Body types
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Body Types: Are You an Ectomorph, Mesomorph, or Endomorph?

Pear or Apple? What body shape are you? 

You must have wondered if your own body type says anything about how healthy you are and if you are making good choices for it. 

A good starting point is to look at your body composition and figure out your own body type. 

Everyone has different bodies and it’s normal to want to find what identifies you. 

Knowing your own body type can give you a clear picture of what you can do to improve your health and avoid hurdles in meeting your fitness goals.

On the flip side, body type alone cannot tell you a person’s health. 

For example, a common myth is that a person that has a larger bone structure that tends to have high-fat storage must be unhealthy.

Sometimes these people with high-fat storage do work out, have a reasonable calorie intake, and even hit the weight room with a very good exercise plan and specialists backing them up. 

Just because a person’s body fat is higher or seems higher, does not mean that person is completely unhealthy, but the risk factors for diseases like diabetes mellitus and heart disease do increase.

There Are Three Different Body Types

The three body types

Main body types, called somatotypes: Ectomorph body type, Endomorph body type, Mesomorph body type

Originally thought up by the psychologist William Sheldon in the 1940s. Although his theory was to use these somatotypes to associate them to people’s temperament.

It has since developed into a new use (7).

The somatotypes that Dr. Sheldon theorized are still used today, albeit modified in the 1960s and known as the Heath-Carter system.

With the Heath-Carter system, a formula is used, which includes the weight (kg), height (cm), upper arm circumference (cm), and several other body parts. 

In this formula, based on a point system it can be determined what specific body type you are (5).

It is now used by sports nutritionists, nutrition coaches, and exercise physiologists to determine the best body shape for a player in a sport.

For you, it can be fun to think about what sport you would best fit in, or which celebrity you look like. 

But it can also help you understand the type of nutrition plan you would need to be healthy. 

To find out your type, you don’t necessarily need to measure every part of your body and calculate. 

You can simply follow the general guidelines and figure what you look like as discussed below. 

Ectomorph

If you are skinny, tall with a small frame, lean muscle mass, narrow hips, small joints. 

You are most likely an ectomorph body type. You have a fast metabolism and struggle to gain even just a little bit of weight over the rest of your body (2).

To have a lean physique can be desirable for most women. 

Men on the other hand may not want it, and often struggle building muscles in the chest, arms and thighs. 

Depending on what your fitness goals are you may want to gain weight or stay thin. 

To gain weight a higher calorie intake of up to 3,000 calories may be necessary. 

Ectomorphic clients that want to gain weight have reported that trying to gain weight on their own has made them feel lethargic, sleepy, and really full. 

The excess calories need to come with a balanced percentage of macronutrients, to avoid symptoms of lethargy and overfullness. 

An ectomorph will be better suited for sports such as competitive swimming, tennis player, cycling, or running. 

Basically, anything that can require lightness to help with speed. 

 Famous ectomorphs are Cameron Diaz, Bradd Pitt, Lance Armstrong, Bruce Lee.

Endomorph

You have excess fat all around, are somewhat rounded and soft. You may have a slow metabolism and calorie intake can make an impact on your weight.

You are most likely an endomorph body type. 

The excess fat may annoy you and you are always thinking about weight loss and ways to take in fewer calories. 

You store fat easily and struggle to lose it. 

Dieting may not be enough and physical training may be needed to try to lose weight (3).

On the flip side, If you are an athlete and an endomorph you may not want to lose weight. 

You will typically do better with sports such as wrestling, rugby, or powerlifting. 

Famous endomorphs are Beyoncé, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Zac Efron.

Mesomorph

As a mesomorph body type, you have more muscle mass and less body fat, strong with even weight distribution, with a good posture. You may have won the genetic lottery (6).

Most may be happy with their body shapes, but some may not like the larger muscle mass that comes with this body composition. 

Mesomorphs can be good at any sport as they tend to respond well to cardio and resistance training. 

Typical mesomorphs are swimmers, soccer players, gymnasts and typically require power and strength for their sport.

Famous Mesomorphs are Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles.

Combination of Somatotypes

A combination of the somatotypes are more common among the average person, you have those with a:

  • rectangle shape 
  • triangle shape
  • spoon shape
  • general hourglass shape
  • top hourglass shape 
  • bottom hourglass shape
  • inverted triangle
  • round
  • diamond
  • athletic

Yet the most known ones are the pear and apple shapes, specifically because the differences in these two are clear. 

Talking about how these affect health or not is easier. 

Pear Shape (aka Ecto-Endomorph)

With a thin upper chest, arms, and natural waistline but with high-fat storage in the butt, hips, and thighs.

These tend to be on women. 

Having a pear-shaped body can mean a reduced risk of health conditions due to the fat not surrounding vital organs (4).

Caution that this does not mean you can ignore your calorie consumption or not exercise, as other genetic factors can influence your health. 

Apple Shape (aka endo-ectomorph)

Fat storage in the upper arms, chest, and waist with thin thighs, hip, and butt. 

This type tends to resemble men, which are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity that creates insulin resistance (4).

If you identify yourself as having an apple shape, you run the risk of the insulin in your body not being able to control blood glucose levels in your bloodstream. 

This can develop into diabetes mellitus and insulin resistance can start affecting your nerves, eyesight, and kidney function. 

That is why good choices in your diet are key to be healthy, some examples are chicken breast without the fatty skin, a lot of veggies like tomatoes, bell peppers, kale, and lettuce, these tend to have fewer calories and direct you to weight loss. 

Tools to Measure Health

As a health professional, weight is not the only tool to determine if your physique is healthy. 

BMI (body mass index), Waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio are used.

Everybody is unique and must be measured in a way that considers multiple factors.

Other factors to take into account, presence of heart disease, Diabetes mellitus, insulin sensitivity, mental health, disabilities, environmental hurdles, and genetics.

BMI

The body mass index is one of those tools that give a nutrition coach and you a general idea if you are underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. 

It is important to know, that this tool is not perfect and may classify the body composition of a very muscular physique as obese. 

It does not consider muscle mass, so different body shapes can have different BMI results.

Also, a naturally petite person can appear to be underweight. 

That is why those that are exempt from using the BMI as an indicator of health are children, athletes, the elderly, and the sick. 

The BMI is calculated by kilogram body weight divided by meters squared. 

Waist Size

This is another tool to help evaluate your midsection and help you understand if you are at higher risk of health problems. 

The higher your waist circumference, the higher the risk.

For men, if the waist is higher than 40 inches and the women’s waist is higher than 35 inches, it is an indicator for increased risk of health conditions.

Do you want to know if you are at risk? you can measure yourself at home. 

Use a measuring tape as your tool of measurement. Place it over your belly button and wrap it around your waist that is your waist circumference size. 

Waist to hip ratio

Is the waist and hip measurements. It is another tool to determine health.

To measure your waist-to-hip ratio you divide the measurement of your waist by your hip measurements at the widest. 

According to the World Health Organization, abdominal obesity in men is >90 and > 85 for women.

How to Keep Healthy No Matter Your Body Type

The general rules to be healthy regardless of your body type is to have a balanced diet, avoid excess pounds, regular aerobic exercise with physical training. 

To eat healthy, adding a variety of foods to your everyday food intake is the way to go. 

A good set of examples of foods are whole grains, whole grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, legumes, lentils, quinoa

They are complex carbs and help control blood glucose levels. 

Healthy protein choices such as chicken breast, protein shake, or fish. 

Veggies like bell peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli. Healthy fats like avocado and olive oil and of course Greek yogurt.

On your plate, fruits and veggies are essential to provide phytochemicals and antioxidants. 

Supplements can help with closing nutritional gaps but are not always 100% reliable to provide all essential nutrients, therefore fresh is best (6).

If you have some excess pounds, the first thing to consider is healthy fat loss. 

Weight loss can be achieved by having a fitness program with a personal trainer and a nutrition coach (6).

A personal trainer can give you exercise techniques to reduce the risk of injury while achieving fitness goals and weight loss goals.

The typical fitness program can include circuit training, compound exercises, interval training, weight room, cardio sessions, squats, exercises of higher intensities.

Eat for Healthy Body Shape

As a registered dietitian, it is hard for me to say there is a specific body type diet, I have not read evidence-based research that proves there is a body type diet. 

In reality, the nutrition meal plan must be individualized according to not just your body type, but also your medical conditions, personal weight loss, and fitness goals. 

That is why a nutrition coach and personal trainer are always good resources as they are experts with different body types and know how to assess you and create a plan that fits you. 

But if you find yourself healthy and curious, there are some body-type diet ideas for ectomorphs, endomorph, and mesomorph individuals. 

If you are an ectomorph you may want to gain weight, you will want muscle growth. 

You can eat 6 small meals a day, not be afraid of healthy fats like olive oil, vegetable oil, avocado. 

These healthy fats may add extra calories to your meal plan but will also include other benefits like omega 3-fatty acids, omega 6-fatty acids, regulation of blood glucose levels, and cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

Of course, including complex carbohydrates are important. Veggies are a must and tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, eggplants are all good sources of nutrients. 

Also, as an exercise plan the minimum requirement of cardio 30 minutes three times a week, is good for preventing heart disease. 

Just be aware that too much cardio can increase your calorie use and increase your metabolism even more. 

To help with weight gain through muscular development, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), circuit training, strength training can help with that muscle growth. 

If you are an endomorph, weight loss may be your fitness goal. Because you may have a slower metabolism, you may not use up excess calories as efficiently and these can end up as body fat. 

If simple carbs are consumed, it is more likely the excess carbs can contribute to fat storage. 

A nutrition coach can help create a meal plan, that is low-carb, higher in fat and protein. 

Fat loss is possible with this balanced diet by also keeping a balance of nutrients which is an important thing to always keep in mind. 

A low-carb diet is a no-carb diet, you need carbs to be healthy and energized. 

Good options are complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, starchy veggies. 

A good exercise plan can include aerobic exercise, a weight training routine with some lighter weights, resistance training, and a lot of hard work. 

Avoid heavy weights which can increase your muscle and give you a bulkier look. 

If you are a mesomorph, even though you may have a desirable body composition, you may want to control muscular development. 

It may be easier to gain weight or experience weight loss. 

Having a balanced diet that tends to be of the higher-protein diets will help in fueling your muscles. 

To help your body, you can consider splitting the food on your plate into thirds, one-third of the plate is a protein source, one-third of the plate complex carbs the last third of the plate fruits and veggies. 

An exercise plan that can benefit a mesomorph are weight training routines, aerobic exercise, HIIT (high-intensity interval training).

The Bottom Line

Body types are just one tool to help you self-evaluate, and find out what it can mean to your health. 

Knowing how you can eat for the body you have and how to organize yourself with exercise routines like aerobic exercise, exercises of higher intensities can help improve your health. 

The disadvantage though is that there is no one size fits all diet, you must meet with a specialist to guide you. 

This specialist will ask you questions, assess and create a diet plan or exercise program to fit you. 

The likely result of not seeking out a specialist is ending up in a yo-yo dieting cycle that can place you in a dangerous nutrient imbalance. 

Important to note, some people may have metabolic conditions that can affect their body shape. 

A person with metabolic challenges may have difficulty processing macronutrients. 

This can lead to long-term weight issues.

An important thing to do to know if you are healthy besides knowing your somatotype, is a visit to your doctor to check your anthropometric characteristics, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and general conversations about your concerns. 

Conversations with your doctor often lead to better planning of your health, you can be referred to a nutrition coach or registered dietitian for further evaluation. 

It is always to your benefit to visit your doctor regularly.

References

  1. “6 Proven Strategies for Weight-Loss Success.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Dec. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047752.
  2. “Ectomorph.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/science/ectomorph.
  3. “Endomorph.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/science/endomorph.
  4. Ibáñez-Zamacona, María Eugenia, et al. “Contribution of Obesity Associated Genetic Variants to Anthropometric Somatotype Components.” Anthropologischer Anzeiger, vol. 76, no. 2, 2019, pp. 101–111., doi:10.1127/anthranz/2019/0945.
  5. Liu, Xiaoyuan, et al. “Obesity and Heath-Carter Somatotyping of 3438 Adults in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China by Multivariate Analysis.” Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity : Targets and Therapy, Dove, 15 Feb. 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7894874/.
  6. “Mesomorph.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/science/mesomorph.
  7. “Somatotype.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/science/somatotype.

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