Body types are a highly discussed topic that enjoys a lot of attention, especially in the fitness industry. The main idea is that you can map yourself to a specific body type, based on your physique and appearance.
You can also determine your character, mental traits, and your ideal diet and training plan based on your body type. At least, in theory.
In this article, we at Mindmonia investigated these hypotheses. We will start this article by giving you the basics on this topic. Then we will dive into the different hypotheses of the three body types and fact check them.
Jump ahead to any of the sections below:
What Is a Body Type?
The concept of body types was introduced by William Sheldon, a U.S. physician and psychologist, in 1942. According to his theory, you can assign a body type to any person, whether man or woman, based on their physical appearance.
According to Sheldon, there are 3 body types:
Depending on your size and muscularity, you will fall into a body type. It’s interesting to note that Sheldon defines physical characteristics, such as muscles or fascia, as well as mental ones, based on the body type.
According to his theory, ectomorphic people (usually thin and tall) are more likely to be introverted, intelligent and artistically gifted.
Which lifestyle is healthiest for which body types is not evident from the initial theory.
The 3 Different Body Types
As already explained, you can assign each person to a body type. The decisive factors for this are appearance, weight, and height (among others). However, there are also things, such as muscularity, muscle growth, body fat percentage and weight gain, that play a role.
Here are the detailed explanations for the 3 body types according to Sheldon:
The mesomorphic body type is the ideal balance between muscle mass and fat. If you fall into this body type, you most likely have an extensive back and narrow hips. Your chest and upper body muscles are more powerful than the rest of your body. You also find it easier than other people to build muscle mass quickly, and your body fat percentage is low.
All in all, the mesomorph can be classified as an athletic body type optimized for athletic performance.
Psychologically, as a mesomorph, you are courageous, adventurous, and assertive. Dominance and ambition are also your strong sides.
Muscle growth: Fast, based on strength-endurance
Weight gain (fat): Slow
Body height: Medium
Mental characteristics: Ambition, dominance, assertiveness, courage
As an endomorph, you are rather short and strong. Your body fat percentage is usually higher than that of a mesomorph. That doesn’t mean that you are overweight per se, but the relation between muscle mass and body fat tends to go towards more body fat than muscle mass. You are also more likely to have long arms, narrow shoulders, and an overall chubby appearance.
If you belong to this body type, you will find it harder to lose weight compared to the other body types. On the other hand, you can build up massive muscles. Endomorphs are ideal to become bodybuilders or weightlifters, for example, because they have a lot of power.
Psychologically speaking, as an endomorph, you enjoy life, are balanced and friendly.
Muscle growth: Fast, based on strength
Weight gain (fat): Fast
Body height: Medium to small
Mental characteristics: Joie de vivre, balance, sociability
The third and last body type is the ectomorph. As an ectomorph, you are tall and thin. Your outer appearance is very reserved: narrow shoulders, long and thin arms and bony legs.
If you fall into this body type, you have trouble gaining weight. You also find it challenging to gain muscle mass.
Psychologically, an ectomorph is introverted, calm, withdrawn, and has few interpersonal skills.
Muscle growth: Slow
Weight gain (fat): Slow
Physique: Thin and bony
Body height: Tall
Mental characteristics Introverted, calm, quiet
There are theories that your metabolism is linked to your body type. Depending on your body type, you can gain muscle and lose fat at different speeds.
One more thing: in some cases, it might happen that you can’t classify someone as a specific body type. Many people fall between body types. For example, you can be between the ectomorphic and endomorphic body type. This indicates that the different body types are not clearly defined.
Body Types: Do They Really Exist?
Yes, body types exist. However, what you can use them for, and if they have any use at all, is open to debate.
Strictly speaking, you can classify every person into or between the three body type categories. However, the following assumptions are questionable:
- You can determine your metabolism through your body type
- You can determine your behavior and character traits through your body type
- You can determine your ideal workout and nutrition plan through your body type
We will explain these statements in detail for you in this chapter.
You Can Determine Your Metabolism Through Your Body Type
As William Sheldon stated, your body type affects your metabolism. According to Dr. Chih-Hao Lee, Professor of Genetics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, however, your metabolism is not dependent on your height or other physical composition. Conversely, this means that your body type doesn’t play a role in the composition of your metabolism. (Source)
Instead, the metabolism is inherited. That’s why most of it is not really in your control. People with fast metabolism have inherited genes that enable them to eat more than others without gaining excessive weight. Others who inherited a slower metabolism gain weight faster. (Source)
The body type plays no part in all this, as it’s your physical appearance that determines your body type. The logical consequence of this is that your body type has no influence on your metabolism, nor can you determine how fast or slow your metabolism is based on your body type. Therefore, the statement that people with a mesomorphic body type lose weight quicker is simply not true.
Simply put, just because you have big shoulders naturally doesn’t mean that you will lose weight faster.
If you have problems losing weight, you should first study the way your body works. A regular sleep routine, for example, can already work wonders.
You Can Determine Your Behavior and Character Traits Through Your Body Type
As mentioned above, according to Sheldon, characteristics and mental disorders can be assigned to specific body types. Meaning if you’re mesomorphic, you’re more likely to be ambitious. However, this theory has received little scientific support in the past. (Source)
A study from 2018 at the Japanese “Agency for Medical Research and Development” (AMED) found no connection between the psyche of a person and their body type. (Source)
You don’t have to be a scientist to see that judging a person’s character and behavior based on their looks is outdated and utterly wrong.
Not only wasn’t this theory backed up by scientific studies for a long time, but it also has been disproved several times in recent years.
You Can Determine Your Ideal Workout and Nutrition Plan Through Your Body Type
The third and last theory in our article on body types is: Depending on your body type, you need a personalized nutrition and workout plan.
This theory is neither right nor wrong. It’s merely unexplored. This means that there are neither studies that prove it nor studies that disprove it. The state of research on this subject is not mature enough to make a general statement, yet.
What we do know, however: Your dietary plan depends on your metabolism, and as you’ve learned above, your body type doesn’t provide any information about it.
That being said, the theory that you need a nutrition plan tailored to your body type is highly questionable.
Body types are an almost 80-year-old theory, with little to no influence on today’s medicine or science. Many parts of the theory were disproved several times.
Among them is the fact that the behavior of a person is linked to their physical appearance.
Another disproved theory is that your metabolism depends on your body type.
The bottom line is that body types are a concept mainly used by fitness trainers and nutritionists to create individualized nutrition and workout plans. Again, there is much discussion about how right this approach is.
We at Mindmonia consider the idea of body types as outdated. The things the original research stands for: physique, psyche, and nutrition should, in our opinion, be largely ignored.
The concept of body types exists, and a classification of people into mesomorph, endomorph and ectomorph (and intermediate forms) is possible. However, all the conclusions drawn from this on the psyche and many other things are questionable.
The only meaningful use case of body types is the division into body structure types. For fitness training, factors such as arm length, hip width, and chest width can bring advantages for one or the other exercise.
Instead of believing any theories blindly, we believe that you should develop a general mindfulness towards your body. Mindfulness means that you explicitly define the best form of nutrition and training for yourself. It’s hard to get there, but mindfulness is a critical component in finding out what does good for your body and what doesn’t.
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