We can tell a lot about a persons health based on their body shape, such as which hormone imbalances they are more likely to have. So can we determine which diet is best for people based off their shape?
The very basis of the body type diet is the presumption that people have different types of metabolism and that their body shape can tell us a lot about it. In this theory, the type of metabolism you have will tell us which type of food-to-energy conversion process your body uses. Meaning how your body converts carbohydrates, fats, fatty acids, and proteins into energy and how it excretes the byproducts of these metabolic process byproducts.
The shape of a person’s body is affected by genetic factors the most, but other factors such as the level of physical activity, hormone balance, and diet are very important also.
For example, people who are skinny all over with a big belly are more likely to have insulin resistance, while someone who is large all over is more likely to have thyroid disorder. Further more, women with larger hips and thighs are more commonly found to be estrogen dominant and people who are puffy all over with double chins are more likely to have adrenal issues. However, it is important to remember that this is just a generalization and not all people with these body shapes will have these imbalances.
The body type diet suggests that we can increase the effectiveness of our metabolism by providing our body with the nutrients best fitted to our metabolic needs. The result of this would be improved weight control and a significant health boost. Supporters also claim that giving your body the foods it can utilize the best will increase your strength, stamina, mood, and energy levels.
What are the Basic Body Types?
The idea of body typing was first suggested by William Sheldon, an American psychologist, during the 1940s. Sheldon categorized human body types into three basic groups:
· Ectomorph (Lean and active)
· Endomorph (Low energy and prone to weight gain)
· Mesomorph (Athletic and muscular)
He claimed that genetic predisposition is responsible for our physical appearance, physiological traits, and the differences in our metabolism. He also believed that by making changes in the diet, the latter could be made to work optimally and have a positive effect on the first two.
Later, some supporters of the body type diet suggested that the physical shape of the body and the metabolic rate are actually affected by the activity of certain glands. According to this theory, ectomorphs are influenced by the thyroid gland, endomorphs by the pituitary gland, and mesomorphs by the adrenal gland. There is even one addition related to the female body where another type is added, the so-called gonad type (pear shape body).
We all know, or notice, people who fit into one of these categories. We might even be able to place ourselves in one of them. The question is, does this really mean that all people will a zcertain body shape will have similar diet needs? To truly determine this we have to look deeper inside the body type diet.
Ectomorph (Thyroid) Body Type
Some describe the ectomorphs as those people who can eat whatever and never gain weight. It seems funny, but it is not far from the truth. People with this body type are supposedly more carbs-tolerant, compared to others.
Ectomorphs are also slim-built, with thin limbs and smaller bones. Both fat-gain and muscle-gain are difficult for ectomorphs. However, when they do gain weight (due to inappropriate diet or physical inactivity) the fat usually builds up around the waist, resembling a swim ring or donut.
Athletes who compete in endurance sports, such as long-distance running, usually have bodies that fall into this group. Besides endurance, ectomorphs are also characterized by high-energy levels (especially in the morning) and increased desire for activity.
Ectomorphs are said to have the fastest metabolism of all body types. Their diet can consist of more carbs and less fat with a fair dose of protein. This is because ectomorphs naturally do not tend to store energy in the form of fat and are very successful in burning the calories from carbs.
More than half (around 55%) of a usual meal for a person with this body type should be made of complex carbs. The rest should include protein from meats and dairy products with a low-fat content (no more than 20% fat in total).
Endomorph (Pituitary) Body Type
Endomorph people are strong, heavyset, with large bones and a higher overall body mass. They also have a higher amount of fat in the total mass. The body type theory states that endomorphs are the least common of all body types. Only one in every five people is believed to have an endomorph body type.
Weightlifters are a perfect example of athletes with endomorph bodies. They possess plenty of mass, made of both muscles and fat. The result is great instant power and strength without a need for extreme physical activity such as running and other types of cardio.
Ordinary people with endomorph body characteristics are normally less active. The extra calories and therefore the extra energy does not provoke increased activity in endomorphs. It rather gets deposited as fat around the waist, belly, and the thigh area.
This is explained as a low tolerance for carbs. For that reason, endomorphs should enjoy a diet with a significantly lower percentage of carbs. A perfect meal should be made of forty percent fat, as the main energy source, while complex carbs should make less than a quarter of the meal. The rest (around 35%) is reserved for protein.
With a low tolerance to carbohydrates, endomorphs who are looking to lose weight should also time the carbs intake properly. Eating carbs after the workout is the best solution as the body is depleted of glucose and glycogen at that moment. Eating carbs then will not inhibit your desired fat loss.
Mesomorph (Adrenal) Body Type
This body type is characterized by increased muscularity and strength. The visual appearance is square. Both women and men tend to have a large chest and the belly is not prominent.
The adrenal body type is the most athletic body form and physically active individuals can have a very low percentage of fat. Muscle gain is usually fast and significant. Athletes who require explosive strength like sprinters, boxers, and gymnasts usually have this body type.
The diet which suits the adrenal body type the best is rich in fat and protein and moderate in carbohydrates intake. The carbs should not make up more than forty percent of the diet. They should also be complex (legumes, nuts, fruits, whole grain types of bread, etc.) rather than simple (sodas, sweetened juices, snacks, white bread, etc.)
A diet rich in carbohydrates puts those with this body type in a risk of weight gain, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
A good meal plan for someone with the adrenal (mesomorph) body type should consist of a larger portion of lean meats (a source of protein), smaller portion of complex carbs (lentils, peas, beans, brown rice, etc.), as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Gonad (Pear-shaped) Body Type
The pear-shaped or the gonad body type is associated only with women. Those who possess the characteristics of this body type are likely to have fat deposits accumulating in the lower areas of the body. Gaining weight in the buttocks and thighs is very common in women who belong to the gonad body type.
Women with this body type are usually not as athletic and have cravings for fatty and salty foods such as French fries, chips, sauces, as well as spicy, creamy, and buttery dishes. Unfortunately, these are all foods to avoid if you have a gonad body type.
Their energy levels are also thought to become higher at night. This can lead to late night eating which can be a cause for concern, especially when trying to lose weight.
A balanced diet for gonad body type should include plenty of protein from lean meats such as chicken and turkey. Low-fat dairy products are also recommended. The preparation of the food is also important (minimal use of oils). Fresh fruits and vegetables are very good as long as added dressings and creams are avoided. Complex carbs from legumes, whole grain bread, brown rice, etc., can be consumed in moderation. Caffeine and alcohol intake should be limited.
What do the Critics Say?
Critics of the body type diet argue that the physical shape of an adult’s body is not genetically predisposed. In other words, our “body type” is not written in our genes. Early upbringing, diet, physical activity, and hormone levels have a lot to do with how our body forms at a later age.
Children of overweight parents, or those who grew up in an environment where inactivity and bad eating habits are normal (junk food), have a greater chance of being overweight themselves.
On the other hand, the bodies of those individuals who have been introduced to sports from an early age and those who have been raised by parents who educated them about healthy eating habits, tend to have more muscle and less fat.
To further prove this the critics offer examples of people who have been overweight and had all the characteristics of an endomorph, but have managed to lose a lot of weight and transform their body with diet and exercise to now resemble an ectomorph person.
Another example are the skinny people with ectomorphic appearances who have managed to build muscle mass and transform their body into a mesomorph shape.
It is suggested that extreme limitations in eating habits are not necessary and that every person can achieve a healthy body transformation with a proper diet and exercise regimen. Losing weight and building muscles both require persistent and significant effort, but the results are usually very satisfactory.
The Final Word
The old formula for losing weight by eating less and moving more still applies. Sure, some food choices are smarter than others, but in the end, it all comes down to creating a negative balance between the calories in and the calories spent. Under calorie deprivation the body will reach for fat deposits for energy. Exercise speeds up that process and together with eating right, helps you to retain the existing muscle mass during weight loss.
The body type diet is not a negative in itself, even if the theory behind it is not completely right. If the guidelines of this diet will help you to positively change your eating habits and stay physically active then, by all means, go for it. Just keep in mind that the science behind this diet is lacking.