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What Are the Different Body Types? Know Your Type

What Are the Different Body Types? Know Your Type

If you have been getting serious about maintaining a healthy body, you may be wondering why certain people stay slim while others have a hard time losing weight. Many health and fitness references talk about body types or somatotypes. There are three different body types that most people fit into, regardless of their weight, height, or sex.

What are the different body types?

Generally, there are three recognized somatotypes or body types, namely ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs. Each of these body types have unique characteristics and can be used to better outline a person’s body composition (muscle-to-fat ratio). These types can be applied to both men and women.

However, it is important to mention that the theory of three distinct body types is not entirely acknowledged by modern medicine. More often than not, people can have characteristics of two body types rather than purely one. In addition, the somatotype theory that associates body types with personality traits has been debunked long ago.

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What body type do I have?

If you are new to the concept of somatotypes or are unsure of your body type, there are several ways to determine it. Under the Heath-Carter variant of somatotyping, there are several rating forms and equations for each body type.

You will need to measure not only your height and weight, but also your skin fold thicknesses and lengths and widths of leg bones. Understandably, the process can be intimidating and difficult for most people. Therefore, it is best to leave this for licensed healthcare professionals.

The ectomorph body type

Firstly, if someone has ever told you that you’re lucky because you can eat all you want without gaining weight, you might be an ectomorph. People with this body type are often said to have “very fast” metabolisms, because they seem to be able to eat anything without gaining weight—even if they want to.

Ectomorphs generally have a hard time gaining muscle mass and fat. This may be discouraging for people who are aiming to bulk up or improve their athletic performance. Women with this body type may also feel self-conscious about being less curvy.

Other physical characteristics that ectomorphs may have include:

  • Rectangular or ruler body shape
  • Long limbs
  • Small or flat belly
  • Thin forearms and lower legs
  • Generally skinny appearance even after gaining weight
  • Quickly losing muscle mass and fat when inactive or undernourished

The mesomorph body type

The second type is the mesomorphs. People with this somatotype are at a happy middle ground. They can gain muscle and fat as easily as they can lose it. Mesomorphs have a relatively proportional body composition and structure.

This body type is often touted as the “ideal,” especially for men. However, people with this type are still at risk of becoming overweight if they aren’t careful.

Other physical characteristics that mesomorphs may have include:

  • Hourglass or inverted triangle body shape
  • Wider shoulders
  • Tapered waist and limbs
  • Average body composition even after gaining or losing weight
  • Able to retain muscle mass and fat better than ectomorphs

The endomorph body type

Endomorphs are generally more heavyset and have solid builds. They have the ability to gain muscle mass better than the other body types, however, they also tend to gain more fat and hold onto it longer.

They may seem shorter or stockier because of their wider torsos and shorter limb proportions. However, being short or overweight does not automatically make someone an endomorph. These are common misconceptions that lead people to misjudge their own body type when trying to manage their weight.

Other physical characteristics that endomorphs may have include:

  • Square, round, or pear body shape
  • Wider hips, wrists, and ankles
  • Shorter limbs
  • More fat in the thighs, arms, tummy
  • Thick rib cage or torso
  • May gain more fat while trying to build muscle at the same time
  • Trouble losing body fat even while dieting and exercising

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Are there any advantages or disadvantages for each body type?

Some fitness and diet experts take into consideration a person’s body type when designing an individualized program. The key to weight management is calorie counting, but knowing how your body is built can help with your training goals.

Centuries ago, endomorph body types were better for survival especially when food was scarce. However, in modern times food is readily available and sedentary lifestyles have become the norm.

Because endomorphs easily gain and hold weight in the form of fat, it is important to avoid having a calorie surplus. In addition, you should use up all the carbs you eat to avoid excess sugar converting to fat. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is recommended to burn extra calories.

Since ectomorphs have trouble gaining muscle and fat, they must focus on having calorie surpluses. Weight training is important along with additional protein intake to support muscle growth. Eating lots of carbs and fat without enough protein will result in weight gain from fat and not muscle.

Mesomorphs don’t have to follow a strict diet and skipping a few gym sessions won’t kill their overall progress. However, if a mesomorph doesn’t diet or exercise at all, they will not magically have chiseled abs either. This body type is more forgiving but it isn’t perfect.

Is it possible to change my body type?

This is a question that many people ask. Because our body types are largely determined by our genetics, it is not really possible to fundamentally change it to another type. However, we can change our body composition through diet and exercise.

Having a particular body type determines your default body composition. It also determines how easy or difficult it will be to increase or lose muscle and fat.

For example, if you are an endomorph with 25% body fat, you could get a more hourglass figure like a mesomorph by losing fat and doing more ab toning. Doing more upper body workouts with minimal lower body work can create the illusion of the inverted-V body shape.

In addition, many experts acknowledge that people can be a mixture of two body types. If you have wide hips but don’t gain or lose fat easily, you may be an endo-mesomorph. You may be an ecto-endomorph if you look thin but upon checking your body composition, you have more much more fat than muscle mass.

Key takeaways

In summary, there are three main body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Each body type has unique characteristics that can affect fat distribution and muscle gain. However, body types are not the be-all and end-all. You can still achieve your desired body goals through personalized diet and exercise programs. Create your plan by talking to a doctor, professional trainer, and registered dietitian.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

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Sources
The 3 somatotypes https://www.uh.edu/fitness/comm_educators/3_somatotypesNEW.htm Accessed February 1, 2021 Somatotype, nutrition, and obesity https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11199249/ Accessed February 1, 2021 Somatotype, body composition, and physical fitness in artistic gymnasts depending on age and preferred event https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211533 Accessed February 1, 2021 The influence of somatotype on anaerobic performance https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0197761 Accessed February 1, 2021 A Comparative Study of Body Builders and Weight Lifters on Somatotypes https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JEP/article/view/207  Accessed February 1, 2021 THE HEATH-CARTER ANTHROPOMETRIC SOMATOTYPE https://www.mdthinducollege.org/ebooks/statistics/Heath-CarterManual.pdf Accessed February 1, 2021
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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated Feb 02