The Truth about Somatotypes
Are you a hard-gaining ectomorph? Or are you an easy-gaining, formerly fat endomorph who always has to watch what he eats? How about a mesomorph, the perfect balance of muscle-building and fat burning genes?
If you answered yes to any of these, you’re wrong! The truth about somatotypes – or just body types, as most people call them – is that they’re completely made up. Sure, there are traits common to fatter and thinner people, and there are certainly genetic freaks who seem to build muscle and stay lean no matter what they do. But the whole ecto-, endo-, meso- classification system is unscientific and generally just a fitness industry trick to push products and appeal to people who don’t know any better.
What’s more, most people who obsess over their somatotype are just making excuses. That’ll probably piss a few of you off, but it’s true! The principles of getting bigger, stronger and leaner don’t change from one “body type” to the next, and almost every time someone brings it up, they’re just trying to find justifications for why they haven’t dieted or trained hard enough.
Somatotypes still make for an interesting discussion, though, so here are some more of my thoughts on the matter. Hopefully these observations and realizations will help a few of you stay on the straight and narrow path to gains!
The Origin of Somatotyping
Without delving too deep into a history lesson, we should touch on how these somatotypes came to be. An American psychologist – not a biologist or anatomist – came up with the categories in the 1940s as a way to relate people’s temperaments and mannerisms to their body types. He saw ectomorphs as thin, lightly muscled and fragile in body and mind, tending towards introversion, isolation and anxiety. Mesomorphs, on the other hand, were rugged, muscular and athletic, inclined towards risk-taking, adventure and dominance. Finally, endomorphs were round, soft and under-muscled, and they enjoyed food and affection and were predisposed to complacency.
Sound like bullshit? It is. In fact, modern psychologists have abandoned this kind of categorization altogether. What’s more, these somatotypes had essentially nothing to do with fitness or athletics in the first place.
“Ectomorphs” Always Undereat
Just about every self-described ectomorph or “hard-gainer” simply doesn’t eat enough. It really is that simple. I’ve had hundreds of skinny dudes ask me how to gain weight, and their jaws always hit the floor when I tell them to eat more. “But I already eat so much!” they claim. Yet, once they finally take the time and effort to write down what they eat in a day, they realize they’re not even consuming 3,000 calories. Some of them are barely getting half that! This happens almost without fail.
Do some people have faster metabolisms than others? Absolutely. Not only that, any individual’s metabolic rate can change drastically depending on weight gain, weight loss, activity level, age, stress and a variety of other factors. None of those factors change the fact that to gain weight, you have to eat a surplus of calories. A lot of these skinny guys simply have weak appetites and even weaker will power. If you want to make a major change to your body, you’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable. There are far worse things than having to stuff in an extra meal or two, so get to work!
“Endomorphs” Always Overeat
On the flipside, the vast majority of “endomorphs” are just fat guys who aren’t willing to diet hard enough or long enough to get lean. In fact, looking at all they eat in a day, most of them don’t even have slow metabolisms. They’re just eating more than any person their size needs! Just as skinny guy’s naturally weak appetites make it harder for them to gain weight, fluffier lifters’ hunger makes it tough to lean down.
Still, that doesn’t change the basic fact that to lose weight, you have to maintain a caloric deficit. If you have a lot of fat to lose – like 20 pounds or more – you’re going to have to maintain that deficit for weeks or months at a time, too. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulty of dieting because it’s certainly not easy. I’m just saying there’s a reason why self-described “endomorphs” all still overeat. Let’s not kid ourselves!
Nobody Is a Mesomorph!
Another funny thing I’ve noticed is that none of the people who worry about their “body type” ever call themselves mesomorphs – the “ideal” body type. It’s really not surprising, though. It’s tough to make excuses for your bad habits and lack of progress if you admit that there’s nothing wrong with your genetics!
Now, of course there are lifters for whom everything seems to be easy. They lose fat fast, they put on muscle easily, and neither dieting nor bulking seems to require all that much willpower or sacrifice. In some cases, these guys really are genetic freaks whose bodies respond better to the same regimens we all use. In other cases, they’re just working harder and complaining less than everyone else, and all we see is the end result.
In either case, though, it doesn’t matter. “Mesomorphs” are just guys doing the same stuff we’re all doing (or should be doing) to build muscle and burn fat. They may have it easier, but so what? That’s life! Unless you’re planning on stepping on stage, the only thing that matters is your progress and achieving your personal goals – not catching up to someone else.
“Changing” Your Body Type
Ultimately, even if somatotypes are bullshit, your individual genetics will certainly factor into your success or failure as a bodybuilder. If you want to “change your body type,” so to speak, and make major changes to your physique, you’re going to have to embrace discomfort. There’s no way around it!
What do I mean? Basically it boils down to this. If you are fatter than you want to be, and you have trouble getting lean, you are going to have to accept a new level of hunger. For you, a 500-1000 calorie deficit – the gold standard for losing fat while retaining muscle – is just more miserable than it is for other guys, and that’s not going to change any time soon. The sooner you accept that and knuckle down on your diet, the sooner you can finally get lean.
Likewise, if you are skinny and have trouble putting on mass, you are going to have to be uncomfortably full almost all of the time. Even a 500 calorie surplus is probably uncomfortable for you, and if you have a fast, adaptive metabolism, you’re probably going to need a 1,000+ calorie surplus to make noticeable progress. Find foods that taste good and go down easy and get to work. If getting big and strong was easy, we’d have a lot more pro bodybuilders walking around!