YOUR BODY TYPE IS NOT A LIFE SENTENCEThe observable somatotype represents the current sum of their physical, dietary, and lifestyle choices up to that point in time, combined with a variety of uncontrollable factors influenced by both genetics and the surrounding environment. For example, at one extreme end of the spectrum, a person who has easy access to high-quality food, makes habitually healthy diet choices, is free of chronic disease, and consistently trains at progressively higher intensities will always have a more functional, muscular, and leaner body composition. On the flip side, someone who always sits all day and eats a lots of excess calories from junk food will undoubtedly develop the “soft roundness” stated in Sheldon’s original classification of endomorphs.
But remember, a body type is not a life sentence. If it were, personal trainers and nutrition coaches would all be out of jobs. The fitness industry, at its core, is all about helping people learn to use tools they can control (i.e., improved lifestyle, diet, and exercise techniques) to overcome challenges presented by genetic and environmental factors that they otherwise have no agency over. Body type will shift based on lifestyle, activity, and diet modifications. This notion is made clear when looking at average physiques of elite athletes in different sports, where consistent training and diet standards lead to similar average body compositions grouped across the somatotype spectrum.
HOW TO TRAIN ENDOMORPHS
Training endomorphs should predominantly focus on fat loss techniques until a desirable body composition and functional cardiorespiratory efficiency have been achieved. Resistance training should be used to strengthen muscles and stabilize joints to support more-efficient movement elsewhere in life, but this population tends to need cardiorespiratory improvement and fat loss above all. In the gym, the majority of training sessions focused on metabolic conditioning. Use short rest periods, circuits for resistance exercises, lots of plyometrics (within client tolerance), and use as much additional time as possible for steady-state cardio. Consistent anaerobic and aerobic training will help endomorphic bodies increase their metabolic efficiency and boost the body’s daily energy requirement. Additionally, recommend that primarily-endomorphic clients increase their non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) factor as much as possible, moving more during times of the day when they’re not in the gym. Commitment to a less-sedentary lifestyle overall is the most important thing for this population to begin overcoming their metabolic challenges. Due to those slower metabolisms (regardless of the underlying cause) and a surplus of stored energy (body fat), nutritional solutions for primarily-endomorphic individuals should focus on techniques to maximize fat loss while still supporting, and even building, the existing lean muscle mass. To accomplish this, a diet that is both low-calorie and high in protein is ideal. Diets containing daily protein of as much as 2.2 grams per kilogram body weight (and sometimes even higher) have been shown safe and effective for supporting existing muscle tissue during times of calorie restriction and weight loss. After ensuring that daily protein requirements have been met, the remaining pool of calories can come from whatever blend of carbs and fats the individual best tolerates. Some may tolerate a very low-carb “ketogenic” diet that helps them preferentially burn even more fat throughout the day, while others will experience hypoglycemia and its associated nauseating symptoms without enough carbohydrates in their diet. This rings especially true during workouts, where carbs are important to fuel the higher intensities needed for cardiorespiratory improvement. But regardless of whether carbs or fats are the preferred source of energy, the most important thing is to determine the client’s total daily calorie requirement and keep food intake a bit lower (with still-ample protein) so that the body remains in a negative energy balance with as little muscle catabolism as possible.