Diet plans for body type can help you maintain a healthier weight regardless of your height, age, gender and body type. Diet plans for body type are tailored to fit your specific postural needs when exercising. This is helpful in allowing you to understand the diet plan guidelines necessary.
What Is Eating for Your Body Type?
Proponents of this plan say your body type can give you clues about your metabolism and hormones, and thus how well you process carbohydrates and how much protein you need. Not to mention, it may tell you whether you’d be your healthiest, most energized version of yourself by, say, signing up for that 5K you’ve been eyeing or opting instead for strength training at your local CrossFit gym.
Some research suggests that each body type has certain characteristics in terms of weight, fat, and muscle — but there’s less data to support the dietary and exercise recommendations, so don’t expect this to be a magic bullet.
How Does the Body Type Diet Work?
If you’ve been eating a nutritious diet and exercising, you still may not be getting the results you’re looking for. “Many people are exercising for the first time ever and eating cleaner than ever, but they’re still doing the wrong thing for their body,” says Phil Catudal, a celebrity trainer and the coauthor of Just Your Type: The Ultimate Guide to Eating and Training Right for Your Body Type with the health journalist Stacey Colino.
The idea that everyone has a body type comes from William Herbert Sheldon, MD, PhD, the late psychologist who developed what are called “somatotypes” in the 1940s.
“He was trying to explain personality types based on one’s physiological structure,” says Catudal. The problem is, though research shows that people make judgments about personality based on people’s body features, linking personality traits with body type gets problematic (and bogged down in bias and stigma) quickly.
“He stumbled upon something great with body types, but the personality stuff is a disconnect,” Catudal says.
When it comes to your body, Catudal says there are common elements among body types that suggests how much muscle or fat you tend to have, as well as how fast or slow your metabolism may be, and thus how easy or difficult it may be for you to lose weight.
There isn’t a ton of research on how a person’s somatotype might better inform their diet and exercise habits. But there is some data on body composition differences. One small study looked at 63 men ages 18 to 40. The researchers found that those whose bodies were long and lean indeed had less body fat, weighed less, and had less lean body mass compared with those who had curvy or hourglass figures.
A more recent paper analyzed three-day food diaries of nearly 150 women over age 57.
They concluded that somatotype was related to factors like dieting, physical activity, weight cycling, body mass index (BMI), and even disease status. Those with curvy figures had greater diastolic blood pressure compared with lean and lanky participants, as well as those who had an hourglass figure. Women who were lean and lanky were also more likely to be underweight. When researchers looked at their dietary intake, they found that curvy individuals consumed more protein and those who were lean consumed the least on average.
Catudal says that finding your dominant body type (because you can be a mix of two) can help guide you toward healthy habits that will work best for your body and help you form more realistic goals. “If you’re doing the same thing as someone else who doesn’t have your same body structure, you won’t get the same results. It helps to realign your expectations with what is possible for you,” he says.
The Body Types and How to Know Your Type
There are three main body types, says Catudal. Daily exercise, diet habits, and even metabolic changes by way of pregnancy and menopause can skew your body type, so you may not recognize yours right away. Lifestyle factors may have also changed your body, so that you now are more of a hybrid type.
If you’re unclear about where yours falls, one clue to your body’s more natural metabolic state is what your body looked like when you were a late teen or in your early twenties, says Catudal. Here are some other clues, from Just Your Type, to identify your category.
Ectomorphs face a different challenge. They tend to have a far higher metabolic rate, so they struggle to gain fat and muscle. As such, a good diet for ectomorphs is one that emphasizes high levels of carbohydrates, followed by proteins, and then fats.
The types of carbs they consume still matter, of course. Ectomorphs should consume complex carbohydrates found in foods like beans, whole grains, and vegetables, rather than simple carbohydrates from highly processed foods, like potato chips and white bread.
Ectomorphs may also need to increase their number of meals to compensate for their higher metabolic rate. Some nutritionists recommend switching from three meals a day to five or six. Snacking on nutrient- and calorie-dense foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can also help achieve weight goals.
For an ectomorph, cardio shouldn’t be the main emphasis of a workout. Experts suggest keeping aerobic training to a minimum and focusing on building muscle with activities like resistance training. This kind of physical activity allows ectomorphs to build mass but burn the fewest calories.
Those who fit into the mesomorph somatotype can count themselves lucky. Various studies suggest that mesomorphs typically have an easier time getting fit and building muscle mass. But that doesn’t mean they can take their eyes off the ball.
According to most experts, mesomorphs typically require a higher calorie intake and, according to some nutritionists, their diets should contain more protein than either of the other body types. Most experts point to a diet of roughly equal parts protein, fats, and carbs.
When it comes to working out, mesomorphs may have an easier time building muscle, but they typically also gain weight quickly if they stop training. Mesomorphs would do well to keep a consistent regimen of 30-45 minutes of cardio scheduled three to five times a week. However, some sources suggest those who aren’t looking to lose weight can cut this to two sessions a week. Mesomorphs can combine cardio with moderate to heavy weightlifting (without too many rest days) in order to gain strength and muscle mass.
If you easily gain body fat and find it hard to lose that weight, you may be an endomorph, and likely have a lower metabolic rate. According to a study analyzing more than 300 physically active adults, endomorphic individuals were more likely to have higher levels of obesity. This can lead to a greater chance of developing chronic diseases like diabetes or conditions like hypertension.
What kind of diet should people with the endomorphic somatotype aim for? Endomorphs tend to be more effective than mesomorphs or ectomorphs at converting carbohydrates to body fat. According to nutritionists and fitness experts, endomorphs should shift their macronutrient intake toward proteins and fats, and away from carbohydrates. Carbs should come primarily from vegetables and, to a lesser extent, high-fiber sources like whole grains. Endomorphs needn’t be as concerned about the fat content of their diet but more about the types of fat they’re consuming. For example, monounsaturated and omega-3 fats make you feel full longer, which may lead to eating less over time.
That said, “many people misclassify their body type,” says Catudal. His book includes a quiz to help you identify if you fit neatly into one of the three main types above, or a hybrid type, described below. (To figure out your body type, take the quiz here.)
Ecto-Mesomorphs This body type is lean and muscular.
Meso-Endomorphs This person is strong but the muscles aren’t well defined, as in a football player. But you don’t need to be a football player to have this body type — in fact, it’s more common than you may think. In a past review on 774 adults, the most common somatotype in men and women was a combination of endomorph and mesomorph.
Ecto-Endomorphs This describes a person who is naturally thin but has gained weight due to lack of exercise and a poor diet
What to Eat, According to Your Body Type
Most of the foods recommended are whole, nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, and are similar for each diet. Where they differ is in their macronutrient ratios, with some foods considered better suited for certain body types. For instance, an endomorph probably wouldn’t eat oatmeal, because the thinking goes that this body type is better off eating fewer carbs. Instead, they’d opt for a protein-rich breakfast, such as eggs.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR BODY COMPOSITION
Research continues to prove that physical training and consistent, habitual changes to the diet have a strong influence on improving body composition. Metabolic conditions such as hyper- or hypothyroidism are fully within the realm of modern medicine to manage and improve, and chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes are manageable and can even be remedied in many cases through improvements to diet and exercise routines. Simply type “[exercise/diet] impact on body composition” into your favorite search engine and quickly become overwhelmed with the breadth of research spanning the last century.
The human body is highly adaptable and always seeks homeostasis (i.e., equilibrium) within its environment. But it can take a while to break old patterns that the body has gotten used to. This fact – that change takes time and consistency – is more than likely what leads many people to resign to the notion that they are stuck in a somatotype; because change is hard, and it’s often far easier and convenient to chalk one’s body dissatisfaction up to forces beyond direct control. But this is also where Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches have the most opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with clients.
Muscle is healthily gained at around one pound per month, and fat healthily lost at around one pound per week. After a desirable body composition has been attained through lifestyle modification, physical training, and healthy changes to diet – and, more importantly, when those new habits are adopted and maintained permanently – the new body that is symptomatic of all those changes will eventually become the “new normal.”
Metabolisms and appetites adjust to new energy intakes, physical activity becomes a natural part of the day instead of a chore, and someone who was predominately ectomorphic or endomorphic will eventually see themselves displaying far more mesomorphic traits over time.
Sample Food Menus for Each Body Type
A 1-Day Sample Menu for Ectomorphs
In terms of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat), Catudal suggests that ectomorphs eat a 45-35-20 split of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This means you’ll be eating a moderate protein, lower fat, and higher carbohydrate diet compared with the other diets.
Breakfast Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
Snack Protein shake
Lunch Salad with a variety of chopped veggies, topped with chicken and vinaigrette
Snack Apple and almonds
Dinner Grilled shrimp and broccoli over quinoa
A 1-Day Sample Menu for Mesomorphs
A mesomorph will aim to divide their calories fairly evenly between the macronutrients, Catudal says.
Breakfast Toast with scrambled eggs
Snack Protein bar and fruit
Lunch Salad with mixed chopped veggies, chickpeas, and your choice of dressing
Snack Veggies and hummus
Dinner Chicken breast, roasted veggies, sweet potato
A 1-Day Sample Menu for Endomorphs
The endomorph will want to stick with a 20-40-40 split of calories between carbohydrates, protein, and fat in order to shed body fat, says Catudal. (Read: High protein, lower in carbs.) Consume grains with lunch or dinner, depending on the time of your workout, he advises.
Breakfast Eggs and spinach
Snack Protein bar
Lunch Roasted turkey lettuce wraps
Snack Veggies and hummus
Dinner Chicken with zucchini noodles and quinoa
Advantages of Following a Body Type Diet
Learning about your somatotype and where you fall can help you determine the nutrient intake that will fuel your body best, and, if it’s your goal, so you’ll lose weight more effectively, says Catudal. The body type diet isn’t unhealthy, which is another plus, and importantly it may steer you away from more extreme diets that will, at best, not work, and at worst, backfire.
There’s still an eating prescription involved, though. Ectomorphs, for example, are thought to excel on a higher-carbohydrate eating plan, so an extremely low-carb keto diet may set them up for failure. It’s one reason why the latest diet isn’t guaranteed to give you the same results as your friend who tried the same plan.
U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diets of the Year
You’ll also get a reality check on your goals. Though anyone can give their birth body type a dramatic shift, it depends on how much time and effort you’re looking to put in, says Catudal. You may be striving for defined abs now, but that may not be right for your body — and that’s okay. Despite what popular culture may have you believe, there’s no “perfect” diet, and improving your health is what matters.
Another benefit to working with your body type is that it can help you “understand how to maximize your potential and not get frustrated by your limitations,” says Marta Montenegro, PhD, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a specialist in fitness nutrition in Miami. For instance, endomorphs tend to have a more difficult time losing weight. Knowing this ahead of time can help prime you to put in the work needed or tweak your diet accordingly (by reducing carbs), she says. There is often a lot of frustration involved in weight loss, and knowing your body type can help you set expectations appropriately.
Disadvantages of the Body Type Diet
Many experts say there isn’t enough data to support a body type diet. “There’s just no research out there on using your somatotype to define your diet,” says Melina Jampolis, MD, an internist and board-certified physician nutrition specialist in Valley Village, California. While it may point to how easily you can lose weight (naturally thin ectomorphs and more muscular mesomorphs will likely have an easier time because of their supposed healthier insulin function), she says, “in terms of body type, the only type that matters for your diet is whether you’re an apple or a pear.”
“Pears” have a smaller waist compared with their larger hips and thighs. “Apples” have a larger midsection — defined as a waistline of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men — which is associated with a greater risk of metabolic syndrome.
“When you carry weight around your belly, you’re likely less responsive to insulin compared with someone who carries weight more diffusely throughout their body,” says Dr. Jampolis.
On this plan, apple types would be advised to limit grains and starchy carbs to help improve insulin sensitivity. This is true no matter how you’d describe yourself, she says, adding that even ectomorphs who have a bigger belly are at risk for health problems.