The best diet and exercise regimen for each body type

By Alistair Gardiner
Published November 2, 2020

Key Takeaways

Have you ever had the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you can’t control your body shape? Maybe you work hard to get rid of body fat but find that even the slightest deviation from your diet puts the weight back on. Perhaps you’re trying to bulk up, but your body refuses to grow, regardless of how much you eat. Sure, you’re working out and following a diet—but are you following the right regimen for your body?

The answer may lie in the theory of somatotypes. The idea was originated by psychologist William H. Sheldon, MD, PhD, in the 1940s. Dr. Sheldon believed that there are three types of physiques—ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph—each of which exhibits fundamentally different physical traits. 

The theory states that ectomorphs are inherently leaner, and have a harder time building muscle or even gaining fat. Mesomorphs are more naturally strong and athletic, and have the ability to gain and lose weight easily. Endomorphs are on the other end of the scale, and have the ability to gain weight—either muscle or fat—but find it much harder to lose that weight.

While many of Dr. Sheldon’s conclusions and practices have since been dismissed—particularly his stance that physiques are largely predetermined, which led him to harbor eugenic viewpoints—his basic ideas on somatotypes are still being studied and used today, often as a guideline to determine the best ways for people with different body types to stay fit and healthy.

In fact, some studies have shown that features like strength can be at least somewhat predicted by somatotype. One study, published in the Journal of Human Kinetics, suggested that these types are more significant than environmental factors in determining the physical abilities of children. In turn, this could mean that, in deciding how to work out and what to eat to look and feel our best, we should be factoring in our somatotype.

While there have been very few studies focusing on what the best fitness regimen is for each type, some researchers have established correlations between somatotypes and certain physiological traits. These may provide a roadmap for curating your diet and exercise plan. 

While every person has a unique set of physiological characteristics, you may find that you broadly fall into one of these three categories:


If you easily gain body fat and find it hard to lose that weight, you may be an endomorph, and likely have a lower metabolic rate. According to a study analyzing more than 300 physically active adults, endomorphic individuals were more likely to have higher levels of obesity. This can lead to a greater chance of developing chronic diseases like diabetes or conditions like hypertension.

What kind of diet should people with the endomorphic somatotype aim for? Endomorphs tend to be more effective than mesomorphs or ectomorphs at converting carbohydrates to body fat. According to nutritionists and fitness experts, endomorphs should shift their macronutrient intake toward proteins and fats, and away from carbohydrates. Carbs should come primarily from vegetables and, to a lesser extent, high-fiber sources like whole grains. Endomorphs needn’t be as concerned about the fat content of their diet but more about the types of fat they’re consuming. For example, monounsaturated and omega-3 fats make you feel full longer, which may lead to eating less over time.

For exercise, endomorphs should focus primarily on aerobic activities like running, biking, or even dancing. While some exercise experts suggest 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 5 days a week, others recommend incorporating activities like high-intensity interval training two or three times a week.

That doesn't mean endomorphs shouldn’t work on some strength training too, if they’re looking to tone muscles and burn additional calories. But though resistance training will also help increase resting metabolism, cardio is still the key for endomorphs.


Ectomorphs face a different challenge. They tend to have a far higher metabolic rate, so they struggle to gain fat and muscle. As such, a good diet for ectomorphs is one that emphasizes high levels of carbohydrates, followed by proteins, and then fats.

The types of carbs they consume still matter, of course. Ectomorphs should consume complex carbohydrates found in foods like beans, whole grains, and vegetables, rather than simple carbohydrates from highly processed foods, like potato chips and white bread.

Ectomorphs may also need to increase their number of meals to compensate for their higher metabolic rate. Some nutritionists recommend switching from three meals a day to five or six. Snacking on nutrient- and calorie-dense foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit can also help achieve weight goals.

For an ectomorph, cardio shouldn’t be the main emphasis of a workout. Experts suggest keeping aerobic training to a minimum and focusing on building muscle with activities like resistance training. This kind of physical activity allows ectomorphs to build mass but burn the fewest calories.


Those who fit into the mesomorph somatotype can count themselves lucky. Various studies suggest that mesomorphs typically have an easier time getting fit and building muscle mass. But that doesn’t mean they can take their eyes off the ball.

According to most experts, mesomorphs typically require a higher calorie intake and, according to some nutritionists, their diets should contain more protein than either of the other body types. Most experts point to a diet of roughly equal parts protein, fats, and carbs.

When it comes to working out, mesomorphs may have an easier time building muscle, but they typically also gain weight quickly if they stop training. Mesomorphs would do well to keep a consistent regimen of 30-45 minutes of cardio scheduled three to five times a week. However, some sources suggest those who aren’t looking to lose weight can cut this to two sessions a week. Mesomorphs can combine cardio with moderate to heavy weightlifting (without too many rest days) in order to gain strength and muscle mass.

Be healthy regardless

Of course, somatotypes are not cut-and-dried. It’s possible that you have elements of more than one. You’ll likely need to tailor the above suggestions to what works best for your body. Likewise, it’s important to remember that even if you’re a lucky mesomorph, diseases can affect anyone. Regular exercise and eating a diet low in saturated fats, sugars, and processed foods is good for everyone—regardless of body type.

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter