Know Your Body Type—Eating and Exercising for Your Shape
Your shape is all your own. A unique mixture of your in-born genetic blueprint and lifestyle choices manifest what’s reflected in the mirror. While nobody shares your body’s specific shape, there are categories of body types most fall into.
You’ll have a chance to figure out your type below—if you don’t know it already. But there’s an important fact to cover first that’s essential no matter the shape of your body.
An endomorph, ectomorph, or mesomorph can lead a healthy, happy life. Having any morphic body type doesn’t shackle you to specific health outcomes forever. Your life and health are yours to shape.
That doesn’t mean helpful information can’t be gleaned from a discussion of body type (also more formally called somatotype). Knowing what signifies a body type and which lifestyle tips work better for different body shapes may be enlightening.
General recommendations of frequent physical activity, a balanced diet of whole foods, good sleep, and other health habits work across the board. But knowledge about your specific somatotype can help guide you in the development of goals and healthy lifestyle approaches to achieve them.
After all, the shape you’re in now is just the starting point. Your body type is as much a reflection of your recent choices—diet, exercise, sleep, and more—as anything. From that starting point, and with the additional information below, you can make changes so your goals are what’s eventually reflected in the mirror.
Your Guide to the Endomorph Body Type
You might recognize an endomorph by their stockier or rounder shape. This body type has a tendency to accumulate fat around the midsection and hips. Some of that can be attributed to a slower metabolism. Sedentary lifestyles and calorie overages exacerbate fat build up.
Fighting the natural inclination for gaining and holding onto fat guides the health choices endomorphs should consider making. Diet and exercises focused on fat loss and maintaining proper calorie balance are key.
Diet suggestions for endomorphs include:
- Watching refined and simple carbohydrate intake (especially sugar). The propensity to store fat leads to these easily overeaten items to help pack on unwanted pounds.
- Turning to lean proteins to fill up and fuel muscle growth.
- Choose the right fats. Don’t shy away from beneficial omega fatty acids—like those found in cold-water fish—and plant-based fats just because fat storage is a common concern for this body type.
- Keeping a watchful eye on calories in vs. calories out. It’s the key to weight management for any body type, but it’s even more important for endomorphs.
- Fill up on colorful, fiber-rich plants. These fruits and vegetables are lower calorie and have the fiber to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Exercising as an endomorph should focus on burning fat while maintaining muscle mass, stabilizing joints, and promoting cardiovascular health. That means using a mix of cardio exercises (walking, running, biking, etc.) and strength training. This helps burn extra calories while working to maintain or grow muscle. Using a combination of cardio and strength exercises has also been shown to burn more fat after your workout ends than sticking to one type of exercise.
Gaining weight around the midsection can be troublesome for long-term health. So, endomorphs need vigilance to fend off this trend. Healthy lifestyle choices can help fight off the weight-related health issues that can crop up.
Your Guide to the Ectomorph Body Type
Slender. Narrow. Petite. All these descriptors fit a typical ectomorph. A fast metabolism plays a big role in keeping this body type thin, with long, lean frames.
An ectomorph can have trouble gaining weight and building muscle, though. To some, that may sound like a good problem to have. And one that means you can eat whatever you want and not exercise. But that’s not actually true. Ectomorphs still need to focus on a healthy diet and physical activity to support their best possible life.
The dietary specifics for the ectomorph body type include:
- Packing the menu with nutrient-rich foods, and not simply feeding on less nutritious foods to fuel a fast metabolism.
- Shooting for a high-protein approach. This macronutrient is essential for everyone, but is especially helpful for ectomorphs to maintain or bolster muscle mass.
- Aiming for an energy imbalance of more calories eaten than burned if weight gain is the goal. Use these extra calories on beneficial fats, lean proteins, and nutrient-rich options.
- Pick smart carbs. Since carbohydrates can take up more of the macronutrient balance for ectomorphs, your options open up. More choices could lead to less-than-ideal selections, though. Stick to smart sources of carbs—like whole grains.
The exercises an ectomorph chooses should fit specific goals—like any body type. But that frequently means heavy weight training for those looking to bulk up. These weight-bearing exercises are also good for the bones and joints.
A tip for ectomorphs is to take more rest between sets. This leads to fewer calories burned during exercise. And that’s a good thing because ectomorphs’ fast metabolisms can quickly rack up a calorie deficit that hampers efforts to gain mass.
With a natural tendency to be thin, it can be easy to fall for the misconception of “skinny always equals healthy.” Just because you could get away with a laissezfaire approach to eating and activity doesn’t mean it’s good for your healthspan.
That’s where a balanced, varied diet and regular exercise comes in. One feeds a fiery metabolism while providing nutrients needed to help maintain overall health. The other assists in supporting cardiovascular, bone, joint, and muscular health.
Your Guide to the Mesomorph Body Type
A little bit of Latin and Greek helps crack the code of the mesomorph. You can roughly translate mesomorph to the middle shape. So, it answers the question: what’s in the middle of endo- and ectomorph?
And that’s a good place to start.
If endomorphs are stockier and ectomorphs are thinner, mesomorphs stand athletically in the middle. Broader shouldered and muscular, this body type takes more of a v-shape.
Much of this springs from the mesomorph’s place in the metabolic sweet spot. Weight goes on and comes off fairly easily. So, muscles are easier to grow, but fat isn’t as hard to burn. If this sounds perfect, that’s because many cultures have held up the mesomorphic body type as the aesthetic ideal. And the average gym is full of different body types trying their hardest to achieve a mesomorph somatotype.
That doesn’t mean people with this body type can ignore their diet. A mesomorph should target a diet that:
- Focuses on proper calorie balance. They can turn the calories dial to add weight or lose it.
- Promotes nutrition through a focus on fruits and vegetables. Fitness goals need to be supported by quality nutrition. It’s no different for mesomorphs, and nutritious plant foods are vital.
- Splits the essential macronutrients basically in thirds. An efficient, but not overachieving metabolism means this body type can aim for a fairly equal split between fat, carbs, and protein.
When it comes to a workout routine, the mesomorph has definite advantages. Pick a fitness goal, and this body type makes it a bit easier to hit it. Building muscle means aiming for light cardio and more strength training. Dropping weight may look like more running or biking. The raw materials for gaining speed, power, or enhancing athleticism are on the surface for mesomorphs. It’s just a matter of matching a fitness goal to the right exercises.
Any activity that helps hit the recommended 150 minutes a week works great. Even though mesomorphs rule the gym and the pop culture spotlight, they aren’t immune from the hazards of a sedentary lifestyle or poor diet.
That’s because the way you look in the mirror is a literal reflection of your health. But it isn’t everything. A visually striking exterior still might paper over long-term health issues if proper care isn’t taken with diet, sleep, activity, and stress management.
Your Body Type is a Freeze Frame of Your Health Right Now
There’s no skirting the truth of what you see in the mirror. Where you stand with your shape today is an impression of your health—a snapshot of where you are right now.
That’s a more modern view of body type, though. The original concept of somatotypes—proposed by W.H. Sheldon in the 1940s—was more rigid. It locked people into their type, even attributing personality traits to people’s shapes.
This philosophy has been thoroughly debunked. Today, fitness and health professionals have kept the beneficial information these classifications provide. But they focus on body type as a starting point, not a trap.
Throwing away the whole theory would ignore the immutable aspect of body shape—genetics. The perfect diet and right exercises aren’t likely to make you taller, reshape the structure of your bones to widen your shoulders, or change how where you store fat.
But—as you’ve read above—lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can help each body type achieve health goals and live their best lives. It’s also possible to reshape your body.
If you’re born an ectomorph, you can build muscle to climb closer towards a mesomorphic type. Endomorphs, if they want, can sculpt a stockier starting point into the mesomorph’s characteristic v-shape. It goes both ways, too. Poor diet and inactivity can round out any body type with extra fat accumulation.
Shape Your Life, Shape Your Health
You can be an endomorph who is healthy and happy. You can be an ectomorph who is healthy and happy. You can be a mesomorph who is healthy and happy.
It’s worth repeating one more time: wherever you fall on the somatotype spectrum—and most people will be some combination of types—you can be healthy, happy, and live a fulfilling life.
Don’t be defined by your body type because that isn’t the totality of who you are. Don’t let it box you in because you can make changes if that’s what you want or need to do. And remember, people of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and valuable. It’s most important to be healthy and happy—and that’s not one-size only.