Somatotypes, Part One: Ectomorphs

Somatotypes are used to describe common characteristics that make up one’s body type. There are three distinct somatotypes:

1) Ectomorphs

2) Mesomorphs

3) Endomorphs

In general, the appearance of endomorphs tend to be more short and round, mesomorphs more athletic and ectomorphs are usually tall, and very thin. The greatest benefit of understanding your somatotype is the opportunity to learn how to eat and exercise in such a way that enhances your best traits and features.   Tweet This!

In part one of this three-part blog series, we’ll focus on reviewing the Ectomorph somatotype (which happens to be my own personal somatotype), and dive deeper into the characteristics of each somatotype to help you learn how to combat common pitfalls and maximize your potential.

What does it mean to be an ectomorph?

More often than not, we were the kids picked on for being too skinny and lanky in school. I remember being targeted by coaches in junior high because I was tall and svelte; they assumed I would be a good basketball player. I was not the most athletic kid but managed to fair pretty well as a track and field athlete. Ectomorphic body types characteristically have a narrow physique. As humans, we are typically not 100 percent of any one somatotype, but for those who are true ectomorphs, the following traits apply:

  • Thin face
  • Narrow chest and abdomen
  • Long, lanky arms and legs
  • Little body fat or muscle

As ectomorphs, we do not find it easy to gain fat or muscle mass. This is a result of having a very high metabolism genetically.   Tweet This! This body type may seem advantageous to those that are endomorphic or mesomorphic, but it can become challenging for ectomorphs who want to gain lean body mass. Imagine spending hours in the gym and seeing little to no result, and potentially even losing weight. This is the struggle of an ectomorph. Sometimes ectomorphs are considered “hard gainers” because it is hard for us to put on muscle. Although it may be hard for ectomorphs to gain weight, it is possible. As ectomorphs, we must always be conscious of the fact that fat may “creep” up, especially as we get older. It is important to work on reinforcing healthy habits by eating a healthy balanced diet and exercising to maintain overall wellness.

What should ectomorphs eat?  There are advantages and disadvantages to ectomorphic somatotypes. In order to get the results you desire, it may take careful planning of meals and exercise routines. The truth is, many ectomorphs can eat “whatever we want” and not gain a single pound. This may seem great, but what if an ectomorph wants to put on weight? Many ectomorphs complain about not having curves or muscles. This is the blessing and the curse of being an ectomorph.   Tweet This!

So, what should ectomorphs eat to achieve their goals?

If your goal is to gain weight, do not go on an eating rampage and eat everything in sight. Strategy is the name of the game. In order to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you use – it is simple math. The rule of thumb is to eat at least 500 more calories per day. If you want to maintain your body weight, consume an equal amount of calories that you use each day.

As an ectomorph, it is important to track our calories. There are several digital apps that can help track your macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) each day. The most common goal of ectomorphs is to gain weight or put on more lean body mass. Here is an outline of focus areas to consider as you pursue your goal(s).

Macronutrient Composition.

Ectomorphs should aim to consume a diet that is approximately:

  • Carbohydrates: 55-60 percent
  • Protein: 25 percent
  • Fats: 20 percent

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the human body. There are two classifications of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple sugars are by nature, easy to metabolize and use, while complex sugars require more energy/work to break down.

Carbohydrates for ectomorphs:

  • Complex Carbs (brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes and potatoes)
  • Fruit (bananas, peaches, avocados, pineapple and papaya)
  • Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussel sprouts and beets)

In general, it is suggested that the average adult consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, for an ectomorph who wants to put on weight, the amount of protein will be slightly more – 0.8-1.2 g of protein per pound of body weight.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Lean meats
  • Fatty fish

Contrary to popular belief, fats are not necessarily bad for you. In fact, there are fats that are good for you like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  Tweet This! Monounsaturated fats have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar. On the other hand, there are also bad fats called saturated fats that can elevate cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol.

Foods that contain healthy fats:

  • Salmon
  • Avocado
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters

Ectomorphs may find it hard to increase caloric intake. Here are a few simple ways to help increase your calorie intake (the healthy way):

  • Try drinking your calories in a weight gain shake. Great things to add to shakes include natural ground oats, nut butters, coconut oil, flax seed, avocado, protein powder and Greek yogurt.
  • Eat every two hours. Eating the right snacks every two hours can increase the amount of calories you consume each day and help you make progress towards reaching your gains goals.
  • Although you need to eat more calories, it’s important to eat the right calories. Eating the wrong types of food, such as foods high in saturated fat and sugar, can lead to health risks like cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
  • Go against the grain and choose high calorie foods like dried fruit, meat, fatty fish and whey protein. I personally love eating turkey jerky and trail mix. Try to avoid high calorie foods like french fries, potato chips, and other unhealthy, fatty foods as well as foods that tend to be low in calories, but promote satiety.

Best Practices for Exercise.

Choosing the right workout regimen can be a little tricky for an ectomorph. Our high metabolism makes it hard to put on lean muscle. When ectomorphs exercise, we must be extra conscious of our caloric intake. Calories are burned during intense workouts so in the case of an ectomorph, as contrary as it may sound, less is actually more.   Tweet This!

We should try to limit cardio or aerobic exercise to no more than 30 minutes, three times per week. For other somatotypes, the more they work out the greater the result. But, for ectomorphs, focused, calculated exercises are the best approach.   Tweet This!

Weight training is paramount to an ectomorph who wants to increase lean muscle mass. During weight training, ectomorphs may employ the “pyramid rep scheme,” which starts with an increased number of reps and decreases after each set of reps, ex. 15, 12 and 9. Here are a few exercises to consider for specific body parts:

Chest and Back

  • Bench press
  • Bent over row
  • Push up

Shoulders and arms

  • Shoulder press
  • Barbell bicep curls
  • Lying tricep extensions
  • Preacher curl

Quads, hamstrings and calves

  • Back squat
  • Stiff leg deadlift
  • Leg extension
  • Toe raise

Stay tuned for part two of this blog series coming soon!


The following guidance is not medical advice and may not be suitable to you. Please consult with your healthcare provider prior to changing your diet.