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21 Day Fix vs. Fix Extreme vs. Ultimate Portion Fix: What's the Difference?

By now you're probably familiar with these little color-coded containers. They were introduced five years ago and have helped millions of people change their eating habits.

You may know them as the 21 Day Fix... or the Portion Fix... or the container system... but what's the difference between those? What is this 21 Day Fix Extreme thing? And what about this new thing you keep hearing about called the Ultimate Portion Fix?

These all are variations on the same basic system. My intention with this post is to clarify the differences between them and leave you with an idea of who, and what purpose, each one is for!

First, a glossary of terms may be helpful...

container system: The nutrition plan that uses these color-coded containers. This can be combined with many different fitness programs, or used on its own.

21 Day Fix: The original program that utilized the container system. This program included both a fitness and a nutrition component, combining the container system with simple, accessible 30-minute workouts. Now that the container system has been broken out on its own for use with other fitness programs, the 21 Day Fix refers to the workouts alone.

21 Day Fix Extreme: This was 21 Day Fix creator Autumn Calabrese's follow-up to the 21 Day Fix. It combined the container system with more advanced, intense 30-minute workouts designed to build muscle and increase endurance. This was intended to be the next step after completing the 21 Day Fix, but people with an already high level of fitness may want to consider starting here. The 21 Day Fix Extreme name now refers to the workouts alone (although it's still recommended to use the container system when doing these workouts).

Portion Fix: This was the name given to the container system when it was broken off from the 21 Day Fix and Fix Extreme for use on its own or with a different fitness program. It consisted of the containers and a program guidebook.

Ultimate Portion Fix: This is the new and improved version of the program issued for the container system's five-year anniversary! The system is the same, but it's been more fully developed and refined in response to user experiences and frequently asked questions. It also includes an entirely new set of online resources—an in-depth series of videos that explore the program principles from different angles and in new ways to better help you apply them to your life, plus an online video and PDF library of hundreds of recipes using the containers—as well as a program workbook and tracking journal that help you go deeper with the program to fully integrate it into your life and maximize its impact.

To add one more twist—because there weren't enough already, right?—when you enroll in the Ultimate Portion Fix, you get access to the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme workouts. Both programs are being refilmed this spring in the new real-time digital streaming format where the workout is different each day—so for each program you now get 21 distinct workouts (plus ab sessions), instead of just seven workouts (plus abs) for each.

The refilmed workouts are based on the original program, with the same moves and order of moves—but with slight variations from one week to the next, so it's never the exact same workout twice, and the difficulty level starts out entry-level and ramps up as the weeks go by. In addition, the transition from the 21 Day Fix to the 21 Day Fix Extreme was made smoother, and the gap in intensity between the two programs bridged, by making the final week of the 21 Day Fix harder than the original and the first week of the 21 Day Fix Extreme not quite as hard.

If you're a Beachbody on Demand subscriber (which means you have access to the entire workout library with more than 800 full-length sessions), you'll have access the new versions of the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme starting on May 31. That's when the new workouts will be added to the main Beachbody on Demand library. The previous/legacy versions (the ones that match the DVD edition) are still up and will remain up.

Note that you don't need a Beachbody on Demand subscription to access the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme workout videos (as long as you have purchased access to the Ultimate Portion Fix). Also note that a Beachbody on Demand subscription alone won't get you access to the Ultimate Portion Fix nutrition videos (although it does give you access to the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme workout videos). Also note that your Ultimate Portion Fix purchase doesn't get you access to ALL of Beachbody on Demand—only the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme (along with your nutrition videos, of course).

So essentially, if you want access to one or both of these workout programs, you have two choices for how to do that—purchase a subscription to Beachbody on Demand (an annual or quarterly subscription with access to the entire workout library, way beyond just these two programs), or purchase the Ultimate Portion Fix (which comes with lifetime access to both the nutrition videos and these two workout programs).

The 21 Day Fix is still the same great program for beginners, with accessible moves and a modifier demonstrating a low-impact and/or lower-intensity option for every move. It uses a combination of modalities including cardio, strength training, Pilates, and yoga to work the body in a well-rounded way and stave off the boredom that can come from repetition.

The 21 Day Fix Extreme focuses more on building muscle, and also on high-intensity interval training—jumping is the rule rather than the exception (although the program does still have a low-impact modifier). Although most of the 21 Day Fix workouts do use weights, the Fix Extreme takes it the next level by asking you to go heavier with your weights (and adapts the moves accordingly).

It will be helpful to have resistance bands and loops, although the programs can be done without them (whereas weights are essential).

The nutrition program (the Ultimate Portion Fix, aka the container system) was designed to go along with these workouts, but was adapted for use with any fitness program (or none at all) once the program creators saw how transformative it was for so many.

The container system is based on three core principles: eliminating or minimizing highly processed foods in the diet; balanced macronutrients; and portion control.

The biggest misunderstanding I commonly see with this program is that people think that since it involves portion control, it must involve restricting the size of your meals. Actually, it's all about learning proper portions—and for some people, that may mean increasing portions to properly fuel their body, whereas for some it means reducing portions to bring them in line with their body's energy needs.

But the two other principles are equally as important as portion control. Not only does the container system teach you about proper portion size, but it also teaches you about how to combine foods so you have plenty of energy and feel satisfied with the food you eat.

Eating lots of highly processed foods and not eating balanced meals are two of the major factors that drive people to overeat. Highly processed foods are often addictive in nature, with large amounts of sugar and salt added to make them flavorful and disguise a lack of freshness. To make matters worse, most of them are low in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)—so our bodies can be getting plenty of calories but still be deficient in nutrients, leaving us craving more food.

When our meals are out of balance, it adds to the problem. For example, if I eat a meal that consists mainly of carbs, it sets my blood sugar off on a roller coaster, so 30 minutes after eating I"m tempted to eat more—and those cravings are almost impossible to resist. On the other hand, if my meal has a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, it will keep me full and satisfied for several hours, making it easy to refrain from eating until it's time for the next meal.

The Ultimate Portion Fix brings under its umbrella two other variations of the container-based nutrition—carb cycling and timed nutrition—that had been created for specific purposes since the release of the original container system.

Autumn's "Countdown to Competition" plan (a version of carb cycling) was included with the original 21 Day Fix Extreme; the Ultimate Portion Fix materials explain carb cycling—a strict plan that employs carb depletion to drop weight quickly, and is designed to be used infrequently for brief periods of time to avoid long-term effects on the metabolism—in more depth.

The meal plan for Autumn's 80 Day Obsession workout program was based on timed nutrition, which essentially gives more structure to the container system by telling you which containers to combine, at which time of day relative to your workout, for optimal results in terms of fat loss and muscle building. The Ultimate Portion Fix materials explain how to combine this with any exercise program, or use it on its own. This might be considered an "advanced" system for people new to the container system, but some beginners actually find it easier since it does involve more structure and take the guesswork out of knowing which containers to combine in a given meal.

The Ultimate Portion Fix also includes new modules on healthy eating for kids and the whole family, and how to navigate special occasions and eating in restaurants. It includes a whole section on meal prep, with demos of different approaches to preparing each week's meals—as well as videos on how to navigate the grocery store, since that's where healthy eating starts. And it includes an entire track specific to vegans, with an entirely different (though based on the same principles) meal plan and food lists. Lastly, it goes into more detail about how to adapt the program for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

All in all, the new resources represent a vast improvement over the original program. As powerful as the original program was, all of the new resources provide the kind of comprehensive support that drastically increases the chances of success with the program. Combine that with the support of a certified master coach (like yours truly) and a community (like you'll find in our virtual support group) and this program is practically failproof!

Interested in trying this program to help you develop a healthier relationship with food, find balance in your eating, and reach or maintain a healthy weight? You can check out the enrollment details here.

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