Christine Envall Female Bodybuilder Australia

DISCOVERING THE ZONE

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

After competing for six years using the typical low fat, high carb, rice and chicken bodybuilder dietí my body just wasnít getting as lean as I needed to continue to take out major titles. I needed a change, so when a friend lent me a copy of Dr. Barry Sears "Enter The Zone", I read it from cover to cover and decided to give his revolutionary dietary system a try.

Deciding to trial The Zone diet to prepare for the 1998 World Championships was a huge step away from my typical method of preparation. It meant eliminating a lot of the foods I would normally eat on a diet (what, no rice?) and eating a lot of foods I wouldnít even of dream of eating in the off season (you mean I have to ADD fats to my diet?). Naturally I was very nervous about trying something new, but after six weeks on the diet, I knew I was onto something exceptional. I was shedding body fat faster than I could ever remember, my strength in the gym was not dropping and was even increasing on some exercises and I didnít ever feel tired. On top of this I wasnít feeling hungry and empty as I often did on contest diet and overall I felt healthier than I had ever felt during contest preparation.

However, I did find that after two years using the Zone style diet for contest preparation I hit another plateau where I found it hard to get to the low bodyfat levels competitive bodybuilding requires.  I still use the Zone style diet in the off-season as I find it allows me to keep leaner whilst gaining muscle mass.

ZONE PRINCIPLES

So what was it about ĎEnter the Zoneí that made me want to follow it?

Dr Sears looks at food as a series of macronutrients, namely protein, fat and carbohydrate, rather than merely as a source of calories. Food has the ability to generate powerful biochemical responses in our bodies.

Dr Sears believes in the principle that every time we eat these macronutrients generate complex hormonal responses which ultimately determine how much body fat we will store. In order to shed body fat while providing the energy we require it is important to eat a certain ratio of these macronutrients, not just on a daily basis, but at every single meal.

 

EVERYTHING IN BALANCE

'The Zone' is based on eating exactly the amount of protein our body needs. The other nutrients fall into place from there.

There are two key rules in 'The Zone'. The first is to always eat a specific ratio of protein to carbohydrate. This ratio is 0.75 (0.6 - 1 range), ie for every 3g of protein you must eat 4g of carbohydrate.

The second is not to consume too much food at any one meal. Even if your protein and carbs are in the right ratio, TOO MUCH of any nutrient will trigger a high insulin response. It is recommended not to eat more than 500 calories (2000kJ) at any one meal.

Too much carbohydrate or protein eaten at a meal causes our blood glucose levels to rise. To adjust for this our body releases a high level of insulin. Insulin is a storage hormone evolved to put aside excess calories in the form of fat. Not only does insulin tell the body to store fat it also tells the body not to release stored fat.

Too little carbohydrate puts the body into ketosis. Among other undesirable things, being in this state may cause changes in fat cells which make it more efficient at storing fat. Being bodybuilders, I donít need to spell out to you the effects of eating too little protein!

When choosing what types of carbohydrate to eat, another important factor of 'The Zone' is that they must have a low to moderate glycemic index. The glycemic index of a carb/food indicates how quickly the energy from the carbs reach the blood stream. The faster the carb reaches the bloodstream, the higher the level of insulin secreted. As mentioned above, it isnít desirable for fat loss to have a high level of insulin in the blood.

 THE ROLE OF FAT

Fat plays an important role in 'The Zone' diet. It is essential to the body being able to lose body fat. Not only does fat slow the rate of absorption of carbohydrate, hence lower the amount of insulin secreted, it also causes the body to release a hormone that tells our brain we are satisfied so we donít feel we need to eat more. The best part however, is that fat makes food more palatable! The ratio of Protein to Fat is about 4.6 which means for every 4.6g of protein you eat 1g of fat.

As we know, not all fats are equal. As with current nutritional advice, the majority of the fat in a Zone diet should be mono-unsaturated ie derived from vegetable and nut sources.

 PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

I always count calories and weigh my food when dieting, but when I first read 'Enter The Zone' I couldnít believe how calculated precise everything had to be and I must admit it took me a whole afternoon to work out all my meals correctly for this diet.

The first thing was work out what my protein intake should be. To do this, I had to determine my lean body weight and multiply this with a factor supplied (in the book) for my given activity level.

I then had to convert that figure into a number of 'blocks' 1 block = 7g of protein. Once I knew how many blocks I needed per day, I divided this into three main meals and two smaller meals (for some people they may need 5 or 6 equal size meals). Remember, meal size counts, so donít go over 6 blocks at one meal.

For me this worked out as follows:

Breakfast 6 blocks
Morning Tea 3 blocks
Lunch 6 blocks
Pre training 4 blocks
Dinner 6 blocks

As there is a specific ratio of protein/fat/carbohydrate it is easy to work out how much carbohydrate and fat to eat.

If one Ďblockí = 7g of protein, it also equals 9g of carbohydrate and 1.5g of fat. So for breakfast I would eat 42g of protein (6x7), 54g (6x9) of carbohydrate and 9g 6x1.5) of fat.

So what type of food did I eat? Compared to a normal contest diet I found I was able to eat a much greater variety of food, especially fruit and vegetables. I also found I ate a lot more protein powder as it was convenient to add to carbs to make up the correct protein/carb ratio. The weirdest part was actually adding canola oil to my chicken and being able to eat almonds at my pre training meal.

A sample of my daily diet is as follows:

  Breakfast Traditional Oats, Supro Soy Protein Isolate, WPI and Calcium Caseinate.
  Morning Tea Pineapple, Red Kidney Beans, Tuna and Canola Oil.
  Lunch Pearl Barley, Tuna, Canola/Olive Oil, Diet Yoghurt
  Pre-Training Apple, Pear halves, Supro Soy Protein Isolate, WPI, Calcium Caseinate and Almonds.
  Dinner Chicken Breast, vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, capsicum, mushrooms, tomato), kiwi fruit, grapefruit.

Anyone who saw me compete last year (1997) and then saw me this year (1998) would have been able to see the difference this diet made to my physique. Not only was this contest preparation one of the easiest because of the increased energy levels I experienced, it was also the easiest and most exciting diet to follow.

 

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