Because people come in all different shapes and sizes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to diet and exercise. You can, however, follow generalized health practices based on your body type. Someone with a mesomorph body type, for instance, may follow different guidelines than an endomorph.
Find Your Body Type
According to the University of Houston, there are three different body type categories, or "somatotypes," the majority of humans fall under. These somatotypes are called endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph and can all be easily identified based on a person's physical characteristics and traits.
People who are characterized as endomorphs are generally round in shape and carry lots of body fat, as well as muscle. Not all endomorphs are heavy per se, but they do tend to gain weight easily.
Ectomorphs, on the other hand, are essentially the opposite of endomorphs. Ectomorphs have a hard time gaining weight. They are long, lean and have a thin frame that carries little body fat and muscle.
Finally, there is the mesomorph body type, which is distinguished by a medium, athletic and strong frame. Mesomorphs tend to have wide shoulders, muscular upper bodies and small waists. With the popular catch phrase "strong is the new skinny" circulating across pop culture, it seems more and more men and women are interested in maintaining or obtaining this mesomorphic look.
Combination Body Types
Perhaps it is obvious which body type fits your build, whether endomorph, ectomorph or mesomorph. Or — perhaps it's a little bit more challenging to identify because you seem to have the characteristics of more than one. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), that's completely normal — "No one exists within purely one somatotype; instead, we are all constantly in flux and fall uniquely on a spectrum somewhere between all three."
If you are worried that your somatotype combo is less than ideal, don't fret. According to the NASM, the body type you are born with is not necessarily your lifelong destiny. You can influence your body type by incorporating new methods of diet and exercise.
Just think about how a "swimmer's body" is trained differently than that of a fashion model. The way you train and what you consume affect your overall physique.
Read more: Is Swim Training a Good Cardio Workout?
Mesomorph Diet Tips
If you are a mesomorph, there is more to it than just waking up and looking great. Diet is key, and being familiar with the ideal mesomorph meal plan can help you maintain your look for years to come.
People with the mesomorph body type may opt for meals that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. This is because mesomorphs need more protein in their diet to build and repair muscle. If you are overweight and aspiring to be a mesomorph, however, this isn't the way to go.
According to an August 2015 study in the journal Cell Metabolism, adults with obesity were able to lose body fat at a rate 68 percent higher when restricting dietary fat instead of cutting the same number of carbohydrate calories.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests that the average mesomorph individual portion out their meals into thirds. Divide each plate so you have one-third healthy grains or fats, one-third vegetables and one-third protein. Examples of healthy grains include quinoa and brown rice, and all fruits and vegetables are fair game.
In terms of your protein portion, you can opt for lean meats like chicken or fish, but don't limit yourself. You may be surprised to know that there are plenty of protein sources that are derived from plants, like beans, seeds, nuts and lentils, that are proving to be highly beneficial to overall health. A November 2019 study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine showed that eating more protein from plants could help you live longer — and remain healthier.
Try this delicious LIVESTRONG.com recipe for Asian Chicken Stir-Fry Salad, which provides all the staples of a mesomorph diet. Or if you are looking for a plant-based option, try our Tofu TriColor Stir-Fry recipe.
Read more: High-Protein Vegan Diet
Mesomorph Workout Tips
While mesomorphs are generally strong and muscular, they also run the risk of unwanted weight gain if they get off track with their diet and focus on weight lifting alone. A mesomorph workout must incorporate regular cardiovascular exercise if the goal is to stay lean and slim.
How does this translate into a weekly routine? ACE suggests that mesomorphs incorporate 30 to 45 minutes of cardio exercise three to five times a week. For mesomorphs who carry less body fat, this can be cut to twice a week.
For optimal results, a mesomorph may want to consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts to get their cardio in instead of regular steady-state cardio like jogging. HIIT is a method of exercise that involves short bursts of maximum effort — like sprinting all-out or doing intense plyometrics — followed by periods of rest. This is a much more efficient way to train and can lead to faster fat loss results, due to a higher calorie burn.
Read more: A Superset HIIT Workout Beginners Will Love
Finally, a mesomorph is going to want to strength train regularly to maintain or grow muscle mass. ACE suggests performing eight to 12 reps of three to four exercises for each muscle group. Lift moderate to heavy weights with limited rest between sets and lift up to five days per week to prompt muscle growth.
How Endomorphs and Ectomorphs Differ
The methodology behind nutrition and training endomorphs and ectomorphs differs from the mesomorph plan. According to the NASM, endomorphs generally have slower metabolisms, so it's important that their diet focuses on low-calorie and high-protein foods.
The ketogenic diet, for instance, is often prescribed to endomorphs. This is because it helps them preferentially burn more fat throughout the day, while others may experience nausea due to a low-carb diet. Endomorphs may also benefit from HIIT workouts and metabolic training techniques.
Read more: 6 Keto Diet Mistakes to Avoid at All Cost
Because ectomorphs have essentially the opposite desire of those with endomorph body types, their diet and workout regimens demand entirely different methods. Since ectomorphs tend to burn off calories much faster than other body types, the NASM recommends they avoid low-fat, low-carb foods in their diet. They may even want to incorporate nutritional shakes geared toward weight gain throughout the day or before bed.
In order to gain muscle, ectomorphs need high amounts of protein, too. They should aim to eat protein every three hours so that the process of muscle protein synthesis is maximized all day.
In terms of training, an ectomorph will opt for lower intensity exercise. Instead of HIIT workouts, they may incorporate more resistance and weight training movements with longer periods of rest.
- University of Houston: “The 3 Somatotypes”
- American Council on Exercise: “How to Eat and Train for a Mesomorph Body Type”
- Cell Metabolism: “Calorie for Calorie, Dietary Fat Restriction Results in More Body Fat Loss Than Carbohydrate Restriction in People With Obesity”
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: “Body Types: How to Train & Diet for Your Body Type”
- Nutritionfacts.org: “Plant Protein”
- American Council on Exercise: “8 Reasons HIIT Workouts Are So Effective”
- California State University: “Fitspiration: Social Media 's Fitness Culture and Its Effect on Body Image”
- JAMA Internal Medicine: “Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in a Japanese Cohort”