Is the Zone Diet High in Fat?

I keep seeing people say that the Zone Diet is high in fat, so I thought I’d really look into whether this is true or not. Here are my findings. Firstly, what is the recommended fat content for men and women, do you know?

I went to the Institute of Grocery Distribution (ICD) an oddly named body if you ask me but they seem to be the people who publish this kind of information. Having said that, they don’t appear to list the fat information we want freely on their website, the main GDA page here shows no actual values. You can read a short paper about the background to the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition website, which does give the fat GDA amounts.  Here’s the table you may be familiar with from food labels:

Item Men Women
Fat 95g 70g
Saturates 30g 20g
Sodium 2.5g 2g
Sugar 70g 50g
Fibre 20g 16g

So for a fella we’re looking at 95g of fat per day and 70g for a woman.  Now we need to look at what the Zone Diet specifies.  First things first, the Zone Diet can be a bit confusing when it comes to fat blocks.  I will one day write a detailed article on why it’s so confusing, but let’s just take a simple approach and say that you need 3g of total fat per block on the Zone Diet eating plan.

For a man, let’s say on 14 blocks per day, that’s 14 x 3 = 42g of fat.  For a woman, on say 11 blocks per day, that’s 11 x 3 = 33g of total fat.  Let’s see how that compares:

Diet Men / 14 blocks
Women / 12 blocks
GDA 95g 70g
Zone 42g 33g
Comparison 56% less 53% less

So there you have it, the Zone diet recommends about half the fat than that recommended by the Guideline Daily Amounts that are promoted by the government and appear all over our food labels.  The only time this wouldn’t be the case is if you’re eating more than 15 blocks as a man, or more than 12 as a woman.  This could be true if you were doing a lot of exercise for example.  Either way, that looks like a low fat diet to me!

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Ian Sturrock 10 November 2008, 10:04 pm

    True enough — though the CrossFit version of the Zone does tend to call for 2x to as much as 6x the usual fat blocks once one has reached ones ideal, lean weight. So, arguably, once one is pretty damn skinny, it DOES become a high-fat diet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, since eating good quality fats (olive oil, most nuts & seeds, fatty fish, etc.) in quantity is absolutely fine from a health perspective, anyway. Of course, if all your 6x fat blocks are made from butter, cream, salami, etc., it may not be quite so wonderful.

  • Colin McNulty 11 November 2008, 8:47 am

    You are indeed correct Ian, when the ideal weight / body fat percentage is reached, increasing fat intake is the correct way to maintain weight. Though I’ve never come across anyone on 6x fat! 😮

    I chose not to muddy the fatty waters with what happens when you reach your ideal body fat and want to stop losing weight, for the simple reason that some people seem to get confused with different “phases” of a diet. Look at Dr Atkins for example, he’s been vilified for his “ultra low carb diet that is scientifically unhealthy and will cause internal damage in the long run”. Something which he freely admitted to…. when talking about the initial 2 week induction phase.

    Basically the Atkins diet describes 4 phases, only the initial 2 weeks induction is very low carbs (20g per day). You are only meant to go at this level for 2 weeks in order to kick start ketosis, and then you start upping the carbs, never to return to this low level again. Yet every diet assessment or comparison I’ve seen that looks at Atkins, concentrates on this unsustainable 2 week start, ignoring the 99% of the rest of the diet. Dieticians simply couldn’t get their head round the fact that they should have been assessing phase 3, the long term weight loss phase.

    That’s why I wasn’t going to mention the increased fat “I’m loosing too much weight!” phase of the Zone. 😉

  • Tracy Sturdivant 14 November 2008, 6:45 pm

    Hi there, I thought that the fat content of the Zone Diet was 30% ??
    And if I’m not mistaken, that’s the same as the American Heart Association and most other standard American diet groups. Correct me if I’m wrong, but why the need to go through all those complicated calculations. Barry Sears say 30% , so it doesn’t matter how many blocks, it’s just 30%.

  • Colin McNulty 15 November 2008, 3:55 pm

    Hi Tracy, the 30% refers to percent of total calories consumed, so yes, 30% of your calorie intake should come from fat. But I was looking at the total fat content in grams per day, which is a different measure of the same thing. If that makes any sense.

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