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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Using Weight Watchers for P90X, Insanity and other Beachbody Workouts

The Weight Watchers diet plan is really common, and many people who do P90X, Insanity, or the other Beachbody programs want to continue using the diet as they are already familiar with it. There is no reason that you can’t use the diet plan with these workouts. This information can be used for the Points Plus system.

The Problem With the Weight Watchers Diet

The problem with the Weight Watchers diet program is that the goal is to lose weight through a calorie restricted diet. It assigns people points to optimize fat loss, by taking people down to about 1,000 calories a day below their Maintenance Level. This gives people an average loss of 2 lbs of fat a week, which is the supposed maximum safe fat loss level. Any more than that and your body can go into starvation mode, where your body tries to save itself by hoarding fat and burning muscle. That is obviously bad.

However, when you add an extreme fitness program like Insanity or P90X, you increase your daily calorie burn dramatically. If you don’t add calories to your diet, you move from the safe fat loss level to starvation mode. While Weight Watchers assumes some light activity in their point calculation, they don’t anticipate P90X level activity. So if you are already on Weight Watchers, you have to add extra points/calories to your diet to maintain a safe level of weight loss.

What is a Point?

To write this column, I researched Weight Watchers’ patents to come up with an answer. A Point is essentially 50 calories. However not all calories are the same. For example, 50 calories of food high in fat is worth more points, while 50 calories of food high in fiber is less than a full point. So I can’t just tell people to figure out how many calories they burn and then add the appropriate number of calories. However you can roughly estimate that you should add 2 points for every 100 calories of exercise.

How To Calculate Extra Points To Add To Your Day

In reviewing the Weight Watchers patent, there is a formula for points to allocate to your exercise. Unfortunately, Weight Watchers even states that they underestimate the Points you might need, as they believe people overestimate their exertion. However, few people would describe Insanity, P90X or TurboFire as less than Intense. For that reason, I will modify the Weight Watchers’ formula to be in the middle.

If you are doing P90X, Insanity, Power 90, ChaLEAN Extreme or TurboFire, you want to use the following formula:

.1783 x (your weight in pounds / 2.2) x minutes of your workout / 75

So, if I am doing P90X and I weigh 154 lbs, I generally estimate that P90X averages about 70 min a day (with ARX). That means that it is:

.1783 * (154/2.2) * 70 / 75 or 11.6 points.

I round that to 12 points to add per day on average.

Simplified Math for P90X and Insanity

If you are willing to trust me, here is the overly simplified math for estimates for Insanity and P90X:

For P90X: Multiply your weight in pounds by .07564

For Insanity Month 1 and Recovery Week: Multiply your weight by .04214

For Insanity Month 2: Multiply your weight by .05943

Less Intense Workouts

While I don’t intend to downplay the level of effort involved in Turbo Jam, Hip Hop Abs, Slim in 6 and other programs, they are not at the intensity level of P90X and Insanity. There is a slight modification to the formula for these programs as follows:

.0711 x (your weight in pounds / 2.2) x minutes of your workout / 75

The other programs vary to much in length of workouts to give a more simplified number. Again, you can average the length of the workouts, so that you are not using different points every day.

Let Me Know If You Are Stuck

I realize that this can seem complicated. If you get lost in the math, feel free to send me a message at ira@irawinkler.com.

These Are Estimates

As I said, these are estimates. You need to watch your results and modify as appropriate. Ironically, I will say that if you stop losing weight, I recommend that you add points. Again, on Weight Watchers, you are already bordering on starvation mode. If you stop getting results, you very possibly put yourself firmly into starvation mode, so you should probably add about an extra 1/3 of the points you added for exercise.

Weight Watchers is a very established nutrition plan, but again it does focus on calorie restriction. P90X and other Beachbody programs focus on a holistic combination of exercise and nutrition. It can however be safely modified for the Beachbody programs.


  1. This is great! I love how you broke it all down for us. However, Weight Watchers has changed their program to a new Points Plus 2012 program, would the calculation change?

    Thanks for your help! Great write up!!

  2. I just joined WW today and I am on day 2 of Insanity. There is no listing in WW for the Insanity workout so I put in aerobics, vigorous level for 40 minutes and it gave me 9 activity points with only 9 remaining for the week before it starts to give me extra points to eat extra calories. So tomorrow I will be at my goal of 18 activity points for the week and then I will get extra points for food. I am hoping doing the WW in conjunction with Insanity will give me good results.

    I am 5'6" and 190lbs. My goal is to get to 150 lbs while adding lean muscle. My BMI is 30. I would like to get to a BMI of 20.

    Any advice?

  3. I would also like to know if the forumla changed for Weight Watchers Points Plus. Thanks.

  4. Yes, I too would like to know how the equation works for the new Weight Watchers plan (Points Plus).

  5. LOVE this! So glad my husband found this post! From what I can tell... it's pretty on point with what the activity calculator says I get for my activity. As far as the new system changing anything, the only thing I think that changed is that it's 45 calories per point now, not 50. It's pretty easy to calculate the point value of foods on the fly if you just divide the calories by 45. This doesn't work for super high fat foods, like coconut oil, but it works most of the time. As long as you're using your activity points, it's pretty on point!

  6. If you use a heart rate monitor for your workouts there shouldn't be a problem calculating extra points for your intense workouts. On the old program 100 calories burned of exercise = 1 point or 50 calories approximately.

  7. i really liked this fitness program. px90 has severely increased my calorie burning value. I must inevitably thank you for this...Thanks

  8. welcome back. and an excellent article to start with. thanks for pointing out the benefits of a wide variety of opinions rather than the single-mindedness of the "select few" at the Federal Reserve

  9. Hey! This is great!!! I'm currently doing hip hop abs and T25. Are the formulas the same with Points Plus?

  10. I am on my day 37 of p90x and I absolutely love this program. I prefer the classic plan as it has more strength training and it won't make you bulky
    but will help you burn fat. The key is consistency. If you are consistent with your efforts on a daily basis it will pay off. I would also like for you to check this out http://fitpharmacist.com/p90x3review - I've been combining the 21 day fix meal plan with P90X3 and the result is amazing - I lost 22 lbs so far!

  11. How would you calculate activity points for T25?

  12. How different are these calculations now with WW new smarts points, based more on less sugar and fat, and more protein?

  13. How different are these calculations now with WW new smarts points, based more on less sugar and fat, and more protein?