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Your Grandmother Could Do It. Why Can't You?
Mastering the Zone. Sounds very New Age, like Yoda teaching Luke Skywalker about the Force. But it's not. Instead it's very similar to the advice your grandmother gave you about eating. Eat everything in moderation, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and have some protein at every meal. Your grandmother didn't know it, but she was teaching you the basic principles for developing a lifelong strategy of hormonal balance. If you can achieve this hormonal balance, you are well on your way to the Zone.
What is the Zone? It is the balance of hormonal responses that occurs every time you eat. A perfect equilibrium: not too high, not too low. Why should you want to get there? Simply said, if you can keep yourself in the Zone, then you will:
- think better, because in the Zone you are maintaining stable blood sugar levels,
- perform better, because being in the Zone allows you to increase oxygen transfer to your muscle cells,
- look better, because in the Zone you are shedding excess body fat at the fastest possible rate, and
- never be hungry between meals, because staying in the Zone means your brain is being constantly supplied with its primary fuel: blood sugar.
All these benefits of being in the Zone will emerge within a one- to two-week period if you follow the instructions in this book. But the best reason to want to stay in the Zone on a lifelong basis is to achieve SuperHealth.
For most people, health is defined as the absence of disease. SuperHealth goes beyond that. In a state of SuperHealth you will reduce the likelihood of developing chronic disease, thetypes of illnesses that represent the bulk of our health care costs. If you have read The Zone, you know that SuperHealth is exactly what you are aiming for. And the only way to obtain SuperHealth is to take control of your diet, and use it to keep yourself in the Zone on a continual basis. The more time you spend in the Zone, the more control you have over the ultimate quality of your life.
When I wrote The Zone in 1995, I tried to show that the age-old inherent common sense about dietary balance is really cutting-edge twenty-first-century hormonal control technology that can be mathematically defined with a precision your grandmother never dreamed of. While your grandmother's diet was prepared intuitively, you can do it scientifically.
This book marks the next step on that quest. It will show you how to make a wide range of food choices, from gourmet meals to fast-food drive-through fare and everything in between, while still staying in the Zone. Although thinking of food hormonally may be revolutionary, eating in the Zone is not. In fact, eating in the Zone is a lot like eating your grandmother's cooking (except for the fast food).
For those of you already in the Zone, this book offers new information on making the Zone part of your lifelong routine, from tips on eating out and shopping, to information about adjusting the Zone Diet to your own body chemistry, to more than a hundred and fifty new Zone meals that will make it easier for you to stay there. For those of you still struggling to reach the Zone, this volume will make your journey much faster and easier.
Once you use these tips, getting into the Zone and staying there becomes second nature because you will be eating the foods you already like to eat and adapting the recipes you currently use everyday into great Zone meals.
Let me help you visualize the Zone on a plate: a moderate serving of low-fat protein (such as fish or chicken) with a significant amount of vegetables covered with slivered almonds, and fruit for dessert. Every time you eat, make sure that your carbohydrates come with a protein chaser and a dash of fat. To be a little more precise, for every cup of vegetables, or half a piece of fruit or 14 cup of pasta that you plan to eat (these serving sizes will be explained later on), add an ounce of low-fat protein like chicken or fish. Then add a bit of monounsaturated fat, like a little olive oil or a few slivered almonds. Do this at every meal and snack, and, presto, you're pretty close to being in the Zone for the next four to six hours. And during that four- to six-hour period, you will be thinking better, performing better, and losing stored body fatall without hunger. This book will teach you how.
Once you understand what the Zone is and how it works, you will also understand that virtually every dietary recommendation made by the U.S. government and leading nutritional experts is hormonally dead wrong. What is their recommendation? Eat a high-carbohydrate diet. Unfortunately, these authorities seem to have forgotten that the best way to fatten cattle is to feed them excessive amounts of low-fat grain. The best way to fatten humans is also to feed them excessive amounts of low-fat grain, in the form of pasta and bagels. Another popular dietary slogan these days says, "If no fat touches my lips, then no fat reaches my hips." But that is simply not true. Our war on dietary fat really began in earnest fifteen years ago as fat phobia became the norm. And the results are now clear: Americans have become more obese than anyone on the face of the earth.
Obviously, fat was not the enemy. If fat isn't the enemy, then what is? The answer is insulin. It's excess insulin that makes you fat and keeps you fat. And your body produces excessive amounts of insulin when you eat either (1) too many fat-free carbohydrates, or (2) too many calories at a meal. Therefore, when I talk about the Zone, it is really a zone of insulin. Not too high, not too low: a zone of insulin controlled by your diet.
To eat in the Zone is to treat food with the same respect you would give a prescription drug. However, this doesn't mean food must taste like a drug. On the contrary, Zone cooking allows for great-tasting food packed with maximum nutrition. Mastering the Zone is a recipe for lifelong hormonal control, a recipe that pretty much lets you forget about counting calories or grams of fat.
Throughout this book, I will refer to my program as the Zone Diet. Most people think of a diet as a limited time they live in a state of deprivation that allows them to return to old eating habits. The Zone Diet is neither deprivation nor short-term. It is not deprivation because while you're in the Zone, you maintain peak mental and physical performance while consuming the foods you like to eat. And being in the Zone is a lifetime habit, not a short-term fad. The hormonal responses generated by food that allow you to reach the Zone haven't changed for the past 100,000 years, and they are not going to change in your lifetime.
Like any lifestyle change, getting into the Zone takes patience and practice. But within two weeks, if not sooner, you will begin to see a dramatic change in your life. Carbohydrate cravings will be gone, mental focus will be increased, physical performance will be enhanced, and you will lose excess body fat at the fastest possible rate. And you will be well on your way to achieving SuperHealth. That's the kind of lifestyle change anyone should be happy to swallow.
This book is divided into three basic parts. The first describes how to determine your unique protein and carbohydrate requirements and how they work together to form your hormonal carburetor. The second part deals with the construction of balanced Zone meals and contains more than one hundred and fifty new Zone recipes. The final part provides helpful hints that will allow you to stay in the Zone for a lifetime.
If SuperHealth is what you want to achieve, then reaching the Zone and staying there is the way to make it happen. Your grandmother knew this intuitively. Treat this book as a personal user's guide and achieve a precision never imagined by your grandmother. And once you're in the Zone, why would you ever want to leave?
Your Protein Prescription: The First Step to the Zone
You're nearly ready to travel toward the Zone, but just as with any trip, some preparation is necessary before you begin the journey. As I said in the first chapter, reaching the Zone is all about insulin control. If you have read The Zone, you know that the most important step needed to control insulin is fulfilling your body's unique protein requirements.
Why is protein so important? First, your body requires incoming protein on a continual basis to repair and maintain its critical systems. Your muscles, your immune system, and every enzyme in your body are composed of protein. Every day your body loses protein constantly. Without adequate incoming dietary protein, these critical body functions begin to run down.
But more important, protein is so vital because it stimulates the hormone glucagon. Glucagon has the opposite physiological action to insulin. In fact, glucagon acts as the major governor of excessive insulin production. It is excess insulin that makes you fat, makes you hungry, makes you mentally foggy, decreases your physical performance, and increases the likelihood of chronic disease.
If your goal is to enter the Zone and stay there, then you have to control insulin production, and to do that, protein is the key.