Before you start plowing ahead with the nutrition guide, it’s important to understand how your nutrition plan will affect your results. Are you wanting to gain muscle? Lose weight? Maintain weight but lose body fat? Gain weight and muscle? These are all very different objectives, and the great news is that you can do any or all of these with P90X, Body Beast (or any program really) if you customize your nutrition guide basics to meet your goals.
This is a post I originally ran about 2 years ago, it holds true today. If you want the best results, you have to eat to those specific results.
Fat LossFor most people starting out, their main objective in their first round of a program like P90X is to lose body fat. You really want to maintain lean muscle mass but dump body fat as quickly as possible. To do this, it is best to follow the “Fat Shredder” portion of the nutrition guide (50% protein, 30% carbs, 20% fat), but cut the calories significantly to help create a calorie deficit (I stayed at /below 2,000 cals per day even though the guide suggested 3,000 cals). If you are unsure of how to calculate your needs, check out my Calorie Calculator. Being at a deficit is crucial — you have to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight and body fat. The P90X guide when done by the book puts you at much more of a maintenance calorie goal. So that is where our deficit comes in. P90X already figures in workout calories, so we take away some calories (the deficit) to create the right fat loss environment.
Now, for my round 2, I wanted to change my goals, and thus I tweaked the nutrition to meet those goals. I wanted to maintain my weight in the 210 lb. range, but I really wanted to see my body fat trim up slightly more and I wanted to see more definition. I also had the goal to bulk in the shoulders and arms. To do this, I worked up to eating 3,200 cals per day in round 2 (1,200 more per day is a big jump, so add slowly: 200-300 calories a week), with a balance of 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat (Energy Booster from the P90X Guide). After 2 months at this new calorie level, my weight was still under 210, so I had no increase in weight despite the 50% increase in cals per day (thanks P90X for revving my metabolism into overdrive!!). I was already pretty lean, so you can see maintenance doesn’t change things quickly. My strength continued to improve, and I did not gain any body fat, even though I felt like I was pigging out with 3,200 cals per day! You can see, Round 2 worked out pretty well for me :-)
Trying to lose body fat this way is the slow route. I’ve talked about it tons in Big Ripped Vs. Small Ripped. I would not recommend switching to maintenance or 40/40/20 until you are pretty close to your body fat goals. Get ripped with Fat Shredder and then shift your macros. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get discouraged with slow results.
Truth be told, you can build muscle in any phase and with most calorie goals. But it is a bit misleading to when you hear thing promise to get you “HUGE and RIPPED!” Huge and ripped happen in very different caloric environments. As I said in the Fat Loss section, “you really want to maintain lean muscle mass but dump body fat as quickly as possible.” So when you are cutting and even maintaining, you are keeping your mass, but not adding tons too it. For mass building, we tweak things again. Here you go into a calorie surplus. You eat MORE than your body burns in a day. You also are best to transition your macros to more carbs. The ideal breakdown for most people is 30P/50C/20F. 30% protein is still plenty of protein and the added carbs will greatly boost energy, strength, and help with recovery.
Try starting by going 500 calories over your maintenance. That should allow about 1 lb of weight gain a week. That will keep your gains fairly lean. Too big of a surplus and you’ll add fat more quickly.
Tracking, Tracking, Tracking
For all of these stages, you have to track. It is the only way to know, and be able to check back to see, if what you are doing is working. All of the formulas and calculators are just estimates. They can be pretty accurate, but until you are precise and honest with your tracking you’ll never know for sure. If you calculate that you need 2400 to maintain, but after eating 2400 for a couple weeks you’ve continued to lose weight… something is off. Everyone’s metabolism is different. You can only make those tweaks if you are tracking and tracking accurately. If you tell me you are eating 1900 but really not weighing food, tracking condiments, eating out once a week, etc. YOU’RE NOT REALLY TRACKING! Be honest with yourself. The data will let you make the best choices and get the best results. Same thing for bulking — if you set a 3500 goal and just try to hit it, you’re gains won’t be consistent and may not happen at all. Eating a surplus of good foods takes a lot of work.
By following the nutrition guide for Round 1 and learning to fuel my body properly, with the right foods, at the right times of day, my metabolism really jumped. I felt primed to make some strength and definition gains by the end of round 2 that I have fine tuned and experimented with ever since. I still go back to higher protein and fewer calories when I want to lean out, but now that I already have low BF those changes can be less drastic. Maybe you missed my post last week about “Is Ripped Worth It?“ When you get to your goal, maintenance is really easy. It takes a dedicated, precise, all out effort to get there, but it’s worth it.
Remember, nutrition is 80% of your results. Don’t take it lightly. Use the right nutrition and supplement plan to give you the results you want.
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