Your “Neurotype”… a way to learn what your personality type is and how you should be adjusting your training and nutrition, according to that. Some are skeptical, some are simply interested, and some completely swear by it. One thing we can say about The Neurotype System, is that we DO believe in it’s merit as a way of reading and predicting a client’s personal preference. It’s a tool to individualize. Better yet, it’s a tool to understand an individual so that you can individualize their training and nutrition.
But at the end of the day, all about it or not about it… you should be constantly searching for tools and methods in order to dive deeper into the psyche of a client (or yourself) so that you can better adhere to the plan you’re embarking down, because consistently adhering really is the key to long term success with your physique.
That being said… let’s dive into how to find out what your Neurotype actually is and how you should adjust your training and nutrition, based on YOUR individual Neurotype.
Our personality is genetically determined and influenced by the balance of our neurotransmitters, which control all our conscious and unconscious physical and mental processes, for example how we react to stress of any kind, how well we recover, our energy output in training, as well as our OPTIMAL training intensity, frequency and volume.
Understanding your own neurological profile can be a great guideline for choosing the right training program in order to allow for optimal adaptations and to stay motivated over time. It can also help you approach your diet in the right way (for example: are you someone who does well on lower carbs or higher carbs, do you need a more aggressive or moderate approach, would intermittent fasting work for you?) and simply help you understand why you navigate social situations in a certain way.
Origin of the Neurotype Training
There are a couple of different personality tests, for example the “Braverman- Assessment System” that can help us determine our neurotransmitter profile (hence Neurotype as a name for the ideology). Strength coach Christian Thibaudeau was the first to use psychiatrist Dr. Robert Cloninger’s questionnaire called the “Cloninger Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI)” to draw parallels to training and nutrition and made neurotyping popular in the fitness space.
Neurotyping itself is not a training system or program or nutritional model (although nowadays there are specific neurotype programs available). Neurotyping simply enables us to choose from existing training and nutrition strategies, which compliment and our own needs and neurological and hormonal structures.
The different Neurotypes – which Neurotype are you?
Personality and personal preferences already tell a lot about an individual’s neurotransmitter balance and which are high and which are low.
Dr. Cloninger went a little deeper and identified that personality structures depend on neurotransmitter balance, likes and dislikes, stress resistance, recovery ability and so on. If you transfer this knowledge over into your training program, you create the perfect training stimulus, keep motivation high long term.
Cloninger’s ‘Temperament and Character Inventory’ (TCI) consists of four dimensions of temperament and three dimensions of character.
Christian Thibaudeau took this model, applied it to exercise and nutrition and created a model with 5 main neurotypes in training.
Neurotype 1 – The Novelty Seekers
Neurotype 1 A – Low Dopamine and low Acetylcholine
→ Likes a good challenge and competition
→ Can handle stress very well, excels under pressure and in competition
→ Can only focus on one thing at a time, often forgetful
→ Extroverted and comfortable in public
→ Very chilled at rest, but can lose temper quickly
→ Likes to argue and to go against the grain, doesn’t care what others think of him/her
→ Very low anxiety
→ Always looking for a new thrill
Applied to Training
→ This athlete can be described with “Brute Strength”
→ Prefers difficult and compound exercises such as Squats, Bench, Deadlift, Overhead Press, Pull-ups dis, Clean and Jerks, Snatches to Isolation work.
→ Likes the heavy grind work, ‘Strongman’ training, Powerlifting etc.
→ Can tolerate high amounts of neurological work, and very low amounts of muscular volume
→ Not naturally gifted or drawn to endurance sports, particularly because they get bored quickly
→ Needs to get amped up before training, naturally takes very long rest between sets
→ MOTIVATION is key for this athlete. If they don’t enjoy doing something, they will (either not do it or) not be switched on and get a suboptimal training stimulus. The way to get them excited and activated is by including new things on a regular basis.
→ Also likes extreme sports because of the adrenaline rush.
Applied to Nutrition
→ Does well on low carb diets, because of lower insulin sensitivity and are least likely to lose muscles or strength on a low carb diet
→ Needs to see results fast (so an aggressive approach with bigger deficits or surpluses might be a good strategy to keep them motivated)
→ Something like a matador approach with 2 weeks in an aggressive deficit and 2 weeks at maintenance could work well to keep motivation high
→ They eat “for pleasure”, things need to taste good; they do better with keeping overly tempting foods out of the house rather than eating a little bit of it. Does not do too well on bro-style diet.
→ Workout nutrition: No pre-workout carbs (as they have a calming effect and this type need to get amped up), better implemented halfway through the workout of afterwards.
Out of all 5 Neurotypes, this Neurotype can handle the least amount of training volume. Acetylcholine is very low, therefore the body has to release a large amount of adrenaline to create the same contractions and mental focus. To do that dopamine is needed, which also is low in the Type 1A, therefore the resources for adrenaline production are exhausted rather quickly.
Due to the high levels of serotonin on the other hand, it is hard to get into the right training mode. Therefore warm up and CNS activation are very important for this type, because it stimulates dopamine production.
Strength Training Guidelines
→ Intensity: high = 85-95% of ME
→ Volume: low = less than 6-12 working sets
→ Warm up: CNS activation (explosive movements such as box jumps, plyo push ups, prowler sprints…), keep it short otherwise this type gets fatigues before the main lifts even start!
→ Duration of main lifts = 20-30 minutes per session (without warmup/ activation)
→ Main exercises: 1-3 per session, for example one main lift and 1-2 accessory exercises, thrive on Dead-start work, isometric work and paused reps. It’s all about the weight and intent of ‘grinding’ the barbell to complete the lift.
→ Rest periods: At least 2 minutes
→ Training frequency: high = 6-7 days per week, can even tolerate 2 sessions per day, two short sessions are better than one long one
→ Ideal Rep Range: no more than 5-6 reps per set for main lifts
→ Training Cycle: Longer meso cycles are fine, but has to include something new and interesting on a regular basis in order to keep motivation high, but also to vary the stimulus for the CNS that is otherwise adapting too quickly. Linear periodisation (lower reps to higher reps)
This Neurotype needs to get amped up for training. Low intensity steady state cardio has a calming effect on the CNS and is not stimulating/motivating for this type. All they can think of when they do LISS is ‘this sucks’ and because of this it hardly ever has a positive effect for this neurotype. Short sessions of High Intensity Cardio with some heavy weights on the other hand can be implemented, for example 10-15s strongman work with 45s rest.
Neurotype 1B – low dopamine and high acetylcholine
→ Great memory, good at multitasking
→ Born leaders, classical ‘alpha type’, does not do well with authority or structure
→ Classic adrenaline junkie, always looking for the next thrill
→ Can handle stress very well
→ Very comfortable in social settings
Applied to Training
→ This athlete can be described with “Explosive”
→ Picks up sports very quickly, good at anything they touch, this type has the best genetic predisposition to become a performance or world class athlete
→ Great at team sports or other sports like CrossFit, Track & Field, Gymnastics…
→ Type 1B, like 1A, also has a high percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres and is because of this naturally excels at explosive and powerful movements.
→ Still needs high training intensity, but can tolerate much higher volume than Type 1A, rest periods can be shorter as well.
→ For some 1B athletes a more auto regulating training/training program works rather well also to keep them motivated (as it allows them to do what they like = motivation stays high). Meaning you could have a “pool” of exercises and then carry out the sequence, rep range and intensity and so on as you like. However, this only works well with advanced athletes.
→ High skill transfer. Can go months without practicing a skill and end up getting better at it just by strengthening the involved muscle groups.
→ “Genius” athlete, can be described as “poetry in motion”
→ High utilization of the ‘stretch reflex’ (for example touch and go reps in CrossFit)
Applied to Nutrition
→ Still similar to the Type 1A and needs to be kept motivated and see results fast, for example 7 days in an aggressive deficit followed by 3 days at maintenance.
→ Can still do well on low carb and should stay away from pre-workout carbs to allow for proper neurological activation.
→ Also is a pleasure driven eater, does not do too well on a ‘bland’ bro-style diet.
→ Workout nutrition: Carbs post or mid-way through the workout like 1A
Because of the higher acetylcholine type 1B can tolerate a slightly higher training volume and duration, because less adrenaline is needed and therefore less dopamine utilised (and can last for a longer training session). The higher acetylcholine is also the reason why this type does well at learning skills easily and makes this Neurotype more explosive than the type 1A.
Strength Training Guidelines
→ Intensity: high about 80-90% of ME
→ Volume: moderate = 12-20 working sets
→ Warm-up: CNS activating explosive work
→ Duration of main lifts: Moderate = 30-45 Minutes per session (without warm-up/activation)
→ Main exercises: 3-5 per session, mostly explosive and compound exercises. Lots of exercise variation, appeal to their multitasking capacity. ‘Acceleration’ and ‘momentum’ work is what they thrive on.
→ Rest periods: 90s – 3 minutes
→ Training frequency: high = 5-6 days per week
→ Ideal rep range is anywhere up to 6-8 reps; Type 1B can incorporate more isolation work than 1A.
→ Training Cycles: Similar to the Type 1A, a longer meso cycle is fine as long as training motivation is kept high through frequent new stimuli for the nervous system, since nervous system adaptation occurs so quickly for the type 1 athlete (hence the name ‘the novelty seeker’), linear periodization (low reps, gradually increasing)
Also does not enjoy Steady State Cardio either, as it does not activate them. Explosive high intensity interval training is much more enjoyable for a Type 1 athlete (does not necessarily need to involve heavy weights as for the 1A, more explosive work), for example 20s sprints on the prowler, bike or rower.
Neurotype 2 – The Reward Dependent
Neurotype 2A – Low Noradrenaline, high GABA
→ Typical people pleaser
→ Very dependent on recognition of others, because of this they are very social and empathic
→ Low self-esteem
→ The word that describes this person is “Variation”
→ Need to feel like they “belong”
→ Good at reading other people, tend to mimic the leader
→ Tend to crumble under pressure
→ Not a naturally gifted athlete (like the 1B), but makes up for it with hard work
→ Needs a lot of variety, in training and nutrition as well as with life in general
→ Fun to be around
→ Great at solving conflict, ‘silent leader’, not good as the actual leader though
Applied to Training
→ Great team sports athlete
→ Needs to practice the actual movement (like a Muscle up) in order to progress at it (low skill transfer)
→ Needs a good amount of warm up exercises and sets, but more skill work than CNS activating work
→ Easily gets excited about different kinds of equipment, because it means variation
→ Can have the same skill set as a 1B, but less confident and not so good under pressure
Applied to Nutrition
→ Needs variation, everything works until it doesn’t.
→ Most likely to binge and feel bad about it later on.
→ Carb cycling can work well as it means variation or just generally enjoy regular refeed days (for example 5:2).
→ Overall a moderate carb approach could work well, but can and should be adjusted according to training focus at the time (since this should vary also)
→ Workout nutrition: ½ of carbs prior to the workout and ½ midway or throughout
→ All activities and behaviors are targeted to stimulate the production of norepinephrine.
→ Norepinephrine triggers a feeling of well being and self-confidence. Is norepinephrine low, it can lead to depression, insecurities and lack of motivation. To counter this the type 2A is looking for external recognition and is highly dependent on the opinion of others.
→ Strength Training Guidelines:
→ Intensity: anything works for a short period of time
→ Volume: anything works for a short period of time
→ Warm up: Skill focused
→ Duration of main lifts = 45-60 minutes (without warm up /activation)
→ Main exercises: Highly skill focused, this type thrives on mastering a certain lift/exercise rather than “mind-muscle connection”, training should be “fun”, variety is key; explosive jumps, throws, sprints
→ Rest periods: 60s-2 minutes, need to train fast
→ Training frequency: 5-6 times per week, can tolerate very high training volume if done properly
→ Ideal rep range for example: 3-6 on main compound lifts and 8-10 on accessory or isolation work (need both, neurological and muscular component, but not a lot of either), but anything works really
→ Training Cycle: Even within one cycle there needs to be variation otherwise this person gets bored and loses motivation. Several different micro cycles within a meso cycle or simply incorporating a wide range of equipment and training techniques within a cycle can help keep this person engaged. No deload needed if you change training roughly every 3 weeks (first week of new program is technically the deload), undulating periodisation
Same as with training in general: as long as there is variation to it, the Neurotype 2 A athlete can do LISS, tempo work, interval work, strongman work… Even within a training week there can be variation such as LISS on day 1, AMRAP on day 2, interval sprints on day 3, strongman work on day 4…
Neurotype 2B – Low Noradrenaline, low GABA
→ Helper type person
→ The word that describes them is “Connection”
→ Need to feel “connected” with people, fewer friends, but very close ones
→ Need to feel the “mind – muscle” connection in training (chasing “the pump”)
→ More introverted, does not like big crowds
→ Good at introspection
→ Not necessarily good under pressure
Applied to Training
→ Prefers a classical bodybuilding type of training over heavy weight, explosive movements or mastering a certain skill. Needs a moderate pace in training to FEEL each exercise properly.
→ Can easily get frustrated in training if they do too many compound lifts and don’t feel “the pump”
→ Need to train the fastest (with short rest periods) out of all neurotypes (because they need the adrenaline)
Applied to Nutrition
→ Classic bodybuilding style diet (‘bro diet’), with a reasonable high percentage in carbs
→ During a dieting phase still higher carbs, low fats, mostly bunched around workouts
→ If they ‘cheat’ on their diet they will often try to compensate for it and build a love-hate relationship with food, refeeds can work (possibly 1-2 per week if needed), but no cheat meals advised.
→ Workout nutrition: ½ carbs prior, ½ midway or throughout the workout
Due to the low GABA, exercises that are too complex in nature can overwhelm and demotivate a type 2B athlete.
Strength Training Guidelines
→ Intensity: moderate about 60–80%
→ Volume: moderate-high 12-16 working sets
→ Warm up: focused on “feeling” the muscle activate
→ Duration of main lifts = 45-60 minutes (without warmup/activation)
→ Main exercises: more isolation work than main exercises, this type responds very well to dropsets, mechanical drop sets, long eccentric phases, isometric stops, partial repetitions, loaded stretching, supersets etc to really FEEL a muscle group; increasing strength and progression is less important; does well with a classical bodybuilding body part split
→ Rest periods: 30-90s, Superset also work really well
→ Training frequency: about 5 times per week, sometimes 6, depending on fatigue
→ Ideal rep range of 6-12 reps on complex lifts, isolation and accessory work 12 or more
→ Can stay with a training program for quite some time 6-12 weeks and sometimes simple adjustments (like increasing reps slightly or adding another set) can be sufficient to continue to see stimulation.
Does well with steady state work, but also with lactic acid work with long intervals like 30-40s on and 30-40s rest, for example 400m sprint, prowler push etc.
Neurotype 3 – The Harm Avoider
Neurotype 3: Low Serotonin- Levels
→ The word that describes that person is “Control”
→ Can tolerate the least amount of stress and intensity as they naturally have high cortisol levels, feels easily overwhelmed
→ Can tolerate a high amount of volume
→ Very introverted, often shy
→ Thrive on routine and structure, the more the better as it gives them as sense of security
→ Hate conflict and open confrontation
→ Love to plan, very good at organization; struggle if plans change last minute as it causes their stress levels to go up even further
→ They try to avoid any kind of risk (in life and in training)
→ Perfectionist tendencies
→ Doesn’t like change, but great at planning and preparation
→ Does not do well with critique or constructive criticism
Applied to Training
→ Naturally inclined to do endurance sports, it has a calming effect on the nervous system, reducing their naturally high cortisol
→ If they happen to end up in a sport like CrossFit (natural tendency), these people would be known as “the engines”
→ Don’t naturally like competition
→ Don’t like variation in training
→ Struggle the most out of all neurotypes with putting on muscle
→ Naturally approaches training and progress more conservative with small increases in weight and a big focus on technique
→ Does not like contact sports, martial arts, adrenaline sports or extreme sports
→ Becomes unmotivated with a sudden change in plans (for example the coach has a new idea for an exercise or wants to change the program last minute)
Applied to Nutrition
→ Often chronic under-eaters and over exercisers, like to suffer as it gives them a feeling of control over their body (also seen in anorexia).
→ Do not do well on low carb diets, needs carbs to stimulate serotonin release and to keep cortisol (stress and anxiety) low.
→ Often work best on several small carb doses throughout the day (rather than large helpings in one sitting)
→ Do not do well on Intermittent Fasting or with large calorie deficits, more with a conservative slow approach and like to know the plan ahead of time (for example 4-8 weeks then 1 week at maintenance)
→ Because of the chronically high cortisol levels, protocols for insulin resistance can be implemented, including berberin, cinnamon, fish oil etc, but without addressing the cortisol level and managing stress as best as possible it will be ineffective.
→ Workout nutrition: Benefits from pre-workout carbs as it brings their anxiety down to an ideal level.Carbs post-workout and before bed time are also very important to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Naturally low in serotonin and high cortisol levels. All actions and behaviors are targeted to increase serotonin levels. Chronically low serotonin can also show in constantly being tired or having digestive issues.
Strength Training Guidelines:
→ Intensity: moderate – low about 50-75%
→ Volume: high about 20-50 sets
→ Warm up: the neurotype that benefits the most from mobilisation before training as they are often “tight” and “tense” by nature; additionally, warming up can help reduce the fear of getting injured from training; the CNS does NOT need to be activated in this type as their neurons are already firing high.
→ Duration of main lifts = about 60 minutes
→ Main exercises: 4-5 movements overall, focus more on metabolic exhaustion than mechanical tension, high rep ranges and set with lots of time under tension work really well
→ Rest periods: short (if any), can also do well with active rest (for example jumping on a bike for some low intensity metabolic work between sets)
→ Training frequency: 3-4 times per week, does well with an upper/lower or full body split
→ Movements: Focus on technique and “proper” exercise execution, minimal distractions (such as conversation), often prefers to train alone, controlled moderate speed, does not naturally like explosive movements
→ Ideal rep range: 8-20 repetitions, does well with isometric stops and partial repetitions instead of heavy weight, would do well on German Volume Program for example 10 sets of 10 reps at 60% at a slow tempo
→ Prefer strict training programs with a long term plan and familiar activities and rep-schemes, usually over cautious with exercise progression and does really well with linear progressions of reps or sets, likes to have clear instructions rather than vague rep ranges, few small changes in a training program at a time, such as adjusting tempo, can be very effective. Often don’t start to see progress until
Type 3s actually ENJOY Steady State Cardio. It allows them to go into an almost meditative state, calm their mind and reduce anxiety. This type can even do cardio before strength training and benefit from it. HIIT or other strenuous activities like CrossFit can be very taxing and increasing cortisol levels even further in this type.
Most people are a mixture of a couple of neurotypes. That means that all criteria for one type hardly ever apply to one person.
The neurotype system offers a practical base and orientation, which can help choose and adapt a training program for optimal ADHERENCE, results and also longevity (due to adherence, avoiding over training or injuries…). In even more detail, it goes as far as offering specific supplement suggestions and optimal recovery methods for your type.
Finding your Neurotype can also offer an explanation why not all training methods work for everybody in the same way.
- Nonstop Natural Gains: The Neuro Typing System“, von Christian Thibaudeau
- Neurotyping Certification Course
- Neurotyping Podcast with Christian Thibaudeau
This blog is written by Lisa Franz, a Boom Boom Performance Nutrition Coach. Lisa has her BEXSc (Bachelors of Sports and Exercise Science), CF-1, NCI (Nutrition Coaching Certification), Hormone Specialist Certification, Yoga, Massage, and still working on more. She’s forever engulfed in the science and study of the human body, which shows in her passion filled coaching and writing. Click Here Now to Apply For Coaching, With Lisa.