Have you ever followed the exact same training regime or diet as a friend but ended up with completely different results? It could be down to your different body types.
A body type, or somatotype, is the concept that our bodies can be classified into three categories based on build: endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph.
The idea was created by American psychologist Dr WH Sheldon in the 1940s and, while some of his work has been debunked (he theorised incorrectly that people with certain body types tended to exhibit specific personality traits), somatotypes are still broadly used by the fitness industry today to say whether you are fat, muscular, or tall and thin.
‘Lots of PTs put their clients on the exact same exercise regime and diet, even though they have different body types and fitness goals,’ says female fitness expert, Rachael Attard who trains according to somatotypes.
‘I have found that body-type distinction gives you a good starting point for adjusting your workout and diet if you’re not seeing results.
‘For example, if you’re an endomorph (typically curvier and with shorter limbs) and your goal is to lean down your thighs, you will most likely not achieve that result with sprinting and heavy lifting.
‘Whereas for an ectomorph (naturally leaner with longer limbs), that approach would give great results.’
A body type is not a life sentence and your somatotype can change depending on an array of things such as environmental and social influences, genetic variations, geographic locations, and the personal decisions you make.
‘Studies suggest that while your genes may determine up to 80 per cent of your weight and body type (your physiology), environment and personal choice still play a significant role,’ adds Rachael.
However, don’t be confused by the apple, pear and hourglass terms you commonly hear to describe a woman’s figure. ‘Normally, these are references to visual appearance,’ says Rachael.
‘Some women fall into a mix of two or more body types, ie a 65 per cent mesomorphs and 35 per cent endomorphs would classify a woman with an hourglass figure (which maintains the slim waist of a mesomorph but has more curves).’
What are the different body types?
All bodies are not created equal, so diets and training sessions shouldn’t be either. Identifying your somatotype could help determine the success of your goals, so Rachael explains the best ways to train and eat for each.
Generally short, round and curvy with larger midsection and hips. You are predisposed to store fat, but you also gain muscle fast and have good strength and endurance.
How to train:
‘You tend to be bottom heavy so up your reps and use lower weights. Combine low-intensity cardio sessions with at least 2-3 moderate-high intensity ones.
‘Running at a steady pace and on a flat surface will work best for your body type. Try to do as much power walking as you can – at least five times per week for 45 minutes per walk. It helps reduce fat on your legs and burns more calories than you think.’
What to eat:
‘Thanks to a slower metabolism, you should stick to a low-carb diet. Make sure most of your carbs come from fruit and vegetables and skip starchy carbs like pasta, bread and rice.
‘Healthy fats will keep you feeling fuller for longer – think lean meats, oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado. No diet should be restrictive, but if you must have treats, keep them healthy, like protein balls.’
20-25% carbohydrates, 30% protein, 45-50% fat
Naturally muscular with broad shoulders, solid torso and a narrow waist. You can lose and gain weight quickly, but see results quickly, too.
How to train:
‘You tend to be more athletic and gain muscle easily so choose your weights carefully. Focus on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to burn calories and build muscle simultaneously and incorporate this 1-2 times a week.
‘Also include regular steady pace cardio sessions. High-intensity cardio, such as running on a flat surface and at a steady pace, works best for fat loss. To really challenge yourself, make one of your cardio days high intensity.’
What to eat:
‘You do best with a balanced macronutrient ratio so try and have all three in your meals and snacks.
‘You tend to gain weight quickly if you eat too many high sugar foods so stick with the 80:20 rule. If your fat loss is being stubborn, try a low carb/high protein diet for four weeks, then switch it back to balanced macros.’
30-35% carbohydrates, 35-40% protein, 30% fat
Usually tall and slim with long, thin muscles and limbs. You look athletic and have a good metabolism. You generally find it difficult to gain weight or muscle and are naturally low in body fat.
How to train:
‘Up your strength training (ideally three times a week) to build muscle mass (lower reps at a higher weight) and include longer rest periods so you don’t elevate calorie burn.
‘Cardio is optional, (unless you love it of course) or if you’re trying to get rid of excess fat. Aim for one rest day per week or an active recovery day (that might involve some light walking or stretching).
‘Your body will gain muscle and strength very slowly so do not be disheartened if you don’t notice improvements straight away.’
What to eat:
‘You are the only body type that thrives on carbohydrates and does not gain weight, so embrace a high-carb diet.
‘Avoid sugar and focus on healthy carbs such as fruit, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa and veggies. High levels of protein are good for muscle growth plus good fats will help you recover you recover from workouts faster.’
40-50% carbohydrates, 30-35% protein, 20-25% fat
Not sure what type you are? Rachael has created a free online quiz to help women figure out where they fit.
Trainers that will get you the most out of your workout
Asics Gel Fujitrabuco 8, £120, asics.com
Asics Gel Fujitrabuco 8 shoes have full ground contact in the midsole to deliver a smooth transition with every step, while gel cushioning absorbs shock to alleviate impact.
Karrimor Rapid 2 Ladies Trail Running Shoes, £40, sportsdirect.com
With a water repellent finish and a sole offering traction and durability, these Karrimor Rapid 2 Ladies Trail Running Shoes are a good option for trail runners.
Inov-8 Roclite 275 Shoe, £115, runnersneed.com
The Inov-8 Roclite 275 Shoe has something called graphene grip (G-Grip) for better traction and durability across all terrains.
A waterproof membrane on the upper and specially designed tongue construction keep water from entering the 361 Yushan WP.
Giesswein Wool Cross X, £143, giesswein.com
The Giesswein Wool Cross X has temperature regulating fabric and 5-7mm lugs (the patterned indentations on the sole) which can adapt to all terrains.
The On Cloudflyer is fortified with something called Helion Superfoam and a forked outsole which supports take-offs. A wider base also disperses the weight of your impact.