Some people have different body shapes and sizes, which are called somatotypes. There are three main types of somatotypes, but there are also many variations within each type.
Body composition is a better way to measure your health and fitness than just looking at your weight. It tells you how much of your body is made of fat, muscle, bone, and water. You want to have more muscle and less fat for a healthy body composition. Your ideal body composition depends on what you want to achieve. If you are an athlete, you might want to have a lower body fat percentage than someone who is not very active. But you should never try to have zero fat, because that is not healthy.
MORE: 4 Tips for Women Who Want to Build Muscle
Women usually have more fat than men, because they need it for some important functions, like making babies and absorbing vitamins. The healthy range of body fat percentage for women is 14% to 30%, and for men it is 6% to 25%. But don’t worry too much about losing every bit of fat, because if you are fit and active, you don’t need to lose more fat to be healthy.
The first step to improve your body composition is to know your somatotype. Here are the three types and how to recognize them.
This article was originally written by our partners at RodaleWellness.com.
You are thin and not very muscular. You can be skinny fat, which means you are light or small but still have a lot of fat.
Ectomorphs are the type of people who can eat a lot and not gain weight, because they have a fast metabolism. This means they burn calories quickly. People with this type have little visible fat, little muscle, and a small frame (and joints). Basically, your genes make it hard for you to build muscle. When you exercise, focus on strength and resistance training to get stronger.
To improve your body composition (gain muscle, lose fat) as an ectomorph, eat good quality fats with moderate protein intake of 25 to 30 g per meal (four meals per day if you have a small snack before exercising) along with good quality carbohydrates. On days when you don’t exercise, skip the snack before exercising and the morning snack: Breakfast should be enough to keep you full until lunch. If you have snacks in the afternoon, you may want to eat less for dinner than what is suggested here.
You have a natural ability to build muscle mass, and your body is well-balanced.
Mesomorphs can change their weight easily, can develop muscle quickly, and usually have a straight posture. This body type tends to have a long body and short arms and legs. Women with a mesomorph body type are powerful and athletic. Mesomorphs do well in explosive sports—that is, sports that require force and speed. The reason for this skill is the type of muscle mesomorphs have. Mesomorphs have more fast-twitch fibers and will gain muscle mass faster than any other body type. Basically your genes are suited for strength and power. For training, focus on moderate endurance training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and plyometrics. You can add in Pilates or yoga to stretch with strength.
To improve your body composition (lean-mass gain, body-fat loss) as a mesomorph, eat good quality fats with moderate carbohydrates and consider timing your protein and branched-chain amino acid intake. On days when you don’t train/exercise, skip the snack before training and just have the green tea or coffee in the afternoon. Eat your usual snacks before dinner and in the evening.
You usually have a soft and round body and tend to gain fat easily.
Endomorphs are the body types that may feel like they got the worst deal. Endomorphs naturally have fuller, curvier figures and have a hard time keeping their body-fat percentage low. The hardest challenge for endomorphs is maybe to find out that they are actually an endomorph. Why? Once you know you are an endomorph, you know that you were born this way. It can be tough to accept that you are prone to put on weight very quickly.
You have the kind of metabolism that is not very flexible. However, this doesn’t mean you are doomed to be overweight or even obese. As an endomorph, you have to make a deliberate, consistent effort to do the things your body should be doing for you naturally. If your body doesn’t tell you to move more, you have to make sure that exercise is part of your daily routine. If your metabolism is slow, you need to eat the right foods that will speed up your metabolism.
For your workouts, high-intensity activities such as HIIT and CrossFit are great, as well as weight training and moderate endurance training. As an endomorph, eat good quality fats and protein and limit your carbohydrate intake to improve your body composition (lean-mass gain, body-fat loss) and to control insulin and blood sugar. On days when you don’t train/exercise, have a flat-belly breakfast within 45 minutes of waking up and skip the snacks before and after training. Be sure to adjust your afternoon snack to your hunger.