Originally published in Total Health Magazine.
Ayurvedic Mind-Body Types Meet Sports Physiology
As an Ayurvedic and Sports Nutritionist, I believe that the secret to lasting health is blending ancient Eastern health wisdom with modern Western nutritional science.
In my Sports Nutrition studies, I learned about the three body types, endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph. Immediately, I noticed a direct relationship between these body types and those I had studied in my Ayurvedic training in India: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These body types are called Doshas in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest health system originating from India 5000 years ago.
I’ll first explain what each mean in a scientific context then move forward to compare them to the Ayurvedic mind-body types, giving you both Western and Eastern perspectives to understanding your unique physiology.
We all have ectodermal, mesodermal and endodermal tissues… but not in the same amounts. Some of us have more development in our ectodermal layer, while others in our mesodermal and others in our endodermal. This will greatly impact our entire physiology. We will carry fat in different ways, digest food in different ways, gain muscles in various amounts, all dependent on the natural tendency of our body.
Imagine you were born with a deck of cards. This is your physiology. Are you better able to play cards when you know your deck or are playing completely blind-handed? Surely you can get by, eating the way you are told or according to what others around you are eating, but is that really what your body needs?
Just like no two people look or sound the same, no two people’s genetic makeup is the same. Ayurveda goes very in-depth about discovering the unique nuances of our individual physical and mental characteristics. However, sports science also categorizes people in three main archetypes, based on their body type. Though this is just scratching the surface, it gives us more of an idea of what our natural tendencies are. By discovering our unique physiology, we are better able to eat correctly for our needs.
Some of us have increased development of the ectodermal layer, contributing to a more active nervous system and faster catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue.) This makes make us more naturally thin, full of thoughts, sensitive to our surroundings and sweat minimally. Exactly like a Vata.
Vata is regulated by Ether and Air energy, regulating the nervous system as well. Vatas are small-boned, dry-skinned, bold-bodied, hypersensitive to their surroundings and imaginative. When they’re off balance, they can become anxious or anemic. I often compare Vata to the Fall wind-cool, dry, creative and a little bit all over the place.
If you are an Ectomorph/Vata, then eat more warming, grounding foods like soups, stews and proteins. Avoid too much cold, raw food, which will cool down your already weak digestive fire. Make sure you stretch your body to prevent it from getting stiff and practice strength-training exercises. Practice more mindfulness.
Others of us have increased development of the mesodermal layer. We’re naturally more muscular, prone to stress, with strong bones and appetites. Just like a Pitta.
Pitta is comprised of Fire and Water energy, controlling transformation—metabolism, digestion, assimilation and muscle development. Pittas are naturally athletic, high-achieving people with strong work ethics… and appetites.
When they’re off balance, they can become impatient, overheated or agitated. I often compare Pitta to the summer-hot, fiery and passionate!
If you are a Mesomorph/Pitta, consume cooling, hydrating foods like fresh fruit and leafy greens. Avoid spicy food, caffeine and chocolate, which are all too stimulating heat-inducing for your already hot system. Be careful not to overexert yourself and become overly competitive. Practice yin yoga and meditation regularly.
And there are those of us with increased development of the endodermal layer. We may have slower metabolisms and digestions and are prone towards respiratory issues. Exactly like the Kapha Dosha.
Kapha is comprised of Earth and Water energy, regulating structure, body tissue and bone structure. Kaphas are peaceful, easy-going, good-natured people. When out of balance, however, they can easily become overweight, catch colds and become lazy. I like to compare Kaphas to the Spring—cool, wet and dense.
If you’re an Endomorph/Kapha, favor light, stimulating foods like steamed vegetables and spices. Avoid sweet, cool and creamy foods like ice cream or pasta, which will make your sluggish digestive system even slower. Make sure you break a sweat everyday to prevent yourself from becoming lethargic. Try something new everyday.
Connecting the Dots
The characteristics we have are not just incidental. Every little piece of our body is connected to the larger whole, helping us unravel another piece of the puzzle for perfect health. The smallest thing from the way you digest food actually can say everything about you. By learning about your body type, you are better able to nourish it with the foods it needs to become your healthiest self.
I hope this helped you further understand your body type so you can treat it like the temple that it is. If you’d like to discover your mind-body type. Visit eatfeelfresh.com.