Since the 1940s, Americans have been taught that they can manipulate their physique by dieting and exercising according to their somatotype or body type. This method seems all the rage these days. But can we really change our bodies by simply knowing our somatotype, and dieting and exercising accordingly?
Somatotypes were developed by an American psychologist, William Herbert Sheldon, to categorize the human physique according to three classifications.
• Endomorph: Fat, soft, round, and difficult to lose weight.
• Mesomorph: Naturally hard and strong with even weight distribution, muscular, good posture, and narrow waist.
• Ectomorph: Skinny, and usually tall with low testosterone levels.
Macronutrients According to Somatotype
According to the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA),
macronutrients should be broken down according to one’s somatotype as follows:
Endomorphs: 35% protein / 25% carb / 40% fat
Mesomorphs: 30% protein / 40% carb / 30% fat
Ectomorphs: 25% protein / 55% carb / 20% fat
In addition to somatotype, metabolism and weekly physical activity affect one’s macronutrient ratios. No matter the somatotype, one can still gain or lose weight if the food portions are too big or too little, respectively. One should experiment with ratios to meet individual goals.
Evidence-Based Over Anecdotal
Over the years, researchers have tested whether somatotypes correlate with other measures or traits.
Researchers found a correlation between somatotype and blood pressure. Fat makes adipokines that increase blood pressure, and muscle makes myokines that decrease blood pressure. Therefore, those with more fat (endomorph) had a higher risk of heart disease than those with more muscle (mesomorph).
• Athletic Performance: Many studies have been conducted on the link between athletic performance and different body types. Ectomorphs perform better at long-distance events like marathons and should eat more carbs. Mesomorphs tend to perform better in power-type activities like sprinting and should eat more protein. Those endomorphic athletes who want to shed some fat to get completely shredded should reduce their carb intake and focus more on healthy fats and protein.
Many nutrition coaches will use body typing only as the third step in a multistep progression. First, use foundational eating behaviors to reach your goals and not rely solely on your body type. Start with sound eating practices and experiment with different macronutrient ratios (carbohydrate, protein, fat) to reach your goals.
CarolAnn (M.S., Exercise Science/Health Promotion) is a 30+year fitness industry veteran, program director, studio owner, educator, presenter, and author. She develops curriculum for organizations such as FiTOUR, MedFit Classroom, and PT Global and serves on the Health Advisory Board for MedFit Network. Check it out at CarolAnn.Fitness and www.ChiseledFaith.com.
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