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Our body types are determined by a mixture of genetics, lifestyle, sex, and age. And although this makes each and every one of us wholly unique, we can roughly be categorised into three types of body shapes: mesomorph, endomorph, and ectomorph.
Not everyone fits the mould for one specific body type, as it is quite common for people to have traits from multiple body types. But knowing which category you belong to can indicate how fast or slow you metabolise fat, which can help you build a diet plan fit for you, and it can also help you decide what to focus on regarding exercise.
What body type am I?
There is no mould for what each body type should look like. There are guidelines and common characteristics, but ultimately we all look different. You might have a few traits from more than one body type, making it harder to get a straightforward answer.
Mesomorph body type
The mesomorph body type tends to be of medium frame, and it’s characterised by an ease to build muscle and a relatively low body fat percentage. It’s usually a lean body type that is neither overweight or underweight, has a rectangular build (with no discernible curves) and with good posture.
It’s the kind of male and female body types you would see in athletes as their ability to build muscle and store fat evenly around the body can facilitate their successful participation in both solo and group sports.
Although this body type is conducive to an active lifestyle and commonly has a healthy muscle to fat ratio, it usually presents a larger heart compared to other body types, which can contribute to an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
Endomorph body type
The endomorph body type is characterised by little muscle definition and a higher body fat percentage compared to other body types. Some of the features of the endomorph body type include: wide hips, thick joints, a shorter and stockier build, or an hourglass body shape.
The fat distribution in this body type varies from person to person, but usually females will feature a curvy figure that accumulates fat around the thighs and hips. On the other hand, males will tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen, and usually present a higher amount of visceral fat.
This fat distribution, particularly in male body types, can be dangerous in the long term as it makes them more susceptible to obesity and comorbidities, like diabetes, heart disease, and even some types of cancer.
Ectomorph body type
Ectomorph is the classic slim body type with low muscle and fat levels. Some common features of this body type include small joints, a flat pectoral/chest area, thin shoulders and a slim waist.
People with an ectomorph body time may have difficulty putting on weight, so on the off chance that they do put it on, it’s easy for them to lose it. But usually these people will remain slim their whole lives unless they become sedentary and follow a calorie-dense diet on a regular basis.
Ectomorph bodies can become susceptible to osteoporosis as they age, and may be at risk of breaking or damaging their bones and joints, unless they build muscle to support their skeleton.
How should I exercise for my body type?
There is evidence that suggests that your body type will influence your performance in cardiovascular and strength exercises, namely, the mesomorph body type will perform better in strength based sports, while the ectomorph body type will do better on resistance training, such as long-distance runs.
More specifically, a mesomorph’s daily exercise routine should ideally focus on weight training and a sprinkle of cardio to promote a healthy heart.
People with an endomorph body type may wish to concentrate on regular, low-impact exercise like walking or swimming. They would also benefit from the occasional weight training to balance their muscle to fat ratio, and improve their cardiovascular health.
The ectomorph body type would benefit from regular weight training to help strengthen the bones and build some muscle. They may find it easier to achieve this by doing short sets of intense compound exercises.
What should I eat for my body type?
What you should or shouldn’t eat will depend largely on your goal. There is no evidence linking body type with caloric expenditure, however, there is extensive proof that it all boils down to calories in, calories out. But since some body types are more prone to storing fat, we can safely assume that those will require a lower daily calorie amount, and those who create muscle easily will be able to get away with more calories. Metabolism also plays a role here, as some body types will traditionally be able to burn calories much faster than others.
People with a mesomorph body type may be able to indulge their cravings from time to time, within reasonable limits, as losing weight isn’t too hard for them. But when someone with a mesomorph body type falls into a sedentary lifestyle and doesn’t watch their diet, it’s quite easy for them to put on weight too.
People with an endomorph body type will usually have a slower metabolism which leads to gaining weight easily, and difficulty losing weight. So staying healthy can be hard, but not impossible. It’s recommended for this body type to watch their diet carefully and focus on a balanced, low-calorie diet.
The ectomorph body type is characterised for its exceptionally fast metabolism, so people with this body type can maintain their weight without the need to follow calorie-restricted diets. But just because they don’t put on weight, it doesn’t mean that regular cheat meals won’t affect their health. Following a balanced diet is essential for every body type to prevent common ailments like heart disease and diabetes.
Can your body type change?
There’s no definite method to change your body type. Diet and exercise may help shape your body to become stronger, slimmer, or bulkier, but you can’t go from an endomorph to an ectomorph just by exercising.
But it isn’t uncommon for our body type to change as we age. Many people are ectomorphs in their childhood and teens, but once they reach adulthood, their metabolism slows down and they may gradually change into an endomorph. A mesomorph can also turn into an endomorph if they become sedentary and follow a low-nutrient, high-calorie diet.
Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 6, Calories: Total Macronutrient Intake, Energy Expenditure, and Net Energy Stores.
The influence of somatotype on anaerobic performance. PLOS ONE, 13(5) p.e0197761
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