Many of us go to the gym, undeniably looking for results. We commit ourselves to hard training to keep our bodies fit and healthy. But we often get discouraged and impatient when these results don’t come. We put in the work, eat healthily, but gains just seem to be avoiding us. One big factor behind this could be our body type or somatotype. This article will specifically address us guys who have the short end of the stick – the hard gainers, the ectomorphs. This is the ultimate guide to training and diet for ectomorphs.
What is a body type or somatotype?
The concept of body types or somatotypes was introduced to us back in the 1940s by William H. Sheldon. To this day, nutritionists and exercise physiologists have used them as a basis for fitness plans. These body types are classified according to skeletal structure and body composition. This whole concept explains that each of us falls under a specific type: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. It used to be widely accepted that your somatotype at birth is lifelong. While the bulk of our body composition is formed through genetics, it doesn’t determine our fate entirely. Research has found that our body types don’t ultimately decide whether we’re fat, thin, or muscular. In fact, we can manipulate our body types through exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes.
What are the characteristics of an ectomorph?
Ectomorphs are thin and lanky. They have little body fat but also have little muscle. Other notable attributes include narrow shoulders, faster metabolism, and flat chests. The most popular example we have of ectomorphs is fashion models.
In the gym community, ectomorphs are commonly referred to as “hard gainers.” This is because of their limited ability to gain muscle mass. It’s not all bad, though, as ectomorphs have a hard time gaining any weight in general. However, with a sedentary lifestyle and uncontrolled diet, they can put on weight, particularly on their bellies.
Diet for ectomorphs
We mentioned how ectomorphs have a hard time putting on any weight, which plays a factor in diet. Ectomorphs don’t have to be very particular about calories as other body types. In fact, they should eat liberally if they want to gain any weight. What’s important is that ectomorphs achieve a caloric surplus, which means to intake more calories than you are using. To gain an extra pound of lean mass, you’d need 2,500 to 2,800 extra calories. Of course, it’s unrealistic and unsustainable to eat that much more in a day, so a surplus of 500 calories is enough.
Additionally, ectomorphs are known to take carbohydrates well because of higher insulin sensitivity. Ectomorph diets should have a strong base of carbohydrates – about 60% of their caloric intake.
As for protein, 1.2 to 1.6 grams for every kilogram of body weight is a good place to start. Fats should be kept to a minimum. Supplements are also highly recommended to achieve fitness goals. Whey protein, casein, BCAAs, and creatine are some we’d recommend. Whey and casein are great sources of protein, especially when food sources do not suffice.
- Whey is best taken right after a workout because it is quickly digested.
- On the other hand, casein is best taken right before sleep, as it’s the opposite.
- BCAAs are best taken before workouts because they increase energy levels and sustain anabolic processes.
- Creatine increases the volume of muscles and also increases energy.
Training for ectomorphs
Ectomorphs have a handicap when it comes to building muscle and sculpting their bodies. Their bodies are fit and engineered to have good muscular endurance, needed for activities like running. However, ectomorphs should keep cardio to a minimum if weight gain is the goal. The best training for ectomorphs should be focused on maximal strength and muscular hypertrophy.
Working within the moderate rep range, ectomorphs can see maximum gains with this method. This method involves taking a “challenging weight” and lifting it for a total of 8 to 12 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets. The term “challenging weight” refers to a weight comfortable enough to be lifted at least 8 times but no more than 12 with good form.
Strength training will be crucial to ectomorphs for gaining muscle mass. This type of training involves doing the basic compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench presses) with a long rest in between sets. This set-up should have 4 to 8 sets of 1 to 5 reps.
A common mistake most ectomorphs make is overtraining. More work will not always materialize in greater gains, and this is one of those cases. Ectomorphs should have intense training workouts spread all throughout the week with a rest day in between. This is because muscles grow not during training but during rest.