For those of you who know Dr. Sears or have accompanied him on our Zone Cruises, you know he truly practices what he preaches. Just like many of us when it comes to eating and meal prep he wants it to be healthy, but convenient and easy too. That’s why Zone Foods are a big part of his day. I had the chance to talk with Dr. Sears about how he continues to stay in the Zone after all these years and what he does daily to stay healthy. Even though it’s been a few months since we’ve worked side by side in the office, I can testify he’s as close to being a Zone Angel as they get.
Why is it so important for you to be in the Zone?
I look at being in the Zone as the ultimate health insurance policy. I firmly believe that reaching the Zone and staying there is my best opportunity to maintain wellness, extend my healthspan, and control how my body responds to and heals from injury-induced inflammation. Fortunately, the science backs up my belief. I also realize that reaching the Zone is not for everyone as it requires a certain degree of personal discipline and having defined health goals, but it sure beats the alternative of relying on the drug industry to save you from yourself.
I always say that following the Zone diet is like riding a bike. Once you learn how to, you never forget. The key is knowing how much protein you need in a day. That’s why I developed the body-fat calculator to determine much protein I need each day to maintain my muscle mass. For me it’s around 108 grams per day. I like to split it into having each meal containing about 30 grams of protein and then having a snack containing another 16 grams of protein.
You often talk about ZoneLiving, how do you incorporate this concept into your day?
I like to think about my health in terms of the 80-15-5 rule. That means 80 percent of my success will come from the diet, 15 percent from exercise, and the final 5 percent from stress reduction. This is how it looks for me:
Diet: After my wife passed away more than five years ago, I quickly realized that making meals for yourself is a lot of work. However, most people never consume more than ten different meals at home. This might be two basic breakfasts, three distinct lunches, and five different dinners.
The key to making Zone meals is realizing that each has to have adequate protein, then to balance that protein with the right amount of low-glycemic carbs, and finally add a dash of monounsaturated fats. For most individuals, that will be about 400 calories per meal. One of the reasons I developed Zone Foods was to make that process easier. Finally, no matter how balanced any Zone meal might be, you will likely have to add enough omega-3s and polyphenols to make sure your blood levels are always within their optimal ranges. While the Zone diet can be maintained using just your eyes to gauge your intake, you will have to test your blood if your goal is a longer healthspan.
Here's what a sample day looks like for Dr. Sears when using Zone Foods:
Exercise: Having played college basketball followed by several years of volleyball at the national level, I know the importance of exercise. I don’t compete at those levels anymore, but the benefits of a consistent exercise program for a longer healthspan remain. That’s why I do most of my training at home. I spend about one hour in the morning doing stretching with light resistance, and then do a one-hour afternoon session consisting of 40 minutes doing weight training followed by 20 minutes of aerobic exercise in my home gym located in my garage.
Stress reduction: Finally, before I go to bed, I’ll sit in a comfortable chair and try and think about nothing for 20 minutes. This component of Zone Living often takes more effort than the diet or the exercise components.
Have a question for Dr. Sears on how he stays in the Zone? Ask him below.