In one of his most iconic roles as Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood utters the now-famous line: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
It’s good advice, applying not only to life in general, but specifically to fitness. Why fitness, you ask, aren’t we all taught that there are no limitations? Well, yes, that sounds great in theory, but such a mindset often does more harm than good.
The fact is we are all different. If you’re 5’8” and 150 pounds, why in the world would you model your gym regimen after the 6’5”, 260-pound Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?
Yet, people do this all the time. Rather than tailor a fitness/nutrition plan around their own bodies, they see The Rock eat 21 brownies and think they can do the same — if only they train hard enough.
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Lots of things determine what will work best for you in the kitchen and in the gym — first and foremost is your body type.
The notion of “body types” has been around for a long time — Plato even referenced them in The Republic, which was written around 380 BC — but the modern classifications were popularized by American psychologist William Sheldon in the 1940s.
According to Sheldon, there are three different types of human bodies (you’ve probably already heard of them):
- Ectomorph: Lean and long, these folks have difficulty building muscle.
- Endomorph: Bigger, often pear-shaped people with a tendency to store body fat.
- Mesomorph: Muscular and well-built individuals with high metabolisms that build muscle fairly easily.
Of course, most people fall in between the broader categories, but it still helps to know what these broader categories are and what they mean in terms of one’s diet and fitness plan.
“The three body types exist but probably never in their pure form,” notes Professor Lars McNaughton from Edge Hill University. “We all have some aspects of endomorphy, mesomorphy and ectomorphy.”
Ectomorph Body Type
Ectomorphs have a knack for turning carbohydrates into energy, and their super-charged metabolisms allows them to burn off fat easily. On the other hand, putting on muscle can be a challenge for people in this category, as their fast-twitch fibers are underdeveloped.
As a result, they should limit cardio and consume more calories (50 percent more than usual is a good rule of thumb) and eat plenty of starchy carbs and whey protein. Products like Giant Gains are great for ectomorphs as well.
On the workout front, compound exercises in the eight- to 12-rep range are recommended, as well as lots of volume, i.e. sets.
Endomorph Body Type
Endomorphs are very good at storing fuel, which would be great if the human body was similar to an automobile.
Sadly, “storing fuel” in human terms means that dreaded three-letter word: fat. So, endomorphs should focus on developing their shoulders to achieve better symmetry, while simultaneously working to lose fat by cutting back their calorie intake by roughly 25 percent.
They should also consume more fiber.
On the workout front, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is great for endomorphs. If you’re new to this concept, HIIT focuses on raising the heart rate for short periods of time. This is accomplished by short bursts of high intensity output, e.g. cycling at 150 RPM for 30 seconds, instead of 100 RPM.
Endomorphs should lift weights as well. As we’ve noted in the past, weight training isn’t just great for building muscle — it’s great for losing weight too. One study indicated that resting metabolism remains elevated for up to 38 hours after lifting weights for a mere 31 minutes. Raising the metabolism is especially important for people with an endomorph body type.
Mesomorph Body Type
This body type adds new muscle relatively easily and stores fat sparingly. As a result, mesomorphs must fight against the urge to slack off.
Mesomorphs tend to do best with slightly more calories than the recommended norm for their sex and height, and by limiting their fat intake to about 20-30 percent of total calories.
Mesomorphs also respond well to a diet more balanced in protein and carbs, as well as to creatine, which is found in beef and fish and is also sold as a supplement.
Regardless of your body type, you should make sure you’re doing the basic things to stay healthy and fit — eating good, natural foods, drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep.
Despite what seven-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said about “sleeping faster” in order to maximize your workday, a University of Chicago study discovered that sleeping less than eight hours a night over the course of a week can lower testosterone levels by 10 percent or more (less rest, less test) — and we all know how important testosterone can be in maintaining a healthy weight.
This is important for women too.
The other thing everybody needs to stay fit and trim is good, high-quality protein, like Zero Carb® Pristine Protein®, which is sold by VPX Sports, the makers of Bang Energy drinks.
A good, low-carb protein helps to increase lean muscle mass without adding unwanted fat.
If you prefer natural sources of protein, or vegan options, just make sure you’re consuming high-quality foods, like eggs, chicken and beef or quinoa, chickpeas and even pumpkin seeds (keep those jack-o’-lantern guts!).