BODY TYPES: HOW TO TRAIN AND EAT FOR THEM

Do you have trouble losing body fat yet seem to gain it after even the smallest slip-up in your diet? Or does it feel like you can eat for days without gaining an ounce?

It could have something to do with your current body type. But is it really that simple? Let’s explore them more in-depth and analyze how they relate to overall body composition. 

What Is My Body Type?

Body type, or somatotype, refers to the belief that people are born with one of three generalized body compositions. Dr. W.H. Sheldon proposed the idea in the early 1940s, calling the three somatotypes endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph.

It was once thought that a person’s somatotype could not be changed and that certain physiological and psychological features were even dictated by which one a person aligned with.

Endomorphs are always rounded and soft, mesomorphs are always square and muscular, and ectomorphs are always slender and fine-boned, according to Sheldon.

The names were chosen because he believed the predominate traits of each somatotype were set in stone, derived from pre-birth preferential development of either the endodermal, mesodermal, or ectodermal embryonic layers.

He theorized that these body types directly influenced a person’s personality, and the names were chosen because he believed the predominate traits of each somatotype were set in stone, derived from pre-birth preferential development of either the encoder

The Body Type Spectrum

So then why are we even discussing this topic? Because while the notion of a predetermined body composition looks far-fetched through a 21st-century lens, many of the physiological markers and observations associated with each somatotype do actually exist in the greater population.

However, the modern understanding is flipped from Sheldon’s original concept; it’s our physiological characteristics that determine the current somatotype, not the somatotype that determines our collective physiologies.

No one exists within purely one somatotype; instead, we are all constantly in flux and fall uniquely on a spectrum somewhere between all three.

How to Identify Your Body Type

In light of all of this, fitness practitioners would benefit from knowing a client’s present body type. A basic examination of a client’s body composition can rapidly uncover the many physiological issues that they may be experiencing, allowing you to develop solutions that will best treat each one. Determine which of the following somatotype qualities a person most closely resembles:

Endomorphic

  • Bone structures are stockier, with a broader belly and hips.
  • More fat is carried throughout the body.
  • Gains weight quickly and sheds it slowly.
  • Slow metabolism; can be caused by chronic diseases (e.g., thyroid shortage, diabetes), but it’s also a result of a sedentary lifestyle and a chronically positive daily energy balance.

Mesomorphic

  • Medium bone structure with shoulders wider than the hips.
  • Developed athletic musculature.
  • Efficient metabolism; mass gain and loss both happen with relative ease.

Ectomorphic

  • More narrow shoulders and hips in respect to height.
  • Relatively smaller muscles in respect to bone length.
  • Naturally fast metabolism makes it difficult for many to gain mass.
  • Potentially indicative of disordered eating (e.g., anorexia, bulimia) when BMI is ≤17.

Consider the structural and metabolic obstacles that come with each somatotype after you’ve determined which one a customer belongs to. Then, to overcome those obstacles, customize your workout and dietary counseling. This will prioritize the development of the necessary foundation that each client demands.

The initial, overarching goal of “getting in shape” for the typical new client will essentially come down to a desire to transform their current-state body type toward more mesomorphic physiology.

There will always be exceptions to this rule – endomorphs who want to get even bigger to compete in strongman events and ectomorphs who want to stay thin and trim for ultramarathons – but it holds true for the vast majority of clients seeking the assistance of a Certified Personal Trainer or Nutrition Coach.

In light of that average goal, a client who is predominantly an ectomorph, for example, will most likely require dietary and training solutions that emphasize muscle protein synthesis and overall mass gain, whereas typical endomorphic clients will benefit far more from frequent metabolic training and lower calorie intakes.

So, take a look at each person, assess whether you’re utilizing the proper methods for the body type they have now, and apply the recommendations below to better adapt your programs for maximum results.

Your Body Type Is Not a Life Sentence.

Body types give a generalized image of how a person’s physiology is functioning in their current state, as they are recognized and accepted today. The observable somatotype is the current sum of their physical, gastronomic, and lifestyle decisions up to that point in time, plus a multitude of uncontrolled elements impacted by both heredity and the environment.

A person who has easy access to high-quality food makes appropriate diet choices on a regular basis, is free of chronic disease, and consistently trains at increasingly greater intensities will always have a more functional, muscular, and leaner body composition.

On the other hand, someone who spends their days sitting and eating a lot of junk food will almost certainly develop the “soft roundness” described in Sheldon’s original classification of endomorphs.

But keep in mind that your body type isn’t a life sentence. Personal trainers, health coaches, and nutrition experts would all be out of work if this were the case.

At its most basic level, the fitness industry is all about teaching individuals how to use tools they can control (such as better lifestyle, food, and exercise routines) to overcome barriers posed by hereditary and environmental elements over which they have no control.

Your body type will shift based on your lifestyle, activity, and diet modifications. Someone on the DASH diet will have a different composition than someone who doesn’t have a diet preference. 

This notion is made clear when looking at the average physiques of elite athletes in different sports, where consistent training and diet standards lead to similar average body compositions grouped across the somatotype spectrum.

Just to reiterate, a body type is not a life sentence. Just like a body mass index range isn’t a clearcut indication that someone is obese or underweight. There are many metrics at work. 

How to Improve Your Body Composition

Physical training and regular, habitual dietary modifications have a major influence on improving body composition, according to research.

Metabolic diseases like hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are entirely treatable and improvable with contemporary medicine, while chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes are also manageable and, in many cases, reversible with changes in diet and exercise habits.

Simply type “[exercise/diet] impact on body composition” into your favorite search engine, and you’ll be instantly overwhelmed with the vast amount of research that spans the previous century.

The human body is extremely adaptive, and it strives for homeostasis (i.e., balance) in its surroundings at all times. However, breaking previous routines that the body has become accustomed to can take some time.

This truth – that change takes time and consistency – is most likely what drives many people to accept that they are trapped in a somatotype; change is difficult, and it’s often far easier and more convenient to blame one’s body dissatisfaction on things outside one’s own control.

However, this is also where Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches have the best chance of forming long-term client connections.

Muscle is gained at a healthy rate of one pound per month, and fat is eliminated at a healthy rate of one pound per week. The new body that is symptomatic of all those changes will eventually become the “new normal” after a desirable body composition has been achieved through lifestyle modification, physical training, and healthy dietary changes – and, more importantly, when those new habits are adopted and maintained permanently.

Metabolisms and appetites adjust to new energy intakes, physical activity becomes a natural part of the day instead of a chore, and someone who was predominately ectomorphic or endomorphic will eventually see themselves displaying far more mesomorphic traits over time.

How to Train Endomorphs

Endomorphs should focus their training on fat loss approaches until they acquire a desirable body composition and functional cardiorespiratory efficiency.

Resistance exercise should be utilized to build muscles and stabilize joints in order to enable more efficient mobility in other areas of life, but for this demographic, cardiorespiratory improvement and fat loss are most important.

Work through OPT Phases 1 and 2 in the gym, but keep the majority of your workouts focused on metabolic conditioning. Short rest times, resistance exercise circuits, plyometrics (within client tolerance), and as much steady-state cardio as feasible are all recommended.

Endomorphic bodies will benefit from consistent anaerobic and aerobic training to improve their metabolic efficiency and increase their daily energy requirements.

Additionally, encourage mostly endomorphic clients to boost their non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) factor as much as possible by moving more during non-gym hours.

The most crucial thing for these people to begin conquering their metabolic difficulties is to commit to a less sedentary lifestyle in general.

Because of their slower metabolisms (independent of the underlying cause) and a surplus of stored energy (body fat), nutritional solutions for primarily endomorphic people should focus on strategies that maximize fat loss while simultaneously supporting and even increasing lean muscle mass.

A diet that is both low in calories and high in protein is optimal for this. Diets containing as much as 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (and occasionally even more) have been demonstrated to be safe and effective for maintaining existing muscle tissue during periods of calorie restriction and weight loss.

After ensuring that daily protein needs are satisfied, the remaining calories can come from whatever combination of carbohydrates and fats the individual tolerates best. Some people may manage a very low-carb “ketogenic” diet that helps them burn fat more efficiently throughout the day, while others can get hypoglycemia and the horrible sensations that come with it if they don’t eat enough carbohydrates.

This is particularly true during exercises when carbs are required to fuel the higher intensities required for cardiorespiratory progress.

Regardless of whether carbs or fats are the preferred energy source, the most important thing is to determine the client’s total daily calorie requirement and keep food intake a little lower (while still providing plenty of protein) so that the body remains in a negative energy balance with minimal muscle catabolism.

TLDR:

  • Maximize calorie burn and the improvement of metabolic efficiency by primarily using high-intensity, metabolic training techniques.
  • Consume a high-protein diet with balanced carbs and fats that maintains a slight negative energy balance.

If you are an ectomorph and want to gain muscle, check your nutrition. Here are some great recipes for gaining muscle to help you reach your goals. 

How to Train an Ectomorphic

Ectomorphs confront the opposite set of obstacles as people who are predominantly endomorphic. Because of the aforementioned causes, most ectomorphic customers have evolved bodies with extremely active metabolisms and “lanky” bone structures, making it difficult for them to gain and maintain the bulk.

As a result, exercise strategies for hypertrophy and maximal strength should take precedence, with a much lower emphasis on cardiorespiratory training to reduce overall energy use.

After working through the first phase of the OPT model, average clients in this category will gain the most from Phases 3 and 4.

Hypertrophy and maximal strength resistance training are largely anaerobic in nature, and when combined with longer rest times, will not result in increased calorie burn in the short term, as will more intense, fast-paced workout programs. This form of lifting will help ectomorphs build up their body mass more effectively when combined with a constantly positive energy balance.

Ectomorphic bodies should eat a mass gain-focused diet to go along with their mass gain-focused resistance workout. These people burn through energy sources more quickly than the average person, therefore plenty of calories will be required.

Low-carb, fat-loss-focused diets are not recommended here, and in some situations, ectomorphic clients may benefit from incorporating “mass gainer” nutritional drinks into their diets.

Ectomorphs, like endomorphic bodies that are attempting to become more mesomorphic, require a lot of protein. Daily protein intake of 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight has been demonstrated to be ideal for muscle building, with some individuals requiring as much as 2.2 grams.

That protein should then be consumed every three hours to ensure that MPS signals (derived from the amino acid leucine) are maximized throughout the day. To reduce the fasting window, have an extra protein drink immediately before bed.

TLDR:

  • Maximize muscle gain using lower-intensity hypertrophy and maximal strength resistance training with longer rest periods.
  • Consume a high-protein diet with balanced carbs and fats that maintains a positive energy balance.

How to Train Mesomorphic

It’s impossible to deny that mesomorphs have it a little easier than others. Their metabolisms are generally efficient, they have functional – if not athletic – muscular mass, and they’re basically ready to tackle any fitness goal with no foundational training.

But keep in mind that while some people appear slender and fit with no effort, they are the exception rather than the rule. Most people with a more mesomorphic body composition have developed it throughout the course of their lives as a result of a variety of causes.

Hard work and discipline are the most important characteristics for officially endo- or ectomorphic individuals who have modified their lifestyles, diets, and fitness.

A client with a mesomorphic body type is ready to progress to more advanced forms of power (such as SAQ training), athletic, and sport-specific training. Diets for mesomorphic bodies, on the other hand, should be customized to specific health and fitness goals.

Depending on the intensity of the workout program, between 1.2 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight should be ingested, with the remaining calories coming from a combination of healthy carbs and fats.

The daily calorie load can then be increased or decreased to gain or lose weight, depending on whether changes in body composition are still desired.

TLDR:

  • Use OPT Phases that are directly related to the client’s objectives.
  • Increase or decrease daily calories to preferentially regulate body composition with positive, neutral, or negative energy balances, eating specifically for fitness objectives and activity.
  • If muscle gain is required, increase protein consumption to as much as 2.2 grammes per kilogramme of body weight; otherwise, keep protein intake closer to the FDA recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grammes per kilogramme of body weight.

Related:

How to Lose Weight Quickly and Naturally

The Importance of a Well-Balanced Diet in Maintaining Energy

THE FITNESS INDUSTRY’S EVOLUTION

Healthy Living in Today’s World

How to Stay Fit Despite a Busy Schedule

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