How to Eat & Exercise for Your Dosha & Body Type (Part 2-3)
Have you ever found yourself searching for information or an answer regarding which amounts or the types of food and exercises that are best based on (insert goal here)? In part 1, you learned how and why overtraining and undereating is not in fact the key to reaching your health and wellness goals. In this post, I discuss the best types and amounts of foods and exercise for you, based on your body type, genetics, dosha and goals.
In part 1, How Overtraining + Under-Eating Causes Hormone Imbalance & Weight Gain, I discussed the negative side effects of exercising beyond your body's ability and underfueling, as well as the signs and symptoms to look out for. You might give that post a read first prior to this one!
In this post, part 2 of 3, I provide information on:
How to calculate how much food you need
How to discover your body type and Dosha
The best macronutrient range and exercises for you
The best types of foods and exercises for your body type and Ayruvedic Dosha
Food is Fuel + Energy
Food is a fear for some and comfort for others. Food is the center of a majority of social gatherings and events. Food has become this concept rather than what it is was created for... fuel and energy. Food is broken into 3 macronutrient categories: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Every person needs all three and enough of each for optimal health and wellbeing. When people do not supply their body with enough fuel, they risk slowing the metabolism, decreasing immunity, catabolism (muscle loss) and damaging cardiovascular and psychological health. Similarly, it can lead to dehydration, muscle fatigue, thyroid disorders, kidney damage, and more issues as discussed in part 1.
It makes me sad when I hear that someone is following a 1300-1400 calorie diet. On average, women need at least 1300 calories a day just to keep their body and organs functioning! These calories do not include the energy used for getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, opening a car door, and surely not the exercises we throw on top of it. When we restrict our diet, the metabolism slows, meaning fewer calories are burned at rest. In fact, everything slows, including the thyroid. A good way to figure out how many calories you should be eating is by calculating your BMR and multiplying it times your activity level. If you do not know your BMR, simply use this calculator. Then use the following activity scale:
Little or no exercise and desk job: 1.2
Light exercise 1-3 times per week: 1.375
Moderate exercise 3-5 times per week: 1.55
Very active, hard exercise or sports 6-7 days per week: 1.725
Extremely active, hard daily exercise or sports and strenuous job: 1.9
BMR x activity level = calories (harris benedict)
This is the amount of calories your body needs each and every day to facilitate liver function, kidney function, heart, blood flow, hormonal balance, brain function, digestion, elimination, and recovery.
P R O T E I N
Protein provides the building blocks for muscles through something called amino acids. Without sufficient amino acids, your liver simply will not be able to complete phase II detoxification, the phase that eliminates toxins from the body. To avoid becoming toxic, it is important to choose amino acids from protein sources that are sustainable and organic such as pasture-raised meat and eggs and wild-caught fish. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, focus on protein-rich plant foods like organic legumes, nuts, and seeds. Plant foods fail to supply enough of the absorbable form of some B vitamins in the way animal products do, so it's totally fine if you choose to be vegan, but make sure to supplement accordingly.
I personally do not eat a lot of animal based protein. It makes me feel tired and sits really heavy in my stomach. For this reason, I go a few days a week without eating any meat or animal proteins at all. In a typical week, I might consume pasture raised chicken 2 meals week, salmon 1-2 meals a week and eggs 1 meal a week. Why? Because that is what I found to work for me! Everyone is so different, which is why I work with people to find the plan that best suits them!
How much protein to eat? It depends on your body type and goals! If you're training intensely, you might need a little more protein. If you are not training at all, you can get away with eating a little less. For the general population, 20-30% of total calories is a good baseline, + or - 5 grams based on body type and goals; this generally breaks down to about .8 grams your bodyweight in lbs. However, if you're more susceptible to muscle loss, such as the Vata/Ectomorphy body type, you might do better a little more protein, such as 1 gram per pound of body weight. If you're training hard and really looking to put on muscle, you might aim for about 1.1-1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight. Again, everyone is different.
F A T
Fat not only makes food taste amazing, but is one of the most important nutrients for hormonal balance. Low fat and no-fat diets create a cascade of hormone imbalances in the short and long term. Fat is required for the production of crucial hormones, such as the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Without fat, the production will suffer greatly. One of the biggest things I see show up in my practice working with clients is estrogen dominance, either due to a poor diet, environmental toxins or lack or progesterone production. Estrogen dominance typically shows up as weight gain, in the stomach, hips and thighs, breast tenderness, bloating, hair loss, decreased sex drive, fatigue, trouble sleeping, brain fog and mood swings.
Fat is required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K. You might have this beautiful salad with a ton of veggies, but the low fat or lack of fat in the salad or dressing will prevent you from obtaining any of the nutrients from the fat soluble vitamins.
Just to note, not all fats are created equal! It is important to choose the best fat sources such as avocado, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil (for cooking), grass-fed ghee, olives, wild-caught fish, and sprouted nuts and seeds. Stay away from refined and processed oils and trans fats.
How much fat to eat? Some people naturally do better with higher fat, whereas others do not! I like to set minimums in regards to fat, such as .35 your bodyweight in pounds or around 25-30% of total calories. Keep in mind that this is a minimum; you should not drop below that number! I consult clients to aim more towards the 30% breakdown.
You also want to make sure you are digesting your fats! If there is too little stomach acid, in imbalance in pH, low functioning gallbladder or thick and vicious bile, or if a history of low or no fat diet is present, there is a good chance that fats are not being digesting properly. I can help you figure this out, simply contact me.
C A R B O H Y D R A T E S
Regardless of what you have heard, carbs are the body and brains preferred source of glucose. For this reason, I am not a fan of the ketogenic diet long term, especially when strategic carb-ups are not in place. By eating too low carb for too long, you can actually become resistant to insulin. This is why it is so important to work with someone who actually knows what they are doing. When done properly, Keto can act as a great reset, but keep it to 4-6 weeks. Then strategically build carbs back in.
Everyone has a slightly different carb tolerance. Regardless of your carb tolerance, I do not recommend a very low carb diet long term. We need carbs, plain and simple.
The majority of carbs should come from vegetables, specifically the green leafy kinds. Beyond green veggies, your carbohydrates should come from other vegetables, some fruit and depending on activity, a few complex and simple carbs. A good way to assess your carb tolerance is by measuring your post meal blood sugar 2 hours after a meal with one of these devices. Ideally, it should drop to 95 or below 2 hours after the meal. If it does not, the meal may have been slightly too high in carbs or a blood sugar issue might be present. Blood sugar is a foundation of nutrition, so this is the first thing I address with clients, because if it is off, nothing else will improve.
How many carbs to eat? Try to aim for at least 75 grams of carbs daily. For females, I recommend 100 grams at minimum. When carbs drop too low, the body becomes stressed and secretes the stress hormone cortisol as a result, something I discussed in part 1 and will dive more into later in part 3. If someone is naturally more sensitive to carbs, such as an endomorph, their total carbs might have to be more towards the lower end, while others can get away with 200-300+ carbs. Endomorphs/Kaphas in particular should really pay attention to the glycemic load of carbs and focus on consuming lower glycemic ones based on carb sensitivity.
Aim for 7-10 servings of vegetables per day. If you're working out or partaking in an active lifestyle, make sure to add in even more carbs, from starchier sources such as winter squash, sprouted oats, basmati rice and sweet potatoes. The one time the body is equipped and primed for higher glycemic carbs is during the post workout window, so if you want to indulge in something higher in sugar and carb, consume it following an intense workout.
Eating for Your Body Type
I love this body type booklet that outline the best types of food and lifestyle for each body type. My functional medicine doctor did a simple eye test with each set of glasses, red, blue and green to discover I am a green body type. This is odd because I am rather short and most green morphologies are tall, but again, this is why every person is so different! The food part is spot on however. The Booklet suggests the following:
Food intolerances—Main intolerance is to casein, the protein in cheese (yep, this is me). Cooked cheese is especially detrimental to their health (100%). Genetically they have difficulty metabolizing alpha solanine, a toxin found in the deadly nightshade foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, green bell peppers, green chilis and aubergines (ironically enough, I just found out I am sensitive tomatoes and do not metabolize green bell peppers or aubergines well, so this is accurate for me).
To summarize the booklets food suggestions based on body type:
Red: generally do best on a high protein, moderate fat and low carbohydrate diet, making them natural carnivores; should avoid wheat products
Green: plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes (such as black beans and pinto beans), whole grains such as brown rice, starchy vegetables like yams, lean meat, and seafoodl should avoid potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, and chilli and cheese, especially cooked cheese
Blue: tend to have low stomach acid and so are more suitable to a vegetarian style, dairy free diet; natural grazers, small potions of protein spread throughout the day and organic foods wherever possible
The booklet is great starting point in helping you figure out which body type you might be, but getting tested by a specialist is the most accurate! I've provided the optimal macronutrient ranges of protein, fat & carbohydrates, as well as the best sources for each below.
Exercising for Health
Exercise is an important aspect for overall health. It offers the benefits of a strong and flexible body, and shown to be a significant protective factor against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease in old age. I discussed in part 1 the negative effects of overtraining and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of it. With any sort of exercise plan, it is so important to really hone in on what your body needs and is trying to tell you. Ignoring that can leave you injured or potentially in an even greater health crisis.
Unfortunately, some people simply can not get away with high intensity exercise. One way I have people assess if they're overtraining beyond their body's limits is by having them note their reactions post workout. Do they feel rejuvenated and filled with energy or are they left feeling tired, run down or fatigued? If it's the latter, the exercise is probably too much, at least for at the stage in their life they are at right right now. Take me for example, I love high intestity training. I love the rush of endorphins, the "I can't walk the next day" feeling, I love it all. Sadly, Crossfit and high intensity training did not love me back. For a long time I was battling an undiagnosed thryoid disorder called secondary hypothyroid without even knowing it. My body was not recovering properly and I suffered with a ton of hormonal imbalances as a result. I spent a solid 6 months away from any sort of high intensity exercise program to give my body the much needed rest and healing it needed. Others require 12-18 months depending on what stage they are in.
Now that I have spent sufficient time resting, practicing forms of relaxation and fueling my body accordingly, I am finally getting back into Crossfit and HIIT. And thank goodness, because my body type loves it! However, I will probably only go 2-3x a week and continue to assess symptoms and blood work to make sure everything stays in balance. If you want to train hard, you 100% have to make sure that you pay attention to nutrition, recovery and sleep. No ifs or butts about it.
Choosing the Right Exercise for You
With so many different exercise options, it's hard to know what's best, especially with considering what is best for you might look totally different from someone else. This is why it kills me when I see people spend money on workout programs that are not tailored specifically towards them. What works for one person might not work for you at all. If it did, we wouldn't have a million different workout programs out there. Two people can follow the exact same food and exercise program and see totally different results. Why? Genetics. Ever wonder why that one friend of yours is able to get ripped abs without even trying. It's the same reason why they have blue eyes and you have brown... genetics.
In addition to genetics, the correct type and amount of exercise comes down to the state of stress your body is currently in and your ability to manage and handle that stress. In stressful times, yoga or walking or no exercise at all might be right. But for normal everyday life, let's take a look at what is best for your body type.
Exercising for Your Dosha
Exercising becomes so much easier when you exercise for your body type. There are 3 different body types: Ectomorph, Mesomorph & Endomorph. There are also 3 morphologies - Red, Green and Blue and 3 Doshas - Vata, Pitta & Kapha. They each go hand in hand with one another. If you do not know your dosha, check out Banyan Botanical’s online quiz here. The most accurate way to know is through an evaluation from a practitioner, but this can help get you started!
In Ayurveda, your primary dosha is the one that goes out of balance the easiest, but is the easiest to get back into balance. Your secondary dosha, although less likely to go out of balance, is far more challenging to get back into balance. Once you take this quiz, you'll know your primary and secondary doshas. Picture below is a visual image of each dosha.
Explanation of Doshas + Recommended Exercise For Each
Vatas are naturally high in energy and love to move. They are also blue They enjoy cardio, dance, running, spinning and anything else that allows them to move fast. They love the feeling of getting their heart rate up. Vata types are quick to get involved in fitness programs, but because of their constantly changing interests, they are also quick to give them up.
A few characteristics include:
Light thin build
Performs activity quickly
Irregular hunger and digestion
Light interrupted sleep, insomnia
Enthusiasm, vivaciousness, imagination Excitability, changing moods
Quick to grasp new information, also quick to forget Tendency to worry
Tendency towards constipation
Tires easily, tendency to over exert
Mental and physical energy comes in bursts
Be hungry at any time
Love excitement and constant change
Go to sleep at different times every night, skip meals, and keep irregular habits in general Digest food well one day and poorly the next
Display bursts of emotion that are short lived and quickly forgotten
Vatas are naturally attracted to intense cardio classes like cycling and running, but what they need is actually more grounding. It’s best to counter balance the quick nature with some slow, steady training. Vatas have a hard time gaining muscle mass and need to pay particular attention to building their bones and muscles to prevent bone-density issues in the future.
Recommended exercises: weight lifting, slow-moving yoga, tai chi, long walks, hikes in nature, mild biking, dance, skating, mild rowing
Should avoid (running, jogging, and any extended cardio, fast-moving vinyasa yoga, HIIT)
Pittas are natural athletes. They have a strong stamina and like to work their body to the max. They are drawn to Crossfit and anything that pushes their body to the limit. They put muscle on easily.
A few characteristics inlcude:
Medium strength and endurance
Sharp hunger and thirst, strong digestion
Tendency towards anger, irritability under stress
Fair or ruddy skin, often freckled
Aversion to sun and hot weather
Enterprising character, likes challenges, Sharp intellect Precise, articulate speech
Cannot skip meals
Blond, light brown or red hair (or reddish overtones)
However, what they really need is to calm and cool down. Hardcore exercise will actually cause adrenal fatigue and an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. Even though they love dripping in sweat, they really need the opposite of that. Pittas should strive to practice more yoga, Pilates, and swimming, which build muscle without overtaxing the adrenals.
Recommended exercise: swimming, water sports, moderate biking, yoga, tai chi, long walks, hikes in nature, winter sports
Should avoid: hot yoga of any kind, overly competitive exercise, any kind of exercise to the point of “burn out”, any outdoor exercise in the heat
Kaphas are naturally slow and steady and may actually hate to work-out. Getting up to go to the gym may feel like physical torture for them. Kaphas are more sedentary by nature and have a tough time getting into an exercise routine. However, once they start getting their sweat sessions on, they actually begin to love it because it stimulates their minds and bodies. Kaphas actually have the highest endurance of all the Doshas and can tolerate the longest duration of exercise. Kaphas should focus on building up a sweat. Kaphas naturally store fat more easily so sweating is amazing for them and burning fat.
Some characteristics include:
Solid powerful build, great physical strength and endurance
Tranquil, relaxed personality, slow to anger
Cold smooth, quick, pale and often oily skin
Slow to grasp new information but good retentive memory
Heavy prolonged sleep
Slow digestion, mild hunger
Affectionate, tolerant and forgiving; tendency to be possessive
Respect other people’s feelings with which you feel genuine empathy
Seek emotional comfort from eating
Kaphas should avoid excess strength-training if they are trying to lose weight because it will actually make them heavier. Kaphas may be drawn to slow, steady weight-lifting and shy away from cardio but it’s really the opposite that they need.
Recommended exercises: aerobic and endurance exercise like jogging, running, biking, and jumping rope
Should avoid (strength training or anything too slow-moving or static)
Choosing the Right Exercise + Foods For You
Finding the right types and amounts of both food and exercise for you is the key to balancing your health. Do you know your Dosha? Comment below and let me know!
If you need help building a meal plan based on your results, simply reach out via my contact page and we can get started <3