Are you an ectomorph, an endomorph, or a mesomorph? Do those words confuse you? Have you ever heard about eating right for your type, but you don’t know what your body type is? Understanding your body type can be a great way to jump-start your diet and exercise routine to help you get to an ideal weight.
25. Identify Your Body Type
In the 1940s, a physician named Dr. W.H. Sheldon theorized three main body types: ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph (via Britannica). According to Dr. Sheldon, a person’s body type was set in stone before birth and determined their physical characteristics throughout life. Doctors now know that our body types were not predetermined before birth and that our choices dramatically influence our body types throughout our lives. Still, Dr. Sheldon was onto something important. He recognized that not all body types are the same and that what works well for one person may not work for another. One crucial key lies in understanding your own body type (via nasm.org).
The body type that you most often see in movies and television shows is the ectomorph (via study.com). Ectomorphs are thin, with small bones and lean bodies that reflect societal ideals of beauty. Their narrow shoulders and slim hips make them elegant and graceful, yet not all is necessarily well with ectomorphs. They tend to have a low body mass index, indicating an eating disorder. Some have speedy metabolisms, making getting to an ideal weight difficult because they need more calories than they can consume. If you are an ectomorph, you can consider yourself lucky… somewhat. Not being able to hold onto calories long enough for them to turn into fat or muscle can make working out challenging and make the person more suspectable to illness (via nasm.org).
While ectomorphs may have fast metabolisms that make gaining weight difficult, many endomorphs have slow metabolisms that make losing weight equally tricky. Endomorphs have stockier bodies, with wider hips and more fat throughout (via study.com). Some endomorphs have chronic conditions that cause them to have difficulty losing weight; such situations can include chronic fatigue, which makes exercising very difficult, and thyroid problems, which cause metabolic dysfunction. Many endomorphs are obese. Furthermore, the diet and exercise plans that they need to follow are very different from those of ectomorphs. If ectomorphs need to focus on holding onto calories to add body mass, endomorphs spend at least as much time trying to shed excess body weight (via nasm.org).
Mesomorphs are the Goldilocks of body types, not too stocky and not too slim. They are just right, sitting in an ideal body weight and more average metabolism that allows them to hold onto calories long enough to burn them efficiently. Most people are mesomorphs and can shed weight and gain weight with relative ease (via study.com). Because they are an ideal size and have efficient metabolisms, mesomorphs need to focus on maintaining weight and building muscle tone rather than losing or gaining weight. Their dietary and exercise needs are different from ectomorphs and endomorphs, whose plans should strive towards mesomorph size (via PK Fitness).
Because ectomorphs need more calories to increase their body size, they need to eat frequently. Experts recommend that ectomorphs eat five to six times per day, but they shouldn’t worry about consuming extra calories because of their fast metabolisms (via study.com). In fact, if ectomorphs do not eat and exercise enough, they will begin to lose weight without even trying! Dieticians recommend that ectomorphs get half of their calories from carbohydrates to have enough energy to complete their daily tasks and get in some exercise. The next-highest number of calories should come from protein, and protein is essential. Not getting enough protein means that the body will not recover from workouts. Finally, some calories should come from fat, but not too many. The priority is on carbs and proteins (via PK Fitness).
One of the fad diets of the past few years is intermittent fasting, but if you are an ectomorph, one of the worst things that you can do is fast. Your body needs constant calories to avoid becoming overrun and fatigued. Another fad diet that ectomorphs should avoid is the ketogenic diet, which focuses on getting the overwhelming majority of calories from fat. Ectomorphs should not be trying to lose weight, which is one of the touted benefits of the ketogenic diet, and they also need many carbs (via WebMD). While ectomorphs need to ensure they are getting enough healthy carbs, they could probably stand some extra calories, such as ice cream and cake (via PK Fitness).
Ectomorphs should focus on getting plenty of carbs, but carbs are the enemy of endomorphs. Carbs will cause endomorphs to quickly gain weight, which they should avoid because many endomorphs are already overweight. Instead, endomorphs need to consume enough protein, 1.6 to 2 grams of protein for each kilo of body weight (via WebMD). An endomorph who weighs 150 kilograms needs to consume 300 grams of protein each day. That leaves very little room for carbs and fats. This high amount of protein allows the body to maintain and quickly build muscle mass instead of carbs, which causes fat to build up. If you are an endomorph and have a calories deficit after eating all of the protein your body needs, eat carbs and fats as they feel comfortable. If overeating one or the other makes you feel nauseous or gives you a headache, then you should change how much of them you are eating (via Byrdie).
Mesomorphs have more athletic builds and can build muscle easily, giving them an advantage over ectomorphs and endomorphs in what they can eat. Depending on how much physical activity mesomorphs engage in, they have different protein needs. Athletes need 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight, while those who do not train for hours each day can get more calories from fats and carbs (via Set for Set). Those who need more stamina, such as for walking and other cardio activities, need more carbs, while those who do weight-lifting and other body-building exercises need more fat. Generally, mesomorphs should eat what they feel comfortable with, helping them maintain their lifestyles, but they should not eat copious amounts of junk food (via Byrdie).
17. Ectomorphs Should Avoid High-Intensity Workouts
Ectomorph body types are trying to get into a workout routine need to develop habits that will enable them to have regular workouts without getting injured or wearing themselves out. Exercises should be no longer than one hour, as the body will run out of energy by about 45 minutes (via WebMD). High-intensity workouts should be avoided, as they cause the body to deplete calories and lose weight quickly. Ectomorphs should eat a carb-rich meal before exercising and possibly refuel in the middle of the workout, consisting of low-intensity exercises like cardio. If you are an ectomorph, pay close attention to form as you work out because your body could very easily be injured. Don’t over-exert yourself and keep a snack on hand so that you don’t end up feeling hangry (via PK Fitness).
Cardio exercises are also called aerobic exercises because they are beneficial for your heart and help increase the oxygen flow throughout the body. Cardio is excellent for burning calories and losing weight, so this kind of exercise is ideal for endomorphs, especially since many endomorphs struggle with obesity. Endomorphs should aim to get at least 30 minutes of cardio at least five days a week (via Set for Set). This can come from taking a brisk walk, hike, or jog, or even going for a bike ride. Additionally, resistance training and high-intensity workouts, such as Zumba, can help build muscle mass to increase stamina on cardio exercises. Don’t feel like 30 minutes is the limit; a two-hour hike can help lift your mood and improve your physical well-being (via MD Linx).
Mesomorphs should aim for a regular cardio activity to help maintain muscle tone and keep their bodies lean, but they can also benefit from strength training. Ectomorphs should steer clear of strength training. Why? Because it can use up far too many calories and cause injuries, but mesomorphs can use strength training to tone their bodies for a more lean and polished physique. Ectomorphs should also avoid isolated exercises that only target one body area, as these can burn too many calories and use too much energy without enough of a return (via Set for Set). Mesomorphs, however, have a strong enough physical foundation to benefit from things like lunges and lifting dumbbells. If you are a mesomorph, then instead of aiming to build up a lot of muscle mass like a bodybuilder, look to tone your body so that you have more energy in your day-to-day life (via Byrdie).
14. Sample Exercises for Ectomorphs Include Different Workouts on Different Days
If you are an ectomorph, one of the most critical guidelines for exercise is not doing too much (via WebMD). Make sure you take a rest day between workouts and take a couple of minutes to rest in between different sessions. Otherwise, your muscles will not have enough time to rebuild, and you could injure yourself more easily in the next workout. A sample workout for the week would be Monday, do bench press, push-ups, dips, and overhead triceps. Rest on Tuesday. Wednesday, do deadlifts, lat pull-down, pull-ups, and rows. Rest on Thursday. Friday, do squats, leg presses, and lunges with hip thrusts and calf raise. Rest on Saturday. On Sunday, do overhead press, lateral raises, hanging crunches, and ab rollout. You could also rest on Sunday; remember, too much is too bad (via Set for Set)!
If you are reading these exercises and are confused about what they are, join a gym and ask for an orientation on the different workout equipment used. Once you learn how to use the equipment and get the hang of going to the gym, the exercises will become second nature. Trying to get into a gym routine can be very difficult, as there is always something pressing on our time that makes us want to short-circuit our own health. Getting a partner to go with you to the gym can make a massive difference in the commitment that you can sustain (via PK Fitness).
13. Mesomorph Workout Routines Should Be Very Different from Ectomorphs
While ectomorphs should take great care not to overexert themselves, mesomorphs should push themselves to failure on every exercise that they take. Failure means that they exert themselves so much that they cannot complete the entire set. They should also exercise daily and shake things up by doing different things. A sample weekly workout routine for a mesomorph is as follows: On Mondays, work out the chest area by doing bench presses, the incline bench, the cable fly, and the pec fly. On Tuesdays, work out the back by doing deadlifts, bent-over rows, lat pull-downs, pull-ups, and cable rows (via Mayo Clinic).
Wednesday workouts should begin with the legs by doing squats, leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses, and lunges. On Thursdays, work out the shoulders by doing the upright row, side raises, overhead presses, and rear delt rows. For Fridays, exercise the abs and calves by raising the calf, hanging crunches, declining crunches, and cable crunches. On Saturdays, exercise the arms by doing the close grip bench, tricep extensions, bicep curls, chin-ups, and preacher curls. Sunday can be a rest day, but you can also use it for extra cardio. Furthermore, on that note, add in some cardio every day. Why? Because the mesomorph body type wants to be on the move (via PK Fitness).
12. Endomorph Workouts Should Have Higher Intensity
Endomorphs have muscles underneath their fat tissue, and those muscles want to get used! Experts recommend doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for 30 minutes several times a week; HIIT focuses on the lower part of the body, so adding in shoulder exercises can help even things out for a leaner, sleeker look. If you want to do weight training, using higher-level weights can tone down your body, while using lower-level weights will build muscle and burn more calories. Are you an endomorph and have an ectomorph friend with whom you like to go to the gym? You probably should not do the same exercises. As you can probably tell, the activities that will benefit endomorphs could injure an ectomorph or at least cause them to run out of steam very quickly (via Mayo Clinic).
Here is a sample weekly workout routine for endomorphs, and remember, this list is not exhaustive. Adding in some regular cardio by taking a brisk morning or lunchtime walk will only be beneficial. Do legs on Mondays by getting in squats, lunges, leg presses, and hip thrusts. Take Tuesdays off to recover. Make Wednesday a “push” day by doing chest presses, flys, push-ups, and triceps extensions, followed by 20 minutes of HIIT. Thursday is then a “pull” day with deadlifts, bicep curls, seated rows, and lat pull-downs, again followed by 20 minutes of HIIT. Friday can be a rest day. Saturday is shoulders and abs, with exercises on the front, side, and rear delt raises and bench v-ups followed by another 20 minutes of HIIT. Sunday can be just 20-30 minutes of HIIT (via PK Fitness).
Understanding your body type and eating and exercising in ways that will most benefit it is very helpful in many ways. However, many generalizations come with body types, so different conditions that individuals may have been not necessarily accounted for. Someone who has had cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or any other major illness should follow the doctor’s orders regarding diet and exercise no matter what their body type may be. The body-type diet is most beneficial in helping determine how to lose weight or, for ectomorphs, add on extra body mass to get up to a healthy weight (via WebMD).
There is great benefit in focusing on potential rather than limitations. For example, an endomorph may be chronically frustrated that they cannot lose weight because their body type comes with certain restrictions that make losing weight very difficult. However, the potential for losing weight and getting down to ideal body size is increased by focusing on body type and tailoring diet and exercise. Yet body type is not everything. There are other considerations to take into account when determining what diet and exercise program will work best for you. Most importantly, it would help if you went with what your doctor recommends (via Everday Health).
Insulin is a hormone in charge of metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It is most known for its role in metabolizing sugar, as people who are insulin-deficient can develop diabetes and must take great care to monitor their sugar levels. Focusing only on body types can blind someone to the importance of insulin. When insulin levels are chronically high, the body loses sensitivity to insulin, so higher levels are needed. This imbalance can quickly affect every part of the body’s metabolism and lead to different illnesses, including diabetes. However, insulin levels that are too low can mean that the body is not getting sufficient nutrition (via Mayo Clinic).
Supplementing the information about your body type should explain how your body is responding to insulin. Ideally, you want your body to be sensitive to insulin so that not as much is required. Ectomorphs and mesomorphs generally have better insulin function. That is, as long as they do not have any other conditions that could be hampering their insulin levels. Endomorphs will want to limit carbs because carbs can quickly cause weight gain and because carbs can cause insulin levels to spike. If you are an endomorph and having trouble losing weight, insulin may be the culprit; check with your doctor (via Everyday Health).
Some nutritionists think that the ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph distinction is worthless and that what matters more is determining if a person is an apple or a pear. A pear is someone who has a slim waist and more weight around the hips and lower body. An apple has a larger waistline, at least 35 inches in circumference. Pear shapes are more likely to have healthy insulin levels, while apples are more likely to resist insulin (via WebMD). If you are an apple — what Dr. Sheldon called an endomorph — you need to limit carbs because they increase your insulin and cause insulin resistance. Nutritionists who prefer the apple and pear distinction claim that even an ectomorph with a fuller midsection could be at risk for health problems (via Everyday Health).
8. Some General Dietary Guidelines Apply to All Body Types
Whatever body type you may have, you need certain nutritional requirements to function at your best. Whether you get the majority of your calories from carbs, proteins, or fats, you need specific vitamins and minerals every day (via Mayo Clinic). Ensure that you are eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and five is a minimum. Ideally, aim for 10. Smoothies made from plant-based milk and without any added sugar are a great way to get all the fruits and vegetables you need. You also need vitamin D, which can be found in some foods but is best obtained from sunlight. Plant-based protein sources, such as lentils and tofu, can be nutritional powerhouses that provide lots of vitamins and minerals in addition to high-quality protein (via MD Linx).
The body-type guidelines suggest that endomorphs should focus on HIIT exercises rather than on cardio for the purposes of weight loss. However, cardio remains beneficial for precisely why this class of activity is called “cardio”: it is excellent for your heart. Whatever your body type may be, you should aim to get the regular cardio exercise that gets your heart pumping and your feet moving. Taking a mid-day walk or a long afternoon hike can not only benefit your heart. However, on a sunny day, help you get your necessary dose of vitamin D (via Mayo Clinic). An endomorph may assume that you should avoid long walks because they should not get more than an hour of exercise at a time. Not true! Just plan to have plenty of snacks to help recharge periodically. Do not ever assume that you should avoid cardio just because you have one body type (via MD Linx).
6. Regardless, Carbs Should Not Come from Junk Food
Ectomorphs may be rejoicing that they should get at least half of their calories from carbs. However, this does not mean that they should be snacking on cake and ice cream all day long (via Mayo Clinic). Keep in mind that too many carbs, especially simple carbs such as sugar, cause insulin spikes and lead to insulin problems. While some extra calories may be needed, those carbs should be coming primarily from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal. Furthermore, don’t assume that fruit juice means healthy carbs! Fruit juice can easily have more sugar than soda, so it should be consumed in moderation. Endomorphs and mesomorphs should also be careful of where their carbs come from (via Byrdie).
5. Your Body Type Can Provide a Snapshot of Your Health
The metabolic functions that determine your health all happen inside your body, but what you see on the outside is a pretty strong indicator of what is happening inside. For this reason, your body type can be a pretty quick snapshot of how your overall health is. Being an ideal weight — a mesomorph — indicates that you probably have good insulin levels and have pretty okay metabolic functions (via Mayo Clinic). If you are underweight — an ectomorph — you may not be getting adequate nutrition or may have an underlying condition, such as a thyroid problem. And if you are overweight — an endomorph — you may have insulin resistance and additional health problems resulting from excess weight (via Ask the Scientists).
When Dr. Sheldon put out his theory on body types, he claimed that body types were set in stone before birth. If someone is an endomorph body type in adulthood, they were predisposed to be overweight well before birth. The idea corresponds to ectomorphs and mesomorphs, as well. However, research into the twenty-first century indicates that body types are not set in stone, while genetics certainly play a role. Endomorphs are not doomed to live their entire lives overweight; they can lose weight and become mesomorphs with ideal weight and solid muscle mass (via WebMD). Likewise, ectomorphs are not doomed to live their lives underweight. If they are malnourished due to an eating disorder, they can get the proper treatment and get up to an ideal weight. If they have a thyroid or other metabolic condition, it can get treated (via nasm.org).
Many people identify as having more than one body type throughout their lives. Furthermore, people commonly identify as having more than one body type at any particular time. Some say that they are, for example, 20% mesomorph and 80% endomorph, or 40% ectomorph and 60% mesomorph (via WebMD). This simply means that body types are not static categories. You may do best with an endomorph diet high in protein and a mesomorph exercise routine or a mesomorph diet and an ectomorph exercise routine. Still, what is the most important thing? Make sure that you are doing what makes you feel healthy and consistent with what your doctor recommends (via Ask the Scientists).
Believe it or not, you can be a healthy endomorph, just like you can be an unhealthy mesomorph or ectomorph. Your body type can be a quick snapshot of your overall health. However, there is more to health than your size. Make sure that you limit the amount of processed and junk food you eat and get enough fruits and vegetables every day (via Mayo Clinic). Get plenty of exercise and the necessary rest in between your exercise routines. Get enough protein and healthy fats and look for complex carbs over sugar. These day-to-day decisions can help make you healthy no matter your body type (via MD Linx).
Few things are more disheartening than disliking the body that you are in. Remember that just because Hollywood glamorizes ectomorphs doesn’t mean that you cannot be gorgeous as a full-bodied endomorph (via Mayo Clinic). Beauty is on the inside and shines through on the outside, no matter how large or small you may be. Having a positive view of your own body can be the greatest motivator for doing what you need to get to an ideal weight, whether that entails losing weight or gaining. Believe that you are beautiful just the way you are and love the body that you are in (via LiveStrong).