P90X: Getting Started

on July 13th, 2008 by

So, you’ve decided that P90X is the workout and diet plan for you to achieve lasting fitness and health for the rest of your life. Excellent! You won’t regret making the commitment. Now that you’ve ordered the DVDs, you need to get ready for their arrival. You ordered the DVDs, right?

Equipment Needed

You will need some equipment. Don’t worry though; it’s not much and you may already have some things. Let’s start with the most important first.

Weights or Bands

You’ll need either dumbbells (free weights) or resistance bands. There are a ton of options for each, but there are some basic guidelines you should remember when choosing.

You can get simple free weights at many department stores as well as sporting good stores. I recommend getting single piece weights. You can buy them in sets, but if you get the interchangeable plate design dumbbells, it may end up slowing you down. However, there are newer options now that let you adjust the weight of each dumbbell. These are very cool, but usually cost more at this time. If you get the single piece dumbbells, make sure they are coated for a good grip (or use gloves). Look for polychloroprene (i.e. Neoprene), or any kind of rubber/vinyl, coating. Here are links to some affordable dumbbells of each type:

Resistance bands are very versatile tools for strength training also. Each band is rated at a certain resistance, but you can vary the amount of resistance depending on the distance from the handles you pull. This actually allows for a much broader range of resistance. One option that I appreciate are bands that can be interchanged with a set of detachable handles. There are several types of bands that you can purchase. I, personally, own the full set of bands by the creators of P90X. Once I figured out how to easily swap the higher resistance bands among the handles, I really grew to like these bands.

Pull/Chin-Up Bar

A good pull-up bar or chin-up bar is something that you will absolutely need for this program. Depending on the type of person you are, you will learn to love or hate pull-ups. That said, you want to get a bar that makes the whole process much easier on you. You can get one that stands free like a tower on your floor. These are usually adjustable in height. A cheaper alternative is a bar that installs in a doorway. Some of these require a sturdy doorway with trim that you set the bar onto. Others need brackets screwed into the studs of your doorway with the bar resting into the brackets (these usually telescope to the appropriate length). Below are links to a couple of each type.

Fitness Floor Mat

Another essential for your workout plan is a floor mat. You will be on the floor for an hour and thirty minutes of extreme yoga. You will be sweating through plyometrics (jump training) for about an hour. You will be stretching all your muscle groups for another hour. Thankfully, these exercises are on different days. However, you will need a floor mat that is thick enough for these activities.

Heart Rate Monitor

Several workouts in this plan are cardio-based: Plyometrics, Cardio X, and Kenpo X. In order to get the most out of these workouts, you should monitor your heart rate. It is important to keep your heart rate within an ideal range for burning fat. A good monitor will prompt you for your physical attributes and calculate the rest for you. After a proper setup, you can equip the monitor and it will beep when you are out of your range. This allows you to adjust your activity to get back into range.

Other Equipment

Some other equipment that you may get could improve your experience.

Most importantly, a way to monitor your fat loss is very nice to chart your progress. You can get a standard caliper or an electronic monitor. Some are built into weight scales, others are hand-held.

If you have wrist issues or want to get more range of motion out of your push-ups, you can purchase a pair of push-up stands. I have a bad wrist, and a set of push-up stands are great.

Lastly, yoga blocks are absolutely great for so many people. For me (and most guys), yoga blocks will help to perform the more advanced stretches which would otherwise not be possible. For the more flexible people out there, yoga blocks will help you stretch beyond normal means.


I suppose it is possible to experience this workout plan without supplements. However, I really do not see how this would work. In order to meet your dietary needs, I sincerely recommend that you invest in supplements. You can get all of these items at GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, and other similar shops or online with Amazon and many others.


The foods we have available to us today are usually very short on the vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Then, if you take on any workout plan, let alone an extreme plan, you will really need the vitamins. Get a multi-vitamin for men or women. For the P90X program, consider getting a multi-vitamin that targets sports activities or athletes.


The first phase of P90X expects you to really put down the protein and lay off the carbs. It is really, really hard to eat enough protein via food. You’ll want to consider a protein powder supplement. I keep it simple. I consume a GNC whey protein that is chocolate-flavored. It actually tastes great mixed with just water (this has come a long way in the past 10 years). 1 scoop of this stuff is equivalent to 1 protein on the P90X diet plan. Be aware that whey protein contains eggs, so if you are a strict vegetarian, look for an alternative to whey. You can mix a protein drink as a snack in the middle of the day and get a full protein count toward your daily goal.

For protein bars, there are the P90X Protein Bars; however, I prefer the Atkins Peanut Butter Granola Bars.

Recovery Drinks

After an extreme workout, you need to recover; and fast. There is an important 1-hour window, right after your workout, when you have the opportunity to help your muscles recover from the stress and strain beyond natural means. Consuming a recovery drink after such workouts, you will experience less soreness and will actually repair your muscle tears so much faster.

P90X has a recovery drink that I understand is great. However, my wife and I decided to find out the ingredients and find an alternative. The key to a recovery drink is the 4:1 ratio. That’s 4 parts carbohydrates to 1 part protein. If you want an alternative that is fairly affordable, I recommend Accelerade. You can find it at GNC and Vitamin Shoppe at a decent price. I believe GNC only has 2 of the flavors, while Vitamin Shoppe has all 6 or 7 flavors. You should take 2 scoops of Accelerade, but you may want to divide that up into 2 drinks unless you like it strong. This stuff tastes great and we always look forward to it after a workout.

Note: Accelerade (and most recovery drinks) use whey, which contains dairy. So, if you are strictly vegan, know this fact and read the labels to find something suitable for you.


It may seem overwhelming at first to get started on a high intensity workout. However, once you make a list of the things you need, it is not that bad at all. If you have to purchase everything listed here to get the most of your P90X workout plan, you can expect to spend the following amounts:

  • $150-$225 start-up costs for equipment
  • $35-$65 monthly costs for supplements

You will not regret committing yourself to this workout plan. P90X definitely guides you to real results of fitness. I mean long-lasting fitness. My wife and I love the results we are getting. I expect to finish the program, take a small break, then start it all over again. Yeah, it’s that good!

Good luck!

The preceding is the opinion of the author(s) and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. The views of the writer are his own, and do not in any way reflect the views of the site they are posted on, other sites affiliated with this site, the staff involved with the site, or any other members of this site. For more information, review the full Terms of Use for this site.

229 Responses to “P90X: Getting Started”

  1. Deb gunn says:

    Hi Matt!
    Great site, thank you.
    I am going to give p90x a shot. What do you recommend for someone who does NOT eat dairy. Just substitute a protein/carb? Just an extra protein? This is not because I don’t “like” dairy….it does not agree with me.
    Thanks for your help.
    Deb g

    • Matt says:

      Hi Deb,

      Good luck with your P90X journey! Quite honestly, if I had to deal with a dairy intolerance, I would substitute each serving with a half serving of a protein and a good fat (nuts, avocado, etc.). My theory would be that most dairy contains some protein and a bit of fat. It’s not a perfect substitute, but considering the situation, that’s how I’d go.

      You may want to join the P90X forums and ask an official representative of the program there. It should still be free to ask such questions of the experts.

      Have fun!


  2. Annette says:

    Hi Matt,
    I calculated that I am at Level I and just starting in Phase I of the diet plan. The recommended caloric intake for me is 1800 calories per day. However, when I add up the portions and multiply them by the number of calories for each type of food (for example, 5 portions of protein X 100 calories/portion = 500 protein calories + 2 portions of dairy X 120 calories/portion = 240 dairy calories + 200 carb calories…etc.) the total calories only add up to 1610 for the day. Should I stick with that by strictly adhering to the number of portions? Or should I maybe add another portion of carbs or a lot more fruit and veggies to get the calories up to 1800/day? Thank you!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Annette,

      Good eye. You’ll find that some of the numbers are just a little variant in the program. It’s mainly due to the estimation done for all the calculations. Firstly, your recommended caloric intake is a formula that works for 95% of people with some variance. Additionally, the calories for each portion are definitely estimations. For the most part, they are still completely valid, but we all know that our steak is not likely 100% lean and nothing but protein. The little bits of fat and other essential goodies change the calories just a tad.

      All that said, I would do one of three things in your case.

      1. Don’t sweat the details and just go with the portions each day.
      2. Add a little more protein and veggies, but not carbs nor fruit.
      3. Start off with the portions as-is, and adjust according to how you feel. By this I mean, determine if you are sluggish when eating just the portions. If you are, add just a tiny bit of good carbs (whole grains, fiber, etc.) until the sluggishness disappears.

      Also, adding veggies is almost always a no-brainer. You can add veggies at any phase of the diet with no adverse effects. They have little calories (other than perhaps corn, and the like) and will never be a detriment as human fuel.

      Good luck!


  3. loretta perillo says:

    Hey! I’m an insulin dependant diabetic. The most frustrating thing getting started on an exercise plan is all the low blood sugar reactions and getting my insulin dosage regulated. Which feels impossible when I have to eat more if it drops too low, and then figure out what to take with my next shot and so on. I’m 42 and I also have thyroid problems. I’m not over weight, just soft with alot of toning up to do, and a “jelly roll” to get rid of! My diabetes seems to fight me EVERY STEP of the way…any ideas?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Loretta,

      Quite honestly, I would recommend speaking with your doctor about such an extreme workout as this. The fact that each phase changes your intake of both carbohydrates and protein quite drastically from the normal is too complicated for us to figure out the insulin balance alone. If that is a dead-end, perhaps you could try finding a personal trainer or workout nutritionist that specializes in diabetics. If you’re having trouble finding one, call or visit a local gym to speak with someone on-staff, who may be able to put you in contact with just the right person.

      Your blend of diabetes and thyroid issues is a diet challenge by themselves. Once you add-in typical exercise, the complication easily doubles. An extreme workout, such as P90X, likely pushes the variables for proper nutritional balance and insulin dosage beyond manageability. You may have to consider a less extreme workout and just really, really stick to something that is more long-term and steady, considering your condition.

      I wish you the best of luck though. The health benefits you, specifically, will gain from a steady program are immense. It’s as if a steady, long-term exercise plan is a natural balancer of both of the internal “juices” you are battling with.

  4. Kimberly says:

    Hey, thank you for this amazing site! I am preparing to start P90X on this Monday. Borrowed it from a friend and she lost the nutrition guide!!
    Can you tell me how many grams of protein/carbs/fat I am to consume on Level 1 Fat Shredder? I have been reading for hours the last two days trying to figure all of this out. Also, I am in a transition (bad divorce) and am temporarily living where it is not possible to use the pull up bar. I will be doing the Lean version and to my knowledge this program does not require the use of the pull up bar, it appears I can use the bands instead…is this correct? Thanks again and Happy Fourth of July weekend!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Kimberly,

      Congratulations! Unfortunately, it is more complicated than just telling you those limits. It depends on what level you are (Level I, II, or III), based on other calculations in that guide. I suggest you look at what is available in the downloadable PDF of the Nutrition Guide on the Beach Body website. It’s not entirely complete, but it will get you started. You can also order a replacement guide from their site. The guide puts restrictions on the amount of proteins, dairy, fruits, vegetables, fats, carbs, snacks, and condiments; all based on what level you calculate for your body type and existing condition.

      If you do find out what level you should be at, let me know and I’ll tell you the restrictions for that level. You should be fine using just the bands without a pull-up bar. Good luck!

  5. Jesse says:

    Thank You very much for an extremely informative, helpful and straight forward article that answers almost every question I had before starting P90X. Well Done!

  6. Has anyone tried flavoured milk as a P90x Recovery Drink Alternative?

  7. Chrissy says:

    I just posted an article about Eco-Friendly Yoga supplies:

    I feel that the P90X Yoga is probably the part of P90X that was most beneficial to me.

  8. pat says:

    Matt I see where alot of people have chocolate milk as a recovery drink, if made right it has the proper 4:1 ratio. Is this an acceptable recovery drink. Thanks Pat

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