your protein requirements increase as I will explain in chapter 17 on Peak Performance. If you happen to be obese, then use 0.6 grams of protein per lb. of lean body mass to determine your protein requirements since you are essentially weight training every day because of the extra weight you carry on your body stored as body fat.

You are almost there. Now multiply your lean body mass by your activity factor and you can now determine how many grams of protein you need each day. That seems like a lot of work, but if you use my free body fat and protein requirement calculator at www.zonediet.com/resources-body-fat-calculator all of these mathematical calculations are done automatically for you allowing you to continually adjust your real protein requirements.

It turns out the amount of protein you need at each meal is probably not that great. Let’s use the mythical 154 lb. male who is likely 5’9”, sedentary and with 28 percent body fat (the average per cent body of American males between 1999 and 2004). If you make all those calculations (including the higher protein requirements because he is obese), his daily protein requirement would be about 66 grams per day or about 22 grams of protein at each meal. Regardless of your calculated protein requirements, divide your total protein intake and consume it evenly throughout the day to optimize blood sugar control as well as generate maximum satiety.

On average you are going to need approximately 25 grams of low-fat protein at every meal following the Zone Diet to maintain four to five hours satiety from meal to meal. This is the average of the amount of protein a typical female (3 oz. of low-fat protein or 21 grams of protein) or a typical male (4 oz. of low-fat protein or 28 grams of protein) would consume at a meal.   So here are examples of the protein levels in 3.5 oz. (100 grams) of various protein sources according to the USDA Nutrient database.

Sources                                               Grams of protein                     Grams of carbohydrate

                                    Veal                                                                22                                            0

                                    Beef                                                                20                                            0

                                    Lamb                                                               21                                            0

                                    Pork                                                                21                                            0

                                    Chicken                                                           22                                            0

                                    Turkey                                                            24                                            0

                                    Tuna                                                                24                                            0

                                    Salmon                                                            21                                            0

                                    Sardines                                                          21                                            0

                                    Egg whites                                                      11                                            0

                                    Cheese (semi-soft)                                          21                                            4

                                    Cheese (hard)                                                  36                                            3

                                    Lactose-free milk (8 oz.)                                8                                              13

                                    Almonds                                                         18                                            32

                                    Tofu (extra firm)                                             5                                              1

                                    Lentils (dry)                                                    25                                            63

                                    Black beans (dry)                                            21                                            62

You can see that animal protein is rich in protein and you don’t need much at a meal to consume 25 grams of protein per meal. However, animal protein and fish are not sustainable sources of protein. On the other hand, eggs and dairy are sustainable sources consisting of high-quality protein. The only downside to eggs is their yolks; they are very rich in AA that will increase the production of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. So, use the egg whites and toss the yolks. Egg whites are the highest quality protein source available except for human breast milk. Furthermore, egg white protein will have a much lower effect on insulin secretion. Although dairy products also have an excellent protein quality (almost equal to egg whites), this source of protein will have a higher impact on insulin secretion. Vegan protein-rich favorites like extra firm tofu are low in carbohydrates, but other vegetable protein sources like lentils and black beans are rich in carbohydrates and often contain undesirable anti-nutrients like phytates (that bind minerals), isoflavones (that interfere with thyroid action), and lectins (that require more extensive cooking to degrade them). So, for the vegan, this generally means eating a lot of extra firm tofu and plant-based imitation meat products that tend to be lower in these anti-nutrients due to the processing of the source (soy and pea are the most common) used to make plant-based imitation meat products.

Carbohydrates
The levels of protein at each meal determines the amounts of carbohydrates you can eat to prevent an over-secretion of the hormone insulin. You need some carbohydrates, but not too much. However, the types of carbohydrates you can use will be determined by your current levels of insulin resistance that I discussed in Chapter 6.  

How Much Insulin Resistance Do You Have?
It’s highly unlikely that you are going to take a blood test to determine your TG/HDL ratio more than once a year. Fortunately, there are subjective indicators that don’t require a blood test that you can use to estimate your level of insulin resistance. One of those is a simple questionnaire that I have developed that provides a good estimate of the severity of insulin resistance at www.zonediet.com/insulin-resistance-quiz. The levels of insulin resistance from this quiz correlate well with your TG/HDL ratio, which is a more objective blood marker of insulin resistance. A more subjective indicator of insulin resistance is if you are constantly hungry and mentally fatigued. You can use these subjective markers as a guide to adjust the types of carbohydrates you are consuming to better control cellular inflammation, which is the underlying cause of insulin resistance.

What Carbohydrates Can You Eat On the Zone Diet
The types of carbohydrates you consume following the Zone Diet is determined by your current level of insulin resistance. Don’t worry because your current level of insulin resistance can rapidly change the more closely you follow the Zone Diet.

If you have high levels of insulin resistance, you must be more restrictive with your carbohydrate choices. As long as your level of insulin resistance is high, the primary carbohydrates that you should consume on the Zone Diet are non-starchy vegetables to optimize the levels of fermentable fiber and polyphenols with the least amount of carbohydrates to reduce insulin secretion. The best non-starchy vegetables (spinach, kale, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and artichoke hearts) are surprisingly rich in protein compared to their carbohydrate content. Since insulin resistance can be rapidly reduced following the Zone Diet, you should soon be able to add a greater variety of other vegetables to your Zone meals.

If you have moderate levels of insulin resistance, then you can begin to introduce a greater variety of non-starchy vegetables as well as consuming more fruits, but still in moderation because of their higher glycemic load compared to non-starchy vegetables. Berries (especially blueberries) are the best choice because of their polyphenol content compared to other fruits.

If you have low insulin resistance, then you have even more carbohydrate flexibility as you can begin to include some whole-grain products such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread products in moderation with your Zone meals. Moderate means maybe a half a piece of whole grain brain or a very small serving of brown rice. Whole-grain products means they are richer in polyphenols and fermentable fiber than refined carbohydrates (but not as rich as non-starchy vegetables and fruits). Unfortunately, they will have the same impact on blood sugar levels as typical refined carbohydrates so use them in moderation regardless of your insulin resistance levels.

Finally, if you have very low levels of insulin resistance (as do many elite athletes because of the intensity of training), you have the greatest carbohydrate flexibility for increasing the levels of whole-grain carbohydrates as long as you don’t overwhelm the amount of protein consumed at a meal.

Using my Insulin Resistance Quiz (www.zonediet.com/insulin-resistance-quiz), you can easily determine your level of insulin resistance on a weekly basis to make adjustments in the types of carbohydrates you can eat and still maintain the hormonal balance of the Zone Diet.

Fats
Finally, the easiest of the other macronutrients for a Zone meal is the fat. Just eat primarily monounsaturated fat (olive oil, nuts, or avocados), but how much? A dash. That means a small amount. A small amount is about half the amount of protein you consume at a meal. If you are consuming 25 grams of protein at a meal, then you want to consume about 12 grams of total fat in the same meal. Since even low-fat animal sources (like chicken breast) contain some fat, the amount of added fat is not going to be very much. That’s about ½ tablespoon of olive oil, 1/3 oz. of almonds (about eight almonds), or a 1/4 of an avocado. However, the more fat you consume, the less fat you will release from your own stored body fat and most Americans have plenty of stored body fat.

The fats you want to avoid are saturated fats (especially palmitic acid) and omega-6 fatty acids as both generate pro-inflammatory responses. The reason you need some fat in meal is to stimulate the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) from the gut to help stimulate additional satiety.

Constructing Zone Meals
Once you know your protein requirements and your current level of insulin resistance that determines the types of carbohydrates you can eat, all you need to do is personalize a customized diet program so that each meal has about 40 percent low glycemic carbohydrates, 30 percent low-fat protein, and 30 percent monounsaturated fat.

It is easier than you think to determine that balance using two methods I have developed over the years. The first is the hand-eye method to balance your plate (which is the easiest, but the least precise) that is fine for most with most individuals with low and very low levels of insulin resistance and the other is using Zone Foods Blocks for individuals with moderate and high levels of insulin resistance (which is more precise because it allows you to fine-tune adjustments for your personal metabolism and genetics) described later in this chapter.

Hand-Eye Method
The easiest but least precise method for making Zone meals is the hand-eye method. Using this method, you simply divide your plate into three equal sections. The portion of low-fat protein should be the size and thickness of the palm of your hand; this should fill one-third of your plate. The size and thickness of the palm of your hand takes into account differences in sex and bone structure, but you will find the average Zone meal portion is about 25 grams of low-fat protein.   Next, fill the other two-thirds of the plate with colorful carbohydrates (colorful because they are rich in polyphenols). Primarily these will be non-starchy vegetables with limited fruits (save those for dessert). Remember, the higher your initial insulin resistance levels, the more restrictive the carbohydrates choices. Finally add a dash of a monounsaturated fat source (olive oil, nuts, or avocado) to finish the meal.

If you do so, then your plate will visually look like this:

If you aren’t hungry or fatigued during the next four to five hours after consuming a Zone meal, then the hand-eye method worked just fine for you. Just remember this method is less precise than the other method in both protein and carbohydrate balance and calorie content and so there may be some trial and error before you get the balance right. But have some fun to experiment with the hand-eye method knowing when you are aren’t hungry for the next four to five hours after a meal you have it mastered.

Bringing Peace to Dietary Wars
While the hand-eye method is not the most accurate for planning Zone meals, it illustrates of the fourth factor for personalizing the Zone Diet; your personal dietary philosophy. This is because virtually every possible dietary philosophy, ranging from Paleo to vegan as well as lacto-ovo vegetarians and omnivores, can easily be accommodated using the general Zone Diet guidelines.

Regardless of your dietary philosophy, two-thirds of the plate will always be virtually the same: It will be filled with colorful carbohydrates (primarily non-starchy vegetables with limited amounts of fruit). It is only the last third of the plate containing your protein source that depends on your dietary philosophies as shown below:

Vegan: No animal protein, no dairy, and no eggs

Lacto-ovo vegetarian: No animal protein

Paleo: No legumes, no dairy, no soy meat substitutes, and no grains

Omnivore: No protein restrictions whatsoever

The only requirement for each of the different dietary philosophies is that the protein content of the meal should contain approximately 25 grams of protein. Other than the types of the protein on that third of your plate, the Zone Diet blueprint is totally compatible with virtually every dietary philosophy, except ketogenic diets (i.e. Atkins) and very low-fat, low-protein, and high-carbohydrate diets (i.e. Ornish). I guess you can’t please everyone.   Other than those two exceptions, it is difficult to fail on the Zone Diet since you are following your personal dietary philosophy using foods tailored for your personal tastes and based on your unique protein requirements and current levels of insulin resistance.        

The Zone Food Block Method
As I stated earlier, if you have moderate to high levels of insulin resistance, then you may initially need a more detailed plan than simply using the hand-eye method to balance your plate. That’s why I developed the Zone Food Block method many years ago. It also allows you to fine-tune the Zone Diet based on your unique biochemistry, genetics, and current level of insulin resistance.

Although protein is fairly consistent in nutrient density, carbohydrates are not. The density of carbohydrate can vary widely from very low density as found in non-starchy vegetables to very high density as found in grains and starches. I developed the Zone Food Block method many years ago to make it easier to better match carbohydrate density to the protein intake at a meal. The end result is more precise hormonal control. This method allows you to add Zone Blocks for protein, carbohydrate, and fat in defined proportions to create the necessary hormonal balance for improved appetite control.

The most important goal for any Zone meal is to maintain hormonal balance to maximize the stabilization of blood sugar levels for the next four to five hours. This means the total calorie content of any Zone meal is usually the same; with approximately 400 calories, at least 25 grams of protein, and less than 12 grams of fat per meal with most of the carbohydrates coming from non-starchy vegetables. That means for every one gram of fat in a Zone meal, you want two grams of protein, and three grams of low-glycemic carbohydrates to achieve the appropriate hormonal balance. Consider this the 1-2-3 method. Frankly, very few individuals are going to do the math (this is why the hand-eye method is so useful). On the other hand, using Zone Food Blocks you simply balance the blocks of protein, carbohydrate, and fat for every meal necessary to the reach the same final hormonal balance.

A typical male will consume four Zone Blocks of protein, carbohydrate, and fat for a Zone meal, whereas a typical female would consume three Zone Blocks of protein, carbohydrate and fat for a Zone meal. A complete listing of Zone Food Blocks and a wide of variety of other helpful tools can be found at www.zonediet.com/resources/food-blocks). Using this information will help you make an infinite variety of Zone meals compatible for virtually every dietary philosophy.

Adjusting Your Hormonal Carburetor
Your hormonal “carburetor” is the balance of protein to the glycemic load of carbohydrates at each meal. Just like a carburetor in the car that can be adjusted to provide maximum mileage from the gas in your car’s fuel tank, your hormonal carburetor can be adjusted to provide the maximal hormonal control from a meal. The real benefit of using the Zone Food Block method is that you can adjust your hormonal carburetor to take into account potential differences in biochemistry, genetics, and current levels of insulin resistance to provide better control blood sugar levels. As a result, you are not hungry or mentally fatigued for four to five hours after a meal.

Your hormonal carburetor is really the balance of glucagon and insulin generated by a meal that determines how stable your blood sugar levels will be after a meal. That hormonal balance is a consequence of adjusting the protein-to-glycemic load in a meal.

How to adjust that hormonal carburetor is actually quite easy. Simply consume a Zone meal using an equal number of Zone Food Blocks and then look at your watch four to five hours later. If you have no hunger or mental fatigue at the four-to-five hour time point, then that Zone meal is ideally suited for both your metabolism and your genetics meaning you can make that same meal over and over and produce the same hormonal response.

On the other hand, if you are hungry within four to five hours after a making a meal using the Zone Food Block method, you’ll need to make some adjustments for your personal biochemistry and genetics. If you were hungry and mentally fatigued after a meal, this indicates that the previous meal had too high of a glycemic load. The slight excess of carbohydrate in that meal was enough to increase blood insulin levels that drove blood sugar too low during the next five hours inducing a slight hypoglycemic effect. Simply remake that same meal in the future and subtract one Zone Carbohydrate block from the recipe. If this modified Zone meal keeps you satiated and mentally alert for four to five hours after eating, then it is ideal for your personal biochemistry.

On the other hand, if you are hungry but mentally alert within four-to-five hours after a making a Zone meal, then you consumed too few carbohydrates because not enough insulin was making its way to the hypothalamus to reduce hunger (insulin acts as a satiety hormone in the brain). Remake that same meal in the future and add one extra Zone Carbohydrate block to the recipe. After making that meal, you should enjoy four-to-five hours of satiety without mental fatigue. This is how you can modify any Zone meal to ideally suit for your biochemistry.

In reality, we actually don’t eat a highly varied diet. For most, our diet at home consists of two different breakfasts, three different lunches, and five different dinners. Likewise, when you go to eat, you might frequent five to ten different restaurants and eat essentially the same meals. Once you have developed ten Zone meals you enjoy at home and another ten meals you like at the restaurants you frequent that work for you, you are pretty well set for life.

Finally, keep in mind you never “cure” chronic problems caused by diet-induced inflammation. To achieve better weight management, improved athletic performance, maintenance of wellness or healthy aging, you are using the Zone Diet like a “drug” managing those problems more successfully. Once you stop following the Zone Diet, the more likely those chronic problems will begin to reappear.

Meal Timing
The best stabilization of blood sugar levels will only last about five hours. This means you want to constantly maintain stable blood sugar levels to be successful, so you are never hungry or mentally fatigued. So, plan your day accordingly.

Try to eat a Zone breakfast within an hour after waking. Your body has been in an overnight fast and is essentially running on empty. For most people that will be about 7 a.m. in morning. Then plan to eat lunch no later than noon to maintain stable blood sugar levels. However, most people eat dinner around 7 pm in evening. Therefore, eat a small Zone snack at around 5 pm. Finally, before you go to bed, you might want to consider another small Zone snack because even you are going to bed, your brain is not. That’s why you will wake more refreshed in the next morning. You can find hundreds of Zone meals and snacks at www.zoneliving.com in the Tools and Resource section.   

Making Mistakes on the Zone Diet
We don’t live in a perfect world, and more importantly we are not perfectly disciplined in our eating habits. There will always be times when it will be impossible to have a Zone meal. Birthday parties, holidays, vacations, sporting events, etc. are good examples. Although you will try to make good choices using the hand-eye method, reality often dictates otherwise. The end result is you are likely going to consume meals that will most likely be hormonal disasters on these special occasions.

Fortunately, the hormones generated by your diet can change rapidly once you return to the Zone Diet. Of course, the longer you have been following the Zone Diet in the first place, the greater the resilience you will have to bounce right back into hormonal balance after consuming any hormonal disaster of a meal

Eating Out
The most convenient way to consume Zone meals at restaurants is to use the hand-eye method to balance your plate. Pass on the bread, ask for non-starchy vegetables to replace the grains and starches in the meal, and then have fresh fruit for dessert. This is always a lot easier to do if you have had a Zone snack before going to the restaurant.

Becoming Too Thin on the Zone Diet
Can you become too thin following the Zone Diet? Of course, you can because the Zone Diet is a calorie-restricted diet designed to enable your body to use its own stored body fat for energy. How do you know if you are getting too thin? The answer is when you can clearly see all of your abdominal muscles (the proverbial “six-pack” you see in fitness magazines). This means you are about 5 percent body fat for a male and 11 percent body fat for females. These are unrealistic levels of body fat for elite athletes as well as the general population The reason you can’t see your abdominal muscles is because they are covered by a layer of excess fat. By that criteria, very few Americans are too thin. You have plenty of calories stored as excess body fat to call upon to make up for any calorie deficiency assuming you can more effectively access your stored body fat by reducing insulin resistance. So, how do you alter the Zone Diet if by some chance you get too lean? You simply add more nuts (almonds or walnuts are good choices) that are rich in monounsaturated fat, until you can just barely see your abdominal muscles. (This would a be “two-pack” as opposed to a “six-pack.”) Keep in mind most Olympic swimmers have a “two-pack” (10 percent body fat for males and 15 percent body fat for females).   Also keep in mind it is very easy to overconsume nuts. Even healthy fat consumed in excess will be stored in your fat cells to the extent that your abdominal muscles completely disappear again. This is why the only difference between the Zone Diet for the overweight diabetic and the elite athlete is that the elite athlete may have to add some extra fat to their diet over and above their increased need of protein and carbohydrate that I will discuss in more detail in Chapter 17.

Lifetimes of the Dietary Components of The Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition System
The concept of the Zone is based on classical drug pharmacology, which describes a therapeutic zone for a drug. Too little of the drug in the blood will have placebo effects, too much drug in the blood will be toxic. Furthermore, every drug has a unique lifetime in the blood, and that lifetime determines how often you have to administer the drug to maintain the blood levels needed for a therapeutic effect. Some drugs require you to take them every few hours, some once a day, and still other drugs only require a weekly injection.

The physiological responses to your diet are no different. Some effects take place rapidly (within minutes as is the case with hormones generated by a meal), within days relative to gene expression, or weeks depending on the rate that a particular dietary component (especially omega-3 fatty acids) is accumulated in the target organ.

The lifetime of the hormonal changes generated by a Zone meal is four to five hours which means to maintain the benefits of the Zone Diet you should be as consistent as possible with balancing the protein-to-glycemic load of each meal.   After five hours, your hormone levels have returned to their starting levels and it’s time to eat again.

The lifetime of polyphenols in the blood is even shorter (2-3 hours), meaning they should be consumed at every Zone meal either by a large serving size of non-starchy vegetables or by using polyphenol supplements. On the other hand, fermentable fiber is slowly metabolized in the large intestine. The primary benefits of fermentable fiber are the production of short chain fatty acids that play a major role in gut health, but only for the time period that the fermentable fiber is in the colon before finally being eliminated in the stool. Since that time period is about 30 hours after consumption of a meal, theoretically you could consume all your required fermentable fiber once a day. However, since you want to consume about 8-10 servings of vegetables per day, it makes better sense to consume that amount over the course of several meals. The fermentable fiber content (or lack of it) of your diet can quickly begin to alter the microbial composition of the gut for better or worse within five days. Furthermore, entire colonies of friendly bacteria in the gut may become extinct without a constant supply of fermentable fiber as shown in animal models.

Finally, the half-life (the time during which the levels in the blood decrease by one half) of omega-3 fatty acids in the body is about two days in the blood. This also means you can take all of your required omega-3 fatty acid supplements only once a day to maintain constant levels in your blood.

You want to be as consistent as possible with the Zone Pro-Resolution Nutrition system to ensure that all the dietary components needed for optimizing the Resolution Response are at or near their peak levels throughout the day. This is no different than taking medications at the right dose and the right time to maintain adequate drug levels to manage the symptoms of a chronic disease.