Dietary Guidelines

Metabolic Engineering™ is clinically proven technology to reduce insulin resistance by activating AMPK in each of your 30 trillion cells.  Metabolic Engineering™ is not a magic bullet but an orchestration of various dietary inputs that are necessary to maintain an efficient metabolism, as shown below:

The first thing to notice is that these dietary inputs are different in importance, but they still need to work together as a team to reduce insulin resistance by activating AMPK.

Calorie restriction without malnutrition is the most powerful dietary technology to activate  AMPK.   The Zone diet accomplishes that goal without hunger or fatigue due to its patented macronutrient composition to reduce elevated insulin (i.e., hyperinsulinemia).  This is why the Zone diet is the foundation of Metabolic Engineering™.

However, you will need more than the Zone diet to get to the Zone and slow down aging. You will also need adequate omega-3 fatty acids to resolve the inflammation caused by insulin resistance and sufficient polyphenols to repair the damage caused by insulin resistance. Omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols are critical for success because they indirectly activate AMPK.  If adequate omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols are not part of your current diet, then reaching the Zone to slow down aging will be far more difficult than it should be.

However, without the Zone diet as your dietary foundation, even the ideal level of supplementation with purified omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenol extracts will not generate the necessary level of AMPK activation to eliminate senescent cells that accelerate aging.

The Zone diet is patented to reduce insulin resistance. More than 40 clinical studies have demonstrated the superiority of the Zone diet in reversing the metabolic disruption caused by insulin resistance. Following the Zone diet, you will experience appetite suppression without hunger or fatigue within days and start to see significant subjective changes within one to two weeks.

The scientific foundation of the Zone diet is balance. It starts with the balance of protein to carbohydrates at each meal to generate the balance of hormones in the blood and gene transcription factors in a cell, allowing you to reduce calories without hunger or fatigue for the next five hours.

Here are the three simple dietary steps to make the Zone diet work.

Step 1. You require adequate protein at each meal.
You require adequate protein at each meal to generate the hormonal signals that control hunger.  If you eat too little protein at a meal, insufficient hormonal signals (initially generated in the gut) will reach the brain via the vagal nerve to stop hunger.   On the other hand, if you consume too much protein at a meal, you begin to generate insulin resistance by increasing the gene transcription factor known as mTOR.  What is the correct amount of protein you need so you do not feel hungry for the next five hours? The answer is about 30 grams of protein per meal.

Here are some examples of 30 grams of low-fat protein for different dietary philosophies.

     Four oz. of chicken breast
     Four oz. of lean beef
     Six oz. of fish
Lacto-ovo vegetarian
     Five oz. of non-fat Greek yogurt
     Nine egg-whites
     Two cups of boiled black beans
     Seven oz. of tofu

You can see that getting adequate protein at a meal is possible with virtually any dietary philosophy.  However, getting that necessary protein level using a vegan diet may be more challenging than following a lacto-ovo vegetarian or omnivore diet, but it can be accomplished.

Step 2. Balance the protein with low-glycemic carbohydrates
Once you select 30 grams of low-fat protein at a meal to generate the hormones that stop hunger, you must balance it with carbohydrates to maintain that satiety for the next five hours. There are two reasons for carbohydrates.  One reason is to provide a source of glucose to maintain stable blood glucose levels for the brain.  The second reason to provide fermentable fiber is that gut microbes can metabolize it into short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).  SCFA provides the necessary energy to maintain a stable gut barrier, preventing bacteria from entering the body and causing endotoxemia.  The same SCFA also functions as a signaling agent to enhance the satiety effects of adequate protein intake at the meal.  However, excess carbohydrate intake will inhibit AMPK activity.  This inhibition of AMPK will increase insulin resistance.  On the other hand, continuing deficient levels of carbohydrates in the diet (i.e., a ketogenic diet) will increase cortisol levels, which increases insulin resistance.

The correct protein-to-glycemic load balance at a meal for optimal hormonal means adding approximately 40 grams of carbohydrates to the 30 grams of protein in the same meal. The best carbohydrate source will be primarily non-starchy vegetables high in fermentable fiber. At first, consuming 40 grams of carbohydrates using such non-starchy vegetables may seem challenging.  However, it is also hard to overconsume non-starchy vegetables.  The best choices for non-starchy vegetables would be the  ABCs (asparagus, artichoke hearts, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach) to maximize appetite suppression.  Fruits have a higher carbohydrate density, so their use in the Zone diet should be more limited than non-starchy vegetables.  Grains and starches (primarily white varieties) should be a very minor component of the Zone diet.

Step 3. Add a dash of monounsaturated fat
Fat adds flavor to any meal, but you only need a dash because fat supplies added calories that inhibit AMPK activity. The best fat choices are extra virgin olive oil, almonds, and guacamole.

Here are some examples and the amounts that provide a dash of fat:

  • One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 oz. of almonds
  • Two tablespoons of guacamole

Putting it all together, a balanced Zone meal restricts calories without hunger or mental fatigue. It provides adequate protein, is balanced with moderate carbohydrates, and is low in fat but rich in fermentable fiber.  This is the best way known to medical science to activate AMPK.  The more you restrict excess calories in your diet, the more rapidly your insulin resistance is reduced, leading to the delay of developing chronic diseases associated with insulin resistance.  More importantly, the Zone diet eliminates senescent cells that accelerate aging.  In our Resources section, you can find some examples of basic Zone meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Metabolism is controlled by circadian rhythms orchestrated by changes in light intensity. Thus, the best time to eat is during daylight hours. Your first meal should be consumed upon waking, and your last meal should be consumed before sunset. If that isn’t possible, ensure your evening meal is consumed at least four hours before bed. 

Try to have each meal contain the same number of calories, as any excess calories at any meal will depress AMPK activity.

Just look at your watch five hours after eating a Zone meal. If you are not hungry and have excellent mental focus, you know you have consumed a proper Zone meal. Once you master this dietary habit, you have the answer to life-long metabolic control. Why? Because it is easy to consume fewer calories if you are not hungry.  Consuming excess calories at any meal depresses AMPK activity, causing a corresponding increase in insulin resistance.

How long will it take to see hunger reduction using the Zone diet? Research from Harvard Medical School indicates it only takes two consecutive Zone meals to reduce hunger dramatically. Other studies show that insulin resistance in obese individuals or type 2 diabetics is significantly reduced within four days. That is the good news. The bad news is that insulin resistance can quickly increase once you return to your previous dietary habits.

The Zone diet is patented to reduce insulin resistance.  It does so on several levels.  The first level is providing adequate protein at every meal to activate the release of hormonal signals (such as GLP-1, PYY, GIP, and glucagon) that work in conjugation with each other to stop hunger for five hours.  Regardless of your age, sex, or level of physical activity, the protein level at the meal to control hunger is approximately the same.  However, increasing your protein intake beyond 30 grams per meal can increase mTOR activity, decreasing AMPK activity. 

However, you will need adequate low-glycemic carbohydrates that accompany protein intake to obtain maximum satiety.  Your goal is to consume about 40 grams of low-glycemic load carbs for every 30 grams of protein.  The ideal carbohydrate sources are non-starchy vegetables.  First, it is challenging to overconsume carbohydrates when consuming non-starchy vegetables at a meal.  Furthermore, non-starchy vegetables are rich in fermentable fiber.  Fermentable fiber is metabolized in your gut to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) that not only supply energy to maintain the integrity of your gut barrier but also act as signaling agents to enhance the satiety signals generated by the protein content of that meal. 

Finally, add a dash of fat to every meal.  Fat is a high-density source of calories that can reduce AMPK activity.  The best fats are those rich in monounsaturated fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc.)., or avocado.  Just use them in moderation.

The Zone diet is calorie-restricted but without hunger or fatigue.  Each Zone meal contains between 400-500 calories per meal.  Each Zone meal contains adequate protein to stop hunger for five hours, supported by a moderate amount of low-glycemic carbohydrates and a dash of fat. It is also a powerful approach to reprogramming your metabolism.  However, the real benefit is that the more closely you follow Metabolic Engineering™, you will also reduce the levels of senescent cells in your body, thus slowing down your rate of aging.

Although the Zone diet is a clinically proven dietary method to reduce insulin resistance, you must also reduce chronic low-level inflammation and accelerate the repair of damaged tissue caused by oxidative stress.   This requires an adequate daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols. Unfortunately, this is not a reality for many. As a result, virtually everyone is deficient in these two essential nutrients to get you to the Zone.  However, this can be easily addressed by supplementation with refined omega-3 fatty acid concentrates and polyphenol extracts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You need adequate omega-3 fatty acids to produce hormones known as resolvins that reduce chronic low-level inflammation that drives the development of insulin resistance. Dr. Sears first wrote of the importance of resolvins in 2002 with the publication of The OmegaRx Zone, which started the fish oil revolution.

In addition to reducing low-level chronic inflammation, adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids will also activate AMPK.

But how much omega-3 fatty acids do you need? Your blood will tell you. A simple at-home finger stick test that will precisely tell you the amount of omega-3 fatty acids you need. Approximately 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) daily will be sufficient for most individuals.  The typical intake of EPA and DHA in the  American diet is about 0.1 mg daily.

Polyphenols are the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color, but their metabolic importance is because they also stimulate the repair of damaged tissue by reducing oxidative stress. There are more than 8,000 known polyphenols. But which ones and how much?

As Dr. Sears described in his book The Mediterranean Zone (published in 2014), the “best of the best” is likely a subclass of polyphenols known as delphinidins. These polyphenols give red wine its color. Clinical studies indicate that therapeutic effects are observed between 200 and 400 mg of delphinidins per day.  For comparison, a glass of red wine contains less than 2 mg of delphinidins.

But how much do you need? Again, your blood will tell you. There is a blood that measures glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c).   Your goal is to have your HbA1c level close to 5.0 percent.  Above 5.7 percent, you have significant insulin, and if HbA1c levels exceed 6.5 percent, you have type 2 diabetes.  The delphinidins reduce HbA1c by activating AMPK to generate greater glucose uptake by the cell

Metabolic Engineering™ is a dietary program personalized to you. Simple blood tests tell you how to adjust each of the three dietary components of Metabolic Engineering™ to your unique biochemistry and genetics. Consider these blood tests as navigational channels to keep you in the Zone at every stage of life.

Adjusting the Zone Diet
You know if you are following the Zone diet correctly if your triglyceride/HDL cholesterol (TG/HDL) ratio is less than one. You can get this information from your blood test at your annual check-up.  If your TG/HDL ratio is greater than one, you are likely consuming more carbohydrates than you should. You can adjust this by eating fewer low-glycemic carbohydrates with the 30 grams of protein in your meals.

Adjusting Your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake
Inflammation is critical to survival, but you must keep it in an appropriate zone for optimal health.  This can be determined by the ratio of AA to EPA in the blood.  You want to maintain that AA/EPA ratio between 1.5 and 3. The average American has an AA/EPA ratio of around 20, indicating a highly pro-inflammatory diet. If your AA/EPA ratio exceeds 3, take more omega-3 fatty acids as a dietary supplement.  If your AA/EPA ratio is less than 1.5, take fewer omega-3 fatty acids as a supplement.

Adjusting Your Polyphenol Intake
You want to maintain your HbA1c level between 4.9 and 5.1 percent. The average American with insulin resistance has a HbA1c level greater than 5.7. If your HbA1c level exceeds 5.1 percent, consume more delphinidins as a dietary supplement. If your HbA1c level is less than 4.9 percent, take fewer delphinidins as a dietary supplement.

Getting to the Zone is based on science rather than hope. Your blood will tell you.

Following Metabolic Engineering™ generates causes rapid changes in your metabolism. Some occur in a matter of days, others within a few weeks, and according to published clinical research, your blood chemistry begins to change within a month. Here are some subjective changes you can expect to see if you are correctly following Metabolic Engineering™.  If you like those results after following Metabolic Engineering™ for a month, you have a dietary roadmap to the Zone for the rest of your life.

Daily Energy
As you reduce insulin resistance, your daily energy will increase as a more efficient metabolism converts more dietary calories into energy instead of storing them as fat. You will begin to see this marker change in a few days.

Appetite for carbohydrates
As you reduce insulin resistance, your cells can take up glucose from the blood more effectively. This reduces the body’s constant demand for dietary carbohydrates.

Lack of hunger between meals
Improved appetite control comes from a better protein-to-carbohydrate balance in your diet. This generates more stable blood sugar levels and satiety signals from the gut to the brain. Although this occurs after consuming a Zone meal, it may take a few days for you to notice it.

Mental concentration
Mental concentration is controlled by the ability of neurons to take up glucose and convert it into energy (ATP) by the mitochondria.   As you reduce insulin resistance, more glucose can enter the neurons to create more energy for brain activity.  You will notice this benefit within a few days.

Fingernail strength or growth
The quality of your fingernails is a consequence of your level of insulin resistance. By reducing insulin resistance, both their growth rate and strength are enhanced. You should start to notice this within a week.

Sleep Quality
Insulin resistance causes an increase in cortisol, which disturbs sleep quality and makes you less refreshed in the morning. Reducing insulin resistance improves sleep quality within a week.

Skin condition
The elasticity of the skin is reduced with increased insulin resistance. As you reduce insulin resistance, your skin begins to regain its elasticity. You will start to see this change within two weeks.

The key to a longer and better life is activating AMPK in each of your 30 trillion cells.  Following Metabolic Engineering™ is your most powerful approach.  But are there lifestyle interventions you can use to activate AMPK?  Yes, these include exercise and stress reduction.  However, these three lifestyle interventions are not equal.  This is why I use the 80-15-5 rule to rank them.  Eighty percent of your success will come from Metabolic Engineering™, fifteen percent from exercise, and five percent from stress reduction.  All of them are good, but they are not all equal.  However, integrating daily exercise and stress reduction into your daily routine will only enhance Metabolic Engineering™.  But without Metabolic Engineering™ to provide a foundation of AMPK activation, their potential benefits for increasing your healthspan will be highly attenuated.

What exactly is the Zone?  Simply stated, being in the Zone is how you slow down aging by reducing inflammation and increasing the repair of inflammatory damage.  The Zone is a highly dynamic physiological state controlled by your diet.  Like any validated medical science, the Zone is determined by your blood chemistry.  Your blood will tell if you are in the Zone or you are not.  In the Zone, you can better reduce, resolve, and repair the inflammatory damage caused by any type of injury.  The result is decreasing the onset of age-related chronic diseases resulting in the extension of your healthspan. 

What is Healthspan?
Healthspan is defined as years of life minus years of chronic disability.  The future goal of medicine will not be treating the symptoms of a particular chronic disease but understanding what causes our healthspan to decrease in the first place.  For example, many chronic diseases are associated with chronic low-level inflammation.  However, what causes this chronic inflammation has not been apparent until recently; it’s the inhibition of the “master switch” of your metabolism, AMPK. 

What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is how we convert food into energy to keep us alive.  It is AMPK found in every living cell in the body that controls the flow of that energy.  If AMPK activity is optimized, you live longer.  If AMPK activity is inhibited, you gain weight, develop various chronic diseases at an earlier age, and accelerate your rate of aging.  When you are in the Zone, your levels of AMPK are optimal to achieve a longer and better life. 

It Can’t Be That Simple?
AMPK also controls your immune system.  It’s called immuno-metabolism.  The underlying cause of aging and the chronic diseases associated with aging is a growing population of senescent cells that are not eliminated by your immune system.  Senescent cells are transformed cells like cancer cells.  Instead of growing uncontrollably, senescent cells now generate new sources of inflammation in the body that speed up aging by increasing the levels of inflammation in every organ in your body.

Furthermore, senescent cells can turn other cells into senescent cells.  In this regard, senescent cells are often called “zombie cells .” Under normal conditions, your immune system quickly eliminates these senescent cells.  But if AMPK activity is not optimal, the ability of the immune system to remove these zombie cells is compromised, and their population begins to grow.  This increase in senescent cells accelerates aging and the appearance of the chronic diseases associated with aging, as shown below.

How Do I Get Rid of Senescent Cells?
In the Zone, you can reprogram your immune system to recognize and eliminate senescent cells.  Increasing AMPK activity is a critical factor in achieving that goal.  As you age, AMPK activity decreases, and the population of senescent cells begins to grow.  The removal of senescent cells is called senolytics, and it is ultimately controlled by the activity of AMPK inside the cell.   

How Do I Get to the Zone?
There is no magical nutrient or drug that gets you the Zone.  However, following Senolytic Nutrition can get you to the Zone.  Each dietary component works as part of a complex team to orchestrate the necessary hormonal and epigenetic responses within the cell that are necessary for activating AMPK. 

Our Mission
Our goal at is to provide you with the scientific knowledge of why we age and how to slow it down and offer you unique dietary insights to make it easier to reach the Zone.  In the Zone, you can extend your healthspan by decreasing the population of senescent cells. Discover the benefits of being in the zone.