If you’re a skinny guy or gal struggling to gain weight…
Or a “fluffy” one struggling to “shift” fat…
Or somewhere in between…
This is going to be the most important fitness podcasts you listen to.
And I want to start it with some good news:
Your genetics can’t stop you from getting the body you really desire.
Yes, some people’s bodies respond better to training than others’, but I don’t care how much of a “hardgainer” you think you are or how “stubborn” your body fat seems to be…
- You can build muscle.
- You can lose fat.
- And you can do it faster than you think.
Now, if you were to tell me your goal is to be an elite, competitive weightlifter or bodybuilder or physique competitor…that would be another story.
In those cases, genetics are hugely important.
Yes, steroids are involved and yes, training experience and methodologies matter…but the biggest and strongest guys and gals in the world were abnormally big and strong their entire lives.
My point is this: at the top, where everyone works smart and hard, genetics determine who’s truly great and who’s not.
That doesn’t mean that us mere mortals are screwed, though.
Your genetics will influence how quickly you can reach your goals but aren’t going to keep you small, weak, and fat.
And in this podcast, you’re going to learn the three major body types, how to determine which you (primarily) are, and how to approach dieting and training for maximal results.
Let’s get to it.
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
8:09 – How do I determine my body type? Which body type do I have?
14:14 – What is the best type of diet for ectomorphs?
35:35 – What are the best type of workouts for ectomorphs?
39:09 – How much cardio should ectomorphs do?
40:02 – What are the best supplements for ectomorphs?
42:23 – What is the mesomorph body type?
43:48 – What is the best diet for mesomorphs?
46:28 – What are the best type of workouts for mesomorphs?
48:40 – What is the endomorph body type?
49:59 – What is the best diet for endomorphs?
53:01 – What are the best type of workouts for endomorphs?
[00:00:00] Welcome, welcome to another episode of the Muscle For Life podcast. I am your host, Mike Matthews. And this time we’re going to be talking about the best ways to eat and train for your body type. Now, what does that mean? Well, you have probably heard of words like ectomorph, mesomorph, endomorph and you’ve probably wondered if any of that matters.
[00:00:24] For example, if you are a skinny guy or gal and you are struggling to gain weight, or maybe you’re a fluffy one who’s struggling to “shift fat” or maybe you’re somewhere in between, probably thought that it might be your genetics that are in the way. That maybe you just don’t have the body type to look the way that you want to look. And I understand, it is a reasonable concern to have because genetics do matter.
But I have some good news. Your genetics cannot stop you from getting the body you really want. Yes, some people’s bodies do respond better, in some cases much better to training than others. Meaning that if you take a few people and you put them on the exact same diet in the exact same training program, and specifically a few people starting out really in the exact same place as far as body composition and training history and experience goes, you might have wildly different results after just a few months.
One of the people might gain a lot of muscle and strength while another might gain very little. But that notwithstanding, it doesn’t matter how much of a “hard-gainer” you might think you are or how “stubborn ” the body fat that you really want to lose is, you can build muscle, you can get strong, you can lose fat, and you can do it faster than you probably think.
[00:01:57] Now, that said, if you were to tell me that your goal is to become an elite competitive weightlifter, bodybuilder, or physique athlete, okay that would be a different story. In those cases, genetics are hugely important. Genetics and drug tolerance, those are the two most important aspects. And many people would say that genetics are the number one determinant of success in those games. Steroids are involved, of course, and training experience and methodologies do matter, but the biggest and strongest guys and gals in the world have always been abnormally big and strong their entire lives before they really started focusing on getting really big and strong.
[00:02:45] For example, if you look at someone like Ronnie Coleman in his prime, he was absolutely ridiculous. He was an actual mountain of muscle. What is equally flabbergasting, though, is if you go find pictures of him when he was in high school, which you can find if you just Google around a little bit, like there was a picture of him when he was in the 10th grade, and there’s a picture of him showing off some sort of award probably, he’s wearing a football shirt, it looks like he’s kind of in like an after football practice type of situation, he’s holding an award.
And you can find another picture of him taken somewhere around that period in his football pads, standing by the goalpost on a field. And if you look at him in those pictures, he was basically a college linebacker that was running around absolutely murdering kids who were half his size. And you can also find some footage, I think it was video footage, definitely some pictures, but I think the pictures are screenshots of video footage of Ronnie when he was 25, which according to him is when he started using steroids.
And so at that point, at 25, he was bigger than 99 percent of people could ever get naturally. And that’s again when he said he started using steroids. And I guess we have no reason to disbelieve him. I mean, he was admitting to using steroids and he was just nonchalantly saying that, yeah, he started, I think it was Flex Wheeler who saw what he had done naturally and said, “you are a super freak.
You need to embrace this. You need to get on these drugs and see what you can become, because this is absolutely ridiculous.” And again, if you’ll find that footage, if you go find those images, you’ll see what I mean. Ronnie’s body was just programmed to be freakishly big and strong.
[00:04:43] If you or I were to go back in time and live exactly as he did if we started training with him at the exact same age and did the exact same workouts, ate the exact same foods, even took the exact same drugs, everything – we would never, ever come close to his final form. Honestly, I’m not even sure we could reach his 25-year-old physique, which he attained naturally. At least most likely attained naturally.
[00:05:10] And so my point with all of that is this: at the top where everyone works smart and everyone works hard, genetics determine who is truly great and who is not. And I’m talking about all athletic pursuits, there and many others as well. I would say that there are parallels in business. There are parallels in academic pursuits. But none of that means that us mere mortals are screwed.
All it means is that our genetics will certainly influence how quickly we can reach our goals, which are probably a lot more realistic and attainable than the biggest and strongest dude or gal ever. But our genetics are not going to keep us small, weak, or fat. They simply can’t.
We can overcome any and all genetic shortcomings that we might have and get into great shape. And in this podcast, what you’re going to learn about is the three major body types, how to determine which you primarily are, and how to approach your diet and your training for maximum results.
[00:08:10] All right, so let’s start with talking about how to determine your body type and specifically which of the three following body types you have or primarily have: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. So while we may all be created equal in a higher spiritual sense, we are not created equal in a physical one.
Some of us have narrow shoulders and narrow hips, small joints and more stringy looking muscles as well as longer limbs. And then others have wide shoulders, they have narrow waists and more rounder looking muscles, and others still have a large kind of blocky look with wide hips, thick joints, and shorter limbs. And some people seem to stay skinny and lean no matter what they do and what they eat.
Some people gain muscle and strength fairly easily without gaining much fat and hold onto muscle and strength fairly well. Despite taking long breaks off of training or eating randomly. And other people seem to gain both muscle, strength, and fat fairly quickly and tend to struggle to get really lean.
And those basic traits describe the three basic body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. And while some people’s bodies have all the hallmarks of one type and little else, more commonly, what you find is that people have a predominant type with shades of others. So for example, I am predominantly a mesomorph with some ectomorphic shading.
[00:09:49] So let’s begin with reviewing each of the three body types and seeing we can learn about them. Let’s start with ectomorph. So the ectomorph is distinguished by the following characteristics: you have narrow hips and shoulders, very small and thin wrists and ankles, you have naturally low amounts of body fat and muscle. So skinny and lean.
You have thin, kind of stringy looking muscles, long limbs, and ectomorphs often struggle to gain weight, both muscle and fat. They often have to eat a lot of food to do it. And they often lose weight fairly easily. And they lose both muscle and fat fairly easily. So the ectomorph is the classic hard gainer, right? This person has been skinny and lean for their entire life and they seem to have a very hard time gaining muscle strength or fat.
[00:10:42] Now, many people think that this is the dream. They think the ectomorph is hashtag blessed 365 because he or she can eat whatever they want without getting fat thanks to their super fast metabolisms. And while that may sound fantastic, there are a few other things to consider. Namely, many ectomorphs don’t eat as many calories as you and they might think.
And I have seen this firsthand because I’ve worked with hundreds, if not thousands of primarily ectomorphs, dominant ectomorphs, and I can tell you that many of them tend to eat just one large meal per day with some smaller snacks or sometimes smaller meals thrown in. In many cases, they also don’t eat in the mornings because they’re not hungry, so it’s a bit of intermittent fasting thing too.
And while that one large meal might contain a lot of food, it might even be a couple thousand calories, when you look at their total daily intake, especially when you track it over the course of a week or two, what you find is that their average daily calorie intake is usually within a normal or maybe slightly higher than normal range.
[00:11:57] That said, I have also come across a fair number of ectomorphs that do maintain a relatively low body weight on a lot of food. That is a thing. If you want to learn more about it, check out the podcast I recorded on body weight set point. If you search that, you’ll find it. And there is also an article up on Muscle For Life on the same topic.
Another thing to consider about the ectomorph body type is that many ectomorphs struggle to eat enough food to gain weight and muscle, and sometimes that’s because they do not have much in the way of appetites, that’s very common. In other times it’s because they have to eat a lot of food to consistently gain weight. I have worked with at least a hundred plus skinny guys that had to work up to eating 4,000 plus calories per day just to gain maybe a half a pound to a pound per week.
[00:12:47] And if that sounds orgasmic to you, give it a try. Give it a try for a week and see if it still turns you on. Me thinks you’ll find it gets old very fast because unless you have the appetite of a T rex, you are going to feel like you are just force-feeding yourself every day. You will never be hungry. Your stomach will always feel full and bloated. And cheating will lose all of its luster.
You are going to struggle to get the food down day after day. Now imagine you had to do that seven days per week, week in, week out. And if you take a few days off, if you go back to your normal eating habits and cut your calories sometimes in half. Like I’ve seen guys that would do that, where they would do a good job getting the food down during the week.
And then the weekend would come, they would wake up late, they weren’t hungry, and they naturally didn’t have large appetites anyway. And then their calories would plummet over the weekend, sometimes as low as 2,000 calories or less. Also because they are so sick of eating food, they actually just want a break.
And then over the course of the weekend, actually lose up to a pound, maybe a half a pound. So almost just lose whatever they gained during the week. So my point is that while eating a ton of food can be fun for a little bit, after the novelty wears off, it becomes very much a chore in some ways more irritating than cutting.
[00:15:46] Best type of diet for ectomorphs. So if your body falls squarely in the ectomorph category, chances are you are struggling to gain muscle and weight, and that that is what you are looking for a solution to in this podcast. Well, the first thing that you should know is there is nothing inherently wrong with your body.
You just have some genetic programming that makes building muscle and strength and makes gaining weight harder than it should be, or maybe harder than it is for other people. If you do eat enough food, though, and if you do train properly, you will make progress like everyone else. It may be a bit slower, but all it really means is you just have to work a little bit longer to get the body you really want.
[00:16:26] And to put that in perspective, let’s just say that you gain muscle and strength 20 percent slower than the average person. And let’s say you are a guy. And that means that to get the body you probably want – if you’re like most guys, you kind of want to have the superhero look, you don’t look like a completely muscle bound meathead, but you want to have a good amount of muscle, you want to be fairly lean – you probably have to gain about 30 pounds of muscle.
And for the average guy, that’s maybe a year and a half or two years of work. But for you, maybe it’s two or two and a half years. Big deal. It’s really not a big deal. And remember, you’re going to enjoy the process because you are going to see your body continually getting bigger and stronger. And you are going to know that if you just keep at it, you will reach your goal.
Now, at this point, you know that you’re going to have to eat a lot of food to get there. And it is probably going to be more than you want to eat or are used to eating. And the reason for this is your body’s ability to gain muscle and strength is strongly affected by how much food you eat. Eating enough protein is important, but it is not enough.
If you want to gain muscle and strength as quickly as possible, you also need to eat enough calories. If you do not eat enough calories, your body will struggle to build muscle. And the reason for this has to do with something called energy balance, which is the relationship between how much energy you eat and how much energy you burn every day.
You can find an in-depth podcast on it if you just search my feed for energy balance. You can also find an in-depth article over at Muscle For Life. What it comes down to is if you feed your body less energy than it burns over time, you have created what is known as a negative energy balance or a calorie deficit. And this is what you have to do to lose fat.
[00:18:13] But it also has a couple downsides. Research shows that it impairs your body’s ability to synthesize muscle proteins. And what this means is that your body’s muscle-building machinery just does not work nearly as well when you are in a calorie deficit as it does when you’re in a calorie surplus. When you are consistently feeding your body more calories than it’s burning.
A calorie deficit also reduces anabolic and increases catabolic hormone levels. And this is basically a double whammy of reduced testosterone and increased cortisol levels that further blunt your body’s ability to build muscle and a calorie deficit decrease your workout performance.
And that, of course, gets in the way of muscle and strength gain, because in order to continue overloading your muscles and continue forcing them to grow bigger and stronger, you’re going to need all the energy and all the performance enhancement that you can get – all the natural performance enhancement that you can get. So when you are dragging ass in the gym because your calories are low and you are struggling just to get through your workouts, it’s going to be very hard to progress in your workouts. You are going to just get stuck in a plateau.
[00:19:33] And so those are the three main reasons why maximizing muscle growth absolutely requires that you ensure you are not in a calorie deficit. And the easiest way to do that is to intentionally overshoot your body’s energy needs and place it in a slight calorie surplus. And that’s why it’s often said that you have to eat big to get big.
[00:19:53] Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to eat as big as some of the bodybuilders out there. You don’t necessarily have to choke down thousands and thousands of calories every day like the guys I was talking about earlier. Chances are that you will be able to achieve your goals eating quite a bit less. And I think it’s actually in our best interests to work your calories up gradually and use your natural leanness to our advantage.
Because as body fat levels rise, insulin sensitivity drops. And what that means is your body no longer responds to insulin’s signals as well. And insulin is a hormone that shuttles nutrients into cells and thus, of course, affects muscle building, because if your muscle cells are going to recover from the training, they’re going to need nutrients.
And so as the body becomes more resistant to insulin, its ability to burn fat decreases, the likelihood of further weight gain increases, testosterone levels drop and estrogen levels rise, and protein synthesis rates become suppressed. Another downside to getting too fat is it reduces testosterone levels and it raises estrogen levels.
And I’m talking about men here in particular, because female hormones work a bit differently. Of course, females have very low testosterone levels, much higher estrogen levels, but can gain muscle quite effectively. And if you want to learn more about that, search my podcast feed for “female muscle growth”. I believe I recorded a podcast on that. I also have an article over at Muscle for Life.
[00:21:30] Anyway, in men in particular as body fat levels rise, you have a drop in testosterone and an increase in estrogen, and the downsides here are obvious. Testosterone is a primary hormonal driver of muscle growth in men in particular, and high estrogen levels promote fat storage.
So the bottom line is excessive fat storage while bulking, even if you’re trying to do it in a lean way, lean bulking really is a triple threat. It hinders muscle growth, it accelerates fat storage and it makes undoing the weight gain even harder when it finally comes time to get rid of the fat that you gained during your bulking period.
[00:22:10] And all that is why I do not recommend dirty bulking. I do not recommend eating anything and everything your convenience store palette might desire because it’s just counterproductive. What you wanna do instead is maintain a moderate calorie surplus of about 10 percent when you’re lean bulking.
And what that means is if you were to look at your total energy expenditure, you could look at it in terms of a day, which would be your total daily energy expenditure or a week. You want to be eating about 10 percent more. So at the end of a week. Let’s say you burned about 20,000 calories, you want to have eaten about 22,000 calories. Or if you want to look at it in terms of a day, let’s say you burn about 3,000 calories a day. You want to be eating about 3,300 calories.
[00:22:56] And the reason why I recommend a mild surplus is it allows you to reap all the muscle-building benefits of a calorie surplus while also minimizing fat storage. And that means you get to spend more time in a calorie surplus, building muscle and getting stronger before finally having to cut.
And what that means is you should be gaining anywhere from about a half a percent to 1 percent of your body weight per week or for most people half a pound to a pound per week. That’s for most men in particular. Women should shoot for about half of that number. That is healthy and effective weight gain when you are a lean bulking.
Now, if you’re not sure how to calculate and set up your calories, just Google “Legion Athletics TDEE” and check out the article I wrote on TDEE, total daily energy expenditure, because it has a handy dandy calculator that just makes it easy for you. So another key point when you are lean bulking is you should slowly increase your calories if you’re not gaining weight. So I just mentioned that if you’re a man, you want to shoot for about a half a pound to a pound of weight gain per week and about half of that if you are a woman.
[00:24:06] But what do you do when you’re not gaining weight or you’re gaining less than that, which is basically nothing? Well, if you’re following an effective workout program and if you’re doing enough to adequately recover from your training, getting off sleep is a key thing there, then the solution actually is very simple. Just start eating more.
And I’ve yet to piece together a holistic scientific explanation for why this is, but I’ve worked with enough people and read enough anecdotal stories out there to know that it works. If you are gaining strength, but you’re not gaining weight, and thus muscle, you are not eating enough. It’s really that simple. By increasing your calorie intake, you will eventually bring it into the range that is your body’s sweet spot, so to speak, for gaining muscle.
[00:24:56] That said, I don’t recommend you just increase it by any amount. Instead, what I recommend is that you keep your protein at around 1 gram per pound of body weight per day. That’s all you need. You don’t need to eat more than that to maximize muscle growth. And if you wanted, you could even reduce it down to somewhere closer to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight per day.
But one gram per pound works well. It’s easy to calculate. And then I recommend that you increase your daily calorie intake by 100 to 150 calories by increasing your carbs. So that means adding 25 to 35 grams of carbs to your meal plan, then weight seven to 10 days. And if your weight is still the same, just repeat number 2.
Basically just increase your daily carbon take repeatedly until you are gaining weight at the desired rate. It’s really that simple. And the reason why I recommend increasing your carbs over your fats is: it’s going to benefit your workouts more. I mean, of course there is a point where it no longer will benefit your workouts more and where you will struggle to eat any more carbs.
[00:26:01] But if you are like most people, you’ll probably get up to the range of 400 to 500, maybe 600 grams per day if you’re a guy or about half of those numbers if you are a woman. And the needle will be moving nicely, you’ll be able to stay there for quite some time before having to increase calories again.
And if you do get to that point, though, where you are just tapped out on carbs, you can start increasing your protein intake or your fat intake. I probably would go with protein because generally speaking: the higher fat your diet is, the more conducive it is going to be to fat gain. And that is simply because dietary fat is converted into body fat very easily.
It is chemically very similar. It does not require much processing to turn dietary fat into body fat, whereas it requires a lot of processing, so much so that it rarely even occurs to turn protein into body fat. And despite what many people would have you believe these days, the same goes for carbs, actually. Under normal circumstances, it is rare that carbohydrate is turned directly into body fat. You can do it, but you have to eat a shitload of carbs for several days in a row before your body really starts converting it directly into body fat.
[00:27:21] Another key point when you are lean bulking is do not screw it up with massive cheap meals or cheat days. And this is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make while lean bulking. It’s just egregious over eating. And that’s generally because when you’re lean bulking, you don’t feel like you’re on a diet. You don’t feel like you have to watch your calories or your macros all that much.
You just feel like you have the freedom to kind of eat whatever you want. And I understand that, but the problem is: when you are in a calorie surplus every day, if you add a couple significant cheat meals or even cheat days on top of that, your body fat levels are going to rise quickly. So don’t do that. Instead, learn how to cheat intelligently. And if you want to learn more about that, I have a podcast on it, so if you search for “cheat meal” in the feed, you’ll find it. And I also have an article on it over at Muscle For Life.
[00:28:15] Another point here that needs to be shared on lean bulking is if you’re a guy and you’re over 15 percent body fat. I highly recommend that you reduce it to about 10 percent body fat before lean bulking. And if you are a woman and you’re over 25 percent, I recommend that you diet down to about 20 percent before lean bulking.
And this strategy, I think is ideal because it helps you preserve insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance. It allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce your body fat levels. And it saves you from long, grueling cuts.
[00:28:50] Now, if you are skinny fat and the idea of cutting doesn’t seem to make sense to you because you’re already skinny enough, I do understand. There is a psychological barrier there, I’ve run into it with many people. And in that case, what I usually recommend is: let’s just start with eating around maintenance.
Let’s not go into an intentional surplus or deficit. Let’s just set calories around maintenance around the total amount of energy that is burned. You can look at it in terms of a day, so that’d be eating around your TDEE. Or you could look at it in terms of the week if you were to approximate your weekly energy expenditure, make sure that you’re around that by the end of the week.
That’s also a reasonable place to start. If you are feeling like you’re too skinny to cut but too fat to bulk. So chances are you are probably going to be new to resistance training and you’re going to benefit from the newbie gains, the honeymoon phase as it’s known. And eating around maintenance is going to help you in your workouts, it’s going to help accelerate muscle growth, and chances are you’re going to end up losing some fat because you probably will end up in a slight deficit over the course of the next several months.
[00:30:03] However, if you are not the skinny fat person, if you are already relatively fit, or maybe not, maybe you just are normal and you just have a lot of body fat – I do recommend again, if you’re a guy getting down somewhere around 10 percent before starting your lean bulk phase, which then can extend for a long time. You could then lean bald for six, seven, eight months even before having to cut again. And for a woman getting down into that 20 percent range.
[00:30:29] Now as you lean bulk, you will gain fat. Slowly, but surely you will gain fat. And eventually, if you’re a guy, and your body fat levels rise to, let’s say, somewhere around 15, 16, 17 percent, or if you’re a woman 25 to 27 percent, I recommend you stop lean bulking, and then you start reducing your body fat levels. I recommend this regardless of how ectomorphic your body is.
If you follow the advice in this podcast, you are going to gain weight. And yes, some of it is going to be fat and that’s totally fine. But you don’t want to get too fat for the reasons that I gave earlier. And that’s why I recommend that you do put a ceiling on your lean bulks and have it be a body composition ceiling instead of just an arbitrary time ceiling like, “okay, only lean bulk for three months.
Or make sure it is no less than six months.” Instead of that, just watch your body composition instead. And if you’re not sure how to do that, I do have a podcast on calculating your body fat percentage. So if you search the feed for “body fat percentage” you will find it. And also have an article on this over at Legion Athletics and probably also one at Muscle For Life as well.
[00:31:37] Lastly, then, what you do is you juggle your lean bulks and your cuts in the way that I just described until you more or less have the body you want. And specifically the fitness model look that most guys want requires gaining 30 to 40 pounds of muscle and then maintaining a body fat percentage of about 10 percent. That’s the look.
And if you’re new to weight lifting, you can do that in three or four years. And if you are a very high responder, and you do not miss much time, and you have great dietary compliance, it could be as little as two years. And for women, most women need to gain 10 to 15, maybe 20 pounds of muscle in the right places of their bodies and maintain a body fat percentage of around 20 percent to have the look that most women want: that lean, athletic, toned, defined, but not jacked look.
And again, for most women, that’s 2 to 4 years of work. And you get there by lean bulking and cutting just as I laid out. There are other ways of getting there, of course, but I do believe that is going to be the shortest and most enjoyable and most effective way to do it.
[00:32:49] Another thing to keep in mind is you want your gaining, your lean bulking phases, to be as long as possible and you want your cutting phases to be as short as possible. And my logic here is pretty simple: the longer you can spend in a calorie surplus before having to cut, the more muscle you can build; and the shorter your cuts are, the sooner you can get back to lean bulking and building muscle. So personally, I like to see lean bulk go for at least 4 to 6 months and cuts for no more than 8 to 12 weeks.
Now, if you are starting out fairly overweight, you may have to cut for more than 8 12 weeks to get to that lower body fat percentage so you can start this lean bulking and cutting cycle that I just described and that’s okay. But once you’re in the groove, your lean bulks should be, I would say 6 to 8 months, ideally, maybe even as much as 9 months.
I know quite a few smart people in this space who personally shoot for 9 months of the year in a surplus and 3 months in a deficit. And not necessarily straight, it’s not 9 months in the surplus in the final three months or cutting, but by the end of the year they consider it a win if they spent nine of the months in a slight surplus in three of the months in a deficit.
And to do that, you’re going to have to utilize a slight calorie surplus and you are going to have to be fairly aggressive in your cuts. And what that means is maintaining a calorie deficit of about 20 to 25 percent or eating 20 to 25 percent less energy than you’re burning over the course of the 8 to 12 weeks.
[00:34:21] I do not recommend slow cutting in this context. Yes, slow cutting can make sense if you are pretty jacked and you want to get very lean and you want to maintain as much muscle as possible. But for the average everyday person who is going from just normal to fit, I think it makes a lot more sense to be aggressive in the cuts because you are not going to lose any muscle to speak of. If you just do what I’m talking about.
[00:34:46] Now, we’ve talked about calories a lot, but what about macronutrients? What about protein, carbohydrate, and fat? The first thing is: do not go low carb. When your focus is gaining muscle and strength, carbs are your friend, and in fact, they should comprise the majority of your calories.
And specifically, here’s what I recommend: I recommend about a gram of protein per pound of body weight per day; again, that’s plenty for muscle building purposes, whether you are cutting, maintaining or lean bulking. I recommend summer around 0.3 grams of dietary fat per pound of body weight per day. And that’s enough to give your body everything it needs for general health and allows you to eat pretty widely – you don’t have to be too restrictive.
And then I recommend that you just get the rest of your calories from carbs. And that means that, yes, you’re going to have a lot of calories for carbs and that is going to help you gain muscle and strength faster if you want to learn more about that, check out the interview that I did with one of my favorite people in the fitness space, Eric Helms, on the ketogenic diet and gaining muscle.
If you search the feed for “ketogenic” or “Helms” you’ll find it. Interesting interview. The bottom line is, yes, you can gain muscle and strength on a ketogenic or very low carb diet, but it’s not ideal.
[00:36:02] So as far as fat loss goes, what you want to do again is place yourself in a 20 to 25 percent calorie deficit. And I recommend the following macro guidelines: anywhere from 1 gram to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. If you are already in pretty good shape, if you’re fairly muscular and you are going from let’s say you’re a guy, you’re fairly muscular, you’re at 15 percent body fat and you want to cut down to 10 percent, I would go a bit higher on the protein to maximize muscle retention.
So I would go at that 1.2, but you can’t go wrong with 1 either. I recommend then somewhere around 0.2 to 0.25 grams of dietary fat per pound of body weight per day. Slightly less here because dietary fat is very calorie dense and by dropping her fat a little bit. It allows us to eat more carbs and it’s not going to impair our health.
And then, of course, the rest of your calories come from carbs. And that high carb diet is going to be extra beneficial while we’re in a calorie deficit, because it’s going to help us maintain our strength in the gym, it’s going to help us maintain muscle, and it can help keep us full.
[00:37:05] All right, now let’s talk about workouts, the best type of workouts for ectomorphs, because no matter how good your diet is, you are not going to see results unless you are also training correctly. So here are some key things that ectomorphs need to know: one is that they have to emphasize heavy compound weight lifting in their workouts.
Of course, I must say this. I am the heavy compound weight lifting guy, right? But the bottom line is: that is the foundation of muscle building and especially for natural weightlifters. And it’s especially important for ectomorphs. In my experience, naturally skinny guys and gals out there tend to respond very poorly to the higher rep, just kind of pump style of training. You know, 20 to 30 reps sets, ending sets often with several reps still in the tank. Not the best way for skinny people to train.
[00:37:56] Another key training tip for ectomorphs is you got to push yourself hard in your training, but not so hard that you start to run into problems related to overtraining. So high frequency workout programs are really popular these days. Just because body part splits used to be the thing and they were popular for so long.
And then, of course, the pendulum swings hard in the other direction, driven mostly by marketers, right? So taking a contrarian stance always gets attention. So if everyone’s doing, you know, a once a week type of frequency body part split and you come out and say, “no, that’s the worst way to train. Breakthrough research shows that you should be doing the opposite,” you get attention, right?
And that’s fine. You can do well on a high frequency program if it is laid out correctly. You can also do well on a low frequency program if it is laid out correctly. But you do need to remember that your muscles and your nervous system and your joints can only take so much of a beating each and every week before your body starts to fall behind in its ability to repair the damage that is caused by the training.
And you also should know that training frequency is not a major determinant of gains. In other words, how frequently you train a muscle is less important than how many hard sets you’re doing, volume; and how heavy the weight is that you are using, intensity; and how close you are coming to technical failure in those hard sets. Meaning how close you come to the point where your form is starting to fall apart.
And generally speaking, you want to be ending your sets with about one or two reps still left in the tank. One or two reps shy of that point of technical failure. That means they’re hard. And on this point of frequency, what I’m saying is: just because you’re training a muscle group once, twice, or thrice per week, it does not guarantee that you’re going to make progress.
If, however, you have your weekly volume setup correctly, if you have your intensity setup correctly and it’s mostly gonna be heavier weights, let’s say somewhere in the range of 70 to 85, maybe even 90 percent of your 1 rep, max and you are taking those hard sets, you’re taking your muscle building sets close to technical failure, you are going to do well regardless of the frequency.
I would say you just use frequency to make sure that you have those things set up. You can get in the weekly volume that you need to get in and you can do it at the intensity you need to do it at and push yourself hard enough in your workouts. So think of frequency as a tool that allows you to hit optimal amounts of weekly volume and intensity. And of course, then there are many ways to skin or split, if we’re talking bodybuilding, that cat.
[00:40:40] Now let’s talk about cardio. What about cardio? Something that many ectomorphs ask me about. Because the general advice for ectomorphs who are trying to gain weight is to do as little cardio as possible with none being ideal. And while I don’t entirely disagree, I do think that’s a bit of an exaggeration because, yes, everyone, regardless of their body type, should limit their cardio when they’re focusing on gaining size.
But doing small amounts of cardio can be beneficial for both our health and our body composition. And when we’re cutting low to moderate amounts of cardio can help us get the job done faster without sacrificing anything in the way of muscle and strength. And if you want to learn more about that, you can check out a podcast I posted, I think recently, on how much cardio you should do and how much is too much. So if you search the feet for “cardio” you’ll find a relatively recent episode on that.
[00:41:32] All right. How about supplements? What are the best supplements for ectomorphs? Unfortunately, the vast majority of muscle building supplements, which is what most ectomorphs are most interested in, are crap. Natural hormone boosters do nothing. Nitric oxide supplements are okay, but over-hyped. I like citrulline malate for example, it’s in my pre-workout Pulse, but it is no magic bullet of course. And while protein powder can help you hit your daily protein needs, it isn’t necessary, is just convenient, and it is an easy source of high quality protein.
[00:42:06] So I would say the only supplement that someone trying to gain muscle and strength as quickly as possible should definitely take, just definitely, is creatine. And if you want to learn why, you can check out a podcast I recorded on creatine. Just search the feed, you’ll find it. I’ve also put up articles on creatine, multiple articles, over at Muscle For Life and Legion Athletics.
But the bottom line is creatine is the most researched molecule in all of sports nutrition and the evidence is abundantly clear: most people are going to gain muscle and strength faster with just five grams per day of creatine monohydrate. That’s the simplest way to do it. And they’re going to recover faster from their workouts and enjoy a couple other benefits as well.
And they’re going to do it safely, it is a safe molecule. If you have kidney disease, maybe you shouldn’t be taking it. But if you have healthy kidneys and you are otherwise healthy, there is no downside to taking it. And as far as fat loss goes, most fat burner supplements are also junk, but some do work. There are five or six good ingredients that can help you lose fat faster.
And if you want to learn about them honestly, you should just go check out my fat burner, which is called Phoenix, over at my supplement company Legion, because it contains the ingredients that not only I like the most for fat loss, but more importantly honestly that my scientific advisory board likes the most, which includes Kurtis Frank, who is the co-founder and former lead researcher and writer over at examine.com, Menno Henselmans, Eric Helms, who I mentioned earlier, Spencer Nadolsky, and others.
[00:43:40] So two other supplements that I think, not just ectomorphs, really everybody should consider taking are a good multivitamin and a good fish oil. If your budget permits, it is smart to take these supplements, they are going to benefit you.
[00:43:54] All right, that’s it for ectomorph. Let’s now move on to mesomorph, let’s talk about that body type. Now, this body type is distinguished by the following characteristics: wide shoulders, narrow waist, thin joints, thicker rounder muscles, normal or slightly above normal amount of lean mass, mesomorphs gain muscle and lose fat fairly easily, and they also don’t lose muscle as easily as the ectomorph.
[00:44:18] So if you are a dominant mesomorph, go give your parents a big hug and a big kiss because you win. You have won the genetic lottery. There’s a reason why a large percentage of elite bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes are mesomorphs or primarily mesomorphs. These are the people who get to have their cake and eat it too.
They build muscle and they gain strength fairly easily and they are not predisposed to fat gain. They have a high aerobic capacity. They tend to have that attractive V shape, just naturally. They have the wide shoulders and the narrow waists. And that, of course only becomes more pronounced as they spend time in the gym. And so they are just predisposed to having great physiques. That said, nothing comes easily, of course. If you are largely a mesomorph, you do get a running start, but you still got to finish the race.
[00:45:18] So let’s talk about dieting. Dieting for mesomorphs. True to form here, the mesomorph does get to enjoy the most flexible and all around enjoyable type of diet. Simply put, the mesomorphic type gets the flexibility of the ectomorph, but generally does not have to eat as much to gain muscle and weight, and tends to see better results on less food. So for example, a mesomorph may be able to eat 1,000 fewer calories per day than an ectomorph, but gain muscle and strength faster.
Furthermore, when cutting your average mesomorph will also eat less than your average ectomorph, but will be less likely to lose muscle and strength. So what all that means is the mesomorph really just follows the same game plan as the ectomorph with slight modifications and just gets better results. So for example, if a mesomorph above 15 percent body fat men, 25 percent women, he or she should cut their fat first before lean bulking.
They should use a small calorie surplus to build muscle, somewhere around 10 percent, in a moderately aggressive deficit to lose fat, somewhere around 20, 25 percent. Mesomorphs should gradually increase their calories to continue gaining weight and strength once they have hit a plateau in their lean bulking phases. And usually what they will find is they don’t have to increase their calorie intake as much as the average ectomorph to start gaining weight and strength again.
The lean bulking periods should still be much longer than the cutting periods. Mesomorphs should still end their lean bulks around 15 to 17 percent for men, 25 to 27 percent for women – body fat, that is. And then they should cut back to the 10/20 percent mark and repeat. And lastly, a high protein, high carb, and moderate or moderate/low fat diet is going to work best for most mesomorphs. And that’s it, there’s really not much else to it.
And I can attest to that personally. Again, my body type is primarily mesomorph and that’s what I’ve done to go from 155 pounds when I started weight lifting and I was, let’s see, 17 turning 18. I don’t remember on my height, I was probably around 6 foot, maybe I grew a little bit more after that, because now I’m about 6′ 2″, 6′ 1.5″ or something.
So I was a skinny guy – I wasn’t grotesquely skinny, but I was a skinny guy, 155 pounds to now 200 pounds. And my body fat when I started was probably, I don’t know, 13, 14 percent, just kind of looked like a normal athletic-ish looking kind of person, and now it’s around 10 percent. And I just summarized how I did that, at least the diet side of things.
[00:47:59] All right, let’s talk about workouts, workouts for mesomorphs. And there’s really not much else to say because the basics do not change regardless of the body type. You still want to emphasize heavy compound weight lifting. You still want to make sure that your weekly volume isn’t too high or too low.
Somewhere in the range of 10 to 20 hard sets per major muscle group per week, 10 would be on the lower end, which is not necessarily bad. I’d say that’s probably like the minimal effective dose and 20 being on the higher end, really more suitable to intermediate slash advanced weightlifters who have to beat the shit out of their bodies to make it continue getting bigger and stronger.
Someone like me, for example, I probably don’t have much muscle gain left in me genetically, but if I do, let’s say it’s 5 pounds and it would prior require 2 to 3 years of punishing my body. So my weekly volume right now is, let’s say it’s around 12, 13, maybe 14 hard sets per major muscle group per week. Some muscle groups are getting a bit less like my arms, for example.
Especially my biceps, because my biceps have always been a high responder and they’ve always outpaced my shoulders, so I actually have dialed my volume down a bit over the years on my biceps. Whereas my back is still getting, my pole is still getting a fair amount of volume, which of course, then spills over into the biceps a little bit. My lower body is getting a fair amount of volume between all the squatting and lunging and deadlifting and so forth.
[00:49:28] Anyways, another point here is for the mesomorph that does not change from the ectomorph is: you gotta make sure that you’re recovering. You got to make sure that you are getting adequate sleep and not exercising too much, and not stressing the shit out of yourself in your life, and maybe taking a supplement like creatine to help and so forth.
And as far as cardio and mesomorphs goes, it’s similar to the ectomorph. Cardio can just be added or subtracted according to preferences and goals. And so that’s really it. Nothing changed with the supplements either. Creatine is recommended. Effective fat loss supplements can be included when you’re cutting. And a well formulated multivitamin and a high quality fish oil can help promote overall health and performance.
[00:50:11] All right, let’s move on to the final body type, the endomorph. And this body type is distinguished by the following characteristics: endomorphs have wide shoulders, they have wide rib cages, and wide waists. They look kind of blocky. They have thick joints. They tend to have shorter limbs and higher than normal amounts of lean mass as well as body fat.
Endomorphs gain muscle, strength, and fat easily. And they do not lose muscle easily, but they can struggle to lose fat and especially stubborn fat when they’re cutting. So these are the people who are naturally big and strong, and who generally respond really well to resistance training, and have the highest potentials for strength and size.
These people have no trouble gaining muscle and getting strong, but they do often struggle with body fat levels. They also don’t have the structure for that classic kind of aesthetic mesomorphic Frank Zane or Eric Helms more recently, who just cut down for a bodybuilding show and did a whole photo shoot as a kind of a tribute to Frank Zane and looked very similar, actually.
Pretty impressive. So endomorphs, they just don’t have the build for that look. But these people can look fantastic, they can be fit, and they also often make great athletes. They just need to work with and not against their genetics.
[00:51:30] So let’s talk about diet here. Dieting as an endomorph. So like the ectomorph and the mesomorph, the endomorph’s diet should begin with the same fundamentals of energy balance. That does not change for anyone ever. Gaining weight and muscle does require, at least gaining it effectively, most effectively, does require a calorie surplus.
And losing fat does require a calorie deficit. And similarly, when lean bulking endomorphs do want to utilize a slight calorie surplus that is still best, and when they’re cutting an aggressive, or at least a moderately aggressive, calorie deficit is still ideal.
[00:52:07] Now where things can differ here for the endomorph is the macronutrient breakdown. And specifically in the carbohydrate intake. Because while nothing changes in terms of the body’s need for protein and dietary fat, carbohydrate sensitivity, you could say, does seem to vary more among and endomorph than ectomorphs and mesomorphs. And what this boils down to is something that we’ve already discussed and that is insulin sensitivity.
[00:52:33] So after you eat a high carb meal, signs of good insulin sensitivity are your muscles feeling full, almost like a pump that you get in the gym, mental alertness, stable energy levels, and fullness. Now I’m talking about, let’s say, a reasonably high carb meal, at least 50 grams of cars by no more than 100. I don’t care how good your insulin sensitivity is, if you eat 300 grams of carbs in a meal, you are probably going to pass out. But if you eat a moderate amount of carbs, a fair amount of carbs, and have good insulin sensitivity, that is how your body will respond.
[00:53:08] Signs of poor insulin sensitivity, however, are bloating, gassiness, mental fogginess and inability to focus, sleepiness, and hunger soon after eating. And so a simple rule of thumb here is: if you are responding well to the carbs, both the amount and the types that you’re eating, carry on. But if you’re not and this is often more of a thing among and endomorphs than ectomorphs and mesomorphs.
I rarely hear from ectomorphs or mesomorphs complaining about their carbohydrate sensitivity. It’s almost always from endomorphs. So if you are not responding well, then you will probably benefit from a change in either the amount or the type of the carbs that you’re eating. So in terms of type, you will probably do better with lower glycemic more “complex carbs.”
And in terms of amount, you could first reduce the amount of carbs that you’re eating in each meal by eating more frequently. That often solves the issue. And I generally tell people to keep their carbs at or below 50 grams or so per meal. And if that doesn’t work, if that doesn’t alleviate the symptoms, then you can just reduce your total daily carbohydrate intake.
You can cut it by about 50 grams for 7 to 10 days and then reassess. And of course, you’re gonna have to increase your protein or your fat intake to hit your calorie needs. And that’s really it for dieting as an endomorph.
[00:54:33] Let’s talk about training as an endomorph. And this is where you, mister or missus endomorph, get to shine. This is where you gain muscle and strength faster than average. And based on my experience, working with quite a few endomorphs. This is where you can often benefit from weekly training volumes that would cause an ectomorph or a mesomorph major problems.
[00:54:55] For example, I’ve come across a few people over the years who can successfully run some of the more brutal upper lower split programs like Layne Norton’s Fat, if that’s still around. It was around, it was a thing for a while. And they have been endomorphs one for one. Now I’m talking about running those programs naturally.
If you add steroids into the mix, of course, everything changes. But the bottom line here is: if you are an endomorph, you are going to have a good time in the gym. You are going to respond well to weightlifting, so enjoy it. And like ectomorphs and mesomorphs, you are also going to respond best to a workout program that emphasizes heavy compound lifting.
And that relegates the high rep low weight stuff to accessory work, and that puts you somewhere in the range of 10 to 20 hard sets per major muscle group per week, and that has you ending most of those hard sets with one or two reps still in the tank, 1 or 2 reps shy of technical failure. And as far as cardio goes, there’s nothing special to be said here, really.
Include cardio in your routine as needed. And as far as supplements go, nothing changes there. Creatine is good. A fat burner can help you get leaner when you’re cutting. And a multivitamin, fish oil are recommended.
[00:56:12] So the bottom line with all this is: most of the advice that’s out there for different body types is just meant to sell you stuff. Sell you PDFs, pills, and powders, as I like to say. Yes, there are considerable differences between the physical traits and the inclinations of ectomorphic, mesomorphic, and endomorphic body types, but not in how they should eat and train to get the results they want.
Remember, your body type is a predisposition, not a predestination. Regardless of your dominant type, if you eat right, if you train hard, if you supplement optionally and intelligently, you can build a strong, muscular and lean body that you can be proud of, And I hope this podcast helps you do just that.
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