A healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy to pursue. Exercising and eating well can be expensive, time-consuming, and tiring. Worst of all, it’s pretty frustrating when you dedicate your time and energy to it, only to see small or no improvement.
Ideally, you’d hire a professional to do the heavy lifting (not literally, I’m afraid) and pick the best programme and diet for you. In truth, many of us lack the funds for a personal trainer and have to resort to random workout programmes and nutrition plans that either overwhelm us or prove fruitless. A few lucky individuals may find the perfect physical activity and diet, but a lot more simply decide “this fitness thing” isn’t for them after all.
Nothing can substitute in-depth professional knowledge, but a basic understanding of your strengths and weaknesses can give you the tools to assess whether a certain fitness class or food choice will give you the results you’re looking for.
Although each body is unique, some of us share common physical characteristics, such as a propension to store more fat or more muscle mass. Taking these elements into account along with similarities between bone structures, scientists have defined three body types or somatotypes: the ectomorph, the endomorph, and the mesomorph. No one is 100% one type, but rather a combination of all three, with one of them being predominant.
For this reason, the science behind somatotypes can’t provide a perfect analysis of your own individual body. Nevertheless, understanding your somatotype can be a great starting point to select a workout programme and a diet you’ll want to stick to instead of a “too much pain and no gain” one you’ll abandon the next day.
On average, mesomorphs respond fast to changes to their diet and exercise, putting on weight and losing it without much of an effort compared to the other types. They have a generous amount of muscle and moderate to low levels of body fat. They have an overall muscular but lithe, athletic physique, with strong legs and shoulders a little wider or about as wide as their hips.
They can afford to be less careful with their diet than endomorphs, although they can store excess body fat more easily than ectomorphs. Plenty of protein and a balanced combination of carbohydrates and fat, without excluding foods like pizza and ice-cream, will likely aid their mass gains.
If you’re a mesomorph, you’ll do great at almost any activity, especially those requiring power and strength. Good choices would be resistance training and intense sports like football, boxing, and martial arts.
Endomorphs store high amounts of both body fat and muscle mass, so they appear larger and heavier than mesomorphs and ectomorphs, with broad hips and shoulders, and short limbs.
A common misconception is that being an endomorph equals being overweight, but you could be overweight regardless of body type. While it’s true endomorphs can accumulate fat more easily than other types, they only need to pay a bit more attention to their training and nutrition to maintain a healthy body fat level. In general, they tend to benefit from even amounts of protein, carbs and fat, or slightly higher quantities of healthy fat than carbs. An occasional indulgence can also be a healthful complement to your nutritional habits, so don’t take dessert off the table!
If you’re an endomorph, your best choices for physical activity would be sports like wrestling, powerlifting, and rugby, in which your bulk and muscle-building abilities are your biggest advantage. In case none of the above strike your fancy, have a crack at heavy resistance training for the major muscle groups.
To stay lean, remember cardio is your friend. Quick HIIT workouts on a treadmill or a bike will get the job done in less time than regular steady state cardio like running for miles. If you love your dumbbells and barbells more than you’ll ever do your elliptical, circuits with weights and short rest periods are also a great idea to boost your metabolism.
Ectomorphs are usually tall and slim, with narrow shoulders and hips. They have low amounts of fat and muscle and struggle to put on weight. For this reason, they’re less strong than a mesomorph or an endomorph. To increase their strength and keep their energy levels high, they generally need more carbohydrates than the other two types as their metabolism is quicker in comparison.
They’re also faster than mesomorphs and endomorphs due to their slim frame, which makes them suited for running, dancing, and aerobics. Provided they consume enough food to match the increase in energy expenditure, ectomorphs will thrive on cardio.
However, due to your height and relative muscular weakness, you can be prone to postural problems, so you’d do well to incorporate some light flexibility training practices like yoga and Pilates into your workout programme.
Although the technique of somatotyping has many variables and potential inaccuracies, it can still provide a helpful framework to figure out a way to stay in shape that works for your body. I know it certainly helped me when I decided to “get serious” about my fitness.
At the time I was running four times a week because it was inexpensive and easy, but all I got was the odd ache in my feet. Almost by accident, I tried 10 minutes of resistance training once day and got more out of that than an hour on the treadmill. Looking into somatotyping, I discovered I might be a mesomorph. Eventually, I stopped running and transitioned to strength training with a bit of cardio a couple of times a week. I also upped my protein and carbs to gain muscle instead of following energy-leeching low-fat and low-carb nutrition plans like a fitness zombie.
Not only did my physical appearance and overall health improve… All of a sudden, fitness was fun!
In Future Episodes:
Let’s talk about fun HIIT. Yes, seriously!
Which body type sounds like yours?
This article was also published on The Galleon News.
A personal trainer who likes superheroes, bread, lifting weights, and studying “fitness stuff”.
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