Recently it has become popular to follow diet and workout plans based on somatotypes or body types. While on the surface, it may seem like this makes sense, following a diet and exercise plan focused on your body type can actually prevent you from achieving the results you want. Let’s dive into why your body type should not determine how you eat and workout and what you should do instead.
What Is a Body Type?
In the world of fitness, body types (somatotypes) are used to categorise people based on how easy and hard it is to gain and lose fat and muscle. There are three body types:
- Ectomorph – These are people with a naturally slim frame. They have a small bone structure, narrow shoulders, and long, lean limbs. People with an ectomorph body type find it difficult to put on muscle and fat. They often have a reputation for staying slim no matter how much they eat. Ectomorphs are often tall.
- Mesomorph – Mesomorphs look athletic and find it really easy to build muscle. They are generally broader and more muscular. Swimmers and tennis players are often held up as examples of a mesomorph body type.
- Endomorph – An endomorph body type often struggles to let go of excess fat. They are plump overall rather than holding body fat in one particular area of their body. While endomorphs are generally thought of as being overweight, someone in the normal weight range could be an endomorph.
Should I Follow a Diet and Exercise Plan Based on My Body Type?
No, there are four reasons why diet and exercise plans based on body type alone are ineffective.
Reason 1: Poor Mindset
When you identify yourself with one of the body types, you create a mindset around your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to diet and exercise. It is easy to say, “I’m an endomorph, I will never lose weight,” or “I’m an ectomorph, I will never be able to build muscle.” When you create a limit in your mind, your behaviours reflect that mindset. You won’t put your all into your workout sessions or diet because you do not believe they will achieve the results you want.
Your body type is not an absolute. Being an ectomorph does not mean that you can never gain muscle; it just means that it is a little harder to initially build muscle. Similarly, an endomorph is not doomed to always be overweight. It just means they need to work a little harder initially.
Reason 2: Fitness Is Not One Size Fits All
There are many factors involved in creating a diet and exercise plan for somebody. Even if you take into account body type, there may be other factors that will make the plan unsuccessful. Following a diet and exercise plan tailored to body type is the same as following a diet and exercise plan tailored to gender or age group. It is still a very general program.
Reason 3: It Gives Very Little Information
Body types are about overall shape. It is not a true representation of health or ability. Your body type does not take into account your metabolism, fat percentage, muscle mass, or fitness. Ectomorphs can have high body fat percentages; we call that “skinny fat” because they look very slim, but they have a high body fat percentage. Endomorphs could have high muscle mass, but they also have a high body fat percentage, so it’s harder to tell.
Where fitness plans tailored to body type go wrong is they make sweeping assumptions about someone’s goals based on their body type. A fitness plan for an ectomorph will most likely assume they want to put on muscle and increase the calorie intake. If an ectomorph already has a high body fat percentage, then they will just end up gaining more weight.
Reason 4: Your Body Type Can Change
Your body type can change throughout your life. When I was younger, I was an ectomorph. I was short and skinny. Now, I have put on a lot of muscle, and I am a mesomorph body type. The body types or somatotypes don’t represent a natural disposition like most people assume. Body types make assumptions based on your current physique.
In reality, the best way to lose weight will be to eat in a calorie deficit and move more. The best way to gain muscle is to eat in a calorie surplus and weight train. When you follow a plan based on your body type alone, someone is assuming your goals and the best way for you to get there.
What to Do Instead of Training Based on Body Type
Forget body types altogether. As often happens in the health and fitness industry, categorisations created to provide small shortcuts and understandings have been blown out of proportion. Body types were never meant to replace tailoring programs to an individual’s needs.
The most effective and fastest way to get results out of any diet and exercise plan is to follow a program that has been created specifically for you. Your trainer should take the following things into account:
- Biological gender
- Body fat percentage
- Muscle mass
- Current fitness level
- Training experience
Most trainers will also factor your lifestyle into any plan they create so that you can sustain your effort long-term. So forget your body type and don’t buy anything that is tailored to particular somatotypes. They will not work.