Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and said, “well, I am never going to be bigger than this and so I might as well just give up trying to add some weight”. The fact that you are naturally thin does not mean you have no choice but to remain like that for the rest of your life. If you are faced with the difficulty of gaining weight no matter how hard you try, then you are most likely an ectomorph. If you are worried about looking skinny throughout your whole lifetime, you may want to pay attention to the ectomorph diet, which can help bolster your chances of gaining the needed weight and muscle.
One of the three body types for humans, as described by psychologist William Sheldon, is the ectomorph, the other two being the mesomorph and endomorph (4). The theory behind human body types was formulated in the 1950’s. Based on this theory, a person’s body size and shape says a lot about the inner state of the person and plays a vital role in that individual’s behaviour (2). According to the theory, a person’s body type can be the determining factor on whether they would be aggressive or gentle, timid or bold, and so on (11). Even Though the hypothesis has since been disproved, the categories of body types which were set are still being used to date (13).
Body types in a nutshell
A person’s body type, also known as somatotype, says a lot about the components of fat and lean muscles present in their body’s overall makeup. It reveals how the parts are related to each other and in what measure. Interestingly, over the years, medical professionals have come to understand the significant roles that a patient’s body type has with their health, which is why they refer to it as part of their evaluation process, just as they do with the Body Mass Index. Studying an individual’s body mass index and body type may not be the perfect technique to determine the needed results for a researcher, but then they are often used because of the ease of accessibility.
From the current research on different body types, a concise analysis of them is given below (13):
- An endomorph is characterized by fatness, which is measured by the total sum of measurements taken from the tricep, suprailiac, and the subscapular. The higher the total sum of these folds measurements, the greater the tendency of a person to be an endomorph.
- A mesomorph is rated based on fatness or leanness; a ratio of muscle mass and height. It is usually influenced by how wide the elbows and knees are, and the circumference of flexed muscles and calves.
- Ectomorphs are described by the absence of muscle mass and body fat, classified as a lack of body mass in relation to the height. The way that this is determined is through the weight and height of an individual.
Who is an ectomorph?
Ectomorphs are usually people with a long and lean body. They have classic skinny-guy body frames, usually above average height, including smaller joints and longer limbs. Unfortunately, when an individual is an ectomorph or possesses an ectomorphic body type, gaining weight may be difficult (11).
Most times they may feel like no matter what they do, they will never grow the muscle they desire. No matter how much food ectomorphs consume, they may always remain lean (4, 13). Going to the gym and spending long hours pushing different types of programs may also yield little or no observable result. The upside to having this type of body is that the person may never have to worry about consuming too much food; neither do they have to worry about becoming overweight or obese.
It’s true that a person can not exactly determine the kind of body they want to have, as this is mostly influenced by the genes they inherited from their parents. A study conducted to ascertain the evidence for higher heritability of somatotype compared to body mass index in female twins indicated that the body types might be more highly linked to genetic influences than the body mass index in females (7). Another research study conducted a multivariate analysis on the heritability of somatotype components; its findings suggest that mesomorphy and ectomorphy are highly heritable, while endomorphy is less so (8).
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Ectomorph as a body type
Considering the influence of an athlete’s body type on their performance in athletes, there is also a significant correlation between the two. In an attempt to connect body type and athletic performance, a study was conducted on anthropometric characteristics of top-class Kenyan Marathon runners, using 14 top-class male runners. The result shows that top-class Kenyan marathon runners had ectomorphy as a dominant trait, while mesomorphy and endomorphy characteristics were less present (1).
The body type that an individual possesses also influences their susceptibility to heart-related diseases. This is so because the amount of body fat and muscle mass that an individual possesses will determine their chances of developing increased high blood pressure and cholesterol, among other health-related diseases (13). Fat in the body produces adipokines, while the muscle produces myokines. According to research conducted on the role of myokines and adipokines in hypertension and hypertension-related complications, it was concluded that the hormones and proteins manufactured by the fats and muscles influence the regulation of a person’s blood pressure (12).
Ectomorph body type diet
It is easier for an ectomorph to get tired of working out and continuously going to the gym than it is for one’s peers who possess one of the other body types. This may be because after the ectomorph works out and probably hits the gym more than their friends do, they lose motivation from not really noticing any positive change. In fact, such people may often find themselves staring in the mirror and seeing no visible difference from any previous time. A clue to this mystery has to do with the type of food such people consume, as it goes a long way to determine their overall wellbeing, including achieving a satisfactory physique.
Naturally, the pathway to weight gain is consuming foods with more calories than the body can burn off to fuel its daily activities (3). As simple as this may seem, it is quite tricky for ectomorphs. The fact that an individual in this category needs to ensure that they are consistently overloading the body with enough food does not, however, mean that they have the right to consume just anything. Eating right is essential to get the necessary result. With that in mind, the primary nutrients for an ectomorph whose desire is to build their body and increase their muscle strength includes the following (3, 4).
Because of the high sugar content that some carbohydrates have, most nutritionists have long since discouraged their clients from consuming too much of them. Still, it can be surprising to know that they are an essential food component for an ectomorph. There are two types of carbohydrates to focus on, the ones that are metabolized or broken down quickly and those whose metabolism takes a longer time to process. Fast burning carbohydrates include white bread, white rice, and sugar, while examples of slow-burning carbohydrates are the hard to digest foods such as brown rice, brown pasta, wholesome bagels, potatoes.
The first kind of carbohydrates is easily available for the body to use and is in the form of glucose with aid of insulin. If, however, an individual does not use the glucose that is produced because they are not involved in any activity, it’s instead stored in the body as fat. The slow-burning carbohydrates, on the other hand, do not break down so quickly or easily. They supply the body with glucose at a slower rate, which provides a steady source of energy that can be used for activities (like exercise) that help build muscle.
Proteins are one of the most significant macronutrients. They contain components that are essential for building muscles and the body as a whole. The best kinds of proteins can be found in turkey, chicken, lean steak, eggs, protein shakes, and fish (9).
Just like protein and carbohydrates, fats are essential for the growth of muscle of an ectomorph. It is vital to bear in mind that, for ectomorphs not all fat is evil because some of them help regulate the amount of testosterone, which is very important for muscle building. That being said, such individuals still need to be watchful of the kinds of fat that they consume because some highly saturated fats, especially those from animal products, may block one’s arteries and lead to heart-related risks. In addition, they could also see an increase in their levels of cholesterol. The best kinds of fats are those which are rich in Omega 9, Omega 6, and Omega 3, in proper balance. Some good examples of food rich in these kinds of fat are olive oil, flaxseed oil, avocado, and fish.
After understanding what an ectomorph’s meal should consist of, it is also of importance to understand which perfect diet could help. To properly understand and evaluate how many calories an individual should consume a day it has been suggested that a person in this category measure their weight in pounds and multiply that measurement by 17. For example, if an individual weighs 174 pounds, their caloric requirement per day will be about 2,958. To convert this into numbers for food composition, an individual will need to consume about 370 grams of carbs, 320 grams of protein and about 67 grams of fat. These amounts should then be distributed across their breakfast, lunch, and supper meals (3).
The caloric consumption after some weeks
The caloric consumption may be increased by 600 – 700 if no significant results are noticed after some weeks. The activity one does through the day may also influence the adjustments in their calorie intake as they go through the day. As an ectomorph, it may be wise to consume foods, at least every two to four hours daily, or in other words least have about six meals a day (9).
How to gain weight with ectomorph diet
Any ectomorph who is just looking to improve their physique should not dwell too much on how their body type might be a hindrance. It is better to approach their desired body goals with a well thought out strategy which doesn’t necessarily have to be hectic or challenging to keep up. There is an approach of dwelling much on the body type to achieve specific goals and purposes and it’s known as body typing. It is mostly used and beneficial to athletes and sportspeople for the enhancement of their overall performance.
As well, for people who find it increasingly difficult to achieve their aim of a better physique the need to consider their body type, especially the ratio of fats to muscles may be the key. When asking what the best diet for an ectomorph is, understanding specific basic nutritional and fitness rules that follow is essential. Below are a series of easy steps to achieve a wholesome ectomorph female or male diet (14).
Eat whole foods consistently
Whole foods such as freshly harvested vegetables and fruits, beans, legumes, whole fish, fresh meat and poultry, whole grains, nuts, seafood, and seeds will go a long way in helping you achieve a healthy body. Whole foods are usually composed of more health benefits to the body than processed foods are. Eating wholesome and fresh meals will help one to achieve the right amount of fat to muscle ratio. An individual does not easily become underweight or overweight while they consume proper whole meals.
Do not rush your food
Rushing to work or attending to many other things may be the reason ectomorphs will rush their meals, but it would be much better for them to learn to take their time whenever it is mealtime. What this practice does is help one become much more aware of what they are consuming. As people adopt this practice they become very in tune with the things they choose to eat based on flavour, taste, temperature, and texture. At this point they can learn to appreciate their meals even though at the time it may feel awkward to eat at a snail’s pace.
Eat until satisfaction
Most people consume foods only when they are hungry and stop eating when they have achieved maximum satisfaction. According to the makeup of various body types, there are different rules for achieving the point of satisfaction with any meal. For an ectomorph whose primary concern is gaining weight and building muscles, it is usually better to break from the typical satisfaction scale. One or two marks must exceed the satisfaction scale, usually within the range of one and ten. This is because there is a real need to consume more food than their body can use at every given point in time.
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Ectomorph workout plan
After an ectomorph understands the diet and the main composition of it, the next step to getting bigger muscles is to get involved in a workout routine. A primary part of the training involves multi-joint and compound lifts. Some of such workouts will include back squats, front squats, deadlifts, stiff leg, deadlift pull-ups, and barbell overhead presses. As one might notice, the majority of the exercises are usually referred to as big boy lifts. These are important to ectomorphs because they engage the muscles in a powerful way (11).
For an ectomorph, most of their workouts should be centered around the big lifts. These lifts require the use of a lot of strength, which will then ensure the engagement of muscle tissues. It would be best if the individual does not intend to overstress their body by doing too great a volume of a workout. The total body workout ensures training of plenty of muscles with one or two programs. For example, the bench press will help develop the chest, triceps, core, and shoulders muscles.
How to prevent injuries?
As stated earlier, muscles do not have to be pushed with a workout overload just because of one’s desire to see changes within a short time. Using this approach might end up causing injuries to oneself. Instead of this energy-sapping and no-gain routine, an ectomorph should try and engage in routine programs not more than three times a week. After doing any set of heavy lifts they can follow with lighter and less tedious workouts.
An ectomorph should engage in about three to four sets of five to eight reps of heavy lifts. The smaller exercises, such as isolation lifts and workouts, should be between three to four sets of eight to 12 reps (11). They should try as much as possible to rest at least 24 to 48 hours between training sessions. For an ectomorph, a very effective plan for working out would include chest, back, and leg exercises.
Typical primary chest exercises that an individual can choose from and incorporate on their training days could include the following:
- Decline bench press
- Incline bench press
- Dumbbell incline chest press
- Bench press
- Dumbbell decline chest press
- Dumbbell chest press
Compound exercises for legs
- Front squats
- Back Squats
- Hack squats
- Goblet squat
- Stiff-leg deadlift
Compound exercises for the back
- Barbell sumo deadlifts
- Dumbbell single-arm row
- Barbell bent-over row
- Hanging knee raises
- Preacher curls
- Tricep rope pull
- Standing shoulder press
- Walking lunges
- Calf raises
An example of a workout plan
An example of a workout plan for an ectomorph could look like this (11):
- 3 sets of 5-8 reps of inclined barbell back press
- 3 sets of 5-8 reps of barbell back squats
- 5-8 reps of weighted pullups (3 sets)
- 3 sets of plank
- 8-12 reps of barbell curls (3 sets)
- 3 sets of 8-12 reps of standing calf raise
After working out, it is important to take some rest in order to recover lost energy. Testosterone is usually associated with muscle growth, but it also helps with losing fats and recovering from exercises. The amount and quality of sleep that an individual gets has a massive effect on testosterone production (10). A study by the University of Chicago on the effect of a week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men found out that testosterone production can be cut down by 10% or more if a person sleeps for less than eight hours consecutively throughout a week (6).
What is the best diet for ectomorph and mesomorph?
There is always a blend of endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph in every human (14). The Heath Carter method is a system that helps to rate people according to the body type combination that they belong to. The system is designed to rate an individual first as an endomorph, then mesomorph, and finally, as an ectomorph. Each of these body types is rated between one and seven; hence, this rating score is usually made up of three distinct numbers. For example, a person with a score of 1-7-5 has a combination of ectomorph and mesomorph. The individual can be described as tall and muscular, with low body fat (5).
A person who is a balanced combination of ectomorph and mesomorph should be okay with following a diet that comprises protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Depending on desired body goals, such an individual might adjust their meal composition between 45-65% of carbohydrate, 10-35% protein, 20-35% of fat.
Being primarily an ectomorph has its advantages and disadvantages. Such people should want to achieve their preferred muscular physique or added weight by understanding the steps that are particular to their body type, to achieve such results. Their nutritional habits will go a long way in helping them reach their body goals and their interests in the required routine workout plans.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Anthropometric Characteristics of Top-Class Kenyan Marathon Runners (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A Study of the Relationship Between Physique and Personality Variables Measured by the MMPI (1963, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Bulking for ectomorphs: nutritional requirements including sample diet (2018, bodybuilding.com)
- Ectomorph, Endomorph, and Mesomorph Body Types- Diet & Workout (2019, medium.com)
- Ectomorph, Endomorph And Mesomorph: How To Train For Your Body Type ( 2017, coachmag.co.uk)
- Effect Of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Evidence for Higher Heritability of Somatotype Compared to Body Mass Index in Female Twins (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Heritability of Somatotype Components: A Multivariate Analysis ( 2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How to Eat and Train for a Mesomorph Body Type (2014, acefitness.org)
- How To Increase Your Testosterone Level (2018, coachmag.co.uk)
- The Ectomorph Workout Program: Building Muscle for the ‘Skinny Guy’ (2014, stack.com)
- The Role of Myokines and Adipokines in Hypertension and Hypertension-related Complications (2019, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The truth about “body type dieting“ for ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs (n.d., precisionnutrition.com)
- Your Body Type – Ectomorph, Mesomorph or Endomorph? (n.d., muscleandstrength.com)