By Denis Faye

Most P90Xers rejoice when they arrive at Phase 3 of the program's Nutrition Plan. Not only are they two-thirds of the way through the boot camp from hell, but they also know they're about to ramp up their workouts by introducing more carbohydrates, the body's primary energy source, into their diets. There are, however, dissenters—those who glance at Phase 3 of the P90X Nutrition Plan and blanch. "What's with all the carbs?" they grumble.

There are several reasons a person might not embrace "The Energy Maximizer." Maybe you suffer from celiac disease, so navigating your way around 1,000 calories of complex carbs while avoiding wheat seems overwhelming. Maybe you follow one of the popular Paleo Diets and subscribe to the belief that our ancestors didn't eat grains, and therefore neither should we. Or maybe you just don't like all that pasta and rice.

Either way, Phase 3 just isn't your thing. The obvious solution would be to stick with Phase 2, which balances the macronutrients a bit more, but to quote the P90X Nutrition Guide, "Phase 3 should be tried at some point, even if you feel good in Phase 2. We've seen many people hesitate to move on to this more carb-heavy phase for fear that they'll gain weight, but surprise! They found that once they did, they had more energy, worked out even harder, and had better results."

Just because you want to avoid grains, wheat, or "starches," doesn't mean you should be denied those better results. The P90X Nutrition Plan was designed to be flexible, so with a little thought, you can easily rework Phase 3 to suit your needs. Let's make it happen.

A better understanding of everyone's favorite whipping boy: carbs

There are three macronutrients vital to your body's health: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Everything you consume (except alcohol and the petrochemicals that lace a lot of fast food), is made up of these three things—and the three are hopelessly intermingled. Even if you were to skip the plan's carbohydrates portion list entirely, you'd still get carbs from fruits and vegetables, as well as some condiments, snacks, dairy products, and even the veggie-based options in the protein list. You just can't hide from macronutrients.

But the primary difference between the carbs in the Carbohydrate list and those in the Fruits and Veggies lists is that the former are primarily complex carbs, while the latter two are a combination of simple carbs and complex carbs. What does that mean? Scientifically speaking, simple carbs, or sugars, are single molecules, which means they're broken down into glucose (the body's primary fuel) more quickly. Complex carbs, or starches, are three or more simple carbs linked together, so the body needs to break them down into simple carbs before it converts them into glucose. The benefit of this is that complex carbs can provide more of a slow energy drip because they take longer to enter the system.

In truth, complex carbs are almost impossible to avoid. Although they're denser in grains and legumes, they tend to show up in most carb-based foods. For example, 50 percent of the digestible carbs in broccoli are complex. Even the banana, long thought to be one of the most sugar-laden fruits around, contains 10 grams of digestible complex carbs in a medium fruit. But I digress. The point is, you want to keep those complex carbs down a little, so let's see how to tweak Phase 3.

The Numbers

The revised portions look like this:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Proteins 2
Dairy 1
Fruit 4
Vegetables 2
Fats 1
Carbs 2
Snacks single, bar, drink
Condiments 2
Proteins 3
Dairy 2
Fruit 5
Vegetables 5
Fats 1
Carbs 2
Snacks double, single, drink
Condiments 3
Proteins 4
Dairy 2
Fruit 5
Vegetables 6
Fats 1
Carbs 3
Snacks double, single, single, drink
Condiments 4

Revised Carbohydrates Portion List
Baked beans – 1 cup
Beans (kidney, black, etc) – 1 cup
Edamame – 1 cup (shelled)
Hummus – 1 cup
Lentils – 1 cup
Peanuts (raw) – 1 ounce
Quinoa – 1 cup
Refried beans – 1 cup

See? It's pretty simple, actually. Primarily, you replace your grains with fruits and limit your intake from the Carbohydrate list to legumes. We did add a dairy block in a couple places to help lessen the volume of produce the revised plan requires you to eat. Most low-fat dairy contains a decent amount of carbs, so it should help fill the void, but if you can handle more fruits and veggies, feel free replace that extra dairy block with the caloric equivalent in fruits or vegetables.You'll also notice the addition of a couple of items to the carb list (edamame and raw peanuts), as well as the fact that quinoa made the cut. People often assume this South American seed is a grain. In fact, it's a pseudocereal, more closely related to spinach and beets. So you're all good, Paleo people!

Remember, don't let this one modification be the end of your experimentation with the P90X Nutrition Plan. As I stated earlier, it was designed to be flexible, so get in there and start flexing. Whatever your nutritional needs, you should be able to find the way that works for you.