The Ectomorph Body Type: How To Train + Eat Right For Ectomorphs

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If you’ve ever spent time people-watching or looking around at the sea of people in a crowd, you have likely noticed that bodies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

However, there are a few common general body types that are used to classify the overarching figure and build of most humans.

Your body may not fall perfectly within one of the three body types, but most people have a physique that is fairly well described by one of the three body types.

If you’ve heard of the three body types, you might be familiar with the ectomorph physique.

But, what is an ectomorph body type? What is the best ectomorph diet? What are the best workouts for ectomorphs to build muscle? Keep reading to find out!

In this guide, we will cover: 

  • What Is an Ectomorph Body Type?
  • What Is the Best Ectomorph Diet?
  • The Best Workout For Ectomorphs

Let’s get started!

A blond thin woman with her hands on her hips.

What Is an Ectomorph?

The ectomorph body type is said to be tall, thin-boned, and have narrow shoulders and hips relative to total body height. Additionally, ectomorphs tend to have relatively smaller muscles compared to the length of their long bones.

The ectomorph body type is especially different from endomorphs, who are described as being round and soft, as well as mesomorphs, who are square and muscular in build.

Ectomorphs have a naturally fast metabolism, which can make it difficult to build muscle mass, yet also difficult to gain unwanted body fat.

The real struggle for ectomorphs in terms of altering their physique is in the case of ectomorphs who want to bulk up and build muscle but find that it is hard to eat enough to keep up with their metabolic rate and train hard enough to build an appreciable amount of muscle.

The back of a thin woman with red hair.

The body mass index, BMI, of ectomorphs is usually quite low, even in the absence of an eating disorder.

Endomorphs, in particular, often long to be ectomorphs and may say that they are “jealous“ of an ectomorph‘s ability to seemingly eat whatever he or she wants without gaining weight.

However, plenty of ectomorphs will attest that there are also challenges with this body type.

Ectomorphs indeed struggle to put on weight, especially in terms of building muscle or “bulking up.“

Even with a consistent workout routine involving high-intensity hypertrophy training workouts, ectomorphs are often underwhelmed by the rate of muscle growth in response to their training.

A thin woman in leggings and a sports bra.

What Is the Best Ectomorph Diet?

Proponents of the somatotype diet philosophy believe that there is a particular type of diet that is best suited to your body type.

Because your body type is determined by your skeletal frame or build and your natural propensity to be muscular versus lean or having a high body fat percentage versus high mean body mass, people who ascribe to the somatic typing framework believe that you can’t “diet“ yourself into a different body type.

For example, an endomorph, which again is someone with a relatively stocky body frame and a higher percentage of body fat, cannot simply follow a caloric restriction diet and become a long, lead, lanky ectomorph.

However, you can adjust your eating habits to best support a healthy weight based on your body type.

According to ACE Fitness, the best diet for an ectomorph is higher in carbohydrates and calories, with approximately 50 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 25 percent from protein, and 25 percent from healthy fats.

The words carbs surrounded by carb-rich foods such as pasta, fruit, seeds, bread and vegetables.

For carbohydrates, focus on whole grains such as whole wheat bread and pasta, steel cut or whole oats, brown rice, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, and amaranth.

Ectomorphs are sometimes described as “hard gainers” due to their fast metabolism. 

However, as ectomorphs age, weight gain becomes much easier, often to a detriment. Because of the relatively low muscle mass, ectomorph weight gain in the form of excess body fat can be an issue later in life.

For this reason, as well as for overall health, avoid refined grains, processed foods like breakfast cereals, sugar-sweetened beverages, and pastries, even when you are trying to gain weight.

Other good sources of carbohydrates in the diet for ectomorphs include starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, corn, peas, carrots, and beets.

Legumes, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas, can also be a great source of complex carbohydrates for ectomorphs, especially for those on a plant-based diet, since these foods also provide some protein.

A variety of colorful legumes.

More so than the other two body types, ectomorphs can also eat high-calorie fruits at liberty, such as pineapple, mangos, bananas, papaya, avocado, and peaches.

All vegetables should be encouraged, but if you’re a hard gainer ectomorph trying to bulk up, focus on starchy vegetables or cook your vegetables in olive oil, ghee, or coconut oil to add more calories.

Any and all whole, natural protein sources are good for ectomorphs, even fattier cuts of meat, seafood, fatty fish, whole-fat dairy like whole milk and cheese, whole-fat Greek yogurt, soy, and light and dark meat poultry.

For health reasons, avoid processed meats like sausage, bologna, salami, and hot dogs.

Healthy fats to emphasize in the diet of ectomorphs include olive oil, avocado, flaxseed oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and coconut.

Some additional diet tips for ectomorph muscle building are to eat every two to four hours and to focus on nutrient-dense, energy-dense snacks like nuts, nuts butters, seeds, and hummus.

Aim to consume 20 to 25 grams of protein per snack, along with at least 50 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat. Meals should also contain at least 20-25 grams of protein but more carbohydrates and fats depending on your total caloric needs and the number of meals and snacks you are eating per day.

A chocolate protein shake.

Evidence suggests that eating at least 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight at each meal—aiming for a total of 1.6 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for the day—is recommended when looking to build muscle when combined with appropriate resistance training.

In terms of caloric intake, if you want to gain weight as an ectomorph, aim for a caloric surplus of 500-800 calories per day over your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). 

If you’re not sure how many calories you need to eat per day, consider using an online BMR calculator and then adding in your physical activity or exercise, or use an online calculator that takes into account activity level. 

It’s important for athletes of any body type to fuel well before and after workouts, but it is particularly important in this specific case to prevent weight loss and support ectomorph muscle growth. 

Drinking a sports beverage with carbs during your workout may also support muscle growth and can be a helpful muscle-building strategy for ectomorph bodybuilders.

Aim for a nutritious snack or meal that contains carbohydrates and proteins in a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1, with at least 20 to 25 grams of protein in this post-workout snack, within 30 minutes after your workout is over.

Good post-workout snacks for ectomorphs include smoothies or protein shakes, trail mix, oatmeal with protein powder mixed in, Greek yogurt with fruit and low-sugar granola, nut butter on whole-grain bread with sliced banana, or a whole grain wrap with hummus or turkey.

A bowl of yogurt, granola and blueberries.

Related: Ideal Body Weight and Weight Range Calculator

The Best Workout For Ectomorphs

Ectomorph weight gain is typically challenging, and an ectomorph bodybuilder will have to work much harder to build and maintain muscle mass than a mesomorph bodybuilder, and ectomorph bodybuilding will be ambitious.

The best workouts for ectomorphs are typically hypertrophy-based strength training workouts to help build muscle mass. Train 3-5 days per week, aiming to work on each major muscle group at least two times per week.

Building muscle is mainly achieved by way of increasing training volume over time (sets x reps), usually using loads that are 65-85% of your 1RM). Typically, you should perform 8–12 repetitions per set and at least 3 sets per exercise, with 30-60 seconds of rest in between sets. 

Focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, bench press, rows, pull-ups, and lat pull-downs, which help build lots of functional strength, but isolation exercises like biceps curls can also help build muscle mass. 

A ectomorph lifting weights.

Ectomorphs who struggle to maintain their weight should go easy on cardio exercise, particularly longer endurance workouts and vigorous forms of exercise such as running, stair climber machines, long cycling workouts, and elliptical workouts.

Although ectomorphs can certainly perform these exercises, it is generally best to keep workouts under 30 minutes to minimize total caloric expenditure.

It’s important to remember that somatotyping is not an exact science, and there are critiques in the health and nutrition industry about placing too much emphasis on the importance of your body type in determining your ideal diet and exercise plan. 

Are you still unsure of your specific body type, whether it be ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph? To try and nail down your specific body type and learn how to feed and train it properly, check out our guide: Do You Know Your Body Type? How To Train Effectively For Your Somatotype for more information.

A thin man lifting weights/
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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