In P90x nutrition, your Level (I, II, or III) determines how many calories you need to consume each day. You’ll stay at that level of calories throughout the whole plan. However what you are eating to get those calories changes depending on what P90x Phase you are in.
The Phases are roughly tied to the three months of the program:
- Phase 1 “Fat Shredder” is low carb.
- Phase 2 “Energy Booster” is more balanced protein-to-carb-wise.
- Phase 3 “Endurance Maximizer” is a more carb-heavy “athlete’s diet.”
Regarding when to switch from one Phase to the next, this is a point of some debate and contention among P90xers.
There are two trains of thought for when to switch P90x phases:
1. It’s a system, just follow it.
These folks think that the nutrition Phases should be solidly tied to the months of the program. Month 1, you’re in Phase 1. Month 2, you’re in Phase 2. Month 3, you’re in Phase 3. Phase 1 is the “Fat Shredder” portion of the plan, designed to burn any extra fat and get you into the workouts. Phase 2 is “Energy Booster” – the idea is that if you were to stay in Fat Shredder, over time your energy would naturally start flagging. Also, the workouts in the second month really pick up the pace. So at that point you move to Energy Booster, which gives you more carbs to help you bring it in your workouts. Then Phase 3 “Endurance Maximizer” provides you with extra carbs in the last month when your workouts really intensify and you need more energy to bring it for the final stretch.
2. Tailor the Phases to where you are with your goals.
These folks think that the Phases are a bit more flexible. So for example, since your goal in Phase 1 “Fat Shredder” is to burn fat, if at the end of month 1 you still need to burn more fat, you can stay in it longer. Likewise, many people feel comfortable in Phase 2 and never move on to Phase 3.
However, I should note that the nutrition guide expressly warns against never moving to Phase 3: “Of note is that Phase 3 should be tried at some point, even if you feel good in Phase 2. We’ve seen many people hesitate to move on to this more carb-heavy phase for fear that they’ll gain weight, but surprise! They found that once they did, they had more energy, worked out even harder, and had better results. This is important to keep in mind. Athletes eat more carbs, and there is a reason that they do. We wouldn’t put it in the plan if it weren’t proven to improve results.”
The first approach is more straight-forward. The second approach does introduce more ambiguity.
My opinion? I’m more along the lines of the second approach. Especially because in the nutrition guide, they describe Phase 3 as an “athlete’s diet” that “must be earned.” My hubby started P90x significantly overweight, so I kept him in Phase 1 for the first two months of the program, and didn’t transition to Phase 2 until the last month. He never did do Phase 3. After re-reading this warning, though, I’m thinking we’ll have to try Phase 3 on his next round.
I tend to take some of the recommendations in the nutrition plan with a tiny grain of salt, because, while I really respect the rationale behind it, I’m aware of two major flaws in our use of it:
1) P90x is not a weight-loss program, it’s a fitness program. So while weight-loss may be a byproduct, it is not the goal of the program or its nutrition plan. This is not entirely consistent with how my hubby and I are using it, since weight loss is my hubby’s primary goal.
2) P90x is the “extreme” version of the Power 90, designed for those who are already moderately fit. My hubby would not be considered moderately fit. So that influenced how I went about choosing his level (see my ideas regarding how to choose your P90x level), and also influences how much stock I put into the recommendations for the Phases.
I would be interested to hear other P90xers views on this.
While this may not be as cut-and-dried an answer as you were looking for, I hope this helps you decide on your own approach!
– CJ =)