Genetics and Nutrition (part 3 of 3)

There are 3 body types each with unique differences and demands, though slight variations may exist due to genetic inheritance. It is our genes that determine our body type, and it is important for athletes to know the three body types so when they compare themselves to others they have a realistic perspective. We want athletes to compare “apples to apples” not to oranges. An Endo morph will never be an Ecto morph, and the opposite holds true as well.

Type 1: Ecto Morph

Long and lean; difficulty gaining weight; generally need a tremendous surplus of calories to gain weight and train moderate to heavy with maximal rest periods (distance runners)

This body type is more prone to needing to consume more complex foods and higher quantities of proteins and fats (scale up calories). These people have a naturally high metabolism and face the opposite problems of the Endo morph, though both should avoid sugars. The Ecto morph is fueled by sugar and desensitized to it, making sugar speed up metabolism as empty calories losing the body’s ability to recognize a positive glycemic response. Glycemic response is responsible for weight gain thus making it difficult for the Ecto morph to gain weight.

Type 2: Meso Morph

Optimal athlete; muscular; gains muscle easily; stays lean; X frame; maximum control over composition with slight adjustments in food and activity (sprinters)

Meso morphs are the most efficient and usually only need to make slight adjustments in consumption and activity to make immediate changes in either direction (direct control of calories). Their bodies metabolize food more efficiently and utilize it to maximum benefit.

Type 3: Endo Morph

Thick girdles; big bones; broad; gains weight easy; difficulty losing weight; naturally strong (power lifters, linemen)

Endo morphs generally struggle with weight gain and must maintain a regimen of reduced fat and carbohydrates with regular cardiovascular activity to manage weight (scale down calories). Endo morphs are highly sensitive to sugar with big insulin responses, which are responsible for weight gain and fat storage. They have to watch high GI foods and over-consumption of carbohydrates.

With an understanding of the body types an athlete can better apply the following standards:

Foods to Eat: (80-85 percent good = balance; 20 percent bad = 7 bad meals per week; based on 5-6 meals per day)

  • Keep it clean — Consume natural foods as much as possible; prepare your own foods and/or be specific when ordering out. The cleaner the fuel, the more efficient the burn.
  • Substitutions — Make simple substitutions, such as whole grains for white products; low- and no-fat products for full fat; lean sources of proteins (fish, chicken, eggs, etc.) for high-fat proteins; and reduced sugar or sugar-free products (Stevia or Splenda) for full sugar products.
  • Key nutrients — Eat quality foods with abundant sources of nutrients including: vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants
  • Limit processed foods — Limit or avoid foods in a box, bag, can, etc. and stick to natural foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean dairy and meats/poultry/fish.
  • Antioxidants — Protect the body against disease, infection, illness, free radicals and toxins; help bodily functions, immune system and sensory organs.
  • Foods to avoid — Sodas and most sports drinks (contain 3 evils: sugar/aspartame, caffeine, carbonation), processed foods (have a high glycemic index, contain fillers and preservatives), fast food, fried food, sweets, poor ratio foods (imbalance of fats, carbs, proteins)

When to Eat:

  • Frequency — Approximately every 3 hours, 5-6 times per day, starting first thing in the morning and concluding approximately 2 hours before sleep
  • Never full/never hungry — Never allow the body to get too hungry or too full, which causes binging, unstable blood sugar levels and metabolic slowdown.
  • Ratios/composition — Follow ‘Eat It When You Need It.’ Higher amounts of carbs should be consumed before activity to provide fuel, and a well-balanced meal should follow, including low GI simple carbs, such as a piece of fruit and lean protein or protein shake.
  • Portions — Consume larger portion of calories early in the day and smaller portions with fewer calories later.
  • Timing — Follow ‘Eat It When You Need It.’ Consume in accordance with demand and output. Do not eat carbohydrates before relaxing on the couch, watching TV or sleeping unless blood sugar levels are a problem or stores were depleted just prior.
  • Activity based — Proper fuel and recovery are essential to obtain a safe and effective performance at every level, including day-to-day activity.
  • Breakfast — Most important meal of the day to get metabolism started, blood sugar stable and fuel for the day; should be well balanced and proportioned in accordance with agenda.
  • Fix food with food — Do not justify or correct poor eating with more exercise. Doing so creates an ineffective dependency cycle of acceptability. Correct poor eating with quality eating; make caloric and nutrient adjustments to compensate and balance previous poor choices.
  • Calories (too many/not enough) — Over-eating creates a surplus of stored calories, and under-eating slows down metabolism, creating a “starvation mode” storage of calories and decreasing energy levels.
  • Insulin Response — Insulin is responsible for shuttling nutrients and plays a big role in body composition and determining food destination (store it or burn it). Insulin responds primarily to sugar, as most food is converted to fuel. The glycemic index (GI) determines the rate at which food turns to sugar and how fast insulin responds. Higher = Faster. Insulin also plays a role in determining fat storage, hypertrophy (muscle growth) and metabolic rate. Over-eating causes over-excretion, and under-eating causes low excretion. Balance is key.


Athletes tend to be all over the map when it comes to eating habits and food selection. The fuel we give our bodies helps determine our play. We can’t expect a car to run without proper fuel, just like we can’t expect our bodies to perform well without the proper food. The more balanced and regulated an athlete’s diet the better prepared they will be and the better they will feel and perform.

Coaches have the opportunity to help their athletes become not only better athletes, but also better, healthier individuals. Taking the time to talk to your athletes about nutrition is crucial. It affects not only their mental state but also the amount of effort and work you get out of them on the court or field. A properly fueled athlete is one of the keys to success.

We hope you have gathered important information from our three part series on nutrition, and that sharing this information with your athletes proves beneficial.

We wish you all the best and thank you for all you do for the betterment of your athletes.

Note: Participants should always consult their physician or certified/licensed specialist before beginning any nutritional program. The previous information is not a prescription or intended to cure, treat or relieve any problematic symptoms and/or health-related issues. The information was written by a weight management consultant and wellness expert and was influenced and co-written by dietitians and nutritionists.

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