P90X Supplements: The What, When and Why

SupplementsIt can be really tough knowing exactly what supplements to take, when to take them, and why you should take them while on the P90X fitness plan. This especially difficult for those of you that want to save a little cash with alternatives to the P90X supplements offered by Beach Body.

I am providing this guide to help clear the murk. This is not a comprehensive guide, but it should answer many questions and give you enough knowledge to research more on your own, if you need to.


A rich multi-vitamin targeted to your gender and active/sport/athlete users is ideal while embarking on the P90X journey. I use the GNC brand Mega Men’s Sport multi-vitamin formula. However, you can find something else by printing out the nutritional information of the P90X formula and comparing it to other multi-vitamins for a close match. Due note that you will likely pee bright yellow the next time you go, after taking your vitamins. This is just your body passing the unused/unabsorbed vitamins and minerals that are in excess for the formula chosen. Accept it and do not be concerned.

I take my multi-vitamin in the morning with food to help absorb it and make use of it throughout the day. Some people find it hard to take 2-4 capsules at the same time of day and take half in the morning, half in the evening. This works if you are not taking other vitamins. Once you start adding in other vitamins, you chance offsetting the balance provided by your multi-vitamin.

Many of the vitamins, minerals and herbs found in a multi-vitamin show extreme percentages (e.g. 3,000% RDA). This should not alarm you about overdosing if you are following the directions. These numbers are so high for some of them because several vitamins and minerals counteract each other. Others fight for absorption. There is no perfect one-a-day vitamin for this reason, but it is much better than nothing at all. Your body will need the vitamins and minerals that you do not get from food.

Protein Supplementation

There are many options for protein formulas. You can get protein supplements from whey, soy, and even pea. This gives us quite a bit of selection to meet our lifestyles and possible allergies. If you are allergic to dairy, avoid whey. Allergic to soy, avoid those proteins. If you are allergic to both dairy and soy, or you are vegan and cannot handle soy, get pea protein. It is as natural and safe as it gets. I use GNC’s brand of whey protein. I can get a 5-pound tub of the stuff for half the price of the other brands. Sure, it’s not the same as the others (primarily, it lacks L-glutamine), but it does the trick. I also eat Clif Builder’s Protein Bars as my bar portion. I intend on trying the newer pea protein formulas soon as well.

Never take your protein supplement (or much of any other protein) right before your workout. If you take a lot of protein just before a workout, you will tank. You’ll be lucky to make it 10 minutes into your workout before feeling like jelly. Any other time you want to ingest protein is fine; even just before bed if you must stop hunger. I do not recommend taking more than 1 serving of your protein supplement within a couple hours of each other. The protein supplements are not absorbed by the body as fast as food-based proteins (which you can eat a ton of in a sitting if you want).

Protein is not stored by our bodies like fat and carbohydrates are. Protein is absorbed to repair and build muscle. Whatever is not used is passed through. This makes protein safe to eat before bed if you absolutely need to. It also makes it extremely difficult to workout while the body is processing protein. That is why you should not take much (really any) within a 30-60 minutes of a workout.

Recovery Drink

The key here is to find a formula that has a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Just make sure the total grams of carbohydrates is 4 times that of the total grams of protein on the label.

You must fully ingest your recovery drink within 45-60 minutes of completing a strenuous workout. If you miss this opportunity, you might as well skip the drink. It is really unnecessary after 1 hour of your workout.

This helps the body repair those recently torn muscle fibers before the optimal window of opportunity passes. If you do this correctly, you will not be as sore the next day and should be able to perform your next workout without loss of capacity. Without a recovery drink, you will not be able to perform as well the next day; not to mention the soreness. I use Accelerade as my recovery drink of choice. Again, others may have a little L-glutamine, and even some creatine, added, but the real key to a good recovery drink is the 4:1 ratio.