The concept of somatotypes (body type) was introduced in the 1940’s by a genius named William Sheldon. Since then it has been modified and adapted, but scientifically speaking the original theory still stands us in good stead.
There are three categories of body type: Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. Everyone is unique and most of us will have attributes of two or all three of the body types, but Sheldon devised a plan for this. You can evaluate the degree to which you fit each body type on a scale of 1-7 (1 is the minimum and 7 is the maximum). From this we can establish the best diet and training regime to help you achieve your goal physique.
Those who fall into this category are naturally lean with very little body fat but also have a low muscle mass. They find it difficult to gain weight and have slight frames with narrow shoulders and hips. This body type is most suited to endurance events, pole vaulting and gymnastics where lean and light frames are optimal. An ectomorph is least suited to power and strength events (because of their slim build), although there are those who have worked hard and succeeded in this field too!
Physical characteristics of a mesomorph include broad shoulders, muscular limbs, narrow hips and minimal body fat. They have a narrow form from front to back but are wider across their body. If your body is 100% mesomorph, congratulations! Those with a mesomorph body type are considered the most athletic and most sexually appealing. Unfortunately for us, only 1-2% of the population are lucky enough to be a 7 on this scale. They are suited to strength, speed and agility based sports although they are typically a strong candidate in physical activity of any kind! Those with this body type find it relatively easy to gain and lose weight.
If your body type is endomorph, you are naturally pear shaped. Wide hips and shoulders and a high fat body composition are also signs you fall into this category. Those with this shape are suited to strength events such as powerlifting. It is easy for an endomorph to gain weight but difficult for them to cut weight. Unfortunately, they also lose condition quickly if training ceases.
You have probably read through the above categories and convinced yourself that you are mesomorph. I know I have. However, in order to make the most of the body you have, it is important to be honest with yourself so that you can start an effective diet and training regime. The fact that we are all different makes life far more interesting and you shouldn’t be striving to be another body type. What you should be doing is maximising the potential of the body type you already have.
Place yourself on the diagram below (honestly) and then read the advice below.
Training for Ectomorph
The first thing to consider here is how much cardio you are doing. If you find it very difficult to gain mass and you are running a mini marathon on the treadmill at every gym session, this is probably the reason why. If you are naturally very slender, try to keep cardio to a minimum. I would suggest a moderate pace of 30 minutes 3 times per week is sufficient to maintain cardiovascular health whilst preventing those calories from being burnt up! Of course if you are an endurance athlete then you have the perfect physique for it and should continue with your training as normal.
If you want to gain mass, strength training is a vital part of your gym workout. Begin your training regime by focusing on heavy compound movements such as squats and deadlifts. This will engage many muscle groups and prevent you from spending long periods of time working each muscle group. An ectomorph has a high metabolism so the faster you can finish your workout and get yourself a protein shake, the better! You need to work your muscles hard and allow yourself sufficient rest between reps so that you can continue to utilise a high level of resistance in your workouts. You will begin to notice the initial gains and can introduce isolated sets to each muscle group into your workouts.
Diet for Ectomorph
If you want to gain muscle mass, you should be eating every 2-3 hours. Make sure you consume three meals and eat 2-3 snacks throughout the course of the day to avoid periods of fasting. A high protein diet combined with lots of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats is a must! Even though you can probably get away with eating as much junk food as you like, it will not help you gain mass in the way you would like.
Supplements are a great way to introduce the extra macronutrients you will need to see the gains you want. A mass gainer with breakfast will add ~400 calories to your intake and provide you with the nutrition you need in the most efficient way. It is unlikely that you will be able to get the calories you require purely from food, although I have met skinny people who eat a ridiculous amount!
Training for Mesomorph
Fortunately for you, most training regimes that you try will produce results! Moderate strength training combined with cardio for 30 minutes 3 times each week will help you maintain your physique. Those with this body type respond very well to high volume strength training with short rest periods. If you wish to maintain weight, 3-4 days of training each week will suffice. If you wish to alter your weight, you should be working out 5-6 days each week. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommend that you should always have 1 day of rest each week.
If you want to gain mass, the core part of training should be resistance. Try 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps with incremental weight. Perform 3-4 exercises per muscle group to make the most of your sessions.
If you want to lose weight, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts. If you find extended cardio particularly boring, boot camp style classes and body weight exercises work especially well for your somatotype.
Diet for Mesomorph
Maintaining a healthy balanced diet is important to all somatotypes. This body type gains and loses weight easily and so may find it a challenge to simply maintain weight. A 40% protein, 40% carbohydrate and 20% fat diet should help maintain weight. If you want to increase lean mass, increase your protein and complex carbohydrate intake. If you want to lose weight, reduce your calorie intake (evenly) by 200-500 calories. Avoid crash diets as they will only cause your weight to yo-yo which is extremely detrimental to your health. You may find yourself drawn to fad diets as the results you see are likely to be fast, but they will be short-lived so try to avoid them.
To promote optimum body composition, you should only consume enough carbohydrate to fuel your workouts. Any extra will lead to weight gain. Try protein shakes post-workout to optimise your resistance training as well. Optimum Health Ultimate Whey Protein and Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey are both excellent options!
Training for Endomorph
People with this body type tend to respond better to short/intense bursts of cardio although in order to lose weight, you should be completing 45-60 minutes of cardio, 5 days per week. Mix up your gym sessions so that you complete 15 minutes of intense cardio, followed by resistance training and then go back to cardio etc. Many people with excess weight tend to avoid resistance training as they are under the impression it will bulk them up. This is far from true. Using moderate weights and completing high reps will help to optimise fat burn. This body type finds it relatively easy to build muscle, so increase your muscle mass! Greater muscle mass requires greater energy which increases your metabolism.
Diet for Endomorph
In order to make the most of your training, you need to work hard to strip back the layers of fat preventing those hard-earned muscles from being seen! A healthy balanced diet with reduced portions is the best way to begin your weight loss. Don’t drastically cut down your intake as you will be needing energy for working out. Avoid cheap, simple carbohydrates and ensure you get a high intake of water and fibre. 5-6 small meals each day is ideal.
There are many supplements available to speed up your metabolism and support your weight loss. Universal Super Cuts contain amino acids which aid fat loss. It also provides you with essential nutrients like vitamin B6 and calcium. Another option is Maximuscle Thermobol. Every ingredient in this supplement contributes to fat burning while maintaining energy and mental focus to help you stick to your new routine.