Ester Marsh column: More about different body types
Great feedback from last week’s article about body types. I can go more in-depth to hopefully clear up some questions.
Let’s quickly go through the three body types again that are typically used to describe someone’s genetics:
• Ectomorph: Light build with small joints and lean muscle. Usually ectomorphs have long limbs with stringy muscles. Their shoulders tend to be thin with little width. Extreme example is a marathon runner from Kenya.
• Endomorph: A generally soft build, and usually of shorter build with thick arms and legs. Endomorphs gain fat very easily. Endomorphs are naturally strong in leg exercises. Extreme example is a sumo wrestler from Japan.
• Mesomorph: has a large bone structure with large muscles and a naturally athletic body. It is quite easy to gain muscles and they are naturally strong. Example is a quarterback in the NFL.
This is a genetic makeup. You cannot change your basic genetics but you absolutely can work with them.
Also, if you are a true endomorph, it does not give you a excuse to get, or be, fat or have a lack of muscle tone. If you are an ectomorph, don’t say that you will never build muscles or that you can eat what you want just because you don’t gain any weight. An unhealthy diet can still be detrimental to your health.
Mesomorphs easily gain muscles and typically have well-balanced symmetry. However, it is also easy for them to gain fat by having bad eating habits and lose muscle tone when not using them.
When you look back into your family heritage, typically the same genetic makeup will show up on one side or the other of your family tree. A healthy eating habit is important for anyone whether you gain weight easily or not. Your body’s functions need the right fuel to run properly. You wouldn’t put oil in your gas tank of your car, would you? Another mistake many people make is they are truly eating the right kinds of food — lots of vegetables and fruits, low-fat protein such as a chicken breast and complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat spaghetti. They get discouraged because they don’t lose weight or even gain weight because it’s all about calorie intake and calories burned. If you take in 3,000 calories (even healthy ones) and you burn 2,000 calories, you will have a 1,000 left that your body will store, typically as fat. As an endomorph, your body is not gracious to a bad diet or too much food. It will show up very quickly and can be super discouraging since it takes a lot longer to get that excess weight off.
With hard work and dedication (I know you heard this plenty of times before), it is doable.
I trained a typical endomorph and this female was not overweight. She was super narrow in the shoulders, hard to gain upper body strength, wide in the hips and strong in the legs. She wanted to compete in a bodybuilding show. She came to the right person because I believe with hard work (sweat and some tears) anything is possible. I put her upper body on a body building workout plan, working each muscle group twice a week 4 to 5 sets of 6-10 reps doing 4-5 exercises per body part and her lower body also twice a week on 2 to 3 sets of 15-25 reps 2-3 exercises per body part. Of course a strict, low-fat diet and her hard work paid off. She competed and got third in her class and, more importantly, confidence to last a lifetime. The body building workout made her shoulders bigger so it made her hips look smaller. Her lower body workout made her legs look leaner and longer. I have to admit, even I was amazed by her transformation. This was a long time ago in the Netherlands and it truly made me believe that all things are possible (also my favorite Bible verse). Whether you are an ecto, endo or mesomorph, or a combination of all three, hard work and diet and the right workout can give you the body you want. No quick fixes, pills, shots or surgeries. I have seen people after surgery — from tummy tucks to arm flab removal to gastric bypass — go back to where they were because they didn’t change their eating and exercise habits. It’s important for any body type to eat healthy and exercise. But only you can make that decision and choice. You do not have to be a nutritionist to know that eating fast food three times a day is not healthy.
So whatever your genetic makeup is, treat your body kindly. Healthy foods can still taste very good, and strengthening your body not only keeps it looking young, but ultimately will give you more independence.
Ester Marsh, ACSM Cpt. Health & Fitness Director JF Hurley family YMCA