Dieting for your neurotype part 3: Type 2A nutritional approach
Part 1 and 2 of this series were about developing the best nutritional approach for Type 1A and Type 1B. In order to establish a logical sequence, it is necessary that we also fly over the other types, in particular Type 2A which, the subject of our investigation for this article.
We received some good feedback from the previous articles of this series and a couple of questions have been raised. I think it would be nice to take some time to review one of those issues in particular that relates to the progression of these dieting concepts.
Depending on your goals, the basic macros that are proposed are the ideal way to eat to optimize neurological function. For decades (and perhaps longer), the notion of getting better at anything requiring physical skill (weightlifting, for example) was largely based on the concept that one needed to focus on enhancing strength, flexibility, speed and muscle mass. The feeling was and the science showed that the muscles required for the execution of the skill in question had to be trained and strengthened consistently and diligently. The major parts of the performance aspect in sports were all related to the body itself. In short, optimizing athletic performance was a biomechanical process only.
Nowadays, as we know a lot more on the role of the brain in sports and performances, athletes and coaches understand that the equation is solved by involving neurological notions and that strength training alone doesn’t lead to optimal performance. We now recognize the value of our nervous system and the brain’s implication in training. Neurotype dieting was developed to optimize those traits and push your body functions to an optimal level of efficiency.
Now, there will be times when you must go out of those set macros. For example, if you are competing in a bodybuilding contest, chances are you will have to go out of those lines to be able to have the proper look and be competitive. Neurotype dieting is a baseline guide in which you can flow to be optimal and create the ideal environment in your training and dieting quest. This doesn’t mean you can never go out of the border if the goal asks for it. It means that the approach is best suited for general progression through the years.
Now back to our main presentation:
Welcome to a whole new world, since Type 2A are some totally different creatures from what we’ve seen before.
Food and personality connection
Type 2A are maybe both the most difficult and easiest clients to coach. I say both because for a Type 2A, everything works but nothing works for a long time. They are the easiest athletes to start up because you can work with almost every kind of strategy and their body will respond to it. But, after a short time, you will have to figure out another approach. This can be fun at first because the Type 2A asks for all sorts of different and innovative approaches, but after some time, it can be difficult to constantly come up with new ideas in such a short amount of time.
Everything works, but their main motivation is variety. This makes the follow-up pretty demanding if you don’t have anything new in your pocket. As a coach, training a Type 2A will require that you be creative, while following a background foundation allowing for an evaluable progression. As an athlete, a Type 2A will have to submit to a framework of progression allowing a projection in the future.
They are generally gentle, smart and competent people who are fun to be around. They are also good learners. They quickly assimilate new notions and apply what they learn efficiently. It can be one of the reasons that drive them to look for variety and changes. They are thirsty for knowledge, so don’t be surprised if they ask you for some explanations on what you propose. It’s not that they doubt your competence, but rather they seek to understand well.
Having this desire for variety will require you to build a plan in multiple phases. For example, make sure to anticipate 3 or 4 variations of the same plan. If you have built a diet plan, propose 4 different days in which they can jump from one to another, even if the set up is the same macro wise. They will feel that are not repeating the same thing all the time and tend to endure longer terms this way.
Type 2A have one very special trait, they are heavily influenced by a mentor. So much that their own desires are often directed by their main influences. Find their mentor and you’ll know the reasons for their actions, their decisions, their desires and goals. They could be compared to chameleons, they take the colour of their environment.
Their decision-making process will be greatly influenced by their surroundings and their desire to please others. They are “people pleasers”.This is what can make things a bit more difficult if you coach a Type 2A. Often, they will tell you everything is going well even if they are struggling or don’t like something in your approach. They will acquiesce in what you ask just to appear nice and keep a good esteem of your part. The problem is that it doesn’t give you the chance to have valid feedback and correct things if there is a need to.
Tendencies / bad habits
Type 2A ask for variation. Building a plan (workout or diet) should aim in this direction. Whatever the approach you use, they will always be very motivated by jumping with both feet into the program. The problem is they will come back 2-3 weeks after and tell you they will have cheated on their diet for some reason like: they are getting bored eating the same thing, the same pattern, lack of food or schedule variations, etc.
You need to make sure to open the communication as best as possible to make sure they will open up to you. I discussed this with a well-known Type 2A, Christian Thibaudeau himself and read what he has to say about his biggest flaws and pitfalls concerning diet:
‘’My two main flaws when it comes to dieting are 1) I need lots of variation. Which is why it’s hard for me to do “keto” or “intermittent fasting” or “The Zone”… even if the diet is effective, after 4 weeks I get bored, especially if many foods are off-limits with the diet. 2) I’m a sugar bug; Type 2s (A and B) tend to be the biggest binge eaters, the main difference is that Type 2A won’t get guilty about it (under normal circumstances). To give you an idea I once gained 27lbs in 6 hours!’’
Unbelievable but common to see with Type 2A (well ok, 27lbs in 6 hours is not something we see that often, but you know Chris can be extremist on occasion). I can relate to this because I am also a Type 2A and it’s not rare to see me dieting pretty hard for a couple of weeks and then when things get boring or I find myself feeling too small, too weak or too flat, or too stressed out, I just binge myself to the point of killing many weeks of progression.
So how can we find an optimal approach to keep a Type 2A interested and motivated and make them progress over the weeks? Don’t stick to a singular approach. I use what I call a triphasic approach. The concept is to use 3 dieting models that can contribute to the objective. Let’s say we aim for fat loss. I could use, for example, 1 to 3 weeks of a low carbs approach with higher fat (can be related to keto to some degrees), switch to 1 to 3 weeks of higher carbs and lower fat, and end the first cycle with an intermittent fasting phase.
I will usually start with a shorter cycle like 1 week for each phase, then as progression goes, I will extend and force the individual to deal with longer bouts of the same phase: 2 weeks as a second cycle, then 3 weeks and so on. This will create a lot of variation as each new cycle will make the individual enter in a whole new set up that will create changes he can see and feel.
Diet model type
3 to 9 weeks of triphasic cycle example:
Phase #1 (1 to 3 weeks – lower carbs) – 25-35% proteins / 40-50% fats / 15-20% carbs
In this phase, most meals are kept low carbs with added fat. We will see later why Type 2A are well suited for this approach. The carbs are kept around the workout to provide sustained energy and higher intensity, and post-workout to promote recovery and partial glycogen repletion. Great phase to mix with steady-state cardio or fasted morning cardio.
Meal 1 – protein & fat + veggies Pre-workout meal – proteins & low IG carbs
Meal 2 – protein & fat + veggies Post-workout – proteins shake & Higher IG carbs
Meal 3 – protein & fat + veggies Post-workout meal – proteins & low IG carbs
Cycle #2 (1 to 3 weeks – higher carbs and lower fats) 30-40% proteins / 35-45% carbs / 15-25% fats
This phase will switch things drastically as we are now aiming for low GI carbs as part of most meals except the last meal of the day (or evening meals if there is more than one). We will use carbs cut-off in the evening and will consume most of the carbs earlier in the day. When entering this phase, I will switch steady-state cardio for HIIT.
Meal 1 – protein & low GI carbs + veggies Pre-workout meal – proteins & low GI carbs
Meal 2 – proteins & low GI carbs + veggies Intra workout – Carbs (depending on the goal)
Meal 3 – proteins & veggies Post-workout meal – proteins & low GI carbs
Cycle #3 (1 to 3 weeks – Intermittent fasting)
This last phase is usually the hardest one or the one that will create the most short-term results. Intermittent fasting can create fast visible results and will create a nice change of pace from the multiple meal prep over the previous weeks. Normally in the first cycle, I will ask for short fasting time (usually start with 12 hours) and will gradually increase the fasting time over the cycles to come as body composition is better and body fat is lower. Fasting can be done in the morning or in the evening depending on when you train.
Morning fasting is best suited if you train in the evening:
12 hours from the last meal (previous day)
Meal 1 should be pre-workout – Proteins & fats + veggies (no carbs as the fasting can make the respond to carbs much better but also create a higher spike of insulin, you don’t want to feel drowsy into the workout)
Meal 2 is post-workout – proteins & high GI carbs (here you can use higher GI carbs to counter the massive cortisol spike that can be created from the training and after the fasting period).
Meal 3 should be balanced – proteins & low GI carbs with some added fat (the macro can be corrected based upon the individual response
Evening fasting is best suited if you train in the morning:
Meal 1 should be the biggest meal of the day – proteins & carbs with added fats
Meal 2 – proteins & carbs with added fats
A post-workout meal made of proteins & carbs should be consumed right after the workout
Fasting starts for 12 hours: this means that the individual does not consume any meals in the evening.
This approach is great and easy to play with. It can be modified or adjusted based on individual preferences or goals. Another approach that can be used for shorter variations and shorter-term assessment is a weekly calorie counting. Instead of counting calories and macros based on a day, make the count based on the week.
Calculate the total calories they need in the week with total proteins, carbs and fat, and spread the total on each day of the week. Use workout intensity/volume variations as the major distributor for food.
Calories needed in a day: 2200 cals
Calories needed in the week: 2200 x 7 = 15 400 cals in a week
Macro: 30% proteins / 50% fats / 20% carbs (for example)
Proteins should be spread equally as it is shown to be more effective to use frequent protein assimilation for optimal muscle growth.
Carbs should be spread mostly on workout days. This gives us 770gr of carbs to use in the week. If training 4 days a week, divide by 4 and use 192gr of carbs on each workout day.
Fats should be spread away from carbs to make sure there is minimal fatty acid circulating while insulin is elevated. Here we have 855gr of fat to use in the week. Use minimal fat on workout days and load the remaining on off days. Fats can be stored for future utilization, so off days can be seen as fat repletion and workout days as quick energy release (carbs utilization).
Make sure that training days are more calorie-dense than off days. This is why you will need to play carefully with fats to make sure workout days are more packed with calories.
This concept would need to be improved over the weeks and re-assessment is required to ensure constant progression.
A must for Type 2A is to have an equivalence table where they can replace food and create a variation from day to day. So instead of giving them strict food choices, aim for food groups that contain approximately the same macros.
Type 2A should not consume high amounts of carbs in one sitting. The reason is they have low production of glucagon due to a high GABA production. This means they are not well-suited for a higher carbs approach as insulin circulation will lower the glucagon release. This doesn’t mean they can’t consume carbs, but they should focus most of their carbs around the workout and choose lower GI carbs that create the least insulin spike possible.
Best vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, onions, red peppers, green beans, cauliflower, spinach, kale
Best fruits: Cherries, grapefruits, plums, peaches, prunes, apples, apricots, strawberry
Best starch, legumes and grains: Barley, brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa, oat bran
As with all the neurotypes, proteins will always be one of the major nutrients that will take place in every dieting strategy. Some neurotypes like Type 1A and 1B have more elevated needs because of their neurotransmitter profile. For Type 2A, their need for proteins is also relatively important because they generally lack epinephrine production. Epinephrine is converted from norepinephrine and is an excitatory neurotransmitter involved in the body’s “fight or flight” response. This neurotransmitter regulates brain functions such as metabolism, heart rate, and blood pressure. Constant low epinephrine can cause persistent adrenal stimulation that can lead to adrenal burn out. They are lucky as they fight this with high GABA production that can counteract the negative effect, but if GABA production becomes low (too much depletion), adrenals are an easy target for burn out and chronic fatigue. So, I always advocate to include the consumption of a high protein in their diet as the amino acid tyrosine contained in the animal meat will help to produce the precursors to epinephrine, namely, L-DOPA, Dopamine and Norepinephrine.
Best animal proteins: Beef, chicken, eggs, white fish, turkey, salmon
Type 2A need to release glucagon to be optimal. Therefore, having a high carbs diet is not well-suited for them. They need to target their carbs consumption into a specific zone. Using fat is a nice way to make sure they have sustained energy levels and keep insulin low to allow for glucagon release, one of the reasons they are well-suited for high fats and lower carbs diet. Understand me well, this doesn’t mean NO carbs, just that a lower carbs approach will do the trick. Complete the remaining calories with added fats.
Best fats: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, avocado, egg yolk, pumpkins seeds
Best macros ratio
Type 2A will benefit from a diet that will allow for glucagon release. To make a clear point, glucagon is a hyperglycaemic hormone that will raise blood sugar, an antagonist to insulin. The fact that they have a high GABA production makes it hard to release glucagon. Considering this, Type 2A should make most of their nutrition in a lower carbs approach. They must keep a low insulin environment to allow for glucagon release. This will help them to control their body composition and will of course help with epinephrine production, a neurotransmitter they lack.
They also need variation and they will need multiple training templates to ensure motivation, interest and therefore progression.
Ideal macros to start from and allow for glucagon release
Proteins = 30-40%
Fat = 30-50%
Carbs = 10-30% (with carbs targeted around workout)
Make sure to use different templates of food equivalence. Make 3 or 4 different days of eating even if the macros are the same. Use the weekly calorie-counting method explained earlier in the article and spread the carbs and fat according to the workout and off days. Or if you choose to use the triphasic concept, start the first cycle with the lower carb approach to initiate fat loss.
If aiming for hypertrophy, shoot for the higher range in carbs and lower range in fat. Do the opposite if fat loss is the goal. Always keep proteins high.
How about refeeding
Type 2A can be very impressive when they are allowed to cheat days or cheat meals. Basically, they will see the cheat as a reward for their good work in the gym or in their diet. They can even convince themselves that they need to refeed (falsely interpreted by their need for reward) when not. Make sure to control the amount of carbs on the refeed day or they can get out of control in a minute. As a Type 2A, I can easily binge on 1000gr of carbs in a couple of hours if I am not under some guidance.
The best way is to refeed with a higher carb day made of clean and low GI carbs. Allow for minimal consumption of sugar as they respond very strongly to sugar. Instead use foods like pasta, fruits or anything that is low GI and low in sugar.
Type 2A must focus on detoxifying their system. They have high kidney function and they should support all the detoxification path with food and supplements. Make sure they drink a lot of water to assist in toxin elimination. Also, consuming lemon juice in the morning is a great way to alkalize the body. By creating calcium carbonate from the potassium contained in the lemon juice, it will neutralize acids.
Apple cider vinegar is also very useful to assist in the alkalization process. It has the ability to create an alkaline-forming state in the system by neutralizing acids in the digestive process. This applies to the kidneys because when the urine is alkaline, they are protected from damage formed by uric acid.
Hibiscus tea is another good support for kidneys, antioxidant and slightly diuretic, it is also antifungal and can help protect the urinary tract from infection.
I like dandelion roots as the natural diuretic effect will assist in healthy elimination but will also help to assist with fat digestion. Since Type 2A could benefit from a higher fat diet, this can be one stone, two shots.
Another path of elimination is the skin. Use a sauna or hot Epsom salt baths to maximise the elimination of toxins through the sweat. Epsom salt is a nice way to help with magnesium replenishment too, which can’t be bad.
They also need to optimize their epinephrine by consuming enough tyrosine. L-tyrosine can be added as a supplement first thing in the morning, +/- 1gr will be enough. I like to mix green tea extract with it for the EGCG contents that will help to inhibit COMT (responsible for the breakdown of epinephrine). Since they tend to have lower epinephrine, a tyrosine and green tea combo is a nice addition to a Type 2A supplements plan.
They must avoid stimulants as they have low baseline norepinephrine. This makes them very responsive to stimulants and can crash adrenals from their use. They would do better on theacrine than caffeine-based pre-workouts. They both act on the adenosine receptors but through different binding actions. No jitters, longer and lower increase in stimulation, and no crash after the effect. The fun part is the no addiction effect and no habituation from continuous use. Dosage can be compared to usual caffeine use.
-Use frequent variations in food
-Don’t stick to a single approach, use the triphasic approach or the weekly calorie-counting system
-They tend to be people-pleasers and seek positive feedback from their mentor or coach, be aware of that
-Most of their diet should aim at regulating glucagon release by keeping insulin low
-Avoid sugar when refeeding, they respond hard and can easily go on ‘’binge mode’’. Instead, use low GI carbs in a higher amount to replenish glycogen
-Support kidneys and all the elimination path (water, supplements)
-Tyrosine and green tea extract are great tools to optimize their neuro functions
-Avoid stimulants, use theacrine if looking for a pre-workout stimulant