Nutrition 101 For Bodyworkers

by Apr 14, 2020Nutrition, Self Care0 comments

Learn some considerations for MT’s to optimize gut/bodily health and performance in the treatment room, all through the use of food and supplementation!

In a perfect world, we step into our treatment room or office with a smile on our face, ready to tackle the day. . . 

All the while feeling refreshed, healthy and energized. 

You feel like you can take on all 7 of those hours and have energy left over for family life when you get home. 

But sadly, like many, you may be feeling: 

✖    Lethargic and tired 

    Unable to get motivated

✖    Moody and irritated

    Sick a lot of the time

I can attest to all of this, as I used to feel all of those things and more.

I can say with 100% confidence that a person’s way of eating has a lot to do with it. 

Just think about how you feel just after one week of following a clean way of eating – you feel incredible! 

I want to start this article on what I would say is the most important piece. . . 

Many Issues Start In Your Gut


Did you know that 80% of your immune is within your gut? 

Yeah. . . crazy. 

Within your gut, there are trillions of microbes that all act together to manage how you look, think and feel. 

The Microbiome

These microbes begin to go haywire, sending signals to your brain to go into inflammatory responses.

Things like:

   Poor diet 

→   Unhealthy eating habits

   Heavily processed foods

→   Allergenic foods

All of these are just diet related triggers, others can be from stress, environmental factors, etc. 

When your gut is compromised for too long, issues can start to arise: 

    Autoimmune conditions

→    Cancer 

→    Type 2 diabetes

→    Heart disease

→    Mental health

→    Weight gain

→    Skin conditions

 . . . And a host of other things!

I hope that this made your jaw drop, because we as therapists need to know about these things. 

This goes to show how the food your are currently trying to fuel yourself with is affecting your health. 

We must be healthy if we are going to be directly affecting the health of another person!

How many calories we actually burn

Many of you may know that your sessions do burn calories, but it may be more than you might think. 

According to a 275lb male at 6’1’’(not naming any names) burns about 440 calories per session! 

Yes, this seems like a lot, but when you consider how much you are actually moving around during a session, you can see why. 

Not all calculators are the most accurate, but anything more than 200 calories burned per session is still a lot. 

And it may be even more if you are doing more strenuous deep work.

The type of exercise massage therapy is

Knowing that massage therapy does burn a considerable amount of calories, let’s look at what type of exercise we can consider it. 

Massage is much different than fitness regimens like weightlifting or high intensity interval training. . . 

 We are not asking nearly as much from our nervous systems or metabolism as with these strenuous exercises. 

You can think of your sessions as free calories burned

This also means that you don’t have to make up all the calories you burned throughout the day working, but it is a good idea to strive for at least a fourth of those calories. 

If you are burning 900 calories in one day, try and put 225 of those calories back into your body. 

Simply put, your body is in a calorie deficit if all your activity is massage therapy.

This is a prime area to be in when trying to lose weight. . . 

But if you are not replenishing these calories and staying in too much of a calorie deficit, your body will go into starvation mode (and can store body fat).

A calorie isn’t always a calorie

Technically speaking, a calorie is a calorie, but when looking at things like complex starches and sugars, they are both carbs, but sugar is processed way quicker in the body and will spike insulin quicker and in more quantity.

Complex starches are still “sugars” but are processed in the body slower and when paired with moderate exercise like massage therapy, will be a lot harder to store as body fat.  

I won’t get into the boring specific science but keep this in mind when making food choices! 

How and what to eat for top performance

My #1 tip on eating to compliment your performance: find out the amount of calories you need to maintain your body weight and add your calories as needed.

A good formula is to multiply your bodyweight by:

    13 – if you have little to no additional exercise

→    15 – if there is moderate exercise added on top of sessions

    18 – if you work out vigorously 5x a week with sessions

For example a 150lb therapist would need 1,950 calories to maintain his/her bodyweight. 

Now if they added their sessions for the day, they would add in a fourth of what was burned.

To me, because of the nature of what we do and the amount of calories we actually burn, it is good to have a clean and moderate flow of energy coming from our food. 

I personally enjoy having smaller meals consisting of protein with white rice every few hours just to fuel a usual 7 hour (hands-on) day. 

These smaller meals don’t spike insulin nearly as much, and won’t leave me feeling groggy and ready for a nap. 

If I am burning 2,200 or more calories for my day, I am looking to put back in 550 calories to ensure I am properly refueling.

The way you eat, whether it be plant based, keto, mediterranean, paleo, or bodybuilder type diet all will work as long as you stay by your calorie guidelines and fuel yourself properly.  

I don’t want to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat, but I do want to make mention of the ways that our food is presented to us. 

This can really have the biggest effect on how this food is assimilated in our body. 

If you are looking to lose weight, then don’t add your burned calories in. 

Add 300-500 on top of what you have burned if you want to gain weight. 

Whole foods are the way to go


The process in which your food is prepared and packaged is important. 

When buying “whole foods”, you want to make sure they are processed and refined as little as possible.

But don’t stress it too much if you are unable to get that organic grass fed steak or pasteurized cage free eggs. 

Just starting there will be a path to living in a healthier body.

Convenience is the epitome of disaster

I do see a lot of therapists falling into the trap of getting fast food out of convenience. 

Not all of it is bad of course, but when are talking about “convenience” we are also talking about how much it actually costs to make the food. 

It’s all made on the cheap. 

That food is usually pumped with fillers, preservatives, hormones and other added gunk. 

 All in the name of tasting great!  

 It also adds to the damage of your gut biome, and could be making everyone sicker.

How meal prepping changed my life


I will spare you from the all too used #mealpreplife sayings, but there is something to be said about having all of your food ready to go right out of the refrigerator.

I will list some simple methods to make this process easy, but before we get into it, I want to first bring up:

Denaturation of Food

Another issue with food preparation is the denaturation of food when it is cooked and heated up.

A lot of nutrients can be lost when food is cooked to death, put away and then heated up again in the microwave. There have been many studies on the absorbtion rate of food after it has been heated in an oven vs. microwave and it has been pretty conclusive that absorbtion of nutrients in an oven or stovetop is far better.

In a perfect world, the ideal way to eat food is to cook the amount that you want from scratch so that you don’t have leftovers to be able to reheat.

That isn’t reality though, and for some of us, we are either at the office or traveling to clients.

My recommendation?

When you’re out and about, have cold or roomtemp snacks or meals that you don’t to heat up on hand, and when you get home you can cook bigger meals like breakfast and dinner in an oven, crockpot, stovetop or pressure cooker.


pressure cooker

This is one of my personal favorites, because it can not only cook full meals in a few minutes, but it has been said that they can retain most nutrients in the cooking process! 

You will hear horror stories about the missuse of pressure cooker, but many are being built with a locking mechanism so that you literally cannot open it until the pressure is fully released. This is a good one for dinner in a crunch and it maintains flavor of food very well! 



It doesn’t get much better than making something at night and putting it away in the morning.

I prefer this to putting in the energy to cooking everything at once if I have the option.

Adding a big batch of everything (protein, vegetables, liquid) is a healthy way to have many meals for days.


Another great tool for cooking things in batches.

I tend to cook meals low and slow as to not denature the nutritional content of my food.

Meal prepping service

Although this may end up costing you more, for some it is much quicker to manage.  

And  you can also have a subscription for the service to pick up your meals or have them delivered to you. 

I definitely recommend this if you are constantly on the go and would rather eat real food then going to get something.

Supplements I recommend

Supplemental nutrients can be a great option if you are on a time crunch or on the go between clients. This being said I advocate trying to get all of your nutritional needs from first before supplementing elsewhere. They do have their place though!

The brand that I prefer over others is FNX, which I also am an ambassador of (but that’s not what this post is about), so if you’re looking for one that delivers the best results and tastes amazing, then this will be the one for you. Comment below if you would like a code and URL to attain a discount for any supplement you’re interested in!



This is my favorite as far as an everyday supplement goes. 

This is great for a multitude of things: 


    Bone health

→    Sleep

→    Anxiety

→    Muscle soreness/cramping

→    Heart Health

→    Controlled Migraines

→    Improved Digestion


When I’ve had a particularly long day, always followed by insomnia, I add magnesium powder to hot water! 

Some foods that naturally contain magnesium are dark chocolate, almonds and cashews, avocados, seeds, tofu, legumes and fatty fish to name a few.

Protein powder

Like I listed above, in a perfect world, it is ideal to get your protein from actual food, but when you are on the go and don’t want to go through the drive-thru, having a protein shake is a good healthy option. 

If you are sensitive to dairy, you will want to stay a-whey  from whey protein. (Another terrible joke) 

They do make some great vegetarian and vegan options that can mix well with water or other liquids. 

Protein powders are the fastest and most efficient way to accomplish your protein and caloric needs for the day. 

This is because it will process through the body and muscle tissue faster than digesting food.


The biggest benefits to vitamin B is its effect on energy levels and cell metabolism. 

Some common foods that contain vitamin B are: 

→    Milk, eggs and most diary

→    Liver and kidney

→    Chicken and beef 

→    Tuna, salmon

→    Potatoes, beets and avocados 

→    Green veggies



 Yeah, you could just go out and get some sun, but the thing is – most people don’t get the actual amount they need. 

 More and more people are spending time in doors. 

 Just go outside around noon for 10-15 minutes around noon will give you 3-4x the daily amount. 

 But it you aren’t able to get outside, then supplementing with vitamin D might be a good option. 

 400-800IU is the daily amount listed by US Institute of Medicine, but personally I think you need more. 

 Optimum blood levels will most likely be better around 4000IUs. 

Summing it up

I hope this gave you some helpful pointers on how to eat for you performance, how to prep your food so that you get the most out of it and supplemental considerations,  

Being a bodyworker is hard enough because it demands a lot of time from your schedule. 

This makes it very difficult to get quality food and calories in your system to help fuel your sessions. 

We talked about: 

    How a lot of issues can start in your gut

    How many calories we actually burn as therapists

    What you can eat for maximum performance

    What you can supplement with that will benefit you the most

I want to hear from you, what are some of your favorite foods to eat for performance, leave in the comments?

About Me

My name is Zack Mayfield and I am in the constant pursuit to help each and every therapist achieve strength, better self-care and longevity in their career!

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