In this post we’ll focus on the Ectomorph somatotype (which happens to be my own personal somatotype) and dive deeper into its characteristics.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN ECTOMORPH?
More often than not, we were the kids picked on for being too skinny and lanky in school. I remember being targeted by coaches in junior high because I was tall and svelte; they assumed I would be a good basketball player. I was not the most athletic kid but managed to fair pretty well as a track and field athlete. Ectomorphic body types characteristically have a narrow physique. As humans, we are typically not 100 percent of any one somatotype, but for those who are true ectomorphs, the following traits apply:
- Thin face
- Narrow chest and abdomen
- Long, lanky arms and legs
- Little body fat or muscle
As ectomorphs, we do not find it easy to gain fat or muscle mass. This is a result of having a very high metabolism genetically. This body type may seem advantageous to those that are endomorphic or mesomorphic, but it can become challenging for ectomorphs who want to gain lean body mass. Imagine spending hours in the gym and seeing little to no result, and potentially even losing weight. This is the struggle of an ectomorph. Sometimes ectomorphs are considered “hard gainers” because it is hard for us to put on muscle. Although it may be hard for ectomorphs to gain weight, it is possible. As ectomorphs, we must always be conscious of the fact that fat may “creep” up, especially as we get older. It is important to work on reinforcing healthy habits by eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising to maintain overall wellness.
What should ectomorphs eat? There are advantages and disadvantages to ectomorphic somatotypes. In order to get the results you desire, it may take careful planning of meals and exercise routines. The truth is, many ectomorphs can eat “whatever we want” and not gain a single pound. This may seem great, but what if an ectomorph wants to put on weight? Many ectomorphs complain about not having curves or muscles. This is the blessing and the curse of being an ectomorph.
SO, WHAT SHOULD ECTOMORPHS EAT TO ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS?
If your goal is to gain weight, do not go on an eating rampage and eat everything in sight. Strategy is the name of the game. In order to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you use – it is simple math. The rule of thumb is to eat at least 500 more calories per day. If you want to maintain your body weight, consume an equal amount of calories that you use each day.
As an ectomorph, it is important to track our calories. There are several digital apps that can help track your macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) each day. The most common goal of ectomorphs is to gain weight or put on more lean body mass. Here is an outline of focus areas to consider as you pursue your goal(s).
Ectomorphs should aim to consume a diet that is approximately:
- Carbohydrates: 55-60 percent
- Protein: 25 percent
- Fats: 20 percent
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the human body. There are two classifications of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple sugars are by nature, easy to metabolize and use, while complex sugars require more energy/work to break down.
Carbohydrates for ectomorphs:
- Complex Carbs (brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes and potatoes)
- Fruit (bananas, peaches, avocados, pineapple and papaya)
- Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussel sprouts and beets)
In general, it is suggested that the average adult consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, for an ectomorph who wants to put on weight, the amount of protein will be slightly more – 0.8-1.2 g of protein per pound of body weight.
Good sources of protein include:
- Lean meats
- Fatty fish
Contrary to popular belief, fats are not necessarily bad for you. In fact, there are fats that are good for you like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar. On the other hand, there are also bad fats called saturated fats that can elevate cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol.
Foods that contain healthy fats:
- Nuts, seeds and nut butters
Ectomorphs may find it hard to increase caloric intake. Here are a few simple ways to help increase your calorie intake (the healthy way):
- Try drinking your calories in a weight gain shake. Great things to add to shakes include natural ground oats, nut butters, coconut oil, flax seed, avocado, protein powderand Greek yogurt.
- Eat every two hours. Eating the right snacks every two hours can increase the amount of calories you consume each day and help you make progress towards reaching your gains goals.
- Although you need to eat more calories, it’s important to eat the right Eating the wrong types of food, such as foods high in saturated fat and sugar, can lead to health risks like cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
- Go against the grain and choose high calorie foods like dried fruit, meat, fatty fish and whey protein. I personally love eating turkey jerky and trail mix. Try to avoid high calorie foods like french fries, potato chips, and other unhealthy, fatty foods as well as foods that tend to be low in calories, but promote satiety.
EXERCISE BEST PRACTICES For Ectomorphs
Choosing the right workout regimen can be a little tricky for an ectomorph. Our high metabolism makes it hard to put on lean muscle. When ectomorphs exercise, we must be extra conscious of our caloric intake. Calories are burned during intense workouts so in the case of an ectomorph, as contrary as it may sound, less is actually more.
We should try to limit cardio or aerobic exercise to no more than 30 minutes, three times per week. For other somatotypes, the more they work out the greater the result. But, for ectomorphs, focused, calculated exercises are the best approach.
Weight training is paramount to an ectomorph who wants to increase lean muscle mass. During weight training, ectomorphs may employ the “pyramid rep scheme,” which starts with an increased number of reps and decreases after each set of reps, ex. 15, 12 and 9. Here are a few exercises to consider for specific body parts:
Chest and Back
- Bench press
- Bent over row
- Push up
Shoulders and arms
- Shoulder press
- Barbell bicep curls
- Lying tricep extensions
- Preacher curl
Quads, hamstrings and calves
- Back squat
- Stiff leg deadlift
- Leg extension
- Toe raise
†The preceding article is not medical advice and may not be suitable to you. Please consult with your healthcare provider prior to changing your diet or exercise regimen.
Lauren Horton, PhD.
Dr. Lauren Horton is passionate about moving patient care forward through research. As a Division Research Director, she is at the forefront of groundbreaking studies and innovation. Her dedication to advancing knowledge and solving complex problems has led to her pivotal role in shaping the future of patient care in the healthcare industry.
Dr. Horton leverages her deep insights and knack for communicating complex ideas in an accessible way to educate and engage a global audience. In her spare time, she is an avid advocate for health and wellness, dedicated to making a positive impact on the world. She believes that knowledge is a powerful tool for change and strives to empower others with the information and inspiration needed to effect meaningful transformation.
Dr. Horton loves to help improve the quality of life of those around her. She has helped men and women from all over the country discover how small steps each day can lead to huge strides towards living a healthier lifestyle.
Dr. Horton holds a BS in biology from Rust College, a MS in health economics and outcomes research from Xavier University and a PhD in biomedical science from Morehouse School of Medicine and completed her post-doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania.