Wouldn’t any of us love to improve our health and fitness level (and obviously our looks) in just 3 months? Sure we would. There is a way, although it goes uphill. No, the P90X diet certainly doesn’t claim to be an easy one, but it does promise to deliver results.
P90X stands for Power 90 Extreme and it’s not just a diet – it’s a complete weight loss program. You get your workout, nutrition and dietary supplements plans and if you stick to those you’ll get a whole new you in 3 months.
A simple online search shows tons of before & after images with amazing transformations of P90X followers, so there’s no denying that it works, but let’s see what this weight loss regimen actually consists off.
What is P90X?
The plan was created by fitness trainer Tony Horton and he collaborated with many fitness experts but also nutritionists. The workout plan relies on the technique known as “muscle confusion”.
In layman’s terms this means you’ll keep switching between various types of workouts and exercises so your muscles won’t have the chance of getting accustomed to either one, thus avoid reaching plateaus.
P90X Workout Plans
In the P90X package you get 12 1 hour-long workout DVDs that you can easily do at home. All the workouts require just some basic equipment (dumbbells or bands, a chair, a pull-up bar, a mat and a few more). This makes it a perfect alternative for nursing mothers and anyone else that can’t get to the gym on a regular basis.
It all started with the P90X workout, but as years went by, Tony Horton came up with new workouts labeled P90X2 and P90X3. P90X2 comes with a whole new sports concept called Muscle Integration – you’ll train off-balance using unstable or resistance platforms, which makes you engage more of your muscles at the same time.
P90X3 workouts are shorter – only 30 minutes instead of an hour like the old ones and you get 16 of them instead of 12 like P90X includes. It makes sense to create shorter workouts that become easier to stick to, even if you have a really busy schedule.
There are no prerequisites, you can start doing P90X3 workouts even if you’ve never done the P90X or P90X2 ones. So you can get the most out of those 30-minute workouts, P90X3 relies on the Muscle Acceleration technique. This means you’ll go through a variety of exercises with different levels of intensity to maximize results.
P90X3 also has 4 different workout schedules that you can choose from depending on what your final goal is. The Classic schedule is a balanced program that focuses on all aspects of training, namely fat-loss, muscle gain and cardio.
The Lean schedule is for those that only want to get a leaner, more defined look and aren’t really looking to gain more muscle. The Mass schedule is obviously for those that want to bulk up and get ripped. Last, but not least the Doubles schedule is appropriate for those that already completed a course of P90X3 or have already a good fitness level and want to take their workouts to the next level – in some days you’ll have to complete 2 workouts instead of one (hence the name of this schedule).
All P90X workout plans contain several types of workouts like strength training, pilates, yoga, plyometric, cardio…etc. At least, no one can say they quit because they were doing the same workout over and over again and it got too boring.
The P90X system also includes a nutrition plan that you’ll need to follow religiously, a fitness guide and a workout calendar to track your progress throughout the 90 days of the regimen. The diet is an extremely important part of the plan and we’ll get to that right away.
P90X Diet Plan
Like many other diet plans, this one is split into phases. What’s different from other diets is each phase has its own purpose and can be customized to suit each individual. Also, you don’t need to go through all 3 phases – which ones you’ll use depends mostly on your goals and fitness level.
Obviously calorie-counting and meal planning are involved but considering how it can be personalized, this diet plan is a lot more flexible than most others.
Phase 1 – Fat Shredder
Like you might already suspect, this phase is designed to help you reduce your body fat. If you already have little body fat, it won’t do you much good so you can go straight to phase 2. A side effect of this phase is your energy might be lower than usual.
The creator recommends you stay on this phase as long as you need to get rid of that excess fat, but you can also feel free to shorten it and go to the next one if your energy level is too low and affects your physical performance during the workouts.
In this phase you’ll focus mostly on getting a lot of protein, the macros are 50% protein/30% carbs/20% fat.
Phase 2 – Energy Booster
This is a balanced plan created for long-term use. You’ll be eating less protein and more carbohydrates compared to phase 1 – 40% protein/40% carbs/20% fat.
Tony Horton recommends you stay in this phase for as long as you feel comfortable, meaning you have enough energy and continue to get positive results in both weight loss (if it’s the case) and physical performance.
Phase 3 – Endurance Maximizer
This phase is reserved for those who want to reach a whole new fitness level. This carb-rich plan might scare you, but it’s inspired from the diets of professional athletes. However, you really shouldn’t go to this phase if you’re not working out hard and earning those extra carbs.
On the other side, those who do are promised increased endurance and energy levels without unwanted weight gain. Endurance Maximizer really cuts back on protein so during this phase the macros are – 20% protein/60% carbs/20% fat.
There are meal plans (with detailed recipes) for each phase, but not only that. The first thing you’d need to do is find out your nutrition level. Tony Horton explains in detail what calculations you need to make (I won’t get into the specifics here) to find out which level you are. Long story short, you’re a level 1 if your daily caloric expenditure falls somewhere between 1800 – 2399, level 2 if you’re between 2400 – 2999 and level 3 if you require 3000+ calories a day.
P90X diet marketers also provide several supplements like protein bars and recovery drinks that are also included in the meal plans.
Pros and Cons of P90X System
I’m an optimist so I’ll start with the pros. The first major advantage of this system is its incredibly varied and detailed workout plans. You’ll never get a chance to get bored and you need very little (and affordable) equipment. Plus, the latest P90X3 workouts are only 30-minutes long – it’s entirely possible for most people to find that time every day for the workout.
Another important pro is the fact you can workout at home, so it’ll save you the trip to and from the gym, and the extra money you pay for the gas and the monthly subscription.
To be honest, the diet plans appear well-balanced, even the high-carb one from phase 3. It makes sense for someone that really works out hard on a daily basis to up their carb intake. Also, the recipes are easy to make and looking at the ingredients I’m sure they also taste great.
Cons – now we’re getting to the dark side. Just kidding, of course. Nothing is perfect and neither is P90X. This regimen requires will, dedication and patience. If you don’t have these, you won’t get very far. Maybe if you skip one workout in 10-15, it won’t be such a big problem; skip more and you’re just fooling yourself.
You also must be willing to do some calorie counting and home cooking. Since the meals in the P90X diet include a large variety of ingredients you’ll need to plan your shopping trips and have a well-stocked kitchen at all times.
And the big question: What happens once you followed P90X for those 90 days? Firstly – if you only got partial results and need to lose more weight/become fitter/gain more muscle you can simply repeat the process.
Secondly – the authors don’t make any specific recommendations on the matter but I would recommend you stick to the workouts – or at least find some other kinds of physical exercise to replace them with – even if you decide to return to a less restricted diet.
Last, but not least, you definitely need to focus on having a healthy, balanced diet even if you decide to simply follow your common sense instead of macro and calorie counting. In fact, all of us should.
Was P90X the key to success for you? We welcome all P90Xers and non-P90Xers share their success stories in the comments section below.
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