ATTENTION: New Sterling Advice Readers

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reader Question: P90X and Primal?

I get lots of emails during a given week asking my advice on certain health and fitness issues.  I am humbled that so many seek my advice, but please know that I'm still learning.  I immensely enjoy sharing what I've learned during the peaks and valleys of my health and fitness journey, which is why this blog exists in the first place.  I'm not always right and I'm constantly evaluating what and how I do things.  I'll reiterate what I have said before: do your research!  Read what you find to be credible, but make your decsions based on the successes and faliures of you and others, science, and logic.  With that said...

Sterling Advice reader David posed an interesting question to me recently.  It concerns P90X and a primal-like lifestyle.  Can they coexist?  Below is David's question(s) with my following answer(s).

Part I:

I stumbled on your blog via MDA and was very excited to find another person who is living primally, but also chooses to continue P90X (contrary to primal exercise dogma).  For the record, I haven't started P90X yet.  I started with a round of Power90 in November and lost 25 lbs.
 
I've continued on to the Power90 Master Series and I'm looking forward to P90X.   I find your story interesting because it seems like you're simply a bit further down the same road I'm on.  I'm a huge fan of Tom Venuto, who's latest book helped me immensely and I'm an obvious fan of MDA and The Primal Blueprint.

However, living primally is a recent change for me and I feel as though I'm struggling a bit.  My broad question to you is: If you're still doing P90X, how do you reconcile it with living primally, in terms of a diet almost devoid of carbs, and a far more intense exercise program than Mark Sisson prescribes?  Maybe I haven't "broken through to the other side" yet, but I'm suffering from lack of energy, fatigue, etc - probably sugar withdrawal.  Does it get better? Or have I just not found the sweet spot for my carb intake yet? The absolute most frustrating part is my complete inability to "bring it" during my workouts like I used to. I still do them but I just bonk from the outset.  I appreciate any thoughts you'd have on the subject - I know it's a complex one.

I would say that P90X is Primal-like. The workouts are 40-45 minutes and high-intensity. As you know a primal-like workout is short and high-intensity and doesn't waste time, yet produces results.  P90X certainly fits that description. You have to remember also that Mark Sisson, as he has shared, was a slave to training 20 years ago. He now just wants to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle with the least amount of work and time.

In a given week, I normally do all the resistance workouts in P90X and add sprints.  I do yoga every so often (I need to do more and will as spring approaches). I do the P90X plyometrics workout most of the time. I'm never lacking for energy EVEN when I cut calories to lean down for the summer. My diet is not devoid of carbs either; I'll eat below 100 grams most of the time, below 50 some of the time, and between 150-200 less of the time. I stay away from grains and processed carbs for the most part. I'll derive my carbs from fruits and veggies, an occasional white potatoe, and sweet potatoes more often. I'll indulge in 'crap' food every so often. But I typically plan ahead and fast either before, after, or both. I believe my asthma solution was due mostly to ridding wheat and wheat products from my diet and reducing milk products drastically.

You can definitely live primally and kick butt with P90X. Cut out the sugar and processed crap and your energy level will go up.

Part II:

Additionally, I have Asthma and was previously on all kinds of meds.  I weighed 220 lbs at my heaviest. I'm down 60 lbs total, 25 lbs since I started P90 in November. I'm the thinest I can ever recall being in my life.  I'm "clean" of Nexium for 5 months now and I just started to radically reduce my Advair. These are all good positive things, but I really want to keep my momentum going. 

I can appreciate what you say about P90X however, I just got the impression that it was "too much" for Primal, especially the cardio, and you'd have to eat a lot more carbs to fuel those kind of workouts every day. I guess not if you're able to do it successfully on 50 or less carbs a day.

I like to workout first thing in the morning mostly because it's convenient for my schedule. I used to get up early and eat something small like 1/2 of a banana, which would give me a boost for my workout. Since going primal I workout fasted and I feel like crap. I also used to take a recovery drink. I stopped doing that too. I'm just wondering when I'm going to get my energy levels back so I can push it in the workouts. I have almost completely cut out grains and processed carbs and in fact, I find I get nauseous now when I do happen to eat them.

I know it takes your body time to adapt and reprogram, so I guess I will just have to wait a little longer!
 
The cardio in P90X is not what Mark is 'talking about'. He's talking about chronic cardio such as running mile after mile after mile, and plugging away endless hours on a treadmill, stairmaster, and the like. One's body does not require a lot of carbs to do P90X. Start by eating 150 grams or less/day. Just make sure the carbs are mostly from fruit and veggies.

A lot of the 'carb thing' is mental. In the past, I've done what is called a PSMF (protein sparing modified fast) where 85% of my diet was coming from protein. I was only eating less than 20 carbs/day and that is measuring every single gram; the carbs came only from vegetables and salad. My workouts were fine, but I expected them to be fine and so they were. In fact, your body doesn't require (as in your body absolutely having to have them) carbs -- AT ALL. Check out a recent post, it may help: http://bit.ly/cJqrLf.

One more thought. A very common problem for lethargy and feeling like crap during/after a workout is water intake/dehydration. Make sure that you are drinking at least 2-3 liters/day of water. Also, make sure you are taking a mulit-vitamin and omega-3.

As you can see, living primally and doing a workout like P90X can coexist.  I hope this Q & A has been helpful.  Feel free to post your comments and questions.  If you have a question, be like David and send me one.

Until next time...

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