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Nutrition 101: How to Eat for Results

 

One of the main questions that I get asked consistently is in regards to nutrition.  I believe that nutrition is the KEY to getting extreme results with any fitness program that you choose.  Each program (P90X, Insanity, TurboFire, PUMP, etc) comes with a great nutrition plan that you should read and follow.  But, I know that those guides don’t provide all the answers so I wanted to make sure I gave an easy, step by step guide to start you off of the right track.  If you struggle with Knowing what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it, for your specific goals (fat loss or muscle gain) then this post will be for you!

Getting Started…

1.  Read the nutrition guide.  This may seem like an obvious starting point but most people that come to me for help skip this entirely.  The first thing that I did to get my results was read the nutrition guide that came with P90X.  This guide was my food “bible” for the full 90 days.  I read it front and back many times over to make sure that I was keeping on track and eating the right foods.

There are a few things that you should focus on while reading the P90X nutrition guide.

  1. How many calories you should be consuming for your body type, height, weight and goals.
  2. The percent (%) of calories that you should consume from the macro-nutrients Protein, Carbs, Fat.
  3. What types of foods you should be eating.  You should be concentrating on Lean Proteins, Complex Carbs, and Healthy Fats.
  4. How many grams of each macro-nutrient (Protein, Carbs, Fat) you should be eating each day based on the percent (%) that is recommended in the guide.

2.   Calculate Your Calories for your goals

I am a big fan of knowing how many calories/day you are currently eating vs how many calories a day you SHOULD be eating.  This is a very easy exercise that you can do that will show you exactly what you are doing wrong and how to fix it.  The easiest way is to log your food online!  Once you determine that you are now ready to calculate the amount of food you should be eating for your designed goal of fat loss and lean muscle gain.  This is how you do it…

  1. Calculate your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR):  BODY WEIGHT (LBS) x 10 = RMR
  2. Calculate your Daily Activity Burn (DAB):  RMR x 10% = DAB
  3. Determine your Calories Burned from your Daily Exercise (DE) =   For P90X, Insanity and TurboFire workouts the average = 650 calories/workout
  4. Determine your goal.  If you want to Lose Weight then you will run a Calorie Deficit (CD) and you will subtract -500 calories/day.  If you want to Gain Weight you will Add Calorie Surplus (CS) of +500 Calories/day
  5. Determine your Daily Caloric Target (DCT)RMR + DAB + DE +/- CS/CD = Daily Caloric Target (DCT)
  6. Determine your Nutrition Level:  LEVEL A (1800 calories/day) = 1,800-2,399 DCT,  LEVEL B (2400 calories/day) = 2400-2999 DCT, LEVEL C (3000 Calories/day) = 3000+ DCT .
  7. Example for a 180 lb male that wants to lose fat:  180 x 10 = 1800 (RMR),  1800 x 0.10 = 180 DAB,  1800 + 180 + 650 – 500 = 2130 DCT, so This person would be Level A or 1800 Calories/day

3.  Choose your Protein/Carbs/Fat Ratios (The THREE Phases)

Now that you have determined how much food you should be eating, it is now time to choose which ratios of Protein/Carbs/Fat is best for you.  The P90X nutrition guide is divided into a 3 phase plan that is built to help maximize your fat loss and muscle building results.  These ratios are meant to be a guide, not an exact science.  Use this as a guide for how much of these macro-nutrients you should be eating per day.  These 3 phases are:

  1. Fat Shredder  50% Protein / 30 % Carbs / 20 % Fat:   This high-protein phase is designed to teach you about your body’s relationship with carbohydrates.  The lack of carbs in your diet will cause your body to look for other resources energy…primarily body fat.  If you have a lot of fat to burn then you can be on the fat shredder phase for a longer period of time.  If you have little body fat to burn then you should feel the effects more quickly and move onto phase 2.  I recommend not being on the fat shredder diet longer than 6 weeks or if your workouts start to suffer from lack of energy.
  2. Energy Booster  40% Protein / 40% Carbs / 20% Fat:  This is the diet that seems to work the best for me and the one that is considered the “middle of the road”.  My body responded very well to the balance of carbs and protein.  Using this ratio will still give you plenty of protein for building muscle while at the same time give you more carbs to help with energy and performance.
  3. Endurance Maximizer 20% Protein / 60% Carbs / 20 % Fat or 25% Protein / 50% Carbs / 25% Fat:  This phase is for those who have now gotten in great shape and are looking for extra fuel for performance.  I would only recommend this phase to those who have gone through at least 60 days of P90X, Insanity or TurboFire.  This is more of an athletic diet that will utilize carbohydrates as fuel.

Tips:  If you are very thin then you can go right to 40/40/20.  If you are ultra fit, then you can use 40/40/20 or 25/50/25.  If you are looking to burn belly fat then try 50/30/20 for at least 2-4 weeks.

How to determine the amount of Protein/ Carbs / Fat in grams for the appropriate Ratios

I will use 2,000 calories/day as an example

2,000 cals x 50% protein = 1,000 cals protein.  Protein is 4 cal per gram, so 1,000 cals / 4 cal per gram =  250 g protein

2,000 cals x 30% carbs = 600 cals carbs.  Carbs are 4 cal per gram, so 600 cals / 4 cal per gram = 150 g carbs

2,000 cals x 20% fat = 400 cals fat.  Fats are 9 cals per gram, so 400 cals / 9 cal per gram =  45 g fat

4.  What To Eat

Protein:  Protein is made up of amino acids, which are primary building blocks for muscle, skin and bones.  You should focus on LEAN Proteins.  Staying away from protein that is high in saturated fat like Fatty Cuts of Steak.

  • Chicken breast, turkey breast, white fish, shellfish, lean red meat (example: top round, fillet minion), lean game meats (examples: bison, venison, etc), egg whites and whole eggs, whey protein.  If you are trying to get lean and build lean muscle then you want to focus on the leanest proteins possible (egg whites, chicken breast and white fish), in order to control calories. There are also some vegan options like Tempeh and Seitan.

Carbohydrates (Carbs):  Are the body’s primary energy source.  You want to focus on Complex Carbs and stay away from Simple Carbs like White rice, White Flour, White Sugar, Pasta, White Breads, Potato Chips, etc.

  • Complex Carbs you should eat are oatmeal (unsweetened old fashioned rolled or steel cut), brown rice, sweet potatoes, yams, and white potatoes, Quinoa, Whole Grains, etc.. You can also have beans, lentils, black eye peas and other legumes.  You should only have Whole Grain breads (Sprouted whole grain is best).

Fat:  Healthy fats are essential for almost every human activity.  They are used for energy, brain function, and protein synthesis.  Fat is not the enemy but should be consumed in moderation.  Stay away from TRANS Fats (hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils).  Try to limit your saturated fat intake as well.

  • Healthy fats you should focus on include Avocado, Olive Oil, Olives, Nuts, Seeds, Flaxseeds, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Almonds, Walnuts, Canola Oil and Chia.

Veggies + Fruits:  You can and should be having as many veggies as possible.  Having 1-2 servings of fruit is also recommended.  My take is that since these come from the earth and are easily digested and full of phytonutrients then you should eat them with every meal.  It’s almost impossible to gain fat eating green veggies and other fibrous carbs because the caloric density is too low

  • Fibrous non-starchy vegetables, green vegetables and salad vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, spinach, cauliflower, red/green peppers, onions, mushrooms, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and other leafy greens.

Tip:  Base your meals around Lean Protein and Veggies and you will see results.  Lean protein + Fibrous Carbs is the world’s most no-brainer diet to get ripped.

5.  When to Eat

This can be a blog post in of itself but I will keep it simple.  Eat Often!  I am a fan.  Try to have a meal or snack every 2-3 hours.  This has helped me to keep myself full throughout the day, even when trying to cut to lose body fat.  It helped keep my metabolism working and it also provides protein (amino acids) to the muscles through the course of the day as well.  Try to keep your meals to 5-6 per day.  An example of this can be shown below.  It is important to be consistent with your diet.  Better results come to those who eat early and often.  Meaning it is important to have Breakfast everyday as well.

  • Example of how I eat:  Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Workout, Post-workout Shake, Dinner, snack.  (6 meals)

COACH ADVISE

  • Make sure you are avoiding all Junk food.  This is crucial.  You need to rid your house of all fried, fatty, sugary, foods.  Stay away from those high caloric, high sugar drinks.  If you are consuming too many of these then you are not going to see results.
  • Stick to your plan!  The more consistent you are with your plan the better and faster your results are going to be.  You get out what you put in.  If you are trying to gain mass and aren’t eating enough calories everyday then you will not reach your goals.   If you are trying to lose body fat yet have cheat meals every chance you get then you will not see those 6 pack abs that you have been looking for.
  • Adjust the calories and ratios for your goals but no crash diets!  Nutrition is about trial and error.  Trying things, determining what is working for you and sticking with it.  But it’s also a lifestyle.  You need to approach it like that.  If you are looking to lose weight then adjust your calories to make sure you are in a caloric deficit but don’t go below 1400 (for men) and 1200 (for women).  If you are trying to gain mass then adjust your calories for a surplus.  That surplus might be 500 or it might be 1000.  Start at 500.  Studies show that in order to gain weight you need a surplus of 3,600 calories per week (1 lb gained).  That is equal to 500 calories extra.
  • Plan ahead. Those who have a plan in place of what they will eat that day or meal are typically much more successful.  Bring a healthy snack with you if you know you will be away from healthy food.  I bring a protein bar with me where ever I go.  If I have to go to a restaurant for dinner with friends, I look it up online for the nutritional facts and plan what I will have.  Have a plan!
  • Don’t Cheat!  Those who cheat don’t get the extreme results of those who don’t.  Having a cheat meal/treat meal once per week needs to be earned.  If you are starting your first 90 days then no cheating allowed!

 

73 comments
robert5891
robert5891

Hi Sean,


I just finished my 2nd round of P90X3 and am looking to go back to do a round of classic P90X2.  I am 5'11, 137 lbs, 28 years old.  I know I need to gain some weight and put on some lean muscle.  I've done multiple rounds of X, X2, and various One on One hybrids over the past 3 years and have loved working out ever since I first did P90X over 3 years ago.  What would you recommend as far as workout schedule and calorie/macronutrient intake?  I'm currently eating around 2200-2400 cals today of all clean food.Please let me know.


Thanks,

Robert

marra_c
marra_c

Hi Coach Sean, 


I'm on Day 2 of the P90X Lean program and am following Phase I of the diet plan which is 1,800 calories a day. The meal plan is okay for me overall, the only problem I am having is with breakfast - a 6 egg white omelette is a lot more than I usually eat at breakfast & I feel too full to finish it. Is 1,800 calories enough of a deficit for me to see results?


I'd like to lose fat in my stomach area & have a generally lean & toned figure. I'd love to lose 10 lbs if possible.


I'm a tall female, 5' 11", 156 lbs. My DCT is 1,866 cal


Thank you for your help.

CrystalCrydermanKrinke
CrystalCrydermanKrinke

Hi Coach Sean I need some help trying to figure out how any calories I need a day to lose the lbs I am 5'2 and 180 lbs!My goal weight is 120-125 any help would be appreciated!! 

eprunner10
eprunner10

Hi Coach, I'm on day 2 of p90x. I need some help, please!!! I'm a female 160 lbs, 5'2 and my goal is to lose body fat. I'm following Level II of phase 1. Here is where i need your help. I'm fallowing the   nutrition plan to the T but by the time dinner comes i feel really full. Two, should i consumed 2400 if I'm trying to lose body weight?? Thank you your feedback will be highly appreciated. 

jeia0690
jeia0690

@Coach Sean  Hey Coach, first of all thank you for the informations you put on the website :) They are all useful! Anyway, I am female, 5'2" and 119 lbs with 26% body fat. With P90X calculator, my daily calorie intake should be 1,800. My BMR according to Katch-McCardle is 1,788. I'm still trying to lose fat (not really weight) while building lean muscle. That means If I eat according to P90X, I'm on calorie surplus. But I still want to lose fat. What is the ideal daily calorie intake for me? Thank you so much for the help

jasonlb12
jasonlb12

I am eating 1900 calories in the 50/30/20 ratio and I am 5' 11" and am now 154 pounds currently with 8 percent bf. Just finished the first phase of the classic routine.

jasonlb12
jasonlb12

@Coach Sean I dropped my body fat percentage down to eight percent now and dropped my weight from 161 to 154 in the first phase. So now I want to up my calories so i can gain more muscle while maintaining my body fat %. Would you recommend I up my calories to 2500 ,with 40/40/20 ratios, or so to do this?

jasonlb12
jasonlb12

@Coach Sean Hey I was wondering for your first 90 days what calorie intake, DCT, did you start off with? Secondly when did you decide to switch from the 50/30/20 (protein,carbs,fat) ratio to 40/40/20. And did you ever switch to phase 3 of the nutrition guide within the 90 days and if so how far in? Lastly did you keep your DCT the same throughout the 90 days or did you have to add more calories as you gained weight? Thanks Sean hope you can remember that far back!

filosophiapraxis
filosophiapraxis

Hello, I'm starting Insanity but I have some belly fat on me. Should I go to 40/40/20 or can I start on 50/30/20? I understand Insanity is more cardio-based that P90x. Should that make a difference??

tiferetsephirot
tiferetsephirot

HI Sean!  I am 28 year old woman , weight 145 lbs and height 5´1. What is your recommendation?

mpasseyrock
mpasseyrock

hey sean iam 5 foot eleven 210 pounds trying to get down to 170 iwould be ripped iwork in the oilfield 15-18 hours aday at 2400 cd its very hard to eat six times a day what do you recommend

TahimyWuech
TahimyWuech

Hi Sean, I'm a female with a height of 5'7 and weight 146lbs. I did all the calculations that you mentioned and I have learned that I must eat 1,656 calories a day and I am going to do the 50/30/20 because I want to lose belly fat even though I am pretty lean already I really want to lose some body fat so I can get very toned. Now my question is once I have been following this method for 2-4 weeks like you said and I lose some weight and body fat do I still need to be eating the same amount of calories of 1,656 with maybe the 40/40/20 ratio or do I need to make a whole new calculation? I mean if by eating 1656 calories a day and doing the 50/30/20 method I lose about maybe 10 pounds and now i weight 136lbs then I don't need to have a deficit anymore which means that my calorie intake would change? I don't know if you understand what I am trying to ask, but I am sure you can help me since you know how to lose the body fat and maintain your weight. Hope to hear an answer soon. Thank you

jilapit
jilapit

hey sean I weigh about 320lbs and I'm 6' how many calories do you think i should i eat? i feel that 3200calories is to much?

justin

ajs1850
ajs1850

I was wondering Sean, can I go down to level II if I want to lose more weight? I found that level III seemed like a bit much of food. I'm at about 5'11 and 210.

bethturunen
bethturunen

 I just started the P90X yesterday and am only on day 2 of the Regular Workout. I am around 110 lbs, 5'3" and my goal is to lose some belly fat and get really tone by the end of this. My goal is to build muscle and lose a little, but there is not much to lose! Should i increase my daily calories by 500 right off the bat or should I decrease them for 2-4 weeks to lose those few pounds? I planned on starting with the 40/40/20 for food but didnt know if I should do the 50/30/20 for the first few weeks to lose the belly fat? HELP!

 

Thanks,

Beth

Matt Scheller
Matt Scheller

Hi Sean!  Great information!  I have one quick question that I am still really uncertain about.  I have completed Insanity about 4 months ago and definitely got leaner results.  I have always been thin, weighing between 140 and 150 pounds and only 5'8".  I'm looking to get thicker and build much more muscle and definition.  I just started p90x this week and currently  weigh 142.  What do you recommend for my nutrional plan?  Upon calculations, I should be in phase 1.  When I add on an additional $500 I should be in Phase 2.  What are your thoughts?  Also, how long should I be on  the fat shredder portion of the p90x nutritional plan?  Thanks! 

Vincent
Vincent

Nice info here, Sean! I've really learned so much from your website. I'm actually a 17 year old kid (2 months before I turn 18), and I want to try out the P90X program. Oh, and btw, I'm from the Philippines. My height is 5'5 and i weigh at around 130 pounds. Do you think this program's appropriate for me? Thanks! :)

Megan
Megan

Hey Sean! Thanks! I am a member and I tried to add you as my coach, but I am not sure if it worked? There a couple of other questions I have regarding my nutrition, and it'd be great to talk with you through whatever forms you usually do to help people. I appreciate any and all support! :) Thanks so much! God Bless!

Megan
Megan

Thanks so much Sean for your response! I really appreciate all the insight! Is there any way someone could take a look at an example plan I have in a word document to see if I am on the right track? Thanks so much!

Megan
Megan

I have a quick question regarding macros. If I am 100 lbs and taking in about 1600 calories a day and following the 40/40/20 ratio, I was wondering if that's too much protein. That puts me at about 160 g a day. I am currently about 21 percent body fat and would like to be in the teens. I eat very clean and have no processed food in my menus. If I take My calories up to 17 or 1800 then again my protein would be very high. Thoughts? I appreciate feedback in advance! Thanks!

Ray
Ray

Hey Sean, Sorry for the delay. I didn't see your reply. I'm 5'11, 169lbs, and 22 years old.

AJA
AJA

Hey Sean, I'am entering the last four weeks of the P90X for mass. I'm taking 2446 Kc on training days and on non training days I drop 200 Kc to keep fat gain to a minimum. So far by I've put on some mass, my question is because of this should I increase my calories in these last four weeks? If yes how many (give or take)? Thanks man.

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@robert5891 The programs that you select are good for what you need.  You can also do Body Beast if you are inclined.  Your main two things you will need to focus on are #1 Nutrition...You will need to eat more calories, protein, and make sure you are eating a decent amount of complex carbs and healthy fats.  #2 you will need to make sure you are using weight that challenges you to remain in the 8-12 rep range.  If you find that you are stopping early when you could lift more or that the weight you are using is too light then you need to make sure you can either buy weights or get to a gym where you can use heavier resistance.  Feel free to sign up for me as your coach and I can help you with this in more detail.  

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@eprunner10 You should definitely drop down to Level 1 of the plan.  At your height/weight, I would shoot for 1500-1800 calories during the first month.  That will be much better for your goals.  2400 is too much for you.

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@jeia0690 At 5'2" I would shoot for 1500-1600 calories to start.  

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@jasonlb12 Yep, go up to 2400 calories/day.  Sign up for me as your coach (it's free) and I can help you in much more detail

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@jasonlb12 How many calories are you currently eating at?  What is your height/weight?

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@jasonlb12 I started out trying to hit 2000 calories per day.  It was tough for me because I was eating way less then that.  I slowly upped it to 2400-2600 by the ned of my 90 days.  I did 50/30/20 for 30 days then switched to 40/40/20 for the rest of the program.  I like 40/40/20 as my main diet currently.  

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@filosophiapraxis You can definitely start on 50/30/20.  I wouldn't stay on it for longer than 3 weeks with insanity.  You will need the extra carbs of 40/40/20 to get through the workouts when you switch to the 2nd phase.  Hope that helps!  If you like, you can sign up for my team for free so I can help you in more detail :)

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

 @tiferetsephirot It depends on the fitness program you are currently doing but I would recommend anything between 1200-1500 calories/day

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

 @mpasseyrock As long asyou are hitting yoru calories/ratios for the day you sholud be good to go.  Are you working out as well?

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

 @TahimyWuech Yes, I would even tell you to do between 1500-1600 at 50/30/20.  if after 2 weeks are aren't seing the results you are after then you can drop to 1400-1500.  After 2-4 weeks you can then switch to 40/40/20.  I believe that 1500-1600 should be a good amount for you

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

 @jilapit Hey Justin.  I think you should start at 2400 calories/day if you can.  If that seems like too few, then try 2800.  but 2400 should be where you end up eventually. 

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

 @bethturunen Beth, I would do 50/30/20 for 2 weeks.  Eat at your maintenance level of calories.  Since you don't have much to lose you don't want to decrease your calories too much.  Having lower carbs will help you jumpstart your results. 

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

 @Matt Scheller If you are looking to gain mass/weight then you need to go 1 level higher than what is recommended.  I would go to level 2.  You can be on the fat shredder plan for 2-4 weeks depending on your energy levels and current body fat %.  Let me know if you need more help!

Coach Sean
Coach Sean

@Vincent: That's great man! Glad you like it. Yep! I think P90X would be great for ya!

Coach Sean
Coach Sean

@Megan: There is a semi example of what/how I eat in my "Fat Burning Diet" post. Let me know if that helps or not. Also, I can also point you toward some other useful tools as well. Are you a teambeachbody.com member? If not then join my team by using the "Join my Team" tab above. It's free and it signs you up for teambeachbody.com which has many helpful tools that I can show you.

Coach Sean
Coach Sean

@Megan: To start I would go for 150 grams of protein. As you start to gain weight, you can start to up yoru protein more. At 100lbs though 150g/day is plenty. Even 120-150 is fine. Get 20% of your calories from fat and the rest from complex carbs, veggies, and fruit.

Coach Sean
Coach Sean

@AJA: IF you are looking to gain more mass,then you can up them by 200-400/day that last phase. But it depends on what you are going for. If you are seeing results with what you are currently doing then you can just stick to that.

TahimyWuech
TahimyWuech

 @Coach Sean  @TahimyWuech Okay once i lose the fat i don't have to increase my calories. The only thing I would do is change my ratios to 40/40/20 at the same amount of 1400-1600 calories a day! Awesome thank you so much this was really helpful!

jilapit
jilapit

 @Coach Sean okay ill go to 2400. i just started p90x and im trying to drop as much weight as i can and get into shape. im only 22 and thats to young to be this overweight and out of shape, its time for some change to happen.

Matt Scheller
Matt Scheller

 @scal11083 Thanks for the response!  I do need a little more help.  I sent you an email...here is what it said:

 

I have a quick question for you that has left me uncertain what direction to take p90x. I'm not sure whether to do the classic or the modified version (posted on this website) that is designed to build mass. One thing preventing me from making a decision is knowing weather or not I am a hardgainer. I am 143 lbs, 28 years old, and 5'8". I have always been thin growing up; thin wrists, legs, etc. Not oddly skinny, just thin. Definitely a high metabolism. As I am now older, however, I am still thin, but I more quickly gain weight, especially around the stomach. I haven't gained anything terribly significant, but the stomach area definitely has a visible reaction if I eat badly or of course drink too much. The rest of my body stays the same, maybe a little gain in my face.

My ultimate goal (while still staying very fit) is to build a killer upper body physique, which would require building mass and muscle. I did do Insanity over the summer and my body turned lean and my fitness was top notch, but definitely didn't have a upper body physique change that I was hoping for.

I know how important eating well is, and I have been doing that and will continue to. Even though it seems like way too much food, my current plan is to eat at the level 2 approach for p90x. I don't think I have to stay in the Fat Shredder phase for too long. My fat measured on my stomach is 8%. I do, however, want to make sure if I start packing on the food that I doesn't go to my stomach. I feel like I am always working to keep the very little "bump" away.

I really hope you can help me out! Thanks so much.

Best Matt

 

Coach Sean
Coach Sean moderator

@jeia0690 No problem!  If you would like, I would love to have you sign up for me as your coach and join my team.  That way I can plug you into my team and help you in more detail.  It is free to join.  Just click on the link above or the "join our team" tab

Trackbacks

  1. [...] My Fat Burning Diet Posted by Coach Sean on Apr 6th, 2012 in Diet, Nutrition | 0 comments This post is for those of you who ask me what I do to drop body fat while maintaining as much muscle as I can.  This is NOT my typical maintenance diet.  This is  a nutrition plan that I use when I want to cut my body fat down.  This is a diet that can be used for up to 4 weeks so you can burn that extra body fat to show that muscle underneath.  Feel free to use this as a guide for the types of foods you should be focusing on and the type of nutritional timing that has worked for me. If you need help getting started, check out my Nutrition 101: How to Eat for Results post FIRST! [...]