July 22, 2014 in Fitness & Exercise, Health News, Nutrition

What’s Your Body Type?

Somatotype and Body Type

Knowing Can Benefit You!

Somatotype and Body Type

What is Your Body Type?

Hint: View the images above.

Several decades ago, Dr. William Sheldon developed a concept to classify body types. The name he gave his method was somatotyping.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word somato originates from the Greek words sōma and sōmat meaning “body;” hence the term somatotype.

Dr. Sheldon wasn’t the first to classify body types; but terminology he assigned to different body types along with the findings from his extensive work became the basis for a lot of what is now known about various body types.

Others have since added research to enhance our understanding of various factors related to body typing.

If you were not previously aware of the word somatotype, it’ll be one new word to add to your ever expanding vocabulary (while you’re at it, mention it in a few conversations, explain it in a general sense and you’ll have no problem remembering it; you’ll sound super smart in the process when someone says “somato what?”).

Sheldon’s classifications dealt with three common body types with certain physical and physiological traits. His classifications also involved some psychological characteristics associated with each body type; but we’re not discussing the psychological elements in this story. Dr. Sheldon classified the following as the three main somatotypes:

  1. Endomorph
    • This body type ranges from a large or wide body structure to someone who is obese.
    • Tend to have a lot of body fat (they definitely have the most of Dr. Sheldon’s three body types).
    • Very buoyant in water and thus can swim relatively well.
    • The Endomorph body type tends to have a slow metabolism and doesn’t tolerate certain foods too well; examples includes starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, grains, any refined/ white, processed foods and sugars. Those foods can easily be stored as fat in the endomorph’s body. Fruits that have high amounts of the natural and healthy fruit sugar fructose, can also contribute to the body fat of the endomorph body type (however eating a lot of fruit is not usually a large part of the diet of endomorphs who have a high amount of body fat).
    • How you can benefit if your body type may have endomorph traits:
      • Knowledge that this body type has a generally slow metabolism, means that regular effective exercise and other appropriate physical activity can help to boost your metabolism.
      • Avoid or minimize eating starchy, refined complex carbohydrates such white bread and white/ yellow pastas (which tend to be low in nutrients).
      • Avoid high salt, high sugar foods.
      • Eat foods such as vegetables regularly to help balance energy levels and reduce the possibility of increasing body fat.
  1. Mesomorph
    • Represents a body type that is about average height, with a lean, somewhat muscular or toned body.
    • Mesomorphs tend not to be too buoyant in water.
    • This body type responds well to strength training and it shows as people with this body type will appear relatively lean, muscular or toned and proper training, nutrition and lifestyle can enhance the lean, muscular and toned appearance.
    • This body type can excel at explosive movements or sports.
    • Some mesomorph bodies can tolerate complex carbohydrates such as whole grain rice and pasta, bread, potatoes. But they have to make good food choices because into the late twenties and older it can get easier to add gradual body fat (due to increased lifestyle demands on time and a possible drop in regular physical activity and a nutritional lifestyle that can be considered poor or less than optimal) unlike in the teen years and early to mid twenties when their bodies had a relatively high metabolism and they could almost eat anything they wanted.
    • How you can benefit if your body has mesomorph traits:
      • You may have the ability to build muscle easily which can contribute to a nicely toned to very muscular body appearance.
      • Your body most likely will respond very well to strength training and physical conditioning.
      • You can be well suited to explosive sports or activities such as North American soccer and North American football.
      • Practicing good eating habits that include not having a high fat diet and watching your intake of some complex carbohydrates (for example, breads, pastas, potatoes) can help you develop a lean body shape.
  1. Ectomorph
    • A body type that is generally lean, thin and tall, with a long bone structure.
    • Has the least amount of fat of the three body types.
    • A person with this body type is not buoyant in water, due to a generally lean composition and as such may find swimming challenging.
    • Tend to excel at endurance activities or sports, such as running.
    • Can tolerate starchy foods quite well and does not gain or store fat easily (lucky for people with this body type).
    • Has a lot of difficulty building muscle mass (a common source of frustration because even with increasing food intake to support muscle growth, it can be extremely challenging for an Ectomorph to gain muscle mass).
    • How you can benefit if your body has ectomorph traits:
      • There’s a good chance your body can tolerate starchy foods such as rice, bread and pasta (you’ll benefit from choosing the nutrient rich whole grain versions as opposed the the refined complex carbohydrates).
      • Gaining muscle can prove to be very challenging (but understand your body type and you can still develop firm muscles, but gaining more size or lean muscle weight can prove to be quite the challenge).

We can classify our bodies by one of the three body types or we may possess traits from one main body type with a few smaller traits from the remaining one or two body types.

There are upwards of thirteen combinations using the three somatotypes.

Have you heard of the term “skinny fat?”

It refers to someone who appears thin or slim but has a relatively moderate to high body fat for that body type. Well that literally is a somatotype found in the thirteen combinations; however that is not the technical name given to it). Maybe back in his day, Dr. Sheldon considered using that term, but decided against it (clearly it’s not very academic). Who knows?

Here are some examples of the body type combinations:

  • If you’re a woman or man who has a slim body and your body can develop nice muscle tone or very visible muscle definition, and you don’t gain body fat too easily, you have a mesomorph type of body. But there’s more:
  • If you can eat starchy food with little impact in increasing your body fat, than you also have some of the ectomorph body traits as well; this would classify your somatotype (or body type) as a meso-ectomorph (Mesomorph being your dominant trait followed, to a lesser extent, by the ectomorph traits).

Once you have a general idea about your body type (based on which one of the three best describes your body), you have a good foundation from which to understand a nutritional lifestyle that suits you best for the type of lifestyle you have and the fitness, health and wellness goals you wish to achieve.

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References/ Bibliography

Battinelli, Thomas (2007): Physique, Fitness and Performance. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Carter, J.E.L. and Honeymoon Heath, Barbara (1990): Somatotyping-Development and Applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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