Zone Athletes Rise Above the Rest
By Mary Perry, MS, RD, LDN
For the past 15 years Zone Labs has worked with world-class athletes to achieve their goals, but whether you’re the elite athlete or new to the athletic scene, there’s a reason why the Zone diet improves athletic performance. The secret lies in the 1-2-3 approach.
1. The Zone Diet:
A common misconception by most athletes is how the composition and consistency of their diet impacts their performance. For most it’s viewed merely from a caloric standpoint for fueling needs, but composition and consistency are just as important as the training program used to get you to race day. This is because the diet controls the hormones that are essential for maximum performance. In a cross over study by Fontani et al, the authors compared the Zone Diet (40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 30% fat) to a control diet (that typically recommended to athletes 55% carbohydrate, 15% protein and 30% fat), and found that those following the Zone Diet had greater reductions in inflammatory markers, LDL cholesterol, insulin levels and body fat composition compared to the control diet1. This study exemplifies why the traditional high-carbohydrate diet that most athletes follow may actually work against their efforts, whereas the anti-inflammatory nature of the Zone Diet coupled with the loss of body fat may give athletes a competitive edge.
2. Fish oil:
Fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids (primarily EPA and DHA), is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s a relatively new concept when it comes to improving athletic performance. Inflammation is a huge component of training and influences an athlete’s ability to recover quicker. The study above also compared the effect of diet composition and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy, active individuals1. The study participants demonstrated significant improvements in inflammatory markers in 35 days after supplementing with 2.5 grams of EPA and DHA per day. In addition EPA and DHA supplementation improved feelings of vigor, while decreasing negative mood associations, such as anger, anxiety, fatigue, depression and confusion. Another study by Fontani et al showed supplementation with EPA and DHA significantly improved reaction times2.
Use of anti-inflammatory drugs among professional athletes or amateurs is not uncommon and following an anti-inflammatory diet will dramatically reduce the need for such drugs. The foundation of an anti-inflammatory diet is one that is based on a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The reason is that the color found in fruits and vegetables is a result of compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols not only act as anti-oxidants to reduce oxidative stress (i.e. free radicals), but they also have anti-inflammatory properties as they inhibit the same enzymes that are blocked by anti-inflammatory drugs.
For ultimate athletic performance or to beat your personal best, you need the 1-2-3 punch of the Zone Diet, Fish Oil, and Polyphenols. Sometimes it’s only a matter of seconds that separates first from second place, and the anti-inflammatory diet coupled with improvements in reaction time, mental focus, recovery and body fat composition may be the competitive edge that distinguishes the two rankings.
- Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Bugarini R, Fiaschi AI, Cerretani D, Montorfano G, Rizzo AM, Berra B. “Blood profiles, body fat and mood state in healthy subjects on different diets supplemented with Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Eur J Clin Invest. 2005 Aug;35(8):499-507.
- Fontani G, Corradeschi F, Felici A, Alfatti F, Migliorini S, Lodi L. “Cognitive and physiological effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in healthy subjects.” Eur J Clin Invest. 2005 Nov;35(11):691-9.