Have you ever wondered why some people seem to gain muscle easily, and why others find it so difficult? Or why some people can eat whatever they want and stay slim, while others gain weight just thinking about junk food?
The reasons for these differences are usually genetic and are specifically linked to your body type.
There are three recognized body types:
The idea of body types originated back in the early 1940s, when William Sheldon, an American psychologist, identified and defined three basic psychological types, and noticed that each one also had identifiable physical characteristics. These classifications became known as Sheldon’s somatotypes.
Sheldon categorized all possible body types using a scale from 1 to 7. While pure endo, ecto, and mesomorphs do exist, most people are a combination of the three types. For example, someone could be naturally thin but still have a tendency to gain fat if the right circumstances prevail.
While your basic body type is unmodifiable, identifying it means you will be able to modify your diet and exercise program to get the best possible results. It may also help control your expectations of what you can realistically achieve. While everyone can lose weight and improve their fitness, your somatotype is the foundation in which your body is built, and there is nothing you can do to change it.
Body Types Explained
Ectomorph Body Type
Ectomorphs are naturally slim. They have long slender limbs, narrow hips and shoulders, and don’t tend to gain weight easily. With their light bone structure and natural leanness, ectomorphs often make good endurance athletes and are typically drawn toward things like long-distance running and cycling.
Naturally lean, ectomorphs have fast metabolisms and don’t tend to gain weight. They also struggle to build appreciable amounts of muscle.
Diet and Training Tips for Ectomorphs
Just because ectomorphs can eat whatever they like without gaining weight doesn’t mean they should. After all, food should contain more than just calories, and while an unhealthy diet might not lead to weight gain, it could still cause illness.
Because of this, ectomorphs should eat plenty of high-calorie and nutrient-dense food. Full-fat dairy, red meat, starchy vegetables, and whole grains are all excellent ectomorph nutrition staples. Weight gainer shakes can also be useful, and ectomorphs should also pay special attention to post-exercise nutrition.
Regarding exercise, ectomorphs who want to gain muscle should avoid training too long or too often, and also limit their cardio workouts. Rest and sleep crucial for ectomorphs, who are often referred to as hard gainers.
But, if you prefer endurance type workouts, or have aspirations of being a long-distance runner or cyclist, your slim build should mean that, with the right type of training, you should do well at these types of activities.
Endomorph Body Type
Endomorphs tend to gain fat easily and may find losing weight hard. Often muscular, too, sporty endomorphs are usually drawn toward and excel at strength and power sports where body weight is an advantage. Football, wrestling, and weightlifting, for example.
Endomorphs are not built for endurance sports and don’t usually enjoy running. Despite this, a lot of endomorphs run for weight loss when, in reality, low impact activities would be more comfortable and less stressful.
Diet and Training Tips for Endomorphs
Endomorphs need to watch what they eat. Because they gain weight easily, they must avoid eating too much junk food and build their diets around nutritious but low-calorie foods, only eating treats occasionally.
Because of their naturally higher body fat percentage, a lot of endomorphs are insulin resistant and struggle to process carbs efficiently. They may benefit from following the very low-carb ketogenic diet.
Regarding exercise, endomorphs should do a mixture of cardio and strength training, but be mindful of activities that involve a lot of impact. High impact activities can cause injuries and may also be uncomfortable.
Mesomorph Body Type
Mesomorphs are naturally muscular and lean, and usually have broad shoulders, and narrow waists and hips. They gain muscle easily but don’t tend to get fat. This is the body type that most people want, but very few have!
Mesomorphs are well suited to sports and activities that require strength and power but can do well at endurance activities too. Most successful bodybuilders are mesomorphs.
Diet and Training Tips for Mesomorphs
Because they are naturally lean, mesomorphs may think that they can eat whatever they like. While they may not gain fat easily, eating unhealthily will still affect their health as there is more to food than the calories it contains. That said, mesomorphs can usually eat a lot of food without gaining much body fat. They have fast metabolisms and typically have a good tolerance for carbohydrates.
Training wise, mesomorphs gain muscle and fitness easily. They often make much faster progress than the other body types. Because mesomorphs respond well to most forms of exercise, they may find that they don’t need to try as hard as the other body types to reach their goals.
Remember that very few people are just one body type. Most people are a mixture of all three. For example, you could have a naturally slender upper body (ectomorph), gain belly fat if you miss a few workouts or eat unhealthily (endomorph), and also have lean, muscular legs (mesomorph). Pure ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs DO exist, but they’re pretty rare. The rest of us are a mixture of the three body types, in varying proportions.
Four Main Female Body Types
While all of Sheldon’s somatotypes can be applied to men and women, some body types are specifically used to describe women. These female body types are often used in the world of fashion.
The four main female body types and their physical characteristics are:
Banana: The banana shape is sometimes called the boyish shape. Bananas usually have the same bust and hip measurement, and a slender but undefined waist. Bananas are closely related to Sheldon’s ectomorphic body type.
Apple: Apple-shaped women tend to have broad shoulders and narrower hips, often accompanied by slim legs and thighs. Body fat is usually located around the abdomen, which is an increased risk factor for coronary heart disease. The apple shape is a mixture of Sheldon’s endomorphic and ectomorphic body types.
Pear: Pear-shaped women have hips that are wider than their bust. They usually have larger bottoms and thighs. Because pears store their body fat around their hips and thighs, this shape has a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease. The pear shape is closely related to Sheldon’s endomorphic body type.
Hourglass: Women with the hourglass shape usually have hips and a bust that are of equal size. They also tend to have narrow, defined waists. Fat is distributed around the arms chest, hips, and bottom and away from the midsection. The hourglass shape is closely related to Sheldon’s mesomorphic body type.
Identifying your body type may help explain why you look the way you do. It may also help you understand why, despite following a certain diet or exercise program, your results aren’t what you expected.
For example, if you are an ectomorph, you will probably never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, even if you follow his exact diet and training program. Similarly, it may help explain why you lose weight more slowly than your friends, even though you are following the same diet.
While there is nothing you can do about your body type, you should avoid using yours as an excuse for not trying to lose weight or get fit and healthy. Contrary to what a lot of people may think, endomorphs CAN lose weight, and ectomorphs CAN build muscle. It will just take longer, and you may have to work a little harder at it. Of course, mesomorphs can do it all with relative ease, but that’s why everyone hates them!
For the rest of us less genetically blessed people, it’s important to remember that hard work always pays off. So, whatever you are trying to achieve, don’t let your body type put you off. You might not make it to the Olympics or the catwalk, but you will always be able to make progress you can be proud of.
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