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!
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.
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…
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 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!
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?
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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! :)
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!
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: 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.
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!
@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.
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.
@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.
Hey Sean, I know that to gain mass you need a calorie surplus, however, I fin it easiest to follow the p90x portion approach. Right now I should be eating 1800 cals, so I was wondering if I should just switch to level 2 eating of the portion approach and that will give me a 600 cal surplus. Is that to much? Will I gain to much body fat from that? Thanks in advance.
@Tommy: Yes you should if you are trying to gain mass. Go ahead and switch to level 2. That should place you in the 2400 calorie range and should be enough surplus for you to gain mass. If you do it correctly you should prime your body for an increase in muscle. But it depends on your height/weight/age/fitness level. You shouldn't gain much fat.
Hey! I have a question. I'm a 23 yr old girl, about 110-113lbs and 5 ft 2. Im going to start p90x, and it says I have to eat 1800 cal a day, really? According to my calculations above, I should only eat around 1300+ a day. What do you think?
@Josephine: At 5'2" and 110lbs you should be eating around 1300-1600 calories/day . You shouldn't need more than that.
Hey Sean, Awesome post. Really gave me some focus in nutrition. I'm currently doing the P90X program. The team beach body wizard suggested my calorie target to be 3700. That's like 370g of protein a day using the 40, 40, 20 diet. Is that not too much protein?
Hey Sean, Thanks man, it helps. I was just concern that if I kept the high caloric amount on non training days that could increase my body fat, I would like to at least mantain this percentage. But if I lower the carb ratio on non trainig days and keep the 2400 kc goal that should work to right?
@AJA: Yep that would work as well. If you are concerned then drop your non training day calories by 200-300 only
Hey Sean, Well I'm 5'3, 112.2 pounds and something like a 10-12% body fat. So in our opinion I shoul eat the 2384 kc on resistance trainig days and non training days also? Or you think i may have to up it up a little bit more? And should I stick to 30/50/20 ratio for Protein/Carbs/Fat every day or can I do the carb cycling and lower my carb intake on non training days? Thanks
@AJA: At your height and weight, 2400 should be a good amount for you to gain mass. That will work! I would stick with 2400 on both training and non training days. Your ratios are also good for mass gain as well. Since you are 10-12% body fat you are good to go to keep them the same on training and non training days if you want to build mass. If you want to cycle for body fat loss you definitely can but it will hinder your mass gain slightly. Just depends on what you want to do. Does that help?
my bmi is 26 i want to eventually get it to atleast 16%... do i need to burn more fat before i start p90x is what i left out on my first post
@Jason: No you don't need to burn more fat to start P90X. You can start it now or after you finish insanity.
Hey i'm about to finish my first month of insanity, i have only lost 4 pounds month ending this weds.. i am 6'1 193 and 24yrs old.. i know i have another 30days left for month two and want to get to 180-185 after that p90x to get cut.. What do i need for p90x? What can i do in addition to loose the weight? Why did it take long to loose only four pounds? i just need some guidance, please if any suggestions
@Jason: Congrats on completing the first month insanity man! For P90X you will need resistance bands or weights/dumbbells and a Pull up bar. You can get the band and dumbbells through the gear section of this site. For additional weight loss, the best thing you can do is follow the nutrition guide, don't skip workouts, and push yourself. Are you following the nutrition plan?
Hey Sean, First of all great post. I'm currently doing the customize P90X for mass and on training I eat about 2384 kc/day (that's the number that I got after doing the "math") with a ratio of 30/50/20 for Protein/Carbs/Fat and on non training days I drop my calories to 2183 kc/day and do something like a 35/35/30 (it's like carb cycling). What do you think about that? Do you think is good or that should drop (or upper) my calories more on non training days? Thanks.
@AJA: Thanks dude! If you are trying to gain mass you kinda just need to commit to the higher calorie amount. I would stick in the 2400 range. But this depends on your current height/weight/body fat %.
Awesome, man. I'm totally bookmarking this & refer to it when I need or forget "the details" of my diet! Well written as well, thorough yet condensed enough to not be daunting.
Great read Sean! It's good to know my wife and I are on the right track. On this round, I would say nutrition has be a HUGE key in our success so far. Keeping track of calories and the ratios were the missing link. You never regret pressing play! Keep up the great job.
Great post! I just finished a round of p90x and starting the asylum today. super pumped! Wish me luck!