A lot of people are frustrated by how complicated the meal plan seems. I hope to address three major issues people seem to be having in this article.
I. Can you explain the 3-phase plan?
First, we must understand the philosophy of the plan. Phase I is about creating a high protein, low carb diet. With fewer carbs in your system, you will burn more fat directly during your workouts. This is similar to, though not as extreme as, a ketosis diet bodybuilders will use in their "cut" phase. Fewer carbs means less glycogen (stored carbs) and less glucose in your bloodstream for immediate use, so fat will be a more accessible fuel. Phase II is a normal, balanced diet with equal carbs and protein. Being on a balanced diet will give you more sustained energy for your workouts. The Phase III is actually a high performance diet with higher amounts of carbs. If you do this in sequence, by the time you get to Phase III you will be bouncing off the walls during plyometrics, I promise you! The philosophy of Phase III is to allow you to really "Bring It" with more reps and higher performance.
II. I don't understand why I have to eat so many calories per day!
Many people do the calculation in the p90x diet guide and are surprised that even the lowest level of diet requires 1,800 calories a day. First of all, when you are working out as intensely as p90x, you need the proper nutrition. To give you an example, I am (at least today when I'm writing this post!) 5'10", 165 lbs. and I am trying to maintain weight but tone up, and I still take in about 2,600 healthy calories a day! Many people, especially women find they need to "up" their calories to see better results, which seems upside down in our heads, but often it works. What happens when your body goes into too large of a calorie debt is that it begins to store more nutrients as fat and less as muscle. Fat is the "long-term" storage mechanism in the body, so logically if it thinks you are not getting enough food, it will stay as fat to provide long-term survival. Additionally, to build muscle you need to be eating ample protein, as protein is the basic building block of muscle.
With that said, the caloric ranges in the p90x guide are very broad, and are only estimates. What I actually suggest doing is signing onto teambeachbody.com and clicking Eat Smart > Nutrition Tools and using the caloric needs calculator. This will factor in your age, weight, and height, as well as your daily lifestyle and the type of workout program you are currently doing. It then subtracts a certain amount of calories based on how much you want to lose and gives you nice number to aim for that is personally YOURS. It is still an estimate, but probably a better estimate. If you don't have a Beachbody account yet, click here to sign up for free!
III. Do I really have to eat everything it says every day? My grocery bill will be 2x as expensive!
If you really want to follow the plan to the T, more power to you! I use the portion approach. This is outlined in the diet guide, but allows you to use mostly food you are already comfortable preparing by controlling how many servings of various categories you get per day. It is separated into carbs, fats, proteins, veggies, fruits, dairy, condiments and snacks. One thing to mention is that it considers a serving of carbs 200 calories and a serving of protein 100 calories, so you don't need to calorie for calorie match carbs and protein. Additionally, fruits and veggies are their own category, kind of like a food pyramid type thing, so just remember fruits are nutritionally a source of simple carbs, though they don't count as carbs here. Similarly dairy is its own category, not a "fat." Snacks are a little complicated at first. Basically there is a single and a double snack, single being 100 calories and double being 200. "Snack" refers more to when you eat than what you eat. If you have a handful of raw almonds around 10:30 a.m., this is probably a snack and not a fat or protein, if that makes sense. Lastly - to explain the condiment thing, basically it allows you a certain amount of oil based condiment, like a light salad dressing, which is nice. The best part of the portion plan is that it gives you suggestions for each category, which is very helpful. By using the portion plan, you can easily keep track of what you are eating each day. Feel free to refer back to the full-out meal plan for suggestions, but don't think you need to literally cook and prepare EVERY meal that is on there for 90 days, that would be quite difficult!