Working towards the body shape of your dreams? Start by knowing your body shape.
As we exit the mid-year, many would have either started slacking in their new year resolutions or given up on them totally. This includes getting more exercise or working towards a desired body shape. Before you beat yourself up for lacking determination, perhaps you should first try and understand your body type, and how it reacts to exercise and diet. Although your body type pre-determines your general shape and size, knowing the science behind it can help you formulate the right diet plan and exercise regimen for better results.
Understanding your body type will also help you realise that certain goals are not possible, simply because you do not have the body type for it! Basically, there are three body types: ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph. Some people have classic body types that are easily recognisable at a glance; others have a combination of body types, which allows them more flexibility in terms of training regimes and dietary selections. Here are the basic body types:
Ectomorph: The bamboo
The typical ectomorph body is slim, with small shoulders, flat chest, lean body mass, low body fat and long limbs. Women ectomorphs are usually flat-chested, with a small pelvis and little fat at the buttocks. Ectomorphs have high metabolic rates and have trouble putting on weight no matter how much they eat. Although this may sound perfect to the majority of people who are constantly trying to lose weight, many ectomorphs wish for more curves at strategic spots, such as the chest and buttocks!
Not only that, being too thin means having smaller bones and joints, which increases chances of injury during sporting or more strenuous activities. Ectomorphs can still gain weight, but with a lot of additional calories. This means taking more carbohydrates, protein-rich foods, high-density foods and milk. It may not be easy initially because there is only so much one can eat at any one time – the trick is to eat more frequently.
Male ectomorphs who want to build muscles are in for an uphill climb because they seem trapped in their thin, scrawny frames. To bulk up, more training is required. Skip cardio exercises as they increase your metabolic rate even more, and concentrate on weight-lifting instead.
Endomorph: The pear
On the opposite end of the ectomorph body type is the endomorph, who is typically short, stocky and roundish in shape, although they are not necessarily fat or overweight. They also have thick limbs. The classical endomorph gains weight easily, to the point that some would joke that they get added calories just by smelling food. Without discipline, endomorphs get out of shape easily, slowly adding on weight, especially at the lower parts of the body such as the hips, thighs and buttocks in women. Men endomorphs tend to accumulate excess fat at the abdomen, putting themselves at higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
Losing fat and getting in shape is challenging as endomorphs have slow metabolic rates. The most important thing for endomorphs is to recognise that they are genetically inclined to gain weight easily, hence they need to be mentally and emotionally tough to break through the psychological barrier before they can achieve any weight-loss success. Endomorphs are naturally sluggish and exercise is rarely a favourite activity. However, endomorphs who do make it a point to watch their calories and stay active will be rewarded with curves at the right places.
As endomorphs have slow metabolic rates, more frequent and strenuous exercises are necessary to stay in shape or lose weight. More focus should be placed on cardio exercises and compound lifts to boost metabolism. Although crash diets may give a temporary weight reduction, long-term measures will be more beneficial for your overall health. Avoid processed foods and reduce carbohydrates. Drink more water to stay full, and take more whole grains and vegetables that are low in calories, but high in nutrient value.
The sugar cane
The mesomorph body type is the kind that every guy dreams of: muscular, athletic, physically strong and hard. They have small waists, large bone structures, large muscle mass, and well-defined shoulders and chest. People with mesomorph body types make the best bodybuilders as they develop muscle with little effort. This may be great for men, but women with mesomorph-type bodies may not be too happy to find themselves growing bigger and bulkier when they exercise!
Mesomorphs tend to gain and lose weight easily. Weight gain comes quickly, especially after they stop watching their food intake or exercising, although this can be lost easily if they resume a vigilant calorie count and physical activity.Choosing the right exercise is important for women mesomorphs who want to slim down. To avoid building muscle, resistance training at specific body parts is advisable.
Most mesomorph body types are naturally active physically. It is important to stay active as they age to avoid putting on too much weight.However, they must not lose too much weight or over-exercise, as their bodies need some body fat to camouflage their large bone structure.
Many people have a combination of two body types, such as mesomorph + ectomorph or endomorph + mesomorph. Both combinations will benefit from having the ability to build muscle easily, but physical activity remains important because mesomorphs also put on weight fast once they are sedentary.
Ultimately, knowing your body type or the combination that makes up your body will help you choose your exercise and dietary regime better to get your desired body faster, with less trial and error.
THE STAR MALAYSIA, June 28, 2014
By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar