HOW TO EAT RIGHT FOR YOUR BODY TYPE: ECTOMORPH, MESOMORPH, ENDOMORPH

Two years out of high school I was 5 foot 10 and about 120 pounds soaking wet. Give or take a few depending on whether I went to the bathroom that day. I was convinced that being scrawny was my destiny.

I was tired of being super skinny so I decided to start working out with one of my best friends who was a personal trainer (hi Matt) at the time. I had never trained with weights and his help kept me from embarrassing myself under a bench press bar. Fast forward a couple of years and I was about 10 pounds heavier but still a bit unhappy with my progress.

My buddy Matt told me that, “You’re an ectomorph bro. Time to seriously step up your nutrition game.”

Ecto-whaaaa? Isn’t that what the Ghostbusters rode around in? I had no clue what the heck he was talking about. 

Matty boy explained to me that an ectomorph was a body type that may make it difficult to put on muscle and weight. 

Great! I thought. I’m destined to me this skinny little wet noodle forever. It’s my body type, it’s just who I am. Matt promptly slapped me in the face (not really) but he did tell me that just because I was an ectomorph that didn’t mean I would never be able to put on muscle. It would just be a bit harder, but if I took the time to learn about my body and how it responded to food I could do it.

Today’s article isn’t about how I was able to put on 20 pounds of muscle and still drop body fat. It’s about how you can discover what your body type is and what might be the best way for you to eat to drop body fat, put on muscle, or improve performance.

WHAT ARE THE BODY TYPES (SOMATYPES)

American Psychologist William Herbert Sheldon proposed that the human body could be classified by three fundamental elements named after the three germ layers or soma-types:

  • endoderm – digestive tract
  • mesoderm – muscle, heart, and blood vessels
  • ectoderm – skin and nervous system

Sheldon’s theory stated that the shape of a person’s body could predict their intelligence, moral worth, and future achievement. Much of Sheldon’s theories were discredited later but the names of the body types have remained and are still used today.

ECOTOMORPH

Ectomorphs usually have long lanky limbs with narrow waists and small wrists and ankles. Ecto’s have long muscle bellies that contain a lot of slow twitch type I muscles fibers. These kinds of muscle fibers carry more oxygen and help the Ecto excel at endurance sports like long distance running and biking. Although slow twitch fibers are great for endurance sports they can make it more difficult for an Ecto to put on muscle.

They are thyroid and sympathetic nervous system dominate, tolerate carbohydrates extremely well, and usually have a faster metabolism which means that they may do well with a higher carbohydrate diet. Ecto’s can have an active mind, are extremely active physically, and always feel the need to be doing something – can become fatigued but only really feel it when they “slow down”

Think marathon runner, long distance biker, Spiderman, Bruce Lee, or Cameron Diaz

MESOMORPH

The mesomorph is often called the “genetic freak.” It seems like these people never really have to work out or eat super well but always seem to be in great shape. They have medium bone structure and an athletic looking body with wide clavicle and narrow waist. 

They are testosterone and growth hormone dominant and usually have a higher amount of fast twitch type IIa muscle fibers which can make putting on muscle and losing body fat fairly easy.  This also makes them great at sprinting, lifting, and explosive sports. Meso’s do well on a balanced diet of moderate protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. 

Think wrestler, gymnast, Thor, Mark Wahlberg, Serena Williams

ENDOMORPH

The endomorph has a larger bone structure, a thick rib cage, wider hips and clavicle, and larger wrists and ankles. Their limbs are usually short and compact with smaller muscles bellies. Endo’s usually hold onto a higher percentage of body fat and overall body mass.

Endo’s typically have a tough time dropping body fat but a much easier time adding muscle and strength. Depending on their goals a nutritional approach of higher healthy fats, moderate protein, and lower carbohydrates mostly in the form of vegetables is the way to go for this body type.

Think powerlifter, shot-putter, The Incredible Hulk, Russell Crowe, or Jennifer Hudson

If you’re still not sure what body type you are that’s ok.

There’s a really good chance that you’re a combination of them depending on your lifestyle, activity levels, and the way you workout.

If you’re not sure there are a couple of things you can do.

  1. What was your body like as a kid?
  2. For the most part has it been easy or difficult for you to gain or lose weight?
  3. What’s your body type like now?
  4. If you are an active person and totally stopped would your body change much? If you would lose a lot of muscle and shrink up you may be an ectomorph. If your weight would shoot up faster than a Space ship then you may be an endomorph, and if you would stay pretty much the same you’re most likely a mesomorph.

A general idea is all you need. The tips below are a starting place, not a final destination.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO EAT FOR MY BODY TYPE


Before jumping into the best way to each for each body type it’s important to remember that your activity levels will influence this. If you are a fairly sedentary ectomorph than a higher carbohydrate approach might not be the best. If you’re a highly active Endomorph than you may need a certain amount of carbohydrates timed correctly to help you with performance.

Your nutritional approach should also be adjusted according to your goals. If you’re competing in athletic competitions you wouldn’t want to start eating a very low carb Atkins diet – you’d bonk out and have no juice to push through. If you’re trying to drop body fat it’s in your best interest to focus on low sugar berries and veggies as your primary carbohydrate sources.

That’s cool Justin but what’s a good place to start based on my body type?

ECTOPMORPH

Because ectomorph’s usually have a higher carbohydrate tolerance this means they can usually handle more carbohydrates. A solid meal for the ectomorph would include:

MEN

2 palm sized servings of protein, 2 fist sized servings of vegetables, 3 fist sized servings of carbohydrate, and 2 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

An example breakfast could be:

  • 4 to 6 eggs
  • 2 to 3 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 2 cups of raspberries
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato
  • Half an avocado

WOMEN

1 palm sized servings of protein, 1-2 fist sized servings of vegetables, 2 fist sized servings of carbohydrate, and 1 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

An example breakfast could be:

  • 2 to 4 eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 1 apple
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1/4 avocado

MESOMORPH

The mesomorph usually does will on a balanced diet (think Zone diet). A solid meal for an Meso might look like this.

MEN

2 palm sized servings of protein, 2 fist sized servings of vegetables, 2 fist sized servings of carbohydrate, and 2 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

An example breakfast could be:

  • 4 to 6 eggs
  • 2 to 3 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato
  • Half avocado

WOMEN

1 palm sized servings of protein, 1-2 fist sized servings of vegetables, 1 fist sized servings of carbohydrate, and 1 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

An example breakfast could be:

  • 2 to 4 eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1/4 avocado

ENDOMORPH

Because an endomorph has a lower carbohydrate tolerance a nutritional approach that favors healthy fats, veggies, and proteins with limited high sugar fruit, grains, and starchy carbs.

I recommend that the endomorph looking to drop body fat follow two separate approaches to their nutrition. Any meal that does not follow a workout will contain mostly protein, veggies, and healthy fats. Post workout meals will add a source of carbohydrate other than a vegetable.

MEN – ANY MEAL NOT FOLLOWING A WORKOUT

2 palm sized servings of protein, 2 fist sized servings of vegetables,  and 3-4 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

An example breakfast could be:

  • 4 to 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 3/4 to 1 full avocado

MEN – POST WORKOUT

2 palm sized servings of protein, 2 fist sized servings of vegetables, 1 fist sized serving of low sugar fruit or starchy car, and 3 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

  • 4 to 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 3/4 avocado

WOMEN – ANY MEAL NOT FOLLOWING A WORKOUT

1 palm sized servings of protein, 1-2 fist sized servings of vegetables,  and 2-3 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

An example breakfast could be:

  • 2 to 4 eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 1/2 to 3/4 avocado

WOMEN – POST WORKOUT

1 palm sized servings of protein, 1-2 fist sized servings of vegetables, 1 fist sized serving of low sugar fruit or starchy carb, and 2 thumb sized servings of healthy fat.

An example breakfast could be:

  • 2 to 4 eggs
  • 1 to 2 cups of mixed vegetables
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1/2 avocado

The recommendations above are just a starting point.

Because each of us operates differently you may have to adjust and fine tune the recommendations to fit your lifestyle, goals, and needs.

Your ability to handle carbohydrates is improved the more active you are. This means that the harder, longer, and more frequently you train your need for healthy carbohydrates will increase. With the greatest need being immediately after workouts.

With activity levels like this your body will also be able to process and use them more efficiently. The less active you are the less you will need carbohydrates and your tolerance for them will decrease.

Choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates can be a difficult one. Diane over at balanced bites has a fantastic resource for you that show you some of the most nutrient dense sources of carbohydrates to help fuel performance and drop body fat.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO WORKOUT FOR MY BODY TYPE?

Crossfit_0024
Most Ecto’s want to become strong like Donkey Kong and most Endo’s want to lean out. You Meso’s can do either one fairly easily so basically I want to fight you 🙂 Just kidding – but you can adapt any of the training recommendations below fairly easily.

ECTOMORPH

For the Ecto that wants to add a little muscle and strength to his frame you’ll want to focus mostly on the “Big 4” lifts: bench press, deadlift, squat, and pull-up or bent over row. Emphasize shorter workouts with lower repetitions and make sure to increase the amount of weight you are using each week.

A simple strength and muscle-building routine might look like this:

You would do 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise. Rest 3 minutes after each set. Read more about reps, sets, rest, and tempo here.

ENDOMORPH

For the Endo that wants to get into better shape and drop a little body fat a routine that includes short rest periods between exercises and after sets. I love strength circuits and below is an example strength circuit that is included in the LimitlessBODY Blueprint.

  • Monday: Day 1 Workout 
  • Tuesday: Day 2 Workout 
  • Wednesday: 20-30 minutes of activity/exercise/or rest 
  • Thursday: Day 3 Workout
  • Friday: Day 4 Workout 
  • Saturday: 20-30 minutes of activity/exercise/or rest 
  • Sunday: Total rest day

The workouts below specify no rest after each exercise but if you’re a little new to the fitness game play around with the rest periods. 30 to 60 seconds of rest is a great place to start.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

  • A1: 20-minute jog; rest 5 minutes 
  • B1: 1 minute plank; rest 30 seconds 
  • B2: 1 minute of max burpees; rest 30 seconds 
  • B3: 1 minute of max sit-ups; rest 30 seconds 
  • B4: 1 minute of max box jumps

If you have some extra time after any of these workouts you could try some of these high intensity intervals to add a little boost.

Now these are not the only ways to train for your body type – they’re just a starting place. Your training template will change based on your goals, ability, and knowledge. In general, if fat loss is your goal than short rest periods and high intensity is the way to go. If adding some muscle and strength is where your heads at think rep ranges between 5 and 12  with longer rest periods, 90 seconds to 4 minutes after exercises

CAN I CHANGE MY BODY TYPE?

Of course you can.  I was wrong when I thought I’d be a scrawny weakling for the rest of my life. I’ve been able to put on  over 30 pounds of muscle and can deadlift 3 times my bodyweight of 150 – I’m still a scrawny guy but I’ve been able to dramatically change my body and strength over the years with consistent and persistent practice.

Where you’re at now or have been is not your destiny. I think the best way to express how possible it is to change your body type is by looking at some of the LimitlessSUCCESS stories.

Matt was able to drop 90 pounds and 17% body fat by following a mostly Paleo Diet, making one small manageable change at a time, and always getting in at least a 15 minute workout.

matt

Ami has dropped over 40 pounds, can now do multiple pull-ups, push-ups, and is deadlifting over 300 pounds. This from a guy that could not do a single push-up when I first met him.

NewAmi

You’d hardly recognize the “before Brianna.” She isn’t a huge fan of the gym but she found other ways to stay active and change her body type. She also doesn’t worry about being perfect. Instead of telling herself she’s not allowed to have certain foods she instead puts a healthy limit on it.

Brianna

While you may classify yourself as a certain body type it doesn’t mean that you have to stay there. How bad do you want it? Are you willing to work hard enough, consistently enough, and persistently enough to change your destiny?

GET THE BASICS DOWN FIRST

There are a lot of tips in here about how to train and eat for your body type. But before getting specific make sure you have the basics down first. 

  • Are you including a source of protein with each meal?
  • Do you have a serving of veggies with each meal?
  • Are you having a serving of healthy fat with all your meals?
  • Are you taking in smart carbs?

Spend about 2 to 4 weeks making sure that you have the basics down first and then, if you find that you do, tailor your plan to fit your body type.

Don’t worry too much about whether you’re an ecto, meso, or endomorph. Figuring out your body type is just another tool in your arsenal that can help you make adjustments to the way you train and eat if necessary. 

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

What body type group do you think you fall into? Are there any changes to your workouts or nutrition that you can make that might be more aligned with your soma type? 

Justin

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Photo credit: Super hero bodytype image

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