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P90X Nutrition Plan for the Vegetarian

March 15, 2011

Eating healthy in Ipanema, Brazil

This is my second time doing P90X, so I already knew what was in store for me when it came to the nutrition plan…Phase 1 would be my least favorite.  Phase 2 would be perfectly manageable.  Phase 3 would feel like heaven.  As a vegetarian and pescatarian, I worry about getting in enough protein on this plan.  While I do eat fish, it’s rarely more than once a week, so I definitely eat more like a true vegetarian, and sometimes, I’ll go vegan for a day or two.  I’ve found I can still maintain my dietary preferences while following the P90X Nutrition Plan.  The book does a decent job of listing some vegetarian swap-in options for protein and gives a couple of non-dairy sources for dairy, but I’ve tailored the lists to show what I actually eat.

Sample Vegetarian Protein List:
– Beans (black, red, kidney, garbanzo, and more!)
– Egg whites or egg substitutes
– Veggie burgers
– Quorn meat substitute products (soy free)
– Nonfat Greek yogurt
– Tempeh or Tofu
– Protein powder
– Protein bars
– Raw nuts
– Almond butter

Sample Vegan Dairy List:
– Almond milk (also: Soy, Rice, Hemp, Hazelnut)
– Soy yogurt

Phase 1: Fat Shredder – A high-protein-based diet designed to help you strengthen muscle while rapidly shredding fat from your body.

This is the hardest phase for most people, but I feel it is definitely hardest for vegetarians.  Depending on your required calorie levels, you will be eating 5, 7, or 9 protein servings per day.  I fall into the Level 1 (1,800 calorie) level, and therefore need to find a way to fit 5 vegetarian proteins into my diet which feels like a lot!  This is completely different to my normal way of eating, but I manage by having 1 protein at breakfast, 2 at lunch, and 2 at dinner.  I recommend spacing it out like this because I find it hard to eat more than 2 servings of protein in one sitting.

A day of vegetarian protein servings could look as follows: protein powder and fruit smoothie for breakfast (1), salad with hard-boiled egg whites and kidney, garbanzo, and/or black beans for lunch (2), and two veggie burgers for dinner (2).  I highly recommend finding a protein powder that you enjoy and using it in phase 1.  I find that mixing ON Cookies and Cream protein powder with unsweetened vanilla or chocolate almond milk is a quick and easy way to get a protein and dairy serving.  It’s also utterly delicious!  I’ll even sneak 1 TBSP of almond butter in there occasionally for extra protein.  I’ve been reading up on vegan protein powder options but haven’t personally tried them yet.  Alternatives to whey are soy, hemp, rice protein.  Just be careful not to have too much processed soy in your diet.  That is something I actively watch myself.  As a general rule of thumb, I will always try for whole foods sources to get my protein (like beans) first before I turn to processed foods (like tofu).

Remember not to stay on phase 1 nutrition longer than necessary.  The first time I did P90X, I stayed on it for the standard recommended 4 weeks.  I never felt low on energy, but I did get sick of all the protein.  Now that I’m doing P90X for a second time and have a lower body fat percentage, I did the phase 1 nutrition phase for 1 week, and then switched to phase 2.  I will spend most of my time on phase 2 and then switch to phase 3 once we get to the phase 3 workouts.

Phase 2: Energy Booster – A balanced mix of carbohydrates and protein with a lower amount of fat to supply additional energy for performance.

This is the phase I’m following right now, and I find cutting down to 4 protein servings (for Level 1 plan only) is much more manageable.  Egg whites for breakfast (1), sandwich with meat substitute for lunch (1), and vegan burritos for dinner (2) make me a happy girl!  I recommend picking up Tony Horton’s new book Bring It! for vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas.  Tony supports eating a plant-based diet!  (He actually considers himself a “flexitarian” and will eat chicken and seafood too.)

Phase 3: Endurance Maximizer – An athletic diet of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and lower fat with an emphasis on more carbohydrates.

I am the happiest during phase 3 because I love the breakdown of 2 proteins, 1 dairy, 2 fruit, 2 veggies, 1 fat, 3 carbs, and of course all my snacks/recovery drinks/bars.  I don’t think much guidance is needed here because getting enough protein in essentially becomes a non-issue.  I can’t wait for phase 3 to come so I can enjoy whole grain carbohydrate goodness each meal of the day!

Sources for Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes:
Whole Foods market
Bring It! – Tony Horton
Living Vegan for Dummies – Chef Melissa Costello
P90X 2 Nutrition Guide

In closing, Tony Horton reminds us that what you eat has a direct effect on how you feel and how you look, so let’s all choose wisely! Please let me know if you have any other healthy, whole foods fuel options for a vegetarian diet.

Questions?  Need more info?  Let me know!  You can also post your comments here, and I’ll respond.

Update: P90X 2 came out in December 2011 and it has a vegan meal plan!!  I’ll make sure to post on that too, but I am very pleased with those meal options.  It’s about time vegan options were given in workout plans! I eat mostly vegan now, so let me know if you have any questions on that as well.

Thanks for reading!


From → Nutrition, P90X

  1. Jeremy permalink

    I’m hungry!!

  2. Alicia permalink

    Hi! I just found your site as I am vegan, and my husband and I are starting P90X on Monday. I am struggling with the protein aspect of it. did you allow beans for the protein even though the program calls beans a carb? That would make my life so much easier, if I could eat beans!

    • Hi Alicia! I allowed myself to eat beans as a protein for some of the meals, and I think you will be OK if you do the same. Just make sure to measure them and swap as a protein in moderation. This will keep you sane so you don’t OD on tofu! 🙂 Good luck with P90X! Let me know how it goes.

  3. nubianess permalink

    Thanks! ^_^

  4. Cathy permalink

    thank you! Going to check out Bring It! now.

  5. Nav permalink

    Hey! I was wondering, does eating a lot of protein make you gain weight? I feel like any diet I do doesn’t really help (and I am a vegetarian btw!)

    • Def not! If you follow the P90X nutrition plan and modify it for vegetarian, you will lose weight. Just make sure to stick to the plan! Good luck & let me know how it goes.

  6. Nathan permalink

    My only question is what amounts do you use? It’s so frustrating. ha ha.

    • It can be confusing! I make sure the calories match up, no matter what I’m eating. Sometimes that means I get slightly less protein & more carbs per serving of protein, but you need to keep your calories accurate in order to get results.

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