Women: Not Losing Weight on P90X?
After seeing all the discussion on our previous thread P90X: What Can a Woman Expect?, I thought it would be useful to pull some of the tips out into a separate thread.
The number one complaint seems to be that women aren’t losing significant amounts of weight on P90X.
Let’s be clear: P90X is not a weightloss program.
It is marketed as “Extreme Home Fitness,” not “Extreme Home Weightloss.” The people in the ads are going from “a little loose in the cage” to supremely ripped, not from “overweight” to “ripped” so step one is:
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF: Are you already in pretty good shape? Have you been working out a few times per week for a while? If you already have the program, were you able to pass the fitness test? Are you in this to put the final finishing tweaks on your physique and get fitter than you’ve ever been? Do you have fewer than 20 lbs to lose/convert/tighten up? Yes? Great! Skip below to my tips for maximizing burning through that weight while on the P90X program.
However, if you have MORE than 20 pounds of fat to lose, I suggest you work on getting the fat off BEFORE fine-tuning your physique with P90X. Beachbody makes some great programs that ARE intended for significant weightloss, including Slim in 6 and even P90X’s precursor, Power 90. Here’s the thing to remember: Your body has two “modes”- Build Mode (anabolic) and Burn Mode (catabolic). P90X workouts and the eating program are geared towards putting you in Build mode. If you have a few pounds of flab to burn, sure, you’ll hit a tipping point where you can burn through that as your metabolism gets revved by the additional muscle, but it is not going to be enough to burn through more than a little fat. Men have an easier time burning and building simultaneously, probably because they have enough testosterone to build enough muscle to make a significant impact on their metabolism.
Look at it this way, as well: Why kick your ass for 90 days building muscle when nobody will see it until you get the layer of fat off?
Let me take a step back here and tell you my story: I started my P90X journey in January/February of last year at 145 pounds. I was quite active, going to the gym several times a week for most of my adult life. I already ate really well- lots of healthy foods- so Rob and I decided to start the program and see how far we could get on workouts alone. Two months later, he was definitely starting to show some definition and was stoked on his results. Me? I was still 145 and lumpier than ever because whatever fat I had was just getting smooshed by new muscle.
After another month, I hit a point where I knew that I needed to get the fat off before I should even concern myself with muscle, so I started swapping out some P90X workouts with running and cut back to 1300 calories a day. I was able to lose 5 pounds on my own, but then simultaneously fell in love with running and decided that “more workouts will help me lose MORE weight!” so I started training for a marathon, my weightloss stalled, and I developed a stress injury from too much running and not getting proper nutrition. At that point, I went to a nutritionist who explained to me the concept of Build Mode and Burn Mode, and that I can’t BOTH be training for a marathon, pushing my body for improvements AND be denying it calories to try and burn fat.
Thankfully, I landed at the nutritionist at a time where I was restricted on my activities anyhow because of the stress fracture, so he put me on a twofold diet: I was to limit my calories to 1500/day, a sensible mix of carbs, protein and fat, AND I wasn’t to burn more than 400 calories per day through exercise. This “easy does it” approach let me go from 142 lbs in July of last year to 127lbs in December. Once I stopped pummeling my body with too-low calories and too-intense workouts, the weight really started to come off nice and easy.
Fast forward through the Holidays, more running, another stress fracture (ugh!) and I am starting another modified cycle of P90X at about 130 pounds with a goal of getting down to about 125 lbs. This time, we are following the eating plan, though I am following my own advice (which, I swear, I am getting to in a moment) and modifying Level one to about 1500 cals. (Of course, just to highlight that this really is a MUCH different process for men than women, we are a week and a half in and I can already see the difference in Rob and he has already dropped several pounds. Me? Bah, not so much.)
What’s the lesson I learned over the past year? If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, you need to gently coerce it out of your body, not try to slam it out with a program like P90X or a super low-cal, high-calorie burn program. Look for a program like Slim in 6 that combines some resistance training with cardio, keep your calories balanced and around 1500 (for most people, check out some of the online Resting Metabolic Rate calculators to get a good sense for what your daily burn is.) In other words- if you need to get the fat off, do it gently, responsibly, consistently, and come back to P90X when you are ready to ice your cake.
If you DO fall in the category of “already in good shape, just want to use P90X to convert a few vanity pounds and get in the best shape of your life,” GREAT! Welcome, here are the rest of my tips:
Eating Plan Tips: 1800-2000 calories (level 1) is a fine level for maintaining weight and BUILDING muscle, but too high for BURNING fat (for most people- calculate your resting metabolic rate online if you aren’t sure.) I suggest 1500 calories as a pretty good generic calorie level for fat loss. Certainly don’t go below 1400 or you won’t be able to fuel your workouts and may do more harm than good. Don’t just track portions as the book suggests, but actually track your calories on a site like The Daily Plate.
Workouts: Buy a heartrate monitor and try to keep your heartrate in the 130s for weight workouts and above 150 for cardio workouts. If you’ve already done the workouts, you know that Tony talks A LOT. There is a lot of downtime in workouts and, if you use too high a weight, you might spend most of your workout resting between sets. Use a weight heavy enough to feel the burn, but light enough that you are moving for most of the workout. With Kenpo X and (shudder) Cardio X… Kenpo X, I found that you really NEED to force yourself to get your heartrate up there. It is all on you to make sure your heartrate is up. Cardio X? I suggest just throwing that one out and going for a run or some other cardio you enjoy. Plyo is a great interval workout, though!
I hope some people will find those tips useful, I’ll add to them if I come up with more during this cycle.