Body Types - Are we all created equal?

Written by Mark Coles - Follow on Google+ | Facebook | Twitter

A few years ago, I contributed to an article in Mens Health Magazine about training for your body type. I received a lot of emails from people asking me to expand on the subject and if I could suggest ways that they could eat to support their body shape.

One of the problems I see is that too many people copy each others diet with no regard for their own genetic makeup. They wonder why they gain fat on a carb rich diet and others wonder why they can’t gain mass by simply following a paleo style diet (predominantly lean meat and fish, vegetables, fruits and essential fats).

So what am I talking about here. Well I’m sure you’ll agree with me that we’re not all made the same right? Some of you are genetically lean will struggle to put muscle on and don’t gain any body fat, others simply only have to look at the slightest bit of bad food and you gain body fat. In life you also tend to find people moving towards certain sports according to their genetic makeup. Leaner and more slender men/women will lean towards long distance events whilst stockier more muscular men/women will move towards power sports like sprinting.

marathon-sprinter1

So bearing this in mind, would you think that following a nutrition programme for Dwayne Chambers in the picture on the right would work for the long distance runner in the picture to the left? Whilst there’s a certain way in which we coach people to be healthy at M10, for body composition and performance we go quite a bit deeper. Just like in my article about carbohydrate cycling, there are different ways to approach nutrition strategies and you have to pick the right one for you.

This is where understanding your body shape comes in to the equation. Take a second to have a look at the pictures below, you will immediately be able to relate to one of them, if you’re a man or a woman.

somatotypes

It always amazes me when people come in for a consultation, they immediately tell me that they know their body type and they know why they can’t lose body fat because they’re just born that way! Let me put this question to you, were you born fat or overweight? No, I didn’t think so!!

In many cases somewhere along the line, you’ve eaten too much, exercised too little, upset your hormones through lifestyle issues such as poor sleep and stress and you’ve over loaded your vital organs that are responsible for important functions such as detoxification. The good news is that these can be corrected and you can read more about these topics at the end of this article.

In nearly all cases, every male and female that comes to see me is looking to get leaner, gain some lean muscle mass and get stronger (both essential for fat loss). This may simply be for vanity or it may be to improve sports performance if you are an athlete.

In many publications you’ll read that men and women can be genetically “thicker set” and that they are more prone than most people to storing excess body fat. From my own experience of measuring many clients body fats I can confirm that this is true, but it doesn’t mean that you just sit back and give in, you have to tailor your nutrition and exercise accordingly to your shape. At M10 a male that is around 10% and a female who is around 14% body fat is classified as lean, anyone else in my eyes is carrying excess and unnecessary body fat. 

When I write a nutrition programme for someone, I write it according to the body shape that comes in to see me, not what they think their genetic body type is. It gives me a good guide to be able to decide the ratios of macronutrients  (carbs, proteins and fats) that they need.

marathonwoman

So bearing this in mind, this is how I would approach the certain body types as if they had come into see me (refer to the pictures above to relate to the body types).

Ectomorph

This body type will usually be looking to gain some lean muscle mass and not necesserily looking for fat loss

This type of person would generally have a very small bone structure (thin wrists and ankles), they’ll struggle to gain muscle mass but at the same time they also don’t have an issue with excess body fat. Making sure an adequate amount of calories is a priority here, so failure to gain mass could simply be down to overall quantity of food.

Ectomorphs usually don’t gain body fat when carbohydrates are added to the diet, so I would include them with each main meal of the day (sweet potatoes or brown rice). I would also ensure that sugary carbs are added to the post workout shake. Protein is essential with each meal, vegetables and a medium portion of essential fats (such as avocado, nuts and seeds).

If however an ectomorph is carrying some excess body fat, a short phase on a lower carb diet such as the first phase of my fourteen day fat loss plan will almost always see body fat lowering quickly. Once the target level is reached you would then return to the guidelines above.

Mesomorph

This body type will usually be looking to lose body fat whilst at the same time gaining some lean muscle.

This type of person tends to be more muscular and will have a thicker bone structure (male or female). I usually find that this type of person leans up quite quickly but it is important to time the nutrients that they eat appropriately. This person would generally have an average tolerance to carbohydrates which means that the amount of carbs they eat must be monitored. In this case, I would limit carbs (such as sweet potatoe and brown rice) to one meal per day and ensure that sugary carbs are included to the post workout shake. With all main meals away from training I would ensure adequate amounts of lean protein, medium portions of essential fats and large portions of vegeteables.

Endomorph

In almost all cases this body type will be looking to lose quite a bit of body fat

In my experience this is the type of person that all too often hides behind the phrase, “I’ve got big bones, it's not all body fat”. In my eyes, this persons body shape is the result of eating completely the opposite type of foods that work for their body shape, pizza, pasta, bread etc. This person would definitely have a poor tolerance to sugary foods and easily gains body fat when they eat them. I would completely remove starchy carbohydrates like rice, pasta, bread etc from this persons diet until they lean up. The main emphasis of the diet would come from lean meats, fish, essential fats and plenty of vegetables. Eating regularly throughout the day and making sure that training played a large part in their week. My training frequency for the an endomorph would be 4 to 5 times per week.

If after reading this article, you realise that you’ve been eating differently according to your body shape, use some of my tips and please let me know how you get on.

Too many people blame genetics as the reason they can’t get lean or struggle to gain muscle mass. I know from experience that it's often a lack of discipline with diet and an inability to train hard enough to get the real results that you’re after.

The people in these Body Transformations were all coached to eat according to their body shapes, and look what they achieved.

Here are some articles to compliment what you have just read:

Insulin sensitivity – The role in fat loss

Why do you need to eat more to lose body fat

The sleep connection to fat loss

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