What does it mean to have an ectomorphic body type? What’s included in the ectomorph diet to help muscle synthesis? Here we answer all of these questions and provide a guide for building muscle, decreasing fat, and improving health for ectomorphs. Following a body type diet might be helpful to guide you in your natural tendencies.
What Is the Ectomorph Body Type?
An ectomorph is naturally slender, tends to have a thin build, and puts on muscle and fat less easily than other body types. Though it’s impossible to generalize, In general, ectomorphs also tend to be taller and more willowy, with slender shoulders and a narrower build. It’s important for ectomorphs to maintain and healthy body weight, as being underweight can be just as detrimental as being overweight.
Some of us might be jealous of the ectomorph, thinking that they can eat whatever they want without any negative health consequences. However, this isn’t exactly the case. Just because an individual has a fast metabolism and appears slim on the outside, this doesn’t mean that their insides are healthy.
In fact, some ectomorphs may have more body fat than it appears, embodying the concept called “skinny-fat.” Skinny-fat means that though someone may appear thin and healthy, their body fat percentage is actually surprisingly high. This could lead to health issues that are usually associated with obesity, such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and fatty liver disease.
So, how do you know if you have an ectomorph body type? Here are a few characteristics you may notice if you have an ectomorphic body.
- You find that it’s difficult to gain weight
- You find that it’s difficult to build muscle
- You lose weight easily
- Little body definition
- Your body temperature runs warm
Body Type Isn’t Everything
Before we go on, it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to place any one body into a typified category. Body types are fluid, and you may exhibit characteristics of two or more body types. If you have an ectomorph body type, this may simply mean that you have certain tendencies of the ectomorphic type. Your body’s metabolism is influenced by many factors aside from diet and exercise, including stress levels, sleep schedule, age, and hormones.
Plus, body type can change over time. You may go through periods of time when it seems impossible to put on weight, and during other periods of time, it may feel impossible to shed pounds.
Diet for the Ectomorphic Body Type
So how can an ectomorph gain lean muscle mass, lose fat, and improve overall health? Here are some tips to follow for the ectomorph.
1. Eat Lots of Calories
In general, the ectomorph tends to require more calories for weight gain than either the mesomorph or the endomorph. If you feel like you’re already eating enough calories, you probably need at least 300-500 more calories than you think. The ectomorph must focus on increasing calorie intake, so that energy consumed outweighs energy burned. This is the fundamental way to prevent weight loss and support muscle growth.
Calories are your body’s energy. When you have a fast metabolism, your body is more likely to burn more energy than you consume. As a result, without enough calories, it becomes impossible to put on and maintain muscle mass. Muscle requires much more energy to build and maintain than does fat. To synthesize and keep muscle, you must feed it.
To get enough calories in your diet, reach for calorically dense whole foods. Healthy fats provide calorie-dense food sources. Nut butters are excellent examples, affording around 100 calories per tablespoon. Add cashew butter, peanut butter, almond butter, or hazelnut butter to meals where possible. A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories per tablespoon. Drizzling olive oil on salad is an easy way to get more calories. An avocado affords lots of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and healthy fats, and contains up to 300 calories.
2. Get About Half of Your Daily Calories from Carbs
Because of the ectomorph’s rapid metabolism, the ectomorphic body requires carbs to provide energy. Carbohydrates are quickly broken down and are crucial for providing fuel for a powerful workout that sparks muscle synthesis.
However, the key to carbohydrate intake is to avoid added sugar and refined carbs. These are the bad carbs that lead to high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Steer clear of soda, candy, cakes, ice cream, doughnuts, white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Refined white grains are starches that have been stripped of their nutritional value, removing protein, fiber and antioxidants.
3. Get 25-30% of Your Calories from Protein
Some may recommend a slight difference balance of macronutrients, with higher carbs and lower protein. However, protein is vital for supporting muscle gain and fat loss. Getting enough protein in your diet helps to ensure that you’re getting optimal ratios of essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that are nutritionally required in our diet and our bodies require them in balanced ratios in order to fuel muscle synthesis, build neurotransmitters, and produce enzymes that carry out nearly all biological processes in the body.
Animal products provide essential amino acids in optimal ratios. Whey protein, skim milk, low-fat cheese, nonfat yogurt, lean meats, and fatty fish are excellent sources of protein. Soy products like tofu and tempeh are the best single plant-based protein sources. In general, when aiming to get all essential amino acids from plants, it’s important to eat a variety of beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds throughout the day to meet these requirements.
4. Protein Shakes Are Key
To load up on extra calories and ensure adequate protein intake, shakes and smoothies are the name of the game. Protein shakes are a convenient way to pack in extra calories and protein. Aim to drink a high-calorie protein shake every day, ideally following a strength-training workout.
It’s also a good idea to have essential amino acid supplements on hand to add to your coffee and water. This can help provide your muscles with the raw materials they need to grow and thrive.
Wondering how to pack calories into a shake? Try this protein shake recipe that affords a whopping 500 calories!
- 2 frozen bananas
- 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- ¼ cup of dry oats
- 1 cup unsweetened soymilk
Sample Diet Plan for the Ectomorphic Body Type
Below we’ve outlined a sample daily meal plan an ectomorph aiming to put on muscle and lose body fat.
- Breakfast: A big bowl of oatmeal makes a perfect breakfast for an ectomorph. Mix a couple of tablespoons of flaxseeds or a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds for a boost of fiber, antioxidants, essential amino acids, and healthy fats. Top with a drizzle of coconut oil, a tablespoon of peanut butter, blueberries, and a little agave nectar for an energizing breakfast.
- Lunch: Brown rice is a perfect complex carb to provide your base for lunch. Brown rice is also rich in essential amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants. Top with black beans, sliced avocado, grilled chicken, low-fat cheese, and salsa and lunch that packs a powerful punch.
- Post-workout snack: Whip up a protein shake to fuel your body and muscles after a workout.
- Dinner: A large sweet potato is a nutrient-packed complex carbohydrate that works great as a dinner side. Season with cinnamon and a little plant-based “butter.” Grilled salmon or mackerel provide omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids, and vitamin D. Serve with a side of grilled asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower.
- Small bedtime snack: Ectomorphs may be particularly responsive to a high-protein snack before bedtime, which may help maintain muscles. Nonfat Greek yogurt is an excellent option to get all essential amino acids. If you’re not too hungry, stir a little protein powder or essential amino acid powder into water and chug it down before bed.
Working Out Is Crucial
Strength training aids muscle gain. If you have an ectomorph body type, it may be easy to remain in a healthy weight range without exercise. However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise. Exercise, especially weight training, helps you replace fat with lean muscle mass. Ectomorphs should focus on strength training over cardio.
How does weight training help promote muscle synthesis? When you work out and lift weights, you essentially tear the muscle fibers throughout your body. In the recovery time following a strength-training session, your body must repair torn muscle fibers. If your body has optimal ratios of essential amino acids, it can fully support muscle repair, promote muscle growth, and increase your strength in response to resistance training. Proper nutrition and weight training work synergistically to increase muscle synthesis and burn body fat.
Sample Ectomorph Workout
The ectomorph workout should focus primarily on strength training. Here are a few sample exercises you can incorporate into your weight-training routine.
- Weighted squats: Grab a dumbbell and hold it with both hands so that it’s at chest level. Keep your back straight and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat by bringing your glutes closer to the ground while keeping your back straight. Squat as low as possible before slowly returning to standing position.
- Bench press: Don’t panic, these don’t need to start out heavy! Begin with whichever weight is most challenging but still doable. Bench pressing is an excellent way to build up strength in the chest, shoulder, and arms. Make sure you have someone to spot you when you bench press.
- Deadlifts: Doing deadlifts involves lifting a heavy barbell off the ground and is an excellent strength training exercise.
- Rowers and butterflies: Hinge at the hips, keep your back straight, and hold a dumbbell in each hand. To complete rowers, pull back on the dumbbells as if your rowing. For butterflies, start in the same position but instead of pulling your arms back, splay them out in a butterfly formation to exercise the arms, shoulders, and lateral muscles.
- Jump-squats with resistance band: Not all strength-training exercises require weights! This exercise is a fun spin on normal squats. Secure a resistance band above your knees and stand shoulder-width apart. Squat as low as possible and bring your hand in front of your chest. Then, using your legs to propel yourself upwards, jump as high as possible while keeping your legs shoulder-width apart. Return to a squat and repeat.
- Push-ups and pull-ups: Classic push-ups and pull-ups are bodyweight exercises that are effective strength-training exercises. You can always modify them to fit your current strength level. For example, to complete a push-up, extend your arms level with your shoulders. Bring your face close to the ground and then push yourself back to the original position. For an easier variation, keep your knees on the ground. For a variation that tests that triceps, assume the starting position so that your arms are close to the body and hands are aligned slightly beneath the shoulders. When lowering yourself to the ground, keep your elbows close to your body.
- Weighted cardio: If you’re going on a hike, a walk, or a jog, try loading up your body with extra weights. For example add a 15-pound weighted vest, 5-pound ankle weights, and 5-pound wrist weights. You’ll be surprised how much extra work it is walking uphill with an extra 35 pounds. Full body weights help you build muscles throughout your body, from your leg muscles to your core, to your arms.
Alternate muscle groups each day, taking a rest day once a week. For example, if you focus on the upper body one day, focus on the lower body the following day. Certified personal trainers are excellent resources for getting ideas for more strength training moves and to ensure that you’re maintaining proper form.
Things to Keep in Mind
Can an ectomorph be successful with bodybuilding? absolutely, you can be an ectomorph bodybuilder. Though muscle building doesn’t necessarily come easily to the ectomorph, he or she can still become a bodybuilder. It just might take more dedication to eat enough calories, working out, and consuming the right ratios of macronutrients in order to build lots of muscle. Ectomorphs may also require more time for bulking.
It’s important to realize that not all ectomorphs are the same and will respond to certain diet and lifestyle adjustments differently. Make sure to tailor your plant to what works best for you. If you have characteristics of the ectomorph diet, you will benefit from more calories, more carbs, more essential amino acids, and strength training to support muscle growth.