Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Zoned Out

I can't recall sweating more than I did on July 28, 2012. In case you're wondering, that was the last time I fought.

It wasn't fighting that made me the most nervous (but it did contribute), rather, stepping on the scale terrified me. Months leading up to the SuperFights, I struggled with my weight. Generally, I walk around at 185LBS; in training, I drop 3-4 lbs. When the weight limit is 185, 182LBS scares me...leading up to fight time, I was around 190LBS (give or take).

So day of, I step on the scale and I'm 3LBS over. "Shit...", was the first thing that came to mind. My head raised and I saw the slightly nervous look on a few faces, then the shocked look on Hu-Kaicho's face. Luckily for me, I was within 5LBS of my opponent...and he didn't have a problem with that. Fact is, I got lucky...reeeeeeeally lucky.

Something had to change. I'd officially reached the point where everything I did in the kitchen or at the table overrode what I was doing in the gym. I was faced with the fact that I now I had to get serious about diet or going to the gym was a waste of time.

I was kidding myself every time I ate. I had the following discussion with my wife one day a few months ago:

C: "I eat healthy..."
L: "You do not. You really don't eat as healthy as you think you do"
C: "You're on crack...I eat healthy!"

Problem with the above conversation is, I was eating a big pile of bacon at the time...which had been a daily ritual. Along with cheeseburgers and fries. At least there was no "pink goo" in my burgers.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. While checking out the Crossfit mainsite, I found a video with a title just compelling enough to make me want to take a look: "Preppin' for the week" by Chris Martirano. I wasn't sure what I would find in those videos; not sure if it was about stretching/body prep, program design...I seriously didn't know. I was slightly surprised (pleasantly) that it was regarding diet. I watched both part 1 and part 2.

As I watched the video, I was intriguied by what Chris referred to as "blocks" (in my defense, I didn't see not read the article linked above before hand). I took to research (read: I googled it). What I found was the concept of "blocks" relates to the Zone Diet, popularized in the 1990's by Dr. Barry Sears.

"The Zone Diet is a way of life that helps you lose fat and increases wellness by reducing cellular inflammation."
...that's all well, fine and good, BUT, in essence, the Zone Diet is a manner to achieve 40-30-30 protein-carb-fat balance in a meal and regulating insulin. Zone Diet measures success by the ability to feel satisfied for 4-5 hours after eating.

From this point forward, I'm going to refer to it as Zone Eating. It's not really dieting, rather, it is being smart about what you eat and how much of it you consume.

What is a block:
A block is essentially a measure of food. 7 grams of protein = 1 protein block; 9 grams of carbohydrates = 1 carb block. 1.5 grams of fat = 1 fat block (HEALTHY fats...).

When designing a meal, you want to combine equal parts of protein, carb and fat blocks. How many blocks one needs is determined by weight, body fat percentage and activity level. For example, @ 190LBS, ~11% body fat and a high activity level, I should eat 21 blocks of food per day. That's a lot more food than I realized!

As of this writing, I've been Zone Eating for almost 2 weeks. Below I'll lay out the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Ugly:
The single biggest change I've noticed is that I was not eating nearly enough. For my body type and activity level, I measure out to 21 blocks a day; I wasn't sniffing 12, or worse, I would get a majority of that in one meal. In order to meet this requirement, I've started eating a snack before working out...yes, I would workout on an empty stomach...I'm not a big breakfast person. Speaking of, this snack is not breakfast.

On a workout day, eating looks something like this:
Pre workout - 3 blocks
Breakfast - 5 blocks
Lunch - 5 blocks
Dinner - 5 blocks
Bedtime snack - 3 blocks

Non workout days are a little tougher:

Breakfast - 5 blocks
Lunch - 5 blocks
Snack - 3 blocks
Dinner - 5 blocks
Bedtime snack - 3 blocks

The Bad:
This isn't really a bad, as much as it is a tedious: everything needs to be least in the beginning. In reading more recent material on Zone and Dr. Sears, I've read Dr. Sears isn't really big on exact measuring, though, I will say eventually one can develop the eyeball method very close to exact. I do measure, and I measure for a few meals out...this is time consuming.

This is another bad that is moving to a good: Finding foods that are fresh and healthy that can be eaten before going bad. Week one, I bought foods I wouldn't ordinarily eat, which ended up being a waste. Then, I started buying foods that I do eat, but after a few days didn't taste as good. So, as I enter week three, I'm preparing some foods in advance, leaving most to be cooked when I need them or day of; meats are measured and frozen and I will thaw them as I need them.

The Good:
I feel pretty damn good. Through week one, I'd dropped almost 5LBS (a long weekend at work and lack of planning for that caused a slight fall off, but I'm close to reclaiming those loses). There is a noticeable performance increase in my workouts. My stomach is flat again. And best of all, I'm eating healthy! I haven't had a burger in a few weeks, BUT, I can have one if I chose --I just need to be smart about it.

I haven't eliminated much of anything while Zone Eating, I'm just being smart (and meticulous) about what I consume.

By no means is this a comprehensive, end-all-be-all on the Zone Diet, but I hope my outline of the first two weeks is encouraging enough for you to at least take a second thought about what you eat day to day. One thing I forgot to mention ---Zone Eating (Zoning? Channel your inner Charlie Sheen - ZONING!), can be tweaked. Lower body fat percentages may need to adjust the fat intake; I am actually consuming 2x the recommendation (either olives, peanuts, almond or EVOO).

Into Paleo? Paleo can be done within the Zone Diet - Paleo foods in Zone portions. It can be done. All in all,  the amount of work involved is TOTALLY worth it. And honestly, if you look at the recommended portions for most food, it falls within the Zone recommendations.

Hope this helps. Remember --bodies are not built in the gym, they're built in the kitchen.