Let’s face it – there is no “magic” exercise routine that provides wonderful results to every person who tries it…just like there is no “magic” diet and no “magic” weight loss pill. Humans are like snowflakes, and our biological diversity needs to be taken into account when planning a fitness or nutrition routine. At the same time, much confusion and frustration can be eliminated due to the fact that most individuals fit very nicely into three different categories. In anatomy terms, these three categories are called “ectomorph”, “mesomorph”, and “endomorph”. As you read through this article, see if you can place yourself into one particular category. Like any classification scheme, you may not fit perfectly, but you will find that you match up with one category more than the other two, and this information will be especially helpful in forming a plan to achieve your health goals.
Ectomorph: You’re skinny. You have been for most of your life, or as long as you can remember. For the most part, you can eat whatever you want and not gain too much weight, although you might sacrifice tone if you don’t watch your diet. You are told by most that you have a “high” metabolism, and you love long and slow cardiovascular exercise. Weightlifting is hard for you, and never seemed to make you very muscular. At the same time, when you look in the mirror, you would like to see a more toned body, with tighter curves and a more fit appearance.
Fitness Recommendations: Lung capacity and endurance is easy to maintain, so your body isn’t getting optimal benefit from long and slow cardio. You would benefit more from fast and explosive cardio interval training, much like a sprinter. Your body can actually be trained to increase the number of fast-twitch, muscular, sprint-type fibers, so in the weightroom, choose exercises that are multi-joint and allow you to use a heavy weight, such as benchpress, squat, and deadlift. Attempt to reach muscular fatigue within 6-10 repetitions. Your body type tends to overtrain very easily, which can depress the metabolism and lead to increased fat deposition, so don’t worry about working out much more than 30-75 minutes a day, and include frequent recovery days.
Nutrition Recommendations: You burn through carbohydrates like crazy, so sugary foods will not be as bad for your figure as the other two categories. To maintain energy stores, make sure to consume adequate carbohydrate, typically as 55-70% of the diet. To assist with muscle growth, increase consumption of lean protein sources, like whey, egg whites, turkey breast, chicken, and nuts.
Mesomorph: Traditionally muscular. You’re pretty good at sports, especially forceful activities like football and wrestling, but seem to get injured quite often. If you don’t watch what you eat, you get fat quickly, but can lose it right away with a controlled diet. You’ve never had any trouble with gaining muscle in the weightroom, but cardiovascular exercise is difficult, especially longer efforts. As you age, you’ve maintained fairly muscular arms and legs, but have noticed increased fat deposits on the butt and thighs, a bulging waistline, a sagging chest.
Fitness Recommendations: Unlike the “fat” endomorph category, you have sufficient lean muscle mass to keep the metabolism boosted. However, your body is fairly sufficient at storing fat, and it’s been piling up over the years. To see good results, you need to put your body in a state where fats, not blood sugars, are being utilized as an energy source. Long, moderate intensity cardiovascular efforts in the morning, preferably before breakfast, will make your body turn to these fats as an energy source. Try for 30-60 minutes, every day. If you have the extra time, just 20-30 minutes of circuit style weightlifting, 3-6 days a week, in the 12-20 rep range, will be sufficient to maintain muscle mass.
Nutrition Recommendations: Fortunately, you have enough lean muscle mass to allow your body to efficiently burn carbohydrates. But you need to be especially careful to avoid those foods for which you probably have the highest craving: saturated fats and non-lean proteins. Steak and cheese are among the biggest culprits for your body type. Limit consumption of fats to natural plant or nut sources, such as avocados, sesame seeds, almonds, or olive oil. Avoid non-lean proteins such as red meats, sausage, eggs, or butter. Make sure to include frequent intakes of healthy fiber, vitamin, and mineral sources – fresh, raw fruit and large, complex salads should be a major part of your diet.
Endomorph: You have always struggled with weight. No matter what type of diet or fitness routine you do, it always seems like there are pounds to be lost. It seems like you gain weight just “looking” at food. You may also encounter frequent knee or hip pain due to your extra mass. While exercising in general is not hard for you to commit to, it can be mentally discouraging because of seemingly limited results.
Fitness Recommendations: Unlike the other two categories, you have neither sufficient lean muscle mass or metabolism on your side. Therefore, your exercise routine must both build muscle and boost the metabolism, while chipping away at accumulated fat stores. Your best bet will be a combination of short and intense, metabolism-boosting cardiovascular intervals before weightlifting, and long, moderate efforts in the morning before breakfast, as well as in the evening after dinner. Your weightlifting routine should be in the 10-15 rep range, and should incorporate full-body, multi-joint efforts. Because of your slow metabolism and propensity to store food as fat, you may need to put more hours into your fitness routine than the other two groups. This means that a “two-a-day” routine may be necessary – with one workout that include intense cardio and weightlifting, and another workout that is long and steady.
Nutrition Recommendations: Limit the majority of carbohydrate consumption to morning, and pre/mid/post workout meals. Attempt to control blood sugar as much as possible with small, frequent snacks, and slow-digesting, non-sugary carbs. Like the mesomorph category, consume only lean proteins and natural fats, and include several good fiber sources in your diet. Drink as much water as possible, and preferably include a large glass with each meal or snack. Do not succumb to the temptation to “starve” yourself, as this will only depress your metabolism. Instead, eat smart and frequently, providing your body with adequate energy for frequent exercise.
This article only briefly touches the surface of body type specificity considerations for exercise and nutrition. To have a customized program designed for your exact body type, arrange for a phone or e-mail consultation with a personal trainer by accessing the Fitness Shopping link at www.pacificfit.net. There are multiple personal training packages available to get you started on a routine that is perfect for you.
Until next time, train smart!
M.S. PE, NSCA-CPT, CSCS