Alhough people are as unique as snowflakes, most share basic body shapes. You may identify with one or a combination of characteristics. How do body types relate to genetics, diet, and fitness?
In the 1940s, psychologist William Sheldon developed a theory based on body types and personality traits. Sheldon called his theory somatotype, which comes from the Greek for the body’s shape.
According to Sheldon, humans can be classified into three body shapes: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Not only did he divide people by the shape of their bodies, but he believed that the body shape also determined personality traits.
Today, most medical experts reject Sheldon’s link between body shapes and personality. However, fitness experts use general body types for developing personal fitness routines. They’ve also found that many people have combination body shapes and measurements.
Body Types: Are You an Ectomorph, Mesomorph, or Endomorph?
It may be as simple as looking in a mirror to decide your predominant body shape. While you can find some general characteristics, your body is unique, and no one size fits all. Here are the three main body types, along with suggested eating and exercise plans for each.
1. Ectomorph Body Type
If your body composition is mostly ectomorph, you have a small bone structure. You are thin with small shoulders and hips. It may be difficult to gain weight because you have a high metabolism.
Friends may be envious of you because it seems that you can eat anything and still not gain an ounce. Ectomorph body types may be tall and skinny or petite. The downside is that you may also have trouble building muscle mass.
Some famous ectomorph men include Kevin Hart and Toby McGuire. Cameron Diaz and Kate Moss are examples of ectomorph women. Many of the models you see in the media are tall, thin ectomorphs.
Unfortunately, the cameras can be deceiving. Some of these models may look like ectomorphs when they have a different body shape. They may be underweight and malnourished to suggest a smaller bone structure.
As a child into adulthood, ectomorphs like you probably never fought the battle of the bulge. You may have remained underweight and struggled to gain a few pounds. According to an article published by WebMD, you may still have a higher percentage of body fat than you realize.
Best Fitness Routine
Your metabolism stays in overdrive and burns carbs more efficiently than the other body types. It works with your lean physique to make you ideal for endurance sports like running, cycling, and swimming.
The greatest fitness challenge you face is gaining muscle mass. Unfortunately, even the ectomorph metabolism diminishes with age. Without a proper fitness routine, you could end up with a large stomach and skinny limbs.
Low-impact exercises like cycling, walking, or stretching is excellent for ectomorphs. You may also consider weight training to help build muscle mass. Try dead-lifts and bench presses for your optimal lifting routine.
Best Nutrition Plan
As an ectomorph, beware of the temptation of binging on junk food. You may have gotten by with it as a teenager, but it can catch up with you. While you usually metabolize carbs well, you need a balance of protein and fats for maintaining muscle mass.
2. Mesomorph Body Type
Sheldon’s three body types consider the mesomorph in the middle of both extremes. If you are a mesomorph, you have the classic physique of a bodybuilder. Your body is strong, athletic, and usually at an ideal weight.
Unlike the other two body types, you don’t have a problem increasing or decreasing your body weight. Building muscle comes naturally to you, and it’s easy for you to “bulk up.” Many people you see in the gym are fellow mesomorphs.
Mesomorphs like you have a solid physical presence with broad shoulders, muscular limbs, and narrow hips. You probably have a genetic predisposition to develop sleek abdominal muscles and the iconic six-pack. Mesomorphs’ muscles are usually well-defined due to their minimal fat.
The benefit of being a mesomorph is your ability to gain and lose as you want. If you put on a few pounds during the holidays, it’s usually not a problem for you to lose them quickly. You can generally stay in a healthy weight range.
Famous men who share your mesomorph body composition include Channing Tatum and Donnie Walburg. You may be a mesomorphic woman like Jillian Michaels or Madonna. Mesomorphs look attractive in clothes that highlight their muscular physique.
Best Fitness Routine
You’re in luck if you are a fitness fan because mesomorphs have sports strength, agility, and speed. Mesomorphs excel at sports like wrestling, lifting, and football. You usually don’t have a problem developing your muscles, and you do well with resistance and cardiovascular training.
Best Nutrition Plan
Although you can quickly build muscle mass as a mesomorph, you can’t ignore proper nutrition and exercise. As you age, you’ll lose skin elasticity and muscle mass. Your best way to combat this loss is a diet that’s high in lean protein.
Maintain your metabolism with complex carbs like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Don’t forget healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. These provide essential fatty acids that help repair damaged muscles.
3. Endomorph Body Type
If you’re an endomorph, you have the heaviest bone structure of the body types. However, you have a softer, rounder body with short arms and legs. Endomorph women usually have the classic curvy pear shape.
The great thing about being an endomorph is that you can gain muscle and fat at an even rate. However, you must work harder at muscle definition due to your higher percentage of body fat. Consequently, most endomorphs have difficulty losing weight and fatty deposits.
They are also challenged with a slower metabolism, which slows the burning of fat. Since your limbs are shorter, they may seem disproportionate to your trunk and make you look heavier. Other problematic areas include hips, thighs, and behind.
If you’re an endomorph, you’re in good company. Consider famous endomorph men like Chris Pratt and Jack Black. Celebrity endomorph women include Jennifer Lopez, Sophia Vergara, and legendary curvy Mae West.
Best Fitness Plan
In the past, many endomorphs depended on slower-paced fitness routines like the treadmill. While it’s an excellent way to help burn fat, consider adding interval training like jump rope, sprinting, and plyometric jumping exercises.
Try thirty minutes to an hour’s worth of cardio workouts three times a week. Include a weightlifting regimen to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. This combination fitness routine can help boost your metabolism.
Best Nutrition Plan
Endomorphs are notorious for gaining weight quickly, so eating a balanced diet is necessary. Carbs may be a trigger for you, so enjoy low-carb foods. Simple carbs in sugary treats should be avoided or as an occasional treat.
Enjoy high protein foods like lean meats, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Give yourself a burst of nutrition with plenty of dark green leafy vegetables. Opt for fresh berries and low-glycemic-index fruits like cherries and grapefruit if you have a sweet tooth.
Combination Body Types
Most medical and fitness experts agree that Sheldon’s three body shapes are too general. In fact, few people have 100 percent of anybody’s composition traits. Most have a predominant type mixed with a smaller percentage of another.
A study published by Reviews on Environmental Health found that at least 51.6 percent of their study group was endomorphic/mesomorphs. The group included 524 men and 250 women. They also discovered that subjects forty years and older tended to be mesomorphs, suggesting that a body type can change over time.
Another point to consider is that fat distribution can also play a role in body shape. It includes pair shapes where the lower body is broader than the upper body and apple shape, where most weight is in the abdomen. Another article published by Reviews on Environmental Health states that most men are endomorph/ mesomorphs, and most women are mesomorph/endomorphs.
Do you know the predominant shape of your body? Reviewing the body shape characteristics will provide your main clues. You’ll probably notice that you have overlapping features that make you a blend.
You can also try a simple test on your wrist. Using the forefinger and thumb, on the one hand, wrap it around the opposite wrist. If your finger overlaps your thumb, you have a small bone structure and are probably an ectomorph.
When your thumb and finger meet, your bones are average-sized, and you’re a mesomorph. If there’s a gap and your thumb and finger don’t come together, you have a larger frame, probably endomorphic.
Final Thoughts on Understanding the Primary Body Types
Regardless of your body’s shape, it’s essential to follow a healthy diet and exercise lifestyle. Sheldon’s theory may have marked exceptions, but it can be a good starting point for your personalized eating and exercise plan. The key is to love and care for your body to create a long and fulfilling life. And most of all, love yourself regardless of body types.
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