No matter what your health and weight goals are, getting the results you’re looking for involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a well-rounded diet. But diet and exercise plans seem to produce better results more easily for some than for others, and it may be due to body type.
Body types were first classified in the 1940s by American scientist, physician, and psychologist William Sheldon. His research defined body type based on skeletal frame and body composition. Sheldon argued that these body types are impacted mostly by genetics rather than strictly caused by environment ‒ and that they determine whether you’re leaner, heavier, or somewhere in between.
What Is an Endomorph?
In this framework, there are three main body types: mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph. Mesomorphs are characterized as naturally muscular and strong, with an inverted triangle (male) or hourglass (female) shape. People with this body type generally have a high metabolism and a low body fat percentage.
Ectomorphs tend to be tall and lanky, with long limbs and a naturally high metabolism. They maintain their weight more easily and can eat more without necessarily worrying about weight gain; they may even have trouble putting on pounds.
Endomorphs typically have a higher body fat percentage and a slower metabolism. “Those with endomorph body types often find it difficult to lose weight, as their bodies are more biologically prone to holding on to excess fat,” says Lauren Chaunt, certified nutrition specialist. “They generally have slower metabolism, making them more inclined to gain weight.”
Since excess body fat triggers the release of the hormone estrogen, endomorphs find it difficult to gain muscle mass as well. Increased estrogen production decreases the production of hormones that promote muscle development, like testosterone. Endomorphs are often called stocky or full-figured and tend to carry most of their weight in their lower body, including their midsection, hips, and thighs.
There are also combinations of these types, since most people find they don’t fit neatly in one category. Ecto-mesomorphs are lean and muscular. Meso-endomorphs are strong but tend to have larger, bulkier muscles as opposed to lean, defined muscles. Ecto-endomorphs are sometimes referred to as “skinny fat,” as in naturally thin but lacking muscle or tone ‒ often with a less-than-healthy diet and exercise routine.
Are you an endomorph?
Do you find that no matter how much you exercise and eat healthy foods, you struggle to lose weight? After speaking with your doctor and ruling out medical reasons for this, you may find that you have an endomorph body type. According to Sheldon, endomorphs also have personality traits that can make following exercise and diet plans more challenging. They tend to gravitate toward slower, more sedentary lifestyles and to find comfort in food and relaxation. If you describe yourself this way, you may have an endomorph body type.
Diet for Endomorphs
This isn’t to say that all people with endomorphic body types are or will be unhealthy or overweight; they’re just more likely to have trouble maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight. Research has also found that if you have an endomorphic body type, there are some foods and food groups that support weight management better than others.
“Endomorphs should aim consume diet rich in nutrient dense foods - including those comprised of lean quality protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats,” explains Chaunt. Generally, people with endomorphic body types may benefit from a nutrition plan that balances unrefined, high-fiber foods and healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. “Endomorphs should limit their consumption of refined carbohydrates, processed foods, as well as high amounts of added sugars and trans fats.” There are a few specific diet plans that meet these nutritional requirements, including the Paleo and keto diets, both of which focus on low-carbohydrate and high-protein foods.
What should an endomorph eat?
Endomorphs don’t have to – and shouldn’t ‒ avoid carbohydrates completely. Carbs are one of three macronutrients (plus fat and protein) found in food. Sugar, starch, and fiber are all examples of carbohydrates, and it’s primarily sugar that gives carbs a bad rap. Complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole grains and nonstarchy vegetables, offer a multitude of health benefits.
When you eat excess sugar, it gets harder for the cells in your body to utilize that sugar for energy, leading to weight gain, increased insulin and insulin resistance, which can cause inflammation in your arteries. This inflammation stresses your heart and damages it over time, leading to increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and stroke.
The balance of macronutrients you consume ultimately depends on your individual health and wellness goals, along with the recommendations from your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist.
Although endomorphs are often predisposed to having more body fat, eating healthy fats won’t make you fatter, contrary to popular belief. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can help lower your LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels, helping to prevent heart disease as well as promote brain health. These kinds of fats are found in:
- Almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts
- Eggs and egg whites
- Seeds, like sunflower seeds and chia seeds
- Vegetable oils, like olive and avocado oils
Lean meats and fish
Protein is an important part of any diet, especially for those looking to support muscle growth (which supports metabolism). Try:
- Fatty fish, like salmon
- Lean ground beef
- Poultry, like turkey and chicken
Carbohydrates are an important part of a well-rounded, nutritious diet. Endomorphs can include:
- Ancient and whole grains, like amaranth and quinoa
- Beans and legumes, like lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans
Nonstarchy vegetables, like broccoli, celery, and cauliflower
- Nutrient-dense starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes, yams, and carrots
- Whole-grain or whole-wheat breads and cereals
The Bottom Line
Endomorphs are more likely to hold on to body fat, and diet and nutrition can play a large role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for this and every body type. If you’re looking for a new approach to finding a diet that works for you, following a nutrition program for your specific body type may be a way to maximize your body’s strengths and overcome any shortcomings.
While body-type diets aren’t as researched as other diets, the idea behind them is generally accepted. Specifically, endomorph diet plans focus on nutrient-rich whole foods ‒ provided there’s a balance between macronutrients and healthier food groups ‒ and don’t eliminate any one food group.
If you’re looking to begin your health and wellness journey or are overwhelmed with implementing a certain dietary protocol from your doctor or nutritionist, Health Coaches can provide clarity, support, and accountability in order to get you started on your new path.