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Body types

What are body types or somatotypes? How do they affect us and how can we influence them? How can we train according to our body type?

Your body type can influence how your body responds to different diets and workout plans.

Some people can eat anything and stay slim, while others gain weight just by “looking at salad leaves”.

Some people grow muscle almost effortlessly, while others have to train hard to see results.

This article will help you understand your body type, what you can do and how to change your appearance and improve your well-being as effectively as possible.

 

What is body type?

Body type or somatotype refers to the assumption/concept that three general body types are predefined in humans. This concept was theoretically developed in the early 1940s by Dr. V. H. Sheldon.

He believed that the predominant features of each somatotype are strictly defined and result from whether the endodermal, mesodermal or ectodermal layer develops preferentially during embryonic development. Accordingly, three somatotypes were formulated: endomorphs, mesomorphs and ectomorphs.

Initially, it was believed that the human somatotype was immutable and even determines certain physiological and psychological characteristics of a person.

According to Sheldon, in endomorphs the body is always rounded and soft, in mesomorphs it is always square and muscular, and in ectomorphs, it is always slender and delicate.

 

Diversity of body types

But if heredity determines everything – why are we even discussing this topic?

Because.

Although the notion of a predetermined body structure seems far-fetched from a 21st-century perspective, many of the physiological characteristics and traits associated with each somatotype are indeed present in most people.

And.

Modern understanding of this subject has changed, i.e. our physiology that determines our current somatotype, not the somatotype that determines our physiology.

 

Do physiological factors determine our somatotype?

Yes, factors like genetics, metabolism, hormonal profile and muscle fibre composition have a significant influence on body type:          

  • Genetic factors influence body shape, fat distribution, muscle mass and metabolic rate.
  • Metabolism – the rate at which a person burns calories affects their body shape and weight. For example, ectomorphs tend to have a faster metabolism.
  • Hormonal profile – hormones such as insulin, cortisol, testosterone and estrogen can affect body fat storage and therefore body composition (endomorphs may be more prone to fat storage).
  • Muscle fibre composition – the ratio of slow to fast muscle fibres can influence muscle development and physical performance by affecting the appearance of mesomorphs or ectomorphs.
 

Does the somatotype determine our physiology?

Although somatotype is mainly determined by physiological factors, to some extent somatotype can also influence our physiological processes: 

  • Metabolic efficiency – endomorphs may have a more efficient energy storage mechanism, which may contribute to a slower metabolism and fat storage.
  • Mesomorphs may find it easier to develop muscle and strength due to their natural muscle composition and the body’s response to resistance training.
  • Different somatotypes may have different nutritional needs, for example – ectomorphs may need more calories and protein to promote muscle growth, while endomorphs may require a focus on calorie control to avoid gaining excess weight.
  • Somatotypes can also affect athletic performance and predisposition to certain sports, e.g. ectomorphs may do better in endurance sports, mesomorphs in sports involving strength and power, and endomorphs in activities requiring a strong physique.
 

The relationship between somatotype and physiology

Lifestyle, including diet, exercise and other more or less healthy habits, can influence an individual’s somatotype over time.          

And.

Although genetics sets the baseline, lifestyle changes can lead to significant changes in body composition and thus appearance:

  • Regular exercise can increase muscle mass, reduce body fat and potentially change an individual’s somatotype (I’m a good example of this 😊.
  • An appropriate diet, tailored to the individual’s needs, can promote metabolism, muscle growth and fat reduction.
  • Stress management, sleep and general lifestyle can affect hormonal balance and metabolic rate, thus influencing physique.
 

In other words, the relationship between somatotype and physiology is complex and bidirectional. No one exists within a single somatotype – we are all constantly changing and find ourselves somewhere between all three somatotypes daily.

And.

It is not genetics, but our lifestyle that plays a decisive role in the formation and transformation of our body, this also applies to changes in our health over time.

 

How to determine your body type?

Understanding your current body type is very useful for helping you achieve the results faster – it will allow you to tailor your training programmes and nutrition plans more effectively.          

You can determine your body type by assessing your physical characteristics, your physique and how your body responds to diet and exercise. Here are some traits that will help you determine your somatotype:

Ķermeņa tips_Body type

 

Endomorphs

  • Body build – usually small in stature, with a rounder and softer body and broad hips and shoulders.
  • Muscle mass – easily builds muscle and easily stores fat.
  • Fat storage – higher body fat percentage (stores fat quickly and loses it slowly). Has a naturally slower metabolism possibly due to chronic diseases (e.g. thyroid disorders, diabetes), but often due to a sedentary lifestyle and chronically positive daily energy balance.
  • Response to exercise – builds muscle mass easily but has difficulty reducing fat mass.
  • Bone structure – larger frame and bone structure (e.g. powerlifters, some shot put athletes).
 

Mesomorphs

  • Body build – naturally muscular and proportionate body with a V-shaped torso.
  • Muscle mass – developed and athletic musculature, easily builds muscles.
  • Fat storage – characterised by low to medium body fat and efficient metabolism (both weight gain and loss occur relatively easily).
  • Response to exercise – responds quickly to resistance training and develops strength easily.
  • Bone structure – medium to large frame (e.g. bodybuilders, sprinters).
 

Ectomorphs

  • Body build – lean and tall with narrower shoulders and hips (relative to height).
  • Muscle mass – muscles are relatively smaller relative to bone length, so gaining muscle mass is difficult.
  • Fat storage – low body fat, naturally fast metabolism (for many this makes weight gain difficult). If BMI ≤ 17 it is likely to indicate an eating disorder (e.g. anorexia, bulimia).
  • Response to exercise – muscle and strength grow slowly.
  • Bone structure – small frame and fine bone structure (e.g. long-distance runners, basketball players).
 

Once you’ve determined your body type you can take into account the structural and metabolic challenges that come with it and reach your goals faster.

When you start going to the gym, the initial goal is usually to “get fit”. This is a desire to change your existing body type towards a mesomorphic physique.

Of course, there will be exceptions – there will always be endomorphs wanting to get even bigger to compete in powerlifting competitions, for example, and ectomorphs who want to maintain a slim physique to run ultramarathons.

However.

Most go to the gym to increase muscle mass, strength and endurance and to get a naturally muscular and proportionate body.

Given this goal, someone who is predominantly ectomorph, for example, is likely to need nutrition and training solutions that focus on muscle protein synthesis and overall body mass gain, while the typical endomorph is much more likely to benefit from frequent metabolic training* and a reduction in calorie intake

 

*Metabolic training is the training that aims to burn calories/energy as efficiently as possible using a combination of high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercises.

 

How to improve your body composition?

Studies have consistently shown that exercise and consistent, ongoing changes in dietary habits contribute significantly to improvements in body composition (reduced fat mass and increased muscle mass).

Metabolic disorders such as hyper- or hypothyroidism are completely under control by modern medicine and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes can be controlled and, in many cases, even treated by improving eating habits and exercise regimes.

The human body is extremely adaptable and always strives for homeostasis (balance) in its environment. However, it can take a long time for the body to break old patterns and establish new ones.

Therefore.

Change requires time and consistency.

And.

This is probably why many people accept they are stuck in a somatotype.

In other words, change is hard, and it’s often much easier and more comfortable to blame dissatisfaction with our bodies on forces beyond our direct control.

 

After achieving your desired body composition through changes in lifestyle, diet and physical activity (and more importantly, adopting and maintaining these new habits), your new body will eventually become the “new norm”.

Metabolism and appetite adapt to the new energy intake, physical activity becomes a natural part of the day, and someone who used to be mostly ectomorphic or endomorphic will notice that the body is becoming more and more like a mesomorph.

Read more about body recomposition and how to measure your progress HERE.

 

Training for endomorphs

Endomorphs primarily need to focus on fat mass reduction to achieve the desired body composition and functional cardiorespiratory efficiency. 

And.

To strengthen muscles, stabilise joints and support more efficient movements outside the gym – strength/resistance training or functional training should be performed.

Work on the Coordination and Endurance and Strength Endurance phases in the gym, and focus most of the workout on improving metabolism. Use short rest periods, combinations of different strength exercises, lots of plyometrics and use as much extra time as possible for steady-state cardio exercises.

 

Consistent anaerobic and aerobic exercise will help endomorphs increase their metabolic efficiency and daily energy expenditure.

They should also get more movement outside the gym.

In other words, a less sedentary lifestyle will help this group to overcome their metabolic challenges the most.

 

A low-calorie, high-protein diet plan is needed to maximise fat loss while maintaining and potentially building muscle mass.

High-protein diets (~2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or more) with a balanced carbohydrate and fat intake have been shown to be a safe and effective way to maintain muscle mass during calorie restriction (calorie deficit) and weight loss.

 

Training for ectomorphs

The challenges for ectomorphs are the opposite of those for endomorphs. Most ectomorphs have developed bodies with a very active metabolism and a “lanky” bone structure, making it hard for them to gain and maintain muscle mass.  Therefore, priority should be given to exercises that promote muscle hypertrophy and maximise muscle strength, whilst cardiorespiratory training should be significantly reduced to reduce overall energy expenditure.

After mastering the Coordination and Endurance and Strength Endurance phases, the Muscular Development/Hypertrophy and Maximal Strength phases will be most useful for this group.

Hypertrophy and maximal strength training are primarily anaerobic in nature and combined with longer rest periods, will not lead to increased calorie burning during training (as intense, fast-paced training programmes do).

 

In addition to muscle-gain-oriented training, ectomorphs also need a muscle-gain-oriented diet.

These people tend to burn calories/energy faster than others, so they need more calories to build muscle mass. In this case, low-carbohydrate, fat-loss-oriented eating plans are not recommended. Sometimes ectomorphs are even advised to include muscle mass ‘gainers’ (high-calorie protein-carbohydrate and possibly fat shakes) in their diet.

Like endomorphs, ectomorphs need a high protein intake. 1.2–1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is the optimal amount for muscle growth, but some people may need 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight or more.

For muscle protein synthesis to be maximally efficient throughout the day, the daily protein intake should be spread out and protein should be taken at three-hour intervals.

A protein shake in the evening, just before bedtime (to reduce the fasting period) can also help maximise muscle protein synthesis.

 

Training for mesomorphs

Mesomorphs have it a little easier than others. Their metabolism is relatively efficient, they have functional if not athletic muscle mass, and they are basically ready to achieve any fitness goal with less effort.

However.

While there are undoubtedly people who look slim and are physically strong – even without much effort – they are the exception.

Most people with a mesomorphic physique have built it themselves – their physique came from hard work and discipline.

 

People with a mesomorph body type are ready to move on to more advanced strength, athletic and sport-specific training.

Diets for mesomorphs should be designed according to their health and fitness goals. Protein intake should be between 1.2 and 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight (depending on the training programme intensity) with the remaining calories provided by healthy fats and carbohydrates.

Then, if changes in body composition are still desired, the daily calorie intake can be either increased or decreased (to gain or lose weight).

 

Key takeaways

Your body type is not “set in stone” for the rest of your life – you can change it!

In modern terms, body types reflect a general idea of how a person’s physiology works at a given moment.

And.

The somatotype he or she is currently observing reflects a combination of physical, dietary and lifestyle choices he or she has made up to that point, combined with various uncontrollable factors influenced by genetics and the environment.

At the one end of the spectrum is the more functional, muscular and leaner person, who generally makes healthy dietary choices, eats a balanced diet and exercises with increasing intensity (and is therefore free of chronic diseases);

And.

On the other side, a person who sits all day, eats junk food and eats a lot and therefore inevitably acquires “soft roundness”, as mentioned in Sheldon’s original classification of endomorphs.

 

Remember that body type can be changed!

If it were not, personal trainers and nutritionists would be out of a job. Fitness is about helping people learn to use the tools they can control (lifestyle, eating habits and exercise methods) to overcome the problems caused by genetic and environmental factors.

 

Eat well, eat balanced and – be healthy!

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