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Posted by Barry on Aug 18, 2011

Revisiting Nutrition

I want to revisit the whole topic of nutrition because I get the same questions over and over and I want to make sure you have all the information you need on what has to be one of the most important pieces to being successful with your exercise program.

First, read the nutrition guide.  There is a lot of great information in the guide about where your calories should come from, how many calories you should take and when, and good foods that you can eat to get the results you want.  If you want a quick summary (I suggest you read the whole guide for all the information) I have one at the following link P90X Nutrition.  Or you can search my site for the article.

One thing that can be confusing in the guide is how to do the math for calculating the calories to grams so below is an example.  Assuming the fat shredder phase and 2,000 calories:

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

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

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

Now understand that once you figure out what the nutrition guide suggests for your daily calorie total you need to adjust that depending on your goals.  If you want to remain about the same weight and slowly convert body fat to muscle, the suggested calorie total from the guide is what you will want.  However, if you want to lose body fat quickly, you must run a calorie deficit.

For example, even though the guide suggested 3,000 calories for a guy my size, I decided on a 1,000 calorie deficit to melt body fat quickly.  If a 1,000 calorie deficit is too much for you then try a 500 calorie deficit.  Just remember the bigger the deficit, the faster the weight loss.  However, you also need to remember to fuel your body enough to maintain your muscle mass.  If you “crash diet” (less than 1,200 calories for a man or 800 calories for a woman) you will lose muscle and that is not what you want so you need to be smart about your diet.

For those of you that want to gain mass, you will need to eat more calories than the guide suggests.  When I went through my second round (Round 2 – Maximum Mass) trying to add muscle mass, I took in 3,600 calories a day (a 600 calorie surplus).  Studies show that when gaining lean muscle mass, you want to gain about 1 lb per week of body weight (more than that will just be fat) and to add 1 lb per week you need a 500-600 calorie surplus for that week.

Second, you need to know that you can stay in certain phases as long as you want to help you meet your specific goals.  If you have a ton of body fat to lose then stay in fat shredder mode as long as necessary to get to your ideal body weight.  Then you can transition into the phase 2 percentages for a more slow and deliberate “fine tuning” of your physique at the weight you are at.  And if you are already in great shape then don’t start in fat shredder mode.  Start in the Phase 3 plan to maximize your energy levels and run a calorie surplus to help you gain mass.  By the way Phase 2 nutrition (40/40/20) is a great maintenance level that many people, including myself, stay on for a long long time.  It helps you to maintain and continue to improve.

Third, you don’t have to follow the meal plan or portion plan that the guide lays out for you. Most of the content in the meal plan takes a lot of preparation and you may or may not even like the food choices.  So the meal plan approach may not be practical.  And the portion plan is very inaccurate.  For instance, on the “portion plan”, if you make a shake with protein powder, a banana, milk, and peanut butter, does that count as a shake, a protein, a fruit, a dairy, a fat, or all 5?  See, it’s just not accurate.  The only way the portion plan can work is if you never eat any foods that are combinations of proteins, carbs, and fats, but most of what we eat is a combination.

So, how do you decide how much of the different categories to eat?  TRACK IT!  If you want to take the nutrition aspect of this program seriously, you simply must put in the effort to track what you eat.  Every calorie.  Every gram of protein.  Every gram of carbohydrates.  And every gram of fat.  Use a program like fitday.com, or an iPhone app like Tap and Track or my personal favorite MyFitnessPal.  It takes some effort to get your favorite foods put into the database, but after a couple weeks it becomes a matter of simply clicking on what you ate and it will give you a complete, accurate, breakdown of exactly what percentage of each category you have eaten on any given day.  Hitting your targets for percentages (or at least getting very close) is the key to maximizing your results.  Nutrition is 80% of the results.

Fourth, eat often.  The goal is to keep the metabolism humming, and if you let yourself run empty on fuel, your metabolism will slow down.  You don’t have to eat tons of calories to keep the metabolism high.  You are actually better off eating multiple small meals / snacks (about every 2.5 – 3 hours) all day long.  Keep the fuel source coming in the form of foods that provide sustained energy (proteins, low-glycemic index carbs like whole wheat, veggies, fruit).  And avoid foods that spike your blood sugar quickly and leave you crashed (sugars, white flour, high glycemic index foods).

Fifth, have a plan.  Don’t leave the house for the day without taking healthy snacks or planning your meals.  You’ll end up getting hungry, grabbing fast food, and ruining your nutrition for the day.  I always take healthy snacks with me everywhere I go.  These include Protein bars, light string cheese, almonds, jerky, yogurt, apples, carrots, etc.  There is never an excuse to eat a bunch of junk fast food because you didn’t think ahead.  Once you get in the habit it is easier than it sounds.

So there are the answers to a lot of the nutrition questions I have been getting.  Take the advice and watch your results and goals all start to become a reality.

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