“Ectomorphs are more suited for high-intensity interval training, while mesomorphs should focus most of their cardio efforts on low-intensity, steady activity types, like brisk walking.” ?
Fitness is all about tailoring your workout programming and dietary planning based on your individual preferences and goals. So, it only makes sense for you to account for your body type (technical term: somatotype), right?
Think about it. Let's say you're a typical "hard gainer" (i.e., ectomorph). But, then, eating and training the same way as a "natural athlete" (i.e., mesomorph) wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do, would it?
Well. The truth is a little more complicated for that – and warrants a deeper dive into the subject. So, let’s get started.
Somatotype definition: ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph
A bit of background on “somatotype”. Dr. W.H. Sheldon theorized its concept way back in the early 1940s, hypothesizing that there are three generalized body types that people are predetermined to have: endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph:
- Endomorph: Have a larger bone structure with wider hips, narrower shoulders, and more pear-shaped bodies
- Mesomorph: Naturally muscular, athletic builds
- Ectomorph: Tend to be lean and slender with a small to medium frame, plus relatively long limbs
Dr. Sheldon believed that a person’s somatotype was unchangeable – and that certain physiological and psychological (i.e., personality) characteristics are determined by whichever an individual aligns to.
Unfortunately, look at this from a 21st-century lens, it's pretty much evident just how many things Dr. Sheldon got wrong:
- Body types aren’t set in stone: Someone who looks like an ectomorph can put on muscle mass in all the “right places” to look like a mesomorph over time. If this were not possible, personal trainers and fitness influencers alike would all go out of business.
- Personality is the result of various factors: More specifically, the 4 major determinants of an individual’s personality include heredity, physical environment, culture, and particular experiences. A person's specific "body type" ultimately has little to no relation to their personality.
- Physiological characteristics determine “body type”: And not the other way round (i.e., body type influences physiological characteristics). This is a super important distinction to keep in mind as you continue reading this article.
What does body type have to do with anything?
Right. So, if every single “component” of Dr. Sheldon’s hypothesis is wrong … then why are we still talking about somatotypes in the 21st century?
Answer: it comes down to the same reason we still believe in fad diets (think ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, paleo) – somatotyping seems like a “quick-fix” solution.
One that’ll give you results ASAP without the typical, associated effort necessary. Search for “somatotype training/nutrition” and observe how it’s usually marketed.
In most cases, you’ll come across the following wordings:
- Work with your body, not against it
- Train according to your body to cut down on the time it takes for you to see results
- Failed to transform your physique? You’re eating and/or training the wrong way
Unfortunately, much like fad diets, all somatotyping does is distract you from what’s truly necessary for a body transformation.
Ultimately, all your body type is right now – be it ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph) is just that. A representation of the current sum of your physical, dietary, and lifestyle choices up to a point in time.
In other words: there is zero evidence to suggest that an "ectomorph-looking" individual will, for sure, face difficulties putting on muscle mass.
But don’t be mistaken.
There will indeed be individuals whose muscles respond well to training; and others who’d see a slower rate of hypertrophy. Only, the point we’re trying to drive across here is that it isn’t always apparent from an individual’s current appearance.
Body type-specific workout or nutrition plans are scams
So, forget everything you've learned so far about somatotypes, including "official recommendations" like:
- Mesomorphs “typically do best on a mixed diet, consisting of balanced carbs, proteins, and fats. A macronutrient split of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat can work well”.
- Ectomorphs “typically do best on a higher fat and protein intake with carbohydrate intake being controlled and properly timed. A nutrient distribution for this body type might be around 25% carbs, 35% protein, and 40% fat.”
- And so on …
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't tailor your training and nutrition plan to yourself – you should.
Wait, what? You should tailor how you exercise and eat based on nearly anything but your current body type, including your goals, lifestyle, and preferences.
But, of course, the thing that takes precedence will be your goals. So instead of framing it as "I want to look like a mesomorph", approach it in a more helpful manner: "I wish to gain muscle mass." And we all know what's needed for muscle growth, right?
To get you started, that'll be (first and foremost) training hard in the gym, eating adequate amounts of protein, scheduling sufficient rest days, and sleeping enough hours nightly.
What about the exact macronutrient split? Well, this might shock you, but it doesn't matter.
Instead, the two things you need to care about are your daily calorie "budget" (FYI: you should eat in a slight calorie surplus) and protein requirements.
You can split the remaining macros between carbs and fats in a ratio that makes sense for you – and that you perform best at.
Oh, and if you’re looking to lose weight? Then check out this article; we cover the step-by-step process of losing fat in lots of detail.
Bottom line? Knowing your somatotype tells you very little about what your diet or training program should look like. There's no point debating with yourself, "Am I more ectomorph or endomorph?" every time you catch a reflection of your body in a mirror.
What you should spend more time on, instead, is training hard. That’s important regardless of whether you’re trying to build muscle, lose weight, or maintain your current physique.
And guess who can help you with that? Yep: GymStreak – the AI-powered personal trainer app that's got your back.
Stagner, R. (1937). Psychology of personality (p. 465). McGraw-Hill.
THE 3 SOMATOTYPES. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.uh.edu/fitness/comm_educators/3_somatotypesNEW.htm