The Zone vs. Paleo

Diets, diets, everyone is talking about diets. The term stinks. Every time I hear it I think trend, binge, fad & fat. This isn’t the case with every diet, but it is a flaw in how we approach nutrition and how we deal with a lack of it.

Since my last post was about the 2012 CrossFit games, it only makes sense to follow up with two nutrition trends that are central to the CrossFit approach to nutrition: (And, I read a similarly structured article in The Box, a new magazine for CrossFit types; am reading The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf; and listened to a Paleo podcast that really sparked the following assessment.) The Zone Diet and The Paleo Solution.

Without going into an insurmountable amount of detail, both methods advocate restricting carbohydrates to some level or another. (Simply put, unused carbs get processed down to some level of sugar and stored in the body as fat.) If you are not an active person, chances are that you are consuming many more carbs than you think you should, but really, that’s up to you to determine.

{I should have began the post with a disclaimer that this isn’t an invitation for debate, but I didn’t, so I’m adding it now, and reminding you that this is just an assessment. Nothing final, nothing set in stone, just my take on what I understand of each method at the moment.}

Both methods agree that processed sugars are bad. Both agree that proteins, even animal proteins, are good. Both agree that a level of carbohydrate restriction is necessary. Both agree that the right kinds of fats are not only good but necessary. (Not the kind of fat you store, the fat that got that way from sugar, rather animal fats, olive oil, Omega 3s, etc.)

Well, what’s the problem? If both methods agree on so much, why is there a debate? Either one should serve any of us fine, yeah? Not necessarily.

I hate to lean on Robb Wolf and act as though I’m showing preference to his method, but generally speaking, I am.

As I understand each method, the Paleo Solution provides a pretty fair guideline of what to eat, and what to avoid. It is a sort of baseline, general purpose method for determining what works best for you. The Zone Diet is a little more specific by using percentages and measurements to help you decide how much of something to eat. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this Zone Method, except that measuring percentages of my food intake is not a lifelong habit I am likely, or remotely interested to develop.

So, back to the Wolf-man. During the podcast I was listening to (there is an entire Paleo podcast program available for free on iTunes, if you’re interested) Wolf was talking about the Zone Diet, and saying similarly that there’s not necessarily anything wrong with it, and talking about how beneficial it is when a training peak is in order. (Such as a race, endurance event, etc.) I didn’t write down his exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, “The Paleo solution will serve you well as a baseline, maybe 90 or 95% of the time, but when it comes to preparing for a specific event, The Zone is an excellent tool for optimizing your already above-standard performance.”

(I’m certain that’s not what he said, but I’m just as certain that’s what he meant.)

Given a choice, both methods will benefit you based on your needs. Paleo is a process I am still learning about and just starting, so I can’t answer any criticisms with any real authority, and likewise with The Zone.

As always, the important thing to take away from all this is to find, determine, and implement what works best for you. No one, no matter how much of the alphabet they have after their name has the potential to know you as well as you can learn yourself, but some people can point you in the right direction, based on your needs and desires. There is no one size fits all method that will help you with your nutrition, fitness & health, so experiment, and when you find something that works, stick with it until it doesn’t, but stay curious.


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