Ask the Expert: How Can I Maintain My Results?
By Steve Edwards
Congratulations! You’re done with INSANITY®, P90X®, or another Beachbody® program, and you love the results. But you’re also sick of hammering your body every day and watching each calorie you put into your mouth. So, what now? Can you keep your new body without all the work?
Yes and no. In order to function well, you need to move and properly fuel your body. But the fitter you are, the easier it is to stay fit. This means you can maintain your fitness with much less effort than it took to get there.
The following checklist will assuage the fears you have about losing your new body or reverting to the unhealthy habits you’ve worked so hard to change, and provide you with a sensible plan to maintain your results.
Lesson 1: Take a break!
Before you worry about keeping your results, you should celebrate. You’ve earned it! Your fitness won’t fall apart overnight, and a break will give you physical and—more importantly—mental relief from worrying about training, diet, and results.
Don’t worry about losing fitness. A little time off will actually improve your fitness by allowing your body to heal microtrauma (natural breakdown of muscle and connective tissue) incurred during regimented training. If you’re in need of convincing, consider that professional athletes are forced by their trainers to take full-stop breaks at the end of each season.
Too much time off, however, will start things sliding the other way. The length of your break should be related to the length of your program. If you’ve done a month of INSANITY: THE ASYLUM®, a week off is plenty. If you completed 90 days of P90X or P90X2®, you’ve got close to a month of leeway before your fitness will begin to suffer.
You can exercise during this break and I strongly recommend it. Just make it fun and, absolutely, don’t follow a regimented program. This is the time to take your newfound fitness for a drive around the block. If you’ve ever thought there was something you’d like to try, now’s the time.
Lesson 2: Without a maintenance plan, expect to keep your results for about as long as it took you to get them.
It takes approximately 3 weeks off to fully undo 3 weeks of training, while it may take 3 months to fully lose 90 days’ worth of effort—it takes about the same amount of time to lose your fitness as it took for you to attain it.
But since starting at square one sucks (remember?), you never want to wait too long to restart your training. The break you took in Lesson 1 should transition straight into a maintenance plan. If you got in shape for something like a vacation, class reunion, or another type of indulgence-oriented function, you need a plan (if you didn’t start with one) for continuing. Hopefully your new healthy habits have been well ingrained and you’ll soon begin to miss the endorphin rush of your daily exercise sessions.
Lesson 3: Create a maintenance schedule
To maintain your fitness, you’ll need around half the volume of your training program. The two simplest ways to do this are with full workouts every other day or with half workouts 6 days per week.
For the full workout plan, pick workouts to do every other day. The workout you do can be based on what you feel like you need. The downside is that it can be boring, which is why we offer many maintenance workouts, like P90X ONE on ONE®, INSANITY Fast and Furious, Brazil Butt Lift® Master Series, and so on. You can also mix and match from other workout programs, take classes at the gym, or play sports. The key is that you push your body in the way it was accustomed to during your training program.
Doing half workouts is trickier because you’re probably going to have to abridge your workouts. Instead of “just Pushing Play,” it’s up to you to structure your workout. A good general guideline is to warm up, do one or two rounds of exercises, and then fast-forward to the workout’s cooldown (or do a cooldown on your own). About 80% of a workout’s value happens during the first few sets. And while that may put you 20% under elite fitness, it’s perfectly fine for maintenance.
With either schedule, you’ll want to make sure you’re not doing similar workouts too close to each other. Don’t do plyometrics or work similar body parts back to back.
Lesson 4: Continue to push yourself.
Just because you’re working out less doesn’t mean you can slack off. Your workouts should improve over time while you’re maintaining, the same way they improved over time during your program. Your goal during each workout is still to lift more weight, move faster, jump higher, go deeper into stretches, and mimic the trainers as much as possible. Your body needs to be pushed. If it’s not, it will regress.
Lesson 5: Eat how you did when you were out of shape and your results will melt away.
For a few days, or even longer, it will seem like you can now inhale burgers, beers, and everything else that you’ve been denying yourself without any consequences. This won’t last.
It’s a fun perk, but it’s simply your body’s new raging metabolism trying to heal microtrauma. The fitter you are, the slower your body is to show regressions. And while your new, fitter body will endure splurges much better than it did before, it is not, and will never be, immune. It’s like the saying goes, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. At least you can’t forever.
Lesson 6: You don’t need to eat as strict a diet as you did during your program.
On the flip side, you don’t need to eat like you have a fitness competition coming up unless, well, you have a fitness competition coming up. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Beachbody programs are “boot camps.” They are designed to be very strict. Real life should be more relaxed and include indulgences. Fitness competitors don’t stay in competition shape all the time, and neither should you.
There are a few popular maintenance strategies incorporated by fit people. One is the 80/20 rule. Keep 80% of your diet relatively clean so that you can let your hair down with the remaining 20%. Another is workweeks on and weekends off.
Whatever you do, just remember that your new body needs more calories to maintain than it did when you began your program. That’s because your muscle-to-fat ratio is higher than it was when you started, so your metabolism is higher. Food is also essential for rebuilding the breakdown caused by your workouts, all of which means you need (or get) to eat more.
Ultimately, your goal is to stop calorie counting and learn to eat based on how your body feels. If you’re lacking energy, eat more. Avoid excessive eating by stopping before you’re full and realizing that when you overeat you feel sluggish and uncomfortable. By eating intuitively, you can maintain your physique more easily than by measuring every morsel you put in your mouth.
Lesson 7: You can’t maintain forever.
A solid maintenance plan can keep you fit for a long time. However, if you want the level of fitness you had after your last program, you’re going to require a reboot every so often, as in reboot camp. There’s simply no way around the fact that elite fitness requires sacrifice, hard work, and getting out of your comfort zone from time to time. P90X2, anyone?