We're now ready to get into the nitty gritty of macronutrient ratios (Also called "nutrient ratios"). The first thing you should know is that nutrient ratios simply refer to the percentage of your total daily calories that come from protein, carbohydrate and fat. For example, 60-30-10 or 40-30-30 are nutrient ratios. A nutrient ratio of 30% protein on 2400 calories per day would be 720 calories of protein (.30% protein X 2400 calories = 720 protein calories).
Developing nutrition plans based on ratios of protein, carbohydrates and fats has been practiced for decades among bodybuilders. However, it wasn't until 1995 that nutrient ratios gained widespread attention from the public with the release of a book by Dr. Barry Sears called "The Zone." This book made "meal ratios" household words because the entire Zone program is based on the nutrient ratio of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% fat (or "40-30-30"). By following the 40-30-30 ratios, Dr. Sears claimed you would lose weight, gain muscle, improve athletic performance and cure a whole host of diseases and health problems.
Two valuable lessons you can learn from the Zone Diet - even though 40-30-30 got thumbs down from most mainstream health and nutrition organizations
Despite its popularity and best-seller status, the Zone Diet has some serious shortcomings. The biggest flaw of the Zone program as Dr. Sears prescribed it in his 1995 book, is dangerously low calories. The Zone is basically just another very low calorie diet. That's why Zone dieters often run into to the same pitfall that every other low calorie dieter succumbs to - the starvation mode.
Suppose you weigh 175 lbs. and your body fat is 10%. That means you have 17.5 lbs. of fat and your lean body mass (LBM) is 157.5 lbs. If you work out five times per week for one hour, then according to Dr. Sears, you should consume .8 grams of protein per lb. of LBM. That's an "activity factor" of .8 X 157.5 (LBM), which equals 126 grams of protein.
There are four calories in each gram of protein, so that's 504 calories from protein or 30% of your total calories. Your fats should also be 30% of your total calories. 504 fat calories, divided by nine calories per fat gram equals 56 grams of fat. Your carbohydrates should be slightly higher, about 40% of your total calories, or 672 carbohydrate calories. There are four calories in each gram of carbohydrate so that's 168 grams of carbohydrates. Add up all these calories and you get 1680 calories for the day:
Zone diet recommendations for a 175-pound moderately active man: Carbs: 672 calories = 168 grams = 40% of total calories
Protein: 504 calories = 126 grams = 30% of total calories Fat: 504 calories = 56 grams = 30% of total calories
Total: 1680 calories
1680 calories is too low for a moderately active man. The protein recommendations fall short as well: 126 grams of protein is plenty for a couch potato, but not enough to support a program with cardio and high intensity weight training. Will you lose weight on 1680 calories? Sure - but it won't be long before the starvation mode kicks in.
As a whole, the Zone program was denounced by nearly every mainstream health and nutrition organization in the world, including the American Dietetic Association, the Mayo Clinic, the American College of Sports Medicine, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and many others. However, you can learn some important things from the Zone by reading it selectively, plucking out the useful tidbits and throwing away the rest.
First, The Zone brought to the public's attention the importance of having a good balance between proteins, carbohydrates and fats instead of being heavily slanted towards mostly carbohydrate at the expense of protein and fat - a big mistake in our day and age of "fat phobia" and "high carbohydrate mania." It also pointed out the dangers of eating large amounts of processed carbohydrates such as white breads, white pastas, fat free snack foods and baked goods.
The second important point made by the Zone program was the idea of always combining a lean protein and complex carbohydrate food at every meal. This is probably one of the most important aspects of a nutrition program designed for improving body composition, because it helps to control the hormones responsible for fat storage and it provides a steady flow of amino acids from protein foods for muscle growth and maintenance.
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