By Denis Faye – from the Team Beachbody Newsletter
The two main keys to getting fit are exercise and diet—and, for many of us, exercise is the easy part (in a grueling, sweaty sort of way), especially with programs like P90X3. Just pop in the DVD once a day, let Tony put you through the paces for 30 minutes, and you’re on your way.
Diet, on the other hand, can be tricky. There are plenty of plans that tell you exactly what to eat—but what if you don’t like those things, or don’t have time to cook them? And then there are intolerances, allergies, ethical concerns, cooking prowess (or lack thereof), kitchen access, and how much time you can devote to your diet.
In other words, for most people, the only truly successful, long-term diet plan has to be built around their personal wants and needs—so it needs to be a joint project involving the nutritionist and the user.
That’s the goal with the P90X3 nutrition plan. It provides the tools and the guidance, but you call the shots, designing the absolutely perfect eating plan—for you. The trick to accomplishing this is something called “intuitive eating,” the ability to listen to your body’s cues so that you make the right decisions nutritionally.
It’s not a new concept. Intuitive eating is standard practice for many athletes (and healthy people in general). They’ve reached a point in their fitness where all the sugar and fat addictions, hormone imbalances, and weird cravings have dropped away—and with them, the need to count calories. When their body wants something, they know to eat it.
Of course, it takes a little effort to get to this point. To help you do it, the P90X3 plan features plenty of leeway for you to make your own choices, along with a few gentle rules to steer you in the right direction. At the same time, it doesn’t overwhelm the user with responsibility. In much the same way the 30-minute P90X3 workouts fit into your busy schedule, the P90X3 nutrition plan can be used in an extremely basic, rudimentary way, making healthy meal planning quick and easy.
It does this by following these three basic tenets.
1. Simplicity. Okay, maybe not pop-in-a-DVD simplicity, but simplicity nonetheless. Sometimes, it’s educational to be led by the nose when dieting, but by keeping this plan basic, it better allows you to make your own choices. (In case that kind of responsibility stresses you out, here’s a little secret: the plan eliminates all the bad choices. It’s win-win. Your job is just to figure out how to win more.)
The two biggest simplifiers you’ll notice are the calorie calculator and the food lists.
First, the calorie calculator math has been replaced with a simple quiz because, to be honest, while calorie calculators are excellent learning tools, they’re essentially just educated guesses as to an individual’s needs. They can’t account for dozens of factors, ranging from genetics and altitude to your true fitness level. And even if you find the perfect number (which will shift daily, by the way), the calories you take in will also shift unless you measure everything you eat in a bomb calorimeter. And in order to do that, you need to incinerate your food so, long story short, no one is ever 100% sure of their daily calorie intake (or what it should be, frankly), so you might as well relax a little.
P90X3 gives you a highly educated ballpark figure and helps you adjust that number based on your individual needs. (Frankly, that’s what many users need to do with more complex calculators anyway.)
The old P90X® portion plan has been boiled down to three food lists: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Then it is sorted in a best-to-worst hierarchy, so you can decide just how awesome an eater you want to be.
You’ll also notice a lack of emphasis on macronutrient math. Again, eating at percentages is a great way to learn about how you respond to different foods, but eventually it’s important to stop being beholden to math and listen to your body. The plan works out to about 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat, but these numbers are rough. Instead, we’d prefer you focus on the quality of your food and how much you generally put on your plate. These are the two factors most likely to get you results.
As for preparation of that food, again, we keep it simple. No complex recipes, just basic cooking suggestions, meal ideas, and recipes for healthy spice mixes and dressings.
2. Variety. The way people eat is nearly as unique as their fingerprints, so we made the carbs, protein, and fats lists gigantic, allowing vegans, Paleos, and picky eaters to find the foods that work for them. As I mentioned before, the lists are in a hierarchical order, so that you know which foods are healthier options.
And for those concerned that Beachbody® has suddenly forgotten that there’s a world of difference between an apple and a slice of bread, don’t worry. There are optional sub-lists for each category (veggies, fruits, and grains under carbs, for example) that you can use or ignore. Technically, you could fulfill your entire carb requirement eating only bread, but most of you aren’t 6 years old, so odds are you’ll make better choices.
The variety also makes shopping easier because you can work with the foods you have access to. No demands for Canadian antler fuzz or Vietnamese dragonfruit. Just a wide assortment of simple, fresh foods to suit your tastes. (That said, have you ever tried dragonfruit? It’s delish.)
3. Flexibility. This is a big one in Tony’s book. As many of you know, he’s constantly changing his diet to suit his evolving needs—and that’s a good model to live by. For years, he was vegan, until he realized he needed a little animal protein in his diet, so he added organic, cage-free chicken, sustainably caught fish, and free-range, grass-fed red meat into his diet.
Your needs change too. It might be as simple as a calorie increase or as complex as completely eliminating animal products or grains. Either way, this plan is designed to move with you, thanks largely to those first two concepts: simplicity and variety.
It also makes it easier to suit your needs today. While foodies can craft this plan into a culinary tour de force, it’s also easy for on-the-go types to throw together three simple squares on the P90X3 plan.
Of course, rethinking the old P90X nutrition plans this extensively brings up some questions, the first one being, “What was wrong with the old P90X and P90X2 plans?” The answer is, “Nothing.” They just feature slightly different philosophies.
In a way, they’re an evolution. P90X gives you a by-the-numbers nutrition plan. It’s learning by doing. P90X2 takes the same plan, loosens some of the restrictions, and adds vegan and grain-free options to allow you to experiment a little more. P90X3 removes even more restrictions and gives you additional tools not only to guide you toward intuitive eating, but to make healthy meal planning a simple, quick affair.
In my opinion, if you want something with a lot of structure all laid out for you, P90X is the way to go. If you’re ready to move past that—or you’re looking for a plan that’s especially flexible for a busy schedule, I’d lean toward P90X3.
That said, the P90X3 plan doesn’t forsake structure-loving folks. Some users may not want simplicity, variety, and/or flexibility. Maybe you just want to follow that old doctrine of “just tell me what to eat.” All the detail work—the exact food measurements, the micronutrient percentages—are in the guide. They’re just tucked away so that only those who want them can access them.
The end result is a guide that’s useful whether you want to bring your nutrition to the next level or you just want to survive your hectic schedule while staying healthy. Unless you plan to live on dehydrated astronaut food and water, there’s no way a diet plan will ever be as simple as doing a series of DVD workouts—but the P90X3 nutrition plan comes awfully close.