I'm a small-town Minnesota dietitian and triathlete.
I help endurance athletes reach their performance and body composition goals through a flexible eating style.
Weight does not define the health of a person. No matter the body type and size, there are many factors that play into being healthy or unhealthy.
As an athlete, I do think it’s important to understand and acknowledge your body type, how it plays a role in your sport and being proud of the body that you have. If you don’t consider yourself an athlete, then I highly recommend you read this.
Most athletes can fit into one of three general categories of body types:
Note that there is a wide variety of shapes and sizes even within these three categories. No one fits perfectly into one category, you may find that you are a combination of two types.
All three body types can be considered healthy or unhealthy, depending on the lifestyle and habits a person lives. Weight does not define the health of a person. Yes, I repeated myself, because it’s worth saying twice!
Let’s now talk more about the three categories of body types.
Ectomorphs tend to be long limbed and not particularly muscular. They are the most resistant to weight gain because they tend to have a fast metabolism, and they are limited in the ability to build muscle mass.
Mesomorphs tend to lose and gain weight easily, and are able to build muscle quickly. This body type tends to have a longer torso and short limbs, making them excel in explosive sports that call for speed and power.
The endomorph body type is naturally curvy with a fuller figure and tends to store fat easily. This doesn’t mean that endomorphs are destined to be overweight or obese. Even with a less forgiving metabolism, endomorphs can still be healthy and keep body fat percentage in check. The difficult part is coming to terms with the fact that your genetics will make it easy to gain weight.
Should you eat for your body type? No. But, do understand that if you’re an ectomorph eating and training to gain muscle that it will take you longer to reach your goals compared to a mesomorph. Or, if you’re an endomorph looking to reduce your body-fat percentage, that it will take more effort and time to reach your goal and that it is not impossible.
Body type is an important factor to consider when creating body composition goals. Here are two examples:
Case Study #1
A mesomorph body-type female triathlete wants to lose weight to look more like their ectomorph competition and get faster on the bike and run. But, she set an unrealistic weight goal for herself and her method to getting there is by restricting calories excessively. The result? She reaches her goal in 4 months, but in addition to decreasing her body fat percent she also lost a significant amount of lean muscle mass. Plus, her training has suffered greatly. She’s struggling to complete her workouts and her pace continues to decrease due to lack of energy.
Case Study #2
A talented endomorph body-type rugby player wants to gain muscle so that he can “look ripped”. He sets a body fat percentage goal of 9%. He listens to the nutrition advice of those at the CrossFit gym and weight room of an extremely high protein and low carbohydrate diet. He gains a significant amount of muscle and reaches his 9% body fat percentage goal. However, he struggles to complete all the workouts in rugby practice due to low energy, and is no longer agile enough to compete at a high level due to the extra muscle bulk on his body.
The take home message: When you begin to create body composition goals for yourself, create goals that will enhance your athletic performance within your sport and not hinder. Set a realistic timeline for when you can achieve the goals, and most importantly love your body no matter what type or size it is.