Various tips and strategies are available to persons who want to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. Simple lifestyle adjustments help us get better results in terms of weight loss, weight management, and overall health and wellbeing. For that reason, many people train and adjust nutrition based on their body type. In this post, you’re going to learn how to train and diet according to body types. Scroll down to learn more.
What are the 3 types of body physique?
The concept of somatotypes (body types) was introduced in the 1940s by William H. Sheldon, an American psychologist and numismatist (1). Somatotyping as the field refers to classifying people into types according to their body build. The somatotype theory suggests different body types have unique characteristics regarding personality traits, even criminal behavior (2). In fact, even your training and diet efforts are influenced by body type. For that reason, many people choose to adjust their health and fitness goals according to the specific body build they have.
Precision nutrition is a good way to describe the individualized approach to diet, which is why a personal trainer can use experience in the fitness industry and knowledge of sports medicine to create the optimal nutrition plan for you and your body type.
So, what are these body types? They are:
- Ectomorph – thin men and women with little body fat. Ectomorphs don’t gain weight easily. They have smaller bone structures and thin, long arms and legs. Other characteristics of ectomorph body type include narrow chest, abdomen, heart, and little muscle mass. At the same time, ectomorphs have a large skin surface (3). Since ectomorphs tend to be very slim, most fashion models and basketball players fall into this body type category
- Endomorph – men and women with this body shape tend to have a relatively large and round abdomen and internal organs, short limbs. Thighs and upper arms tend to have more fat, whereas wrists and ankles are slender. Endomorphs have a larger bone structure and total body mass. Compared to ectomorphs, persons with endomorph body types have more body fat. That being said, endomorph isn’t necessarily overweight but may gain weight more easily (4). Football linemen are good examples of endomorph body type
- Mesomorph – characterized by greater than average muscular development, square head, and broad, muscular shoulders and chest. Persons with this body type have a large heart, heavily muscled limbs, and minimal body fat. Mesomorphs tend to build muscle mass easily (5). People with mesomorph body types are athletic and strong. They are neither overweight nor underweight. Athletes in boxing, basketball, strength training, swimming, volleyball, and track and field have mesomorph body type characteristics.
Even though there are three body types, humans are more complicated than that. Some people are a combination of different body types of the human physique. The most common combination is ecto-endomorphs. These persons are pear-shaped with a thin upper body and tend to store fat in hips and thighs. They also have wide hips. Additionally, some people are endo-ectomorphs meaning they have an apple-shaped body and they carry weight in the mid-section and have thin lower body areas.
Ectomorph diet and training
Many people decide to modify their workout routine and diet plan according to their body type. While this idea may seem unusual to you, it does make sense. Let’s take ectomorphs as an example. They have a low body fat percentage and are generally slim i.e. lower body weight, so they may not benefit from an eating pattern of endomorphs, who tend to have more body fat and a slower metabolism.
Fast metabolism in an ectomorph body type is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you can eat carbohydrates without necessarily gaining weight as you burn calories quickly, but it’s also a curse because ectomorphs have trouble gaining weight. At the same time, metabolism may slow down with age which may result in an unhealthy weight gain due to low muscle mass.
Ectomorphs may benefit the most from a diet that is higher in carbs and calories. In fact, about 50% to 60% of calories you consume should come from carbohydrates, 25% from fat, and 25% from lean protein. In other words, high-carb, and moderate protein intake is necessary for persons who are naturally thin.
Lower-fat diets also work for ectomorphs, including vegan and vegetarian diets abundant in plant-based protein. One diet ectomorphs should avoid is the ketogenic (keto) diet and similar low-carb, high-fat approaches. This is especially important if you want to lose abdominal fat. Why? These particular diets increase physical stress and make the body hold onto the extra weight (6).
Most ectomorphs want to gain weight but aren’t sure how. It may seem that even though you eat a lot, body mass stays the same. To fix this problem, you will need to eat more calories than you burn during a workout. For that reason, you may want to eat every two to four hours. You may need to add at least 500 calories to the current energy intake in order to gain muscle mass or weight. A slightly higher calorie intake can help you achieve your goals.
Eating warm foods may be more beneficial than cold foods because they are easier to digest. Ectomorphs need fruits and vegetables, too. Best fruits to eat include peaches, bananas, mangoes, pineapples, avocados, and papayas.
Vegetables that belong to your daily menu include cauliflowers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and beets, among others. Starchy foods you can eat are brown rice, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and quinoa.
The main objective of the dietary approach for ectomorphs is to adjust nutrition to gain muscle mass or weight but still stick to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and nutrient intake. A common mistake that many ectomorphs make is that they eat junk food just because it’s more difficult for them to gain weight. But, a poor diet will not assist you in building muscle mass. Building muscle endeavor depends on various lifestyle factors, including eating habits.
Nutrition before and after a workout
When modifying diet according to your body type, it’s also useful to think about the times before and after workouts. After all, workout nutrition is equally important as the exercises and activities you do.
Eat or drink fast-digesting carbohydrate food or beverage (and some protein) about 30 to 60 minutes before your workout. The goal here is to boost your energy levels that will benefit your athletic performance.
Make sure to stay hydrated during the workout. When it comes to hydration, water is a good choice for persons whose workouts last less than 60 minutes. Men and women whose training session is longer than 60 minutes will need more boost in the form of fast-digesting carbs such as gel, beverage, or blocks to maintain their energy levels.
Also, you should have your post-workout meal 30 to 60 minutes after the training session. The best post-workout meal for ectomorphs should follow the 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This is important to replenish the sores of glycogen in the body, but also to support muscle repair and growth of muscle fibers (7).
Speaking of workout nutrition, ectomorphs may benefit from protein shakes, especially after workouts, since they have a fast absorption. Before exercise, you may want to take a BCAA supplement to boost energy levels and sustain the anabolic process necessary for muscle growth. If you want to take your muscle-building game to a new level with supplements, then you may want to add 10 grams of creatine a day to increase the volume of muscle cells and improve energy processes (8).
Now that we’ve covered diet for ectomorphs, it’s time to address training sessions and how to get the best results. To most ectomorphs, the biggest fitness goal is to tone and sculpt the body or create curves on a thin frame. However, they are at a disadvantage here due to specific body build. Remember, ectomorphs tend to be tall and slim. However, it’s possible to achieve your fitness goals.
In order to promote muscle growth, you should engage in the minimal amount of cardio necessary for general health and wellbeing. On the other hand, weight training is the best option to increase strength and sculpt your body. For that reason, you may want to lift heavier weights and complete three to five sets with 12 repetitions for each muscle group.
A strong desire to sculpt the body may propel you to perform weight lifting every day, which is not a good practice. While regular workouts are important, you shouldn’t overdo them. Two to three sessions a week are enough. Everything more than that may lead to the opposite effect because you’re not letting your muscles recover properly.
Endomorph diet and training
As mentioned above, endomorphs tend to have a higher body fat percentage and less muscle mass. Although heavier and rounder, endomorphs aren’t necessarily obese. People usually use the term “skinny fat” to describe a person with more fat mass and less muscle mass. That being said, men and women with this body composition are more sensitive to calorie intake, which is why they need to adjust their diet and training accordingly.
Since endomorphs are prone to gaining weight, they need to be careful regarding the foods they consume. Persons with endomorph body types have a slower metabolism, unlike ectomorphs whose metabolic rate is fast. As you don’t burn more calories than you consume, the body converts excess calories into fat.
The main goal for endomorphs is to slim down, lose fat, and define or gain muscle. To make that happen, you need to focus on a high fat and high protein diet with a low carb intake. The Paleo diet is a good example of an endomorph body type diet. This type of eating regimen can help lose body fat while maintaining energy levels (9).
Since it’s important to include lean proteins and healthy fats in your diet, good options include olive oil, macadamia nuts, egg yolk, beef, fatty fish, walnuts, and cheese.
While you should lower carbohydrate intake, it’s important not to avoid them entirely. First of all, avoiding carbs entirely is a sustainable way to slim down and keep it off. Plus, that kind of diet is difficult to follow in the long term. Keep in mind carbohydrates are a good source of energy. The point here is to eat fewer carbs, i.e., choose the right kind of carbohydrates. Ideally, you should focus on eating complex carbs such as those from starchy vegetables like potatoes. At the same time, you should limit the consumption of simple carbs such as white bread, white rice, pasta, cookies, and cakes.
Your diet should contain fruit, but carb and insulin-sensitive persons may want to eat it in moderation. That way, you can reduce the risk of insulin resistance. When planning your daily meals, 30% of calories should derive from carbohydrates, 35% from protein, and 35% from fat.
A proper diet for endomorphs also requires portion control. Why? Portion control prevents over-consumption of calories. For a healthy and sustainable weight loss, you need to consume 200 to 500 fewer calories than you normally do.
Many endomorphs struggle to tone their bodies or increase lean muscle mass. The main culprit here is that extra body fat that triggers the release of estrogen hormone. You see, higher estrogen levels elevate the concentration of testosterone, a hormone that we need for muscle growth.
The slimmer, more defined frame isn’t a mission impossible for the endomorph, but you need to say goodbye to a sedentary lifestyle. As you modify your diet, you also need to make some changes in physical activity and training sessions. Diet and exercise programs go hand in hand, both are necessary for weight loss and fat loss. Besides exercise itself, you need to increase activity levels generally in your daily life. That way, you’re supporting non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which can help you achieve your goals.
Unlike ectomorphs who need to reduce cardio training, endomorphs benefit the most from this kind of activity. Cardiovascular exercises like running speed up metabolism and allow you to burn more calories (10). That way, you get into the calorie deficit. Remember, to slim down, you need to burn more calories than you consume.
Examples of good cardio training, to burn fat, for endomorphs include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and steady-state training (SST). What is the difference? In HIIT you alternate between periods of high and low-intensity exercises whereas SST is characterized by the consistent moderate-to-low intensity of exercises. Endomorphs should do HIIT or SST two to three times a week. Do a maximum of 30 minutes of HIIT per session or 30 to 60 minutes of SST.
Your weight-loss plan should also include strength and weight training. A major problem for many people is that they lose weight, but also body definition. This is particularly difficult for endomorphs to balance out. For that reason, you shouldn’t focus on cardio training only but also incorporate resistance training and compound exercises. These exercises use multiple body tissues and units simultaneously (11).
Mesomorph diet and training
Mesomorphs have more muscle mass and tend to gain it easily. Compared to endomorphs, persons with mesomorph body types have a lower body fat percentage, thanks to the muscle mass of course. So, what to eat and how to train if you are a mesomorph?
Bear in mind food intake alone can’t change your body type, but it can support a healthy weight and help you get the most from your workout sessions. Mesomorphs can gain and lose weight easily. They may need more calories than other body types. If you are a mesomorph, you may benefit the most from a higher-protein diet with a lower emphasis on carbs and fewer fats. The best thing to do is to divide your plate into thirds (12, 13).
One-third of the plate belongs to protein to fuel muscles and promote muscle repair. Also, one-third of the plate accounts for fruits and vegetables, but prioritize options with skins to enrich your body with antioxidants, fiber, and phytochemicals that support muscle repair and immune system defenses. And finally, one-third of the plate should contain whole grains and fats to fill the stomach and round up your meals.
People with a mesomorphic body type who wants to add muscle for a more toned and sculpted body have an advantage compared to the other two types. Remember, mesomorphs are blessed to gain muscle easily. So, you are naturally strong and athletic, and you can benefit from both cardio and weight training, especially when you do both.
The ideal weight-lifting approach to stimulate muscle growth is to lift moderate-to-heavy weights with limited rest between the sets, five days a week. Make sure to do eight to 12 reps of three to four exercises for each muscle group. Do three sets, at least, of each exercise and take a short break of 30 to 90 seconds after every set you complete. You can spice things up and give your body more challenge by doing more reps with lighter weights.
As far as cardio training is concerned, you may want to incorporate 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three to five times a week. But, if you have less body fat you can stick to doing cardio twice a week. To get optimal results, mesomorphs who want to decrease body fat may want to try HIIT two to three times a week and one or two sessions of SST (14, 15).
If you’re looking to give an extra boost to your training session and diet plan, you may want to modify them based on what your body type needs. There are three main body types such as ectomorph mesomorph, and endomorph, and their needs are entirely different. Keep in mind, there are also combinations of different body types. At the same time, weight loss, muscle toning, body sculpting, and other body goals need a wholesome approach that requires more than exercising according to a person’s somatotype. Nonetheless, it’s useful to know your body type when you’re trying to optimize your lifestyle.