Monday, December 28, 2009

Navigating the P90X Nutrition Plan - The Portion Approach

There are two main diet plans or "approaches" you can go with on the P90X program. The first is the meal plan approach which tells you exactly what to eat for each meal every day. It's nice in that all your decisions are made for you but, there are a lot of recipes, a lot of ingredients to buy and a lot of cooking to do.

The other main option is the portion approach. It's a little more work to get started but, once you do the ground work I believe it's a lot easier and less expensive than the meal plan approach.

First you figure out your nutrition level, using some simple formulas they provide to figure out how many calories you should eat each day. Based on your nutrition level the portion approach tells you how many servings of each type of food you should eat every day. Lists of food options are broken down into nutritional categories like dairy, vegetables, proteins, etc. The lists include information about the number of calories that constitutes a serving of each type of food and the quantities of each specific food that equals that number of calories.

The way to make the portion approach work is to keep meals simple and fairly repetitive. That will keep the effort and the cost in check. Start by writing down the number of servings you need each day of each type of food. Then look at the lists of foods in each group, noting foods that you like. Start putting together the puzzle, using the foods you chose to create meals and snacks and use up all the allocated servings for the day. Once you know which foods you'll eat at each sitting you can go back and fill in the quantities for each serving.

Just a quick example of how you might start to approach this. If your plan shows you are supposed to have three dairy servings a day you might look at the food list and notice that skim milk and low fat cheese are two foods that you like. You could then choose to have one serving, 1.5 oz, of low fat cheese in an egg white omelet and two servings, 8 oz. each, of skim milk to drink with dinner.

Be diligent about measuring your food throughout the 90 days. It is the only way to know for sure that you are eating the right amount of food and calories. This might sound tedious but, it won't be long before a couple of things happen. First, it will start to become a habit. Second, you will get really good at knowing the amounts of certain things by sight. Although, I do recommend that, even if you feel confident that you can eyeball the right amounts, check yourself periodically by actually measuring to make sure you're on target.

Sometimes the foods you choose will not match up exactly with the quantity and calorie requirements they specify. For example one carbohydrate block is supposed to be 200 calories. It says for oatmeal that would be one cup. When I checked the label on my oatmeal, one cup was actually more than 200 calories. Since the the number of calories is more important than the physical quantity, I calculated how much oatmeal would equal 200 calories and that was 2/3 cup. Differences like that do add up. So, it's worth it to double check if you're not sure.

It can be tough to keep track of your servings, especially when you are just getting started but, also when you advance between the three nutrition plan phases. One tool you might find useful is a white board. One with grid lines is ideal. Write down each food type and the number of servings you're supposed to eat each day with that number of open squares next to it. As you eat each meal check off the servings you've eaten. At the end of the day all the squares will be checked off. In the morning you can erase the checks and start over. This strategy can really help make it easy to keep track of your intake, avoid over or under eating, and also to avoid obsessing by getting it on the board and out of your head.

Nutrition is critical to getting the results you want from the P90X program. Don't put in all the hard work during the workouts only to ruin it by not paying attention to your diet. Commit to the whole program. The nutrition plan is an extra effort but, the results you get when you follow the nutrition plan will be significantly better and well worth it.

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