Every single body is unique. The best workout and diet for you might be totally ineffective for your friend. So if you’re trying to pack on muscle by using whatever the newest diet and workout trend is, you may be holding yourself back.
The better way to go about seeing the greatest gains is to learn what body type you have and then adjusting your plan to suit that. It may not be the trendy new thing but it’s the one that’s going to actually work for you. So with that in mind, we’ll talk about the 3 main body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.
The ectomorph body type is usually on the skinnier side. They have a smaller build with lean muscle and smaller joints. Their muscle structure is stringer and their limbs are long and thin.
They have a very fast metabolism but they often find it difficult to gain weight and pack on mass. On the bright side, they find it much easier to burn off fat. But on the down side, they also find it much more difficult to pack on muscle.
The key traits of an ectomorph include:
- Small frame and bone structure
- Flat chest
- Narrow or small shoulders
- Very thin
- Lean muscle
- Difficulty putting on weight
To pack on mass, an ectomorph needs to eat a lot of calories. A lot. You are burning them more quickly than others so you really need to eat a lot. It’s also recommended that you eat immediately before bed so that your body has something to burn through the night. Otherwise, it might resort to muscle catabolism (breaking down your muscle and consuming it as energy).
Eat a diet high in protein and fat as these are the most calorie dense nutrients and the ones that take longest to breakdown. With you’re already fast metabolism, you’ll burn straight through carbs in no time so you need something that is a bit more durable. A good sample breakdown is:
- 50% protein
- 25% fat (healthy unsaturated or saturated but NO trans fats!)
- 25% carbs
Your total calorie count should be more than what you burn. It’s recommended to take supplements like protein shakes to help pack in calories if you aren’t able to consume everything you need in the form of a full meal.
To help build muscle, focus on high intensity interval training with weights. Cardio is helpful for building endurance and increasing lung capacity (meaning more oxygen to your muscles) but your primary focus should be weight training. So aim for a 90/10 split, meaning 90% of your workout is weight training and 10% is cardio.
The mesomorph body type is the ideal body type for bodybuilding. If the following description sounds like you, count yourself among the lucky few. You find it easy to both gain or lose weight as needed. You build muscle easily and generally pack on mass more easily.
You have a naturally more muscular build and when you do train, you see results very quickly. Your bone structure is broader and stronger and you just look naturally athletic. Some key traits include:
- An athletic build
- Well defined muscles
- Strong frame and bone structure
- Builds muscle easily
- Somewhat rectangular boy shape
While you may have the ideal body type for bodybuilding, without diet and training, you do tend to gain fat more easily than an ectomorph because your metabolism isn’t quite as fast. This means you should watch your calorie intake because you’ll pack on the mass you need without having to really go much over your normal intake.
Still, you’ll want a lot of protein to fuel muscle growth so aim for a high protein, high carb diet with moderate fat. For example:
- 50% protein
- 35% carbs
- 15% fat
Try to keep your calorie count about equal with what you are burning.
Weight training is where you’re going to thrive. Luckily for you (and to the envy of everyone else), you’re going to see gains very quickly—especially when you are just starting out. However, since your metabolism isn’t as high as an ectomorph, you also need to mix in some fat-burning cardio into your routine. But you can focus primarily on weight training—a 70/30 balance with weight training being the predominant part of your routine should be good.
The endomorph body type is similar to the mesomorph in the sense that they gain much more easily than the ectomorph. However, they especially gain fat very easily and without exercise, the proportion of fat to muscle unbalances very quickly.
Key traits include:
- Very slow metabolism
- Difficulty in getting rid of fat (even as they are gaining muscle)
- Less defined muscles
- Rounder or stockier build
- Generally on the shorter side
Endomorphs gain weight (mostly fat) very easily. This means you need to focus just as much on losing fat as you do on gaining muscle. In terms of diet, that means you need to cut down calorie intake to below what you are burning.
But the calories you DO eat should actually be very nutrient dense and slow to breakdown because the slower they breakdown, the more likely your body will be able to use them before they get turned into fat to be stored for later. A good muscle building and fat burning nutrient breakdown would be:
- 45% protein
- 35% carbs
- 20% fat
All of these should be lean, nutrient dense sources. No junk food. Go for fresh, whole foods like fresh lean meats, lots of veggies, and healthy unsaturated fats.
You’ll want to include the most cardio of any body type. In the early stages, focus on burning fat through cardio as your primary goal and supplement that with some weight training. As you start to see fat burning results, you can shift the balance to be about 50/50 cardio and weight training.