Do you look more like a marathon runner than a swimmer? Would you describe yourself as long and lean, willowy or wiry? Is it difficult for you to put on muscle mass? If you said, "yes" to any of these questions, then you most likely have an ectomorph body type.
Models who grace the covers and pages of most fashion magazine tend to have an ectomorph body type. In addition to being tall, they have a thin build, long limbs, small joints and thin bones. Many are flat chested and don't have much junk in the trunk. Although they appear skinny, they can actually have higher body fat than one might expect. Ectomorphs have a difficult time putting on muscle mass because their metabolism has a tendency to run higher than other body types. In the fitness world, we would refer to them as “hard gainers.” Famous female ectomorphs include Kate Moss, Natalie Portman, Taylor Swift, Kate Middleton and Cameron Diaz. Famous male ectomorphs include Matthew McConaughey, Bradley Cooper and Toby McGuire.
Diet and Metabolism
Ectomorphs have a fast metabolism, which is both a blessing and a curse. A high metabolism makes is easy to get lean, and it can seem as if they can eat whatever they want and not gain weight. However, with age, their metabolisms will slow down, primarily due to low muscle mass, which can result in an unhealthy gain in body fat.
The best diet for an ectomorph is one that is higher in carbohydrates and calories. Approximately 50 to 60 percent of calories should come from carbs, 25 percent from protein and 25 percent from fat.
Additional Nutrition Tips
- Eat every two to four hours.
- Add at least 500 calories if you want to gain weight or muscle.
- Choose warm foods over cold foods (better for digestion).
- Best starchy carbohydrates include oats, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes and potatoes.
- Best fruit choices include bananas, mangoes, pineapple, papaya, avocado and peaches.
- Best vegetable choices include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, beets and carrots, especially cooked in coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter).
- Nutrient dense snacks include nuts and seeds, as well as nut butters.
The key is to still eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in nutrients. Just because you have an ectomorph body type, doesn't mean you should use that as an excuse to eat everything, including junk food.
Pre- and Post-workout Nutrition
About 30 to 60 minutes before a workout, make sure to eat or drink a fast-digesting carbohydrate and some protein, such as fruit or toast with almond butter and jam. These nutrients will help keep you energized throughout your workout. And don’t forget to stay hydrated before and during your workout. If your exercise lasts less than 60 minutes, hydrate with water. If it’s longer than 60 minutes, consider adding a fast-digesting carb (gel, blocks, or beverage) to keep your energy level up.
Your post-workout meal should be consumed 30 to 60 minutes after your workout. The ideal post-workout meal includes a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein to help quickly replenish your glycogen stores and repair and build muscle fibers. Here's an example of a great post-workout meal from our breakfast cookbook, No Excuses! 50 Healthy Ways to ROCK Breakfast!
Nutty and Fruity Amaranth Hot Cereal
(Makes 1 serving)
- 1/3 cup amaranth
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup rice milk
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
- Bring water to a boil in a pot and add the amaranth. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed. Stir in the rice milk, cranberries, nuts and chia seeds. Pour into a bowl and serve.
Ectomorphs are at a disadvantage when it comes to building muscle and sculpting the body. The goal of toning, sculpting and creating curves on a small, thin frame can be achieved with a dedicated training and nutrition program. All ectomorphs, whether his or her goal is to be a body builder or achieve a healthy, lean and strong body, can benefit from a solid, consistent weight-training program.
Ectomorphs tend to excel in endurance-type activities, so it’s not surprising that many prefer cardio training over weight lifting. The key to stimulate muscle growth is to do the minimal amount of cardio required for general health. Three times a week for 30 minutes is recommended.
To build muscle mass, increase strength and sculpt the body, a simple weight-training routine using heavy weights is critical for the ectomorph. The focus should be on using heavier weights and completing three to five sets of approximately eight to 12 reps for each muscle group.
Weight Training Weekly Workout for Ectomorph: Heavy weight, pyramid rep scheme
Day 1 – Chest/Triceps
Incline dumbbell press, 12, 10, 10, 8
Dumbbell flyes flat bench 3 x 12
Overhead extensions 12, 10, 10, 8
Dips 3 x 12
Day 2 – Back/Biceps
Wide-grip pull-ups 12, 10, 10, 8
Bent-over dumbbell rows 12, 10, 10, 8
Seated barbell curls 12, 10, 10, 8
Alternate dumbbell curls 3 x 12
Day 3 – Legs/Shoulders
Leg press 12, 10, 10, 8
Lying leg curls 12, 10, 10, 8
Barbell squats 3 x 12
Deadlifts 3 x 12
Walking lunges 3 x 12 each leg (total 24)
Military press 12, 10, 10, 8
Rear delt flyes 3 x 12
Lateral raise 3 x 12
Day 4 Rest/Slow Steady-state Cardio
Day 5 – Total-body Superset
Push-ups 3 x 12 with close grip lat. pulldown 3 x 12
Skull crushers 3 x 12 with standing biceps curls 3 x 12
Arnolds (shoulder press) 3 x 12 with step-ups 3 x 12 each leg
Days 6 and 7 Rest/Slow Steady-state Cardio