"What’s My Body Type?" A group of women with different body types in workout clothes.

What’s My Body Type? Targeting the Three Body Types

One of the biggest mistakes people make in their fitness journey is assuming that everyone has the same workout and diet needs.

If we all follow the same fitness routines, then we’ll see the same results, right?

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Everyone is unique, and that means we need to cater to our specific needs and body types.

Body Build Types

There are three main body types that dictate how your body changes through diet and training: endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph. Your body type isn’t an indicator of your health — it’s just something to keep in mind as you pursue your fitness goals. Being able to identify your body type can help you create a lifestyle that’ll help you reach your goals.

What differentiates these three body build types, or “somatotypes,” is how they are structured morphologically (e.g., wide hip bones, narrow shoulders), and where they tend to hold onto fat and accumulate muscle. Because of variations in metabolism (the process through which your body burns calories from food as energy), some people find it easier to lose body fat, whereas others are able to build muscle quicker. 

So, what’s the best approach for your specific body type?

Endomorph Body Type

Endomorph is the first of the three body types we will discuss. The good news is that people of this type can gain muscle fairly easily. The catch is that this muscle gain is often accompanied by fat gain as well.

Endomorph body type

Endomorphs generally have wide hip bones and broad shoulders, (along with a higher baseline body fat percentage. Endomorphs also tend to hang onto body fat in the trunk, which may have been a very handy evolutionary trait in the past, when food was scarce. However, nowadays, having this body type can be more difficult to navigate. So what’s an endomorph to do?

Workouts for Endomorphs

Forget long hours walking on the treadmill; endomorphs respond best to HIIT (high-intensity interval training), such as sprints and weight training. Yes, HIIT is generally “tougher” than a long bout of low-intensity cardio, but it has the upside of being time-efficient and effective for burning body fat and building muscle. It’s a win-win situation!

Interval training will make your heart rate rise and ensure that you get a good sweat going. If you need some extra pep to get through your training, try a pre-workout supplement. It’ll give you the energy to push through your workout, and it can even help you burn more fat thanks to metabolism-boosting ingredients like green tea extract and caffeine.

While you may feel the urge to do lots of HIIT cardio, don’t neglect weight training. In fact, that should be your main focus when it comes to fitness. Lifting weights means that you’ll build more muscle, which will translate to burning more calories over time since muscle tissue is more metabolically demanding than body fat. Plus, with the extra muscle, you’ll have a strength advantage over the other body types!

Diet for Endomorphs

As with all body types, focusing on the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats) is important. However, endomorphs are typically “carb intolerant” as in they readily store excess carbs as body fat. 

Ever feel yourself gain a few pounds just by looking at bread or pasta? You’re not alone. Endomorphs have to be cautious about where they get their carbs from so they avoid packing on unwanted body fat.

In this case, try to get most of your carbs from vegetables and other high-fiber sources. Also, be careful about liquids like fruit juice, which may seem healthy but often contain large amounts of added sugar.

Diet for endomorphs

Protein is a definite must at every meal, especially with all the weight training you’re going to be doing — it’ll assist with muscle-building and with recovery between workouts. Fat is also crucial, as it’ll keep you fuller for longer so you’ll feel the need to snack less.

Here are some of the best foods to eat as an endomorph:

  • Veggies — lots and lots of them, especially fibrous varieties like leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, like broccoli.
  • High-fiber complex carb sources such as quinoa, beans, barley, sweet potatoes, and oats
  • Healthy fats such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil
  • Lean protein sources like grilled chicken breast, tuna, and nonfat plain Greek yogurt

Ectomorph Body Type

On the opposite end of the body-type spectrum is the ectomorph, or more familiarly, the “hardgainer.” Ectomorphs are typically lean, long-limbed individuals who have a very fast metabolism; these are the folks who can eat just about anything, even fast food, candy, and soda, without gaining weight. 

While that may seem lucky to some people, it can become a problem for those who want to bulk up and build muscle. It isn’t impossible to do so as an ectomorph, but it can be challenging.

Ectomorph body type

Workouts for Ectomorphs

When it comes to workouts, you can skip the extensive cardio sessions and focus instead on weightlifting. You’ll see the results you’re looking for by picking up the dumbbells and barbells.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t do cardio at all. In fact, you definitely should do some — it’s important for your cardiovascular health. But bear in mind that doing a lot of cardio will make it harder for you to gain mass.

Weightlifting should be your main priority. Focus on compound movements, which are exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time. We’re talking about movements like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses, which give you more bang for your buck. The key is to focus on constant progression when lifting, always striving to add more weight to the bar and perform more reps than your previous workout.

Diet for Ectomorphs

Ectomorphs must remember to eat, eat, eat! If your goal is to build lean muscle mass, you need to be in a calorie surplus — that is, eating more calories than you burn. The excess energy will be used to build that muscle you’re looking for.

Diet for ectomorphs

Make sure you load up on your carbs, protein, and healthy fats. A recommended calorie surplus is approximately 500 calories above your maintenance calories, daily.

Since ectomorphs have naturally fast metabolisms, they should focus on calorie-dense foods to help meet their energy needs. Eating foods that are high in fiber and low in calories will make it difficult to consume a sufficient amount of calories. 

Here are some foods to eat if you’re in the ectomorph body type group:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Fresh fruit and veggies (don’t go overboard as these will fill you up)
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Whole milk and full-fat dairy products (e.g. 4% cottage cheese)
  • Whole eggs
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon
  • Chicken and lean meat cuts

If you’re wondering how on Earth you’re going to eat more food, consider a post-workout supplement or mass gainer powder to get the nutrients you need to bulk up.

Mesomorph Body Type

The final body type is mesomorph. Mesomorphs are the lucky ones who have a naturally athletic build — broad-shoulder, v-tapered look — and can pack on the muscle without the extra fat.

But because their genetics make their fitness path easier than their endomorph and ectomorph counterparts, it’s common for them to develop poor habits that won’t do them any favors when they get older.

Workouts for Mesomorphs

Mesomorphs typically don’t struggle when it comes to training. As long as you’re consistent with your workouts and are taking enough recovery time, then you’ll be okay.

Mesomorph body type

Just as with other body types, weight training is important. It’ll develop your muscles and promote calorie burning long after your workout is done. Go for moderate to heavy weights so you can really stimulate that growth and get stronger. A tip to keep up the intensity of your training — time your rest breaks and use supersets to maintain a solid pace, like bicep curls paired with tricep extensions.

Add in modest amounts of cardio to balance out your exercise regimen. As with endomorphs, HIIT is a great way to keep your training timely and make sure that you’re really working hard in the gym.

Diet for Mesomorphs

Lucky mesomorphs can be pretty flexible with their diet without compromising their results. But as with your training, your diet should be balanced.

Aim for a moderate amount of complex carbs and healthy fats. You should eat more protein than you might expect due to the high-intensity training you do. That extra protein will fuel muscle repair and growth. If you have trouble eating enough protein from whole foods (and many people do), consider a high-quality protein supplement.

Diet for mesomorphs

As a mesomorph, here are the main foods you should incorporate into your diet:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Lean meat
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat and nonfat dairy

Final Thoughts

While these body types aren’t indicators of health, they can guide you in identifying the most efficient way to reach your fitness goals. Whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle or both, knowing your body type will help you adjust your diet and training to suit your genetics and metabolism. 

Lastly, know that some people aren’t purely an endomorph, ectomorph, or mesomorph, but rather a hybrid of two body types. If you find that you’re more of a “meso-endomorph” hybrid, for example, you should incorporate a balance of the approaches mentioned above for those body types. As with any new diet or training program, don’t be afraid to try new things to see what works best for you!

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Elliot Reimers

Elliot Reimers is a NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (CNC) and M.S. candidate at Michigan State University, where he is studying Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology. He has been a freelance science writer since 2013, centering on the topics of nutritional science, dietary supplementation, fitness, and exercise physiology. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and is an inveterate “science nerd” who loves fitness. He is passionate about coaching and educating people about how to live healthier, be smarter about what they put in their bodies, and perform better. In his spare time, you’re most likely to find Elliot hoisting barbells, hiking the mountains of beautiful Colorado, or working on content for Simply Shredded.