Glen Burnie Fitness and Nutrition CrossFit Glen Burnie

Zone Diet For Beginners – Complete How-To Guide

What is the Zone Diet?

The Zone Diet is a balanced approach to eating when it comes to getting your macronutrients in each day.  Your body can respond to food evenly as your food needs to be eaten in even amounts.  

Each meal contains the following ratio:

  • 40% Carbohydrates: Grains, starches, vegetables, natural sweeteners, and fruits.
  • 30% Protein: Meat, fish, legumes, and dairy.
  • 30% Fat: Avocados, oils, nuts, and seeds.

Introduction to Zone Blocks

Each food has a certain amount that equals one block which makes calculating your meal plans much easier.  

One block of carbohydrates is 9 grams, one block of protein is 7 grams, and one block of fat is 1.5 grams. Different foods have different quantities to make up one block. For example, to get your 9 grams of carbs from broccoli it will take 1.5 cups cooked to achieve that but if you want 9 grams of carbs from sweet potatoes it will only take 1/3 of a cup.  View the full Zone Blocks Food List.

  • A 1 Block Meal consists of one choice from the Protein section, one from the Carbohydrate section, and one from the Fat section.
  • A 3-Block Meal consists of three choices from the Protein section, three from the Carbohydrate section, and three from the Fat section.
  • A 5-Block Meal consists of five choices from the Protein section, five from the Carbohydrate section, and five from the Fat section.

You can mix and match these however you would like just as long as you get enough blocks of each macronutrient. You can also choose the same food for all of your protein blocks or split it between multiple foods.  

Then based on your lean muscle mass and activity level, you are prescribed a certain amount of blocks to eat per meal.

How to Figure Out Your Blocks

When it comes to figuring out your total blocks you can do this 3 different ways.

1) Get an Inbody Composition Scan at Glen Burnie Fitness & Nutrition.  These results will give you your total lean body mass (everything in your body except body fat).  From there, use one of the multipliers from the chart below that best represents your activity/exercise level.  Then take that number and divide it by 7 to get your total daily blocks. 

Formula – (Lean body mass x Activity level multiplier) then divide by 7

***Note: This is the most accurate way to determine your blocks and your progress. Use the Inbody Finder Map to find a testing machine near you. 

2) Manually figure out your lean body mass.  There are a lot of other devices that will give you your body fat percentage.  Once you have that and your body weight you can multiply the two to get the total pounds of fat in your body then subtract that number from your total body weight.

For example, a 200-pound man with 30% body fat.  200 x .30 = 60 pounds of fat.  200 – 60 = 140.  This man has 140 pounds of lean body mass.  Now he can go and use your activity level multiplier from above.

3) Use the chart below. Don’t feel like you’re locked into a specific number.  Everyone is different so allow yourself to be flexible. If it’s not enough food, add a block per day! 

How To Build Your Meal Plan Using Blocks

It’s pretty simple and works like a plug-and-play system. As an example, let’s create a 4 block lunch.  This means we will need 4 blocks of each protein, carb, and fat.

  • Protein – I want to go with chicken. When I check my food list I see that 1oz of cooked chicken is one block.  If I need 4 blocks then I need 4oz of cooked chicken.
  • Carb – For your lunches and dinners you always want to make sure you have at least one block of a veggie.  With my chicken, I like to eat green beans and one block is 1 cup cooked (grilled, baked, steamed, etc.) which leaves me with 3 more blocks.  I’ll go with brown rice and if one block is 1/5 cup then I need 3/5 cup (or a heaping half cup) to finish it out.
  • Fat – The easy choice here is to dump some oil on my chicken and broccoli after they’re all cooked and ready to go. One block of oil is 1 Tsp so I would need 1-1/3 Tsp (which isn’t very much, I know!)

You can use any of the foods you want from the list as long as you line the numbers up correctly.  

How to Create a Shopping List and Account for Loss When Cooking

We all know that when we cook certain foods they shrink but by how much?  The safe bet is to plan to lose 1/3 of its total weight after cooking. This is conservative but it is better to have a little too much than not enough. 

The foods you are focusing on here are mainly meats and vegetables but only the ones on the food list that have a unit of measurement in cups or ounces.  

So how do you plan for the loss? You can do this per meal or per week by adding half or multiplying by 1.5 to the original amount.

Here are a couple of examples from that chicken and green bean lunch.

Per Meal – 4oz of chicken x 1.5 = 6oz.  So if you weigh out 6oz raw and put it on the grill, you will end up with 4oz cooked.  Green beans are the same.  1 cup x 1.5 = 1.5 cups.  Measure it out raw and once it’s cooked you’ll end up back at 1 cup.  

Per Week – Let’s assume you will eat this chicken and green bean meal for lunch Monday through Friday.  You’ll need to take your daily cooked amount of each and multiply them by 5 then multiply by 1.5 and this is how you ultimately create a shopping list.

  • Chicken – 4oz x 5 days – 20oz for the week.  20oz x 1.5 = 30oz.  Divide by 16 to get pounds and you’ll need to buy 1.87 pounds of chicken from the store.  
  • Green Beans – 1 cup x 5 days = 5 cups.  5 cups x 1.5 = 7.5 cups.  Now this is where it gets tricky.  Look at the nutrition label and see what the serving size is.  If it’s in cups, you can see how many total cups are in the bag and determine if it will be enough.  Otherwise, you’ll have to do a little trial and error.  

Now when you go shopping you can buy the exact amount you need: nothing more, nothing less and in turn, saving money and not wasting food.  If you already have some of those foods at home, toss it on the scale and see how much you have then you can subtract it from your shopping list quantity.  This is a great way to keep clearing out your fridge and freezer!

Determining Blocks With Already Prepared Foods

Using this snack bar as an example we can reverse engineer the blocks to see how it lines up.  

Protein – 14 grams divided by 7 = 2 blocks total.

Carb – 23 grams divided by 9 = 2.5 blocks total.

Fat – 7 grams divided by 1.5 = 4.6 blocks total.

Looking at the total blocks for each macronutrient, we can see that it is not even.  It’s ok to eat but because it is higher in fat, we need to find a way to add a couple blocks of protein and a couple blocks of carbs to even it out.  

Pros and Cons of the Zone Diet


  • You get a well-balanced diet to support everything your body needs
  • The food list has NO restrictions making it more sustainable long term
  • Makes meal planning simple with a plug-and-play system
  • It is custom to your body type and needs


  • It can be confusing and take 2-3 weeks to get used to
  • There’s not a huge focus on micronutrients
  • You’ll need to weigh and measure your food

Modifications to Incorporate Other Diets

There are a lot of people who follow other types of diets like gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, keto, or any other diet with food restrictions but we can still easily use the Zone Diet protocol.  

The easiest way is to print out the food list and cross out all of the foods you cannot have.  The more restrictions, the smaller the food list.  It still works but it makes it a little bit tougher with a lack of options. 

Whats the Secret?

Consistency and Sustainability


Download the Zone blocks food list.

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