When I was seventeen years old, I was just getting into the fitness scene. My father had just recently died, and I made it my mission to be as fit as he was. I hit the gym hard, trying to transform myself into a ripped, skinny, surfer dude. The trouble was, my father had been built like a giant Spartan warrior. Seriously, he terrified any boy who came to our house asking to see either one of my sisters.
The look I wanted to achieve was not going to happen. Genetics wouldn't allow it. Of course, being a determined and illogical teenager, I worked for two years to achieve this impossible look before I finally gave up and began to eat and train specifically for my body type.
I learned a valuable lesson very early in my pursuit for fitness: we all have genetic limitations and we must respect the body type we have been given in this world. If we understand what we are, then we can work to use that to our advantage, instead of trying to become something we are not. Once I understood and embraced that I had a "mesomorph" body type, my training and diet refocused and quickly began to show results.
My mother, unlike my father and me, is a classic "ectomorph" body type—tall and skinny—and in my family, you can clearly see how each child acquired either one body type or the other (… except for my youngest brother, who is a hybrid of both of my parent's body types: we call him The Mutant.)
Now, what does this mean for you? Well, unfortunately, we are conditioned to think that we should all look like the models we see on magazine covers and on TV… but the fact is, almost every single top fashion runway model is an ectomorph body type. If you do not share that body type, then do not take these specimens as motivation for your goals!
Know your body type, and set your goals accordingly, and you will enjoy much more consistent and sustainable results.
The Three Body Types
Human beings tend to fall into one of three different possible body types: the endomorph, the mesomorph, and the ectomorph.
- Naturally higher levels of body fat
- Round or pear shaped bodies, wide hips
- Slow metabolisms
- Very sensitive to carbohydrates (insulin-resistance issues)
- Tendency to lose fat slowly
- Respond better to diets with high protein and very low carbs
- Ability to build muscle fairly quickly
- Naturally lean
- Naturally muscular (even before working out)
- Broad shoulders and small waist
- Efficient metabolisms
- Efficient insulin response (tolerates carbs well when active)
- Gains strength and muscle mass easily
- Losing body fat is relatively easy
- Can gain fat easier than ectomorphs
- Skinny /"lanky"
- Long limbs
- "Slight" build and small joints
- Naturally lean
- Fast metabolism
- High-carbohydrate diets are tolerated well
- Sometimes difficult to maintain weight
- Gaining muscle is a challenge
- Prone to lower back and knee injuries
Ladies, do you think that Jennifer Aniston or Jessica Biel have a great body? Of course they do! They are mesomorph body types who have trained hard to achieve their goals. They have also trained and dieted specifically to compliment their body types, and it shows. They always look conditioned and healthy, because these girls are not trying to be a body type which they are not.
Guys, do you think Mark Wahlberg or Chris Hemsworth (from the film, "Thor") have great physiques? I sure do. They are also mesomorphs, and no matter how much money they have or how many supplements they take, they will never look like a ripped surfer dude. If they attempted this transformation, these guys would just end up looking like malnourished mini-bodybuilders.
Russell Crowe is said to be an endomorph, and we all saw his muscular and lean physique in the film "Gladiator." You may not be able to defy genetics, but you can certainly make some impressive transformations regardless of your body type. For all you male endos out there, that's a physique you could aim to achieve.
For women, I think we can all agree that Marilyn Monroe and Beyonce have beautiful physiques. Well, they are endomorphs, and this should make you realize that you can achieve a fantastic looking, healthy body if you embrace and enhance what you were designed to be.
So, what body type are you? Look at you and your parents' physiques when they were between the ages of fifteen to twenty. You are likely one or the other, or a mix of both. Though it is possible for people to carry a recessive gene, normally two endos will not make an ecto, and so on.
Can an endomorph get lean? Absolutely. Can ectomorphs get fat? They sure can. The human body is an incredible organism, and we can really make some amazing transformations, good and bad. The question is: how badly do you want it, or how badly will you treat it?
For the Endomorphs
We are going to start with endomorphic body types, as this is the body type that has to be the most conscientious about their nutritional intake in regards to energy levels, physique transformation, and performance.
Assuming that you are an endo who would like to lose body fat, and you are not an athlete or distance runner/cycler, the only starchy carbohydrate portion that you should consume in a day—maximum 40 grams per serving—are with the meal after your workout, ideally within 60-90 minutes of training.
The reason for this is that you do not have an efficient insulin response, meaning that when you eat carbs, your body does not effectively convert them into usable energy, and it is very likely going to slow you down and become stored as body fat. You must exploit the most insulin-friendly times of your day in order to maximize your carbohydrate's effectiveness—and this is directly after a resistance training workout.
If you are a mostly sedentary person with an endomorphic body type, with a nine-to-five job, who squeezes in only one hour of physical activity a few times per week, you do not need more than 80-100g of carbs daily. To give you an example of how little that is, it is one glass of orange juice and one slice of bread with a little jam. As you can probably guess, juice, bread, and jam are three things that should not be on your regular diet—but it is an example of how quickly carbs add up.
Endomorphs specifically need to be aware of their fruit intake. Fructose can become damaging to the insulin system, especially for endos who already tend to have insulin resistance issues. The only fruits that I recommend for endos (and only once their intestinal health has been repaired) are small portions of berries, grapefruit and other citrus fruits, or fresh apricots and peaches. Lemon and lime is always fine. Dried fruit is always out of the question.
For the Mesomorphs
Mesomorph body types typically have more freedom in their diet due to the fact that they have more efficient insulin systems and generally have a faster metabolism.
Very important to acknowledge is that mesomorphs naturally have a significant amount of muscle mass, which acts as its own metabolic enhancer. When a meso wants to get lean and toned, the task can be handled in most cases with a 45-minute high-intensity weight training exercise program, four days per week, and with a clean diet including high protein intake, and moderate healthy fats and carbohydrate intake.
Many mesos do not need to do cardio to lose fat, and an intense workout routine is more than enough to stimulate muscle hypertrophy and efficient fat burning.
Of course, as a meso gets leaner and aims for very low body fat levels (under 13 percent for a man, or under 18 percent for women), then I recommend they add cardio workouts to their program, so that they do not need to be in such a dramatic calorie deficit in order to achieve their goal.
For the Ectomorphs
An ectomorph who wants significant muscle mass will face a challenge that is similar, yet opposite, to the one faced by an endomorph who wants to be very lean. Both are absolutely possible, but a special approach needs to be made in order to achieve this goal.
An ectomorph is what we refer to in the gym world as a "hardgainer," as they typically have a difficult time putting on muscle mass.
For the men or women who consider themselves "skinny" or "lanky" and want to put on muscle mass, I'll recommend that you generously increase your daily protein intake (shakes are a great way to supplement extra protein intake) and be sure to consume a portion of carbs (about 40 grams) with the meal before training and immediately after your resistance-training workouts.
If you are an ectomorph who wants to lose stubborn body fat, then you should consider building a little extra muscle mass as well. Having additional muscle mass actually requires more energy to sustain, and it will help you to stay leaner with a more maintainable regimen. I recommend that female and male ectomorphs who want to get lean apply themselves to a resistance-training specific routine where the focus should be adding muscle. By implementing an intense weight-lifting program combined with a clean diet, ectomorphs will soon notice that they will sufficiently lose fat and positively re-shape their bodies. This is the ideal situation for both men and women ectomorphs, as they often benefit from switching their mindset from "burn" to "build".
All body types benefit from following a generally healthy lifestyle diet—natural foods, lots of fresh veggies, healthy fats, and adequate protein intake. But to reach specific goals, each body type has to manipulate their carbohydrate and total calorie intake according to the parameters that fit their body type.
Eating according to your body type provides you with the opportunity to maximize your physique transformation results and increase your energy levels, and it will also allow you to maintain your results with relative ease.
If you have been following a balanced diet that you feel is not providing you with the results that you expected, I suggest that you take into consideration your body type, and adjust your diet accordingly. It's very possible that you have been making simple, little "mistakes" in your diet, only because you were not aware of the specific dietary needs of your body type. You will be amazed at how fast you can change your body and improve your mood and energy levels, simply by providing your body type with exactly what needs to perform its very best!