When embarking on your fitness journey it can very much feel intimidating and confusing with the sheer volume of conflicting advice and programs aimed at helping your reach your goals. The main reason for this is the great genetic diversity we humans exhibit as a race. One piece of information or technique might be a key component to one individual, but provide next to no benefit to another in terms of reaching their goals, whether it is building muscle or losing fat. A great factor in this is the difference in people’s body structure and genetics which can be split into three different body types. The different body types require different training and nutritional styles to achieve maximum effectiveness. Determining your body type is an important factor in finding the appropriate training and nutritional plan that would give you the most benefit when it comes to losing fat and building muscle, as following advice for the wrong body type could greatly hinder your progress. The three main body types are ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph. However, these body types are not exclusive and only a few people are likely to find themselves as 100% one type. It is far more likely that most people are a combination of two, with one being more prominent. Using the information below you will be able to identify the body type that describes you the best, along with the relevant training and nutritional styles to determine which focus path you should take.
An ectomorph is easy to spot, they are the typical skinny guy and classified as the classic hard gainer. Ectomorphs find it very difficult to put on any form of weight, whether as fat or as muscle, and have a light build with naturally very lean muscle. Ectomorphs tend to have longer and thinner limbs, particularly forearms and claves, than the other two body types. They also have narrower shoulders and a more ‘delicate’ bone structure.
Ectomorphs have extremely fast metabolisms, which means that they burn calories incredibly fast. In order to combat this they need to consume large amounts of calories, which can be an issue as they often have fairly low appetites. This is where supplements can be huge advantage to help piling in the calories. Calories dense foods with a lower volume, such as nut butters and whole eggs, can also work wonders here. However, there is one advantage to this as it means that they can shed body fat quickly once they have built up sufficient muscle mass, becoming the envy of the other two body types.
Gaining muscle as an ectomorph is not easy, hence the term ‘hard gainer’. The number one priority for them is to consume enough calories, and then focus on the big compound exercises. The big three moves are key here, bench press, deadlifts and squats. Training routines will need to heavily focus on these multi-joint compound moves, with much less focus on isolation exercises. Also, cardiovascular exercise will need to be minimized, you want to keep hold of as many of those precious calories as possible. When it comes to ectomorphs, you definitely need to eat big and lift big to get big!
Mesomorphs have arguably the best genetic potential when it comes to bodybuilding or strength based sports. Mesomorphs find it easy to both gain and lose weight, and have a naturally muscular, broad and athletic physique. They are naturally strong with broad shoulders, thick arms and legs, giving them the perfect base to build lots of muscle.
The mesomorph body type responds the best to weight training, and will find it easy to pack on muscle fairly quickly. Mesomorphs have the best level of leeway when it comes to training, but power and strength moves paired with isolation exercises will work the best for them. Some high intensity cardio would also benefit them as they do tend to put on body fat easier than ectomorphs, which also means that they must watch their calorie intake a little more.
When it comes to diet mesomorphs again have the greatest leeway. Concentrating on high quantities of quality protein with adequate amounts of carbs and fats will be most beneficial. However, care must be taken to not over consume calories to maintain a lean and muscular physique, but mesomorphs will find it hard not to put on muscle. Supplements such as creatine, beta-alanine, taurine and whey isolates will enable them to train at maximum intensity.
Endomorphs have the greatest ability to gain and store body fat of any of the body types. They typically have shorter, stockier physiques with much high levels of body fat. Evolutionary speaking, this body type is the ultimate survivor able to withstand periods of scarce food when their fat storing metabolisms increased survivability. However when it comes to fitness and diet, this is body type will find it the hardest to maintain and control a desirable bodyweight.
Endomorphs will find it very difficult to build muscle and strip fat at the same time, so initially the main focus should be in reducing bodyweight using high intensity interval cardiovascular exercise alongside regular weight training sessions. Weight training has the advantage that it continues to burn calories long after training has finished. Focusing on consuming most of your calories, especially carbohydrates, around your workout will ensure they are used strictly for recovery and repair as opposed to being stored as fat. Once body fat levels are sufficiently low, focus can be shifted to concentrate on building muscle.
Consuming plenty of protein with moderate fats and lower carbs is the best method for endomorphs. Obtaining your carbs and fibre from plenty of green vegetables is an excellent way to kick start the fat burning process. They need to be expending more calories than they are consuming through food in order to facilitate the body’s use of fats reserves as fuel source. Consuming plenty of protein will ensure that lean muscle can be built and maintained even at lower calorie levels. Endomorph body types need to be the strictest with regards to food, the genetics that made them evolutionary badasses are now working against them.
BSc Sports Biomedicine and Nutrition