In Nutrition

June 26, 2016

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Tracking the amount of food you eat is key to accomplishing health, performance or aesthetic goals. While the Zone has been a staple in CrossFit, macronutrient (macro) tracking has become increasingly popular. Both programs require eating a prescribed amount of food every day, but caloric totals rarely match when the exact same meals are evaluated in each system.

This brief neither criticizes nor applauds either system, nor does it discuss how much of each macronutrient someone should eat. Instead, this brief demonstrates and explains the differences in caloric measurement between the two systems so athletes can optimize their approaches.

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6 Comments on “Zone Vs. Macros: Accounting for Fat in Protein”


Chris Sinagoga wrote …

EC I have two questions:

First, I think I remember something in the Zone book that talked about not counting protein in things like peanut butter and beans because of the amount of fiber or something. Is that correct? Would that still apply here?

Secondly, could you do more of these short pieces? (If you have the time, of course.) This was very helpful for me and is something I'm going to definitely relay to the kids and parents I coach. A few topics could be: dairy products, the different types of fat (which you covered in one of the Simple Nutrition clips I think), and a guide to unfavorable carbohydrates. Something like that


wrote …

To be in any way truly accurate in any form of diet I believe you need to do four things before starting: 1. Decide on your final goals in terms of body weight and body composition, i.e., overall weight and percentage body fat. 2. Get an Omron "Body Composition Monitor", or similar, style set of scales so you can keep track of progress. 3. Get a set of digital food scales and a book on food nutritional information so you can accurately measure and record your food component intake - or subscribe to an online weight management site such as 4. Weigh, categorize and record every mouthful of food/drink which passes your lips. In my case, I am 70 years old, 180cm tall, weigh 79kg with 19% body fat. I train daily with a combination of endurance and weights, and have a goal of 71kg and 10% body fat. My present diet comprises approximately 1650 calories per day, of which 120g is protein, 50g is carbohydrate and the balance is made up of saturated or monounsaturated fat; no polyunsaturated fats or oils. Remember, these are nutrient measurements - not food weight measurements - 100g of raw chicken is only 28g of protein and 129cal. Apologies for using metric measurements, but I live in the UK and cannot compute to US measurements. I eat no low fat products, plenty of fish and take my coffee with heavy cream.


Hi Chris,

IIRC, it was more from the standpoint of simplicity - just categorize items as a single macronutrient and it is still pretty darn effective. Unless ALL of your fat is peanut butter, and ALL of your protein is beans... you will find the hidden calories don't add up to that much. The fiber comment is interesting -- it definitely effects absorption, but I don't think the collective "we" have a good handle on disparity between caloric content and actual absorption (will also be individual and food depenedant).

That is the plan! Thanks for the suggestions.


Hi Peter,

Sounds like you have found a system that works for you! Keep it up. Yes, the leaner you get, the more precise you will have to be.


wrote …

Those hidden calories were always concerning to me, especially when they sometimes eclipse the main macronutrient, like in eggs. However, as described in Zone diet, those hidden nutrients are kind of "accounted" for.

If I'm going to take care of counting those hidden calories as additional blocks, my supposedly 17 blocks/day diet will be filled quicker and will end up as a real 14-15 blocks/day.
If that makes sense, shall I aim for more than 17 blocks to account for that more precise calculation?

Thanks for shedding lights on that issue, EC!


Hi Remon,

Unless you are eating a lot of combination items, it's really only the fat in protein that adds a significant amount of hidden calories. I suppose if you got ALL your fat from peanut butter, and ALL your carbs from beans, for example, you may want to start accounting for the hidden protein and carbohydrates, therein, respectively. But assuming you are mixing whole food sources, a hidden carb or pro gram here and there really don't significantly effect the total.

So, it's really only if you are eating lots of eggs, bacon, cheese, etc., you actually fill your FAT blocks "faster" (not total blocks).

But, remember, it's not necessarily precision that gets you results. If you are currently eating 14-15 blocks a day, have never worried about the additional fat, and have good body comp/performance.... I'd say why change it? If you've been consistently eating 14-15 blocks a day, and want to lean out... maybe start paying attention to protein sources more.

Make sense?

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