Getting Started with P90x – Tips for Success with P90x Nutrition
How to choose your P90x Level:
- If you are moderately fit (which I interpret as not overweight but not super active, which is what the program was designed for) - choose your Level as indicated by the P90x nutrition guide.
- If you are significantly overweight – the #s are probably off, since the calorie consumption for P90x is based on a person who is already moderately fit. (After all, the program was designed for the graduates of the P90 program, so it assumes a foundation of muscle built during Tony’s first 90-day workout program.) A moderately fit 250 lb person, for example, would be designated a Level III because he/she would have to eat that many calories to feed the muscle that the plan is assuming that a moderately fit 250 lb person would have. Muscle needs to be “fed,” fat doesn’t!My hubby started P90x significantly overweight, and while the nutrition plan told him to start at Level III 3000 calories, he started at Level II 2400 and it worked out great. If you are starting overweight, I’d suggest that you choose your level based on your goal weight, and then see how you feel and if you have enough energy to complete your workouts. If you don’t, add 100 calories per day until you have enough energy and are not hungry. Keep in mind that you probably will feel hungry for the first week while your body adjusts to the lack of processed sugar. After a week or so, you should be able to trust your body’s hunger mechanism, and can safely add calories until you are at the right number. Once you find it, stick to that number of calories throughout the program. If you are wondering how to go about adding portions, I’d start with protein, vegis, dairy, snack. Save adding carbs and fruits to the end.
Keep track of your portions:
This is the only way to know that you are eating the right thing. Also, note that a normal “healthy” diet will not include the amount of protein that the first phase of P90x calls for. Try using my P90x nutrition plan food journal. [Also, shameless plug, if you'd rather not bother with the portion tracking aspect at all, you can check out my P90x menu and shopping list eBook where I have done all of the meal and portion planning for you. ;-)]
Keep in mind that each food in the P90x nutrition plan only counts for ONE portion.
For example, cottage cheese appears on the portion lists for both dairy and snack servings. You can eat it for one or the other, but NOT BOTH. So you could theoretically eat cottage cheese once in the morning for your dairy serving, and then again later in the day for your snack serving. If you start counting foods as more than one portion, you won’t be getting enough calories.
Choose foods that fit the calorie guidelines in the portion plan, not just the portions themselves.
For example, in the “single” column of the snack section, the P90x nutrition guide says you can have 8 0z. of fruit sorbet as a snack. Awesome, right? But single snack servings are only supposed to have 100 calories. Make sure that the fruit sorbet you choose really has only 100 calories per 8 oz!! This is important, because if you don’t pay attention to the specific calorie content of the brands you buy, you could accidentally eat way more calories than the P90x nutrition plan accounts for.
Use Calorie Confusion, the nutrition version of Tony Horton’s muscle confusion.
I don’t have any science to back this up, just anecdotal evidence and common sense. As I was researching the stories of people who were very successful with this program on the P90x forums, a common theme stood out to me – they didn’t just vary their exercises, they varied their diet too. It stands to reason that if your body can become used to certain exercises and start plateauing, the same goes for foods. So my philosophy is one of calorie confusion – give your body different types of calories at different times of day – keep it guessing! This plays out in my cooking. I try to vary when I give my husband his carb and fruit servings. Sometimes for breakfast, sometimes for lunch, and sometimes for dinner. Likewise, I try to vary the types of fruits, vegetables, and proteins that I give him.
Buy a scale and measure everything – you’d be surprised at how often your eyeball estimates are off.
Especially with things like meat – we are conditioned to eat MUCH LARGER servings than are typical in a healthy diet. But sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised, too – 2 Tb. of dressing doesn’t sound like that much, but can go a long way!
Just don’t do it. Read my article to find out why.
P90x attracts black and white thinkers – read my article where I kick your butt about that a lil’ bit! =)
Supplies you’ll need for your P90x nutrition plan:
- Food scale and measuring cups – It’s not really necessary to have an ultra-high-tech food scale, but this one was pretty and well rated, so I thought I’d link to it.
- Recovery drink – You’ll need to choose what you’re going to use for this. Either buy the official P90x one, or check out my article on P90x Recovery Drink Alternatives (also read this article if you’re not sure about the difference between a recovery drink and a protein drink – they are different).
- Protein Powder- Not technically necessary, but can make packing in the protein easier.
- Protein bars – Once again, not technically necessary, but can be handy for snacks. Either buy the official P90x one, use Atkins Advantage bars like my hubby did, or check out the recipe on this site for Homemade P90x Protein Bars.
- 3-ring binder – Helpful if you’re using my P90x food journal pages.
Supplies for the exercise portion of the P90x fitness program:
Critical P90x Equipment (can’t really do P90x without them):
- P90x - Be wary of Craigslist and Ebay. Make sure you get your copy from a legitimate source (Beachbody, a Beachbody coach, or from Beachbody through Amazon) otherwise you could end up with a knockoff like I did!
- Fitness Bands or Weights
- Pull-up bar
Optional P90x Equipment (you can do without them, but can be nice to have):
- Adjustable Weight Set - My hubby purchased a set like this and loved it. I loved that his weights didn’t take up the whole room! Check out the reviews of this particular set on Amazon – one of the reviewers provides a very detailed review of all of the adjustable weight sets out there.
- Heart Rate Monitor - To help make sure you’re in the zone during Cardio X.
- Pullup Assistance Bands - Can help until you build up strength to do pullups. This company also makes a “pro” version that includes push-up assistance bands too.
- Pushup Stands – So your nose isn’t in the carpet during pushups. Tony uses these in the videos.
- Yoga Mat - So you don’t slip around.
- Yoga Block - To help you if you are very flexible or not flexible enough.
- Yoga Strap - To help if you aren’t very flexible.
- Yoga grip socks - Another way not to slip around during Yoga X.
- Tape measure – For before/after measurements.
- Body Weight Scale - Ideally this would measure body fat % as well. Alternately, if you already have a scale, you could try a Body Fat Percentage Reader, or a Caliper. I would recommend getting something to measure progress other than just your weight, since this program focuses on fitness, not weight loss. You can know that academically, but it REALLY helps to have some tangible, objective feedback that it is working, and often in the beginning the scale doesn’t give you that. You’ll want to go by measurements, clothing fit, and body fat % at first.
- Camera - For before and 30/60/90 day photos. I know you probably already have a camera, but I was excited to show you the camera that I use for all of my photos on this site, the Canon Rebel Xti. I seriously couldn’t recommend this camera enough. I use this with a 50mm lense. The quality of my family photos went through the roof after my hubby purchased this camera for me!!
If you’d like to read up a bit more, I’ve also written a few P90x Nutrition Articles:
- P90x When to Eat
- P90x When You Hate Vegetables
- Calories in P90x Recipes
- P90x Meal Examples – Portion Approach Menus
- P90x When Entertaining
- P90x Nutrition While Traveling
- P90x Scam – I Bought a Fake, Knockoff P90x!
One more shameless plug – if you’d like to take the guesswork out of the nutrition side of things, do check out my P90x Shopping List and Menus ebook for Phase 1. You can sample the first 30% free, and I also have a few recommendations in there about how to do P90x on a budget.
I hope this is helpful to you!
- CJ =)