June 18, 2024
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Know Thyself, Including Thy Body Type: Working With What You Have

Have you ever wondered why there are some people (and I’m sure you know one or two) who seem to be able to eat whatever they want and not gain any weight? Conversely, perhaps you know others who only have to look at a piece of cake and seem to put on five pounds? Is it just your imagination?

Actually, it isn’t. Contrary to our Declaration of Independence, we’re not all created equal, at least when it comes to body types…

Genetic Variables

There are ten major genetic variables affecting fitness, fat loss, muscle develop­ment, and athletic ability including 1) ba­sal metabolic rate (BMR), i.e., the amount of energy (number of calories) you burn at rest just to maintain normal body func­tions such as breathing, circulation, diges­tion, thinking, etc.; 2) number of fat cells in your body; 3) limb lengths; 4) joint circum­ferences; 5) muscle insertions (although the muscles insert onto the same bones in all humans, the exact point of insertion can vary – even a tiny difference in inser­tion points can create large increases in me­chanical advantage); 6) number of muscle fibers; 7) muscle fiber type; 8) digestive ca­pabilities; 9) food allergies and sensitivities; and 10) insulin response and sensitivity to carbohydrates.

Somatotypes

In the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. William H. Sheldon, a Harvard professor, developed a classification system for body types known as somatotyping. He identified three basic body types: ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs, although pure body types are very rare; few people are 100% of one body type and 0% of another – usually people are a mix of two or even all three types. How­ever, most people will tend to gravitate to­wards one type predominantly. Perhaps you can identify your body type(s) in the following descriptions?

Ectomorph

Naturally skinny/wiry; long limbs; small joints, small-boned; small waist, narrow shoul­ders; angular, projecting bones; naturally lean (low levels of body fat without even work­ing out); often call themselves “hard-gainers”; low strength levels prior to starting a training pro­gram; fast metabolism— they burn up everything, even when overeating; don’t store carbohydrates as fat—high carbohydrate diets are ok; high ener­gy levels; tendency to be overactive and restless (hy­peractive); natural born endurance athletes (suc­cessful at distance/endur­ance sports); sometimes hard to maintain weight, and extremely hard to gain weight; sometimes insom­niacs.

Mesomorph

Medium joint circumference; small waist; broad/square shoulders; chest dom­inates over abdominal area; naturally lean (low levels of body fat without even work­ing out); naturally muscular (muscular be­fore they even started working out); natu­rally strong (strong before they even started working out); high energy levels; don’t store carbohydrates as fat—high carbohydrate diets are ok; highly efficient (fast) metab­olism; controlling body fat is easy; gaining strength and muscle is easy; losing body fat is easy; responds very quickly to just about any type of training (fast results); natural born athlete (successful at strength and power sports).

Endomorph

Naturally high levels of body fat (often overweight); usually large boned, large joints, large frame (but not always); short, tapering arms and legs; smooth, round body contours (round or pear shaped body); wide waist and hips; waist dominates over chest; tendency to always store excess calories as fat (can’t get away with overeating); keeping fat off after it is lost is a challenge; tendency to be sluggish, slow moving and lacking energy; slow thyroid or other hormone imbalance (sometimes); fair­ly good strength levels; sensitive to carbohy­drates (carbs are easily stored as fat); responds better to diets with higher protein and low (or moderate) carbs; naturally slow metabol­ic rate/low set point (fewer calories burned at rest); falls asleep easily and sleeps deeply; a lot of cardio is necessary to lose weight and body fat; extremely difficult to lose weight (requires great effort); bouts of fatigue and tiredness; of­ten describe themselves as having a “slow me­tabolism”; tendency to gain fat easily as soon as exercise is stopped; tendency to lose fat slowly, even on a “clean”, low fat, low calorie diet; often overweight, without eating very much.

It’s Still Up To You

So does all this mean that the only way to succeed in your pursuit of physical fitness is to “choose the right parents”? No, not at all, al­though some may have to work relatively hard­er than others to achieve their respective goals. Genetics may contribute to your success, but, ultimately, it’s up to you to take responsibility for your results. Factors you still control include what, when, and how much you eat; what type, how frequently, how long, and with what inten­sity you exercise; your overall lifestyle; and your mental attitude about your situation. At the end of the day, as I’ve said before, it’s your choice.

There are four keys to being suc­cessful in your exercise and train­ing program: 1) learn how to recog­nize which is your predominant body type; 2) learn how to adjust your train­ing and nutrition to fit your body type; 3) be patient, persistent and maintain a positive attitude as you work to­wards your goal; and 4) assume re­sponsibility for the outcome, for bet­ter or worse.

As the former UCLA Bruins bas­ketball coach, John Wooden, famous­ly said, “The good Lord in His infinite wisdom, did not create us all equal when it comes to size, strength, appearance, or various aptitudes; but success is not being bet­ter than someone else—success is the peace of mind that is a direct result of the self-satisfac­tion in knowing that you gave your best effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

Chemmie Sokolic is an ACSM-certified Personal Trainer, and owner of Frum & Fit LLC. Chemmie can be reached at [email protected]. Visit www.Frumand­Fit.com or www.Facebook.com/FrumandFit for more in­formation.

By Chemmie Sokolic

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