An Introduction to the 40-30-30 Diet Concept

Wouldn't it be great if you could take a simple pill that would improve your energy, control your weight, enhance your physical abilities and lower your risk of a multitude of diseases? All of these and no side effects? Sure it would! Unfortunately this pill does not exist but there is something that will do all this for you and you already have it: the food you eat!

Before I launch into this subject, realize this: I'm not a doctor and even though I have played one on TV, I am not AMA sanctioned and nothing that I say or write should be considered medical advice.

Most of us don't think of it this way but the food we eat, in addition to providing all the nutrients that our bodies need, also has far reaching drug-like effects. This comes as a surprise to many and to understand this we need to consider the hormonal effects of what we eat. Hormones dramatically affect the body, influencing many aspects of health and function. Everybody is familiar with estrogen and testosterone (and what they are capable of) but there's many more where those came from which are integral to the proper functioning of the body.

This is where eicosanoids come into play. Eicosanoids are the superhormones that control the production of other hormones in the body. Make no mistake that these are extremely critical to the function of the body. To make it simple, there are good eicosanoids and bad eicosanoids and the object is to maximize the good ones and minimize the bad ones. When you are talking about the very keys to the hormonal system that integrally controls your whole body and it's functionality, you're dealing with something very powerful indeed!

Here's the exciting part: The very food that you eat directly affects the production of both types of eicosanoids and by following a few simple rules you can increase your good eicosanoids, decrease production of bad eicosanoids.

Sorry, but this is the part where I'm going to leave out some details. I'm not writing a book (which is about what would be required for a thorough explanation), so for expedience let me just say that the protein/carbohydrate balance in your diet controlls your insulin/glucagon balance which directly effects your eicosanoid production. And here's the big secret for getting that balance right:

Chances are that you're wondering, "Wait a second... where did the fat come from? Shouldn't I be reducing it as much as possible?" In a word, no. Fat plays an important part in the production of eicosanoids and in other bodily processes as well. Reducing it too much will foul up a lot of things. Contrary to popular belief, low fat diets do not necessarily make you lose weight and can have the reverse effect as well as causing other system deficiencies. Dr. Sears explains this very nicely in The Zone and if you are still skeptical about what I've just said about fat, read the book.

Now all this counting of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat can be a real drag. To make this a little easier, a "block" system has been developed. A block of protein is 7 grams, a block of carbohydrates is 9 grams and a block of fat is about 3 grams. This system makes it easy to break foods down into their block components for very simple block to block to block ratio comparasin.

The ideal block ratio for most people is 1:1:1 but this may change somewhat from person to person. To accurately determine this ratio and your daily calorie requirement you will need to have a profile assembled based on some of your personal statistics. This is easy to do (see "Zone Pro" below).

Of course, very few foods actually have that 1:1:1 ratio naturally but that is hardly of consequence since you want to balance your meals and snacks as a whole. As an example, a Snicker's bar rather nicely supplies carbohydrates and fats but fails miserably in the protein department so eating some cottage cheese with it would help. After totaling the grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat you simply divide those 3 figures by 7, 9 and 3 respectively to find the total blocks of each. For an ideal meal or snack, these should be equal.

Analyzing a recipe for a single dish (or an entire meal) is done in the same manner: Total the number of grams for each of the three categories, divide to get the number of blocks of each and compare. The concept is simple, but you may have guessed already that for a batch of cookies this can be quite a lot of math. That's why I developed ZoneBuddy and believe me when I say that it's a lot simpler now!

After reading over the basic rules of the 40-30-30 diet plan you might be wondering, "How do I know how much protein and everything else to eat each day?" What you need is a "40-30-30 profile", a personalized assessment of your daily requirements which will keep you on track. The method for determining this is described in Sears' book and it is a little tedious to do (and you really don't want to make any mathematical errors along the way). So I've written some software called Zone Pro that nicely takes care of all this. It's free and available at this site.

What can you expect from a 40-30-30 Diet?

Naturally, results are going to vary. Most commonly we hear about how effective this diet is for controlling diabetes and excess body fat but the effects can reach much further than that. Sears states that being in the Zone can increase your energy level, boost the immune system, enhance mental clarity and facilitate peak athletic performance. The list goes on.

Here's how I look at it: I'm not 21 anymore. Sooner or later my genetic ATM card is going to run out and I'll need to learn more and more health tricks to stay on top of it. We hear middle aged people complain about how their bodies aren't what they used to be. "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself." I'm not going to wait that long. My health (or lack of it) belongs to me and nobody else, so by utilizing the 40-30-30 plan I expect to greatly enhance and extend my life.

Return to Zone Index Page