Transforming your body to gain muscles and burn fat is a fitness journey that requires both the appropriate workout and the appropriate diet. This is largely because of the way your body type differs from mine. (Read: Difference between Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss)
Some of us want to burn fat, while others want to build muscle, and our body types can get in the way of the dream. There are 3 general body types.
- If you’re an Ectomorph or a “hard gainer”, you may find yourself cleaning out the buffet table but not gaining weight and lifting heavy weights but not really bulking up. Your metabolism is just too fast that you’re burning through whatever you eat, so your caloric intake needs to outpace your body. (Lucky you!) Ectomorphs are usually slender or lanky.
- On the other hand, if you’re an Endomorph, you’ll find that you have a hard time losing fat and it doesn’t take a lot to bloat up like a puffer fish. Your body is more sensitive to carbohydrates and resistant to insulin, and so you’re likely to have Type 2 Diabetes. If your goal is to look like The Rock, then you’ll need to lay off the sugar and other processed carbs, and work extra hard doing cardio and lifting weights.
- Mesomorphs are kind of already athletic so they have it easy. They still need to work for the body they want, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to build muscle and lose fat.
Below is the suggested macro-nutrient split between carbohydrates, protein and fats that the different body types are most responsive to:
- Ectomorphs: 55% carb, 25% protein, 20% fat
- Mesomorph: 30% carb, 40% protein, 30% fat
- Endomorphs: 25% carb, 35% protein, 40% fat
One key factor affecting both muscle gain and fat burn is Metabolism. There are 2 types of metabolic states which you can use to your advantage: You allow your body to build and maintain your muscle mass in the Anabolic State, while your body metabolizes or breaks down both fats and muscles in the Catabolic State.
The type of workout, macronutrients and caloric intake can modify your body if you understand your own body type and adjust to your nature. Diet aside, you can get a bit of help from supplements that stimulate the process of metabolism like Caffeine in Coffee and Tea, L-carnitine, and Apple Cider Vinegar.
Anabolism (Anabolic Metabolism)
In order to gain muscle mass, you need to break it first by lifting heavy weights or Strength Training. The soreness that you feel the following day is a result of this, and also a sign that you were doing it right. It will cause a bit of discomfort, which you can minimize through counter-stretching after the workout and by loading up on protein.
During the period that you rest, the body enters Anabolism where it will breakdown the proteins into amino acids for the regeneration and strengthening of muscle fibers, ligaments and bones. This is why you need to feed on high quality protein-rich food and to let your muscles rest for at least 24 hours before pumping more iron.
Catabolism (Catabolic Metabolism)
Sustained high-intensity exercises like HIIT or Cardio requires energy and will trigger Catabolism. The body’s fuel source are the fats and muscles, breaking down the lipids and protein into small units (fatty acids and amino acids) to release the stored energy. The burn is more effective if you do a fasted workout, do cardio for a long period of time and don’t go beyond your calorie limit.
High Protein, Low Carb Food
Whichever body type you are, bottom line is protein is always a must. You need at least 0.8g of protein per kg or 0.36g per lb of body mass to avoid muscle loss. Take a post-workout protein shake to give you the extra protein you need. If you want to take the protein naturally through the food you eat, the ingredients below are rich in protein and low in carbohydrates.
Low Fat Protein Food
- White Meat: Chicken Breast, Turkey
- Lean Fish: Halibut, Tilapia, Pollock, Haddock, Flounder, Cod, Sole, Mahi-Mahi, Red Snapper, Bass, Perch, Pike
- Shellfish: Shrimp, Prawn, Crab, Lobster, Oyster, Clams, Scallop
- Algae: Seaweed, Spirulina
- Dairy: Egg White, Soy Milk, Whey Protein, Unsweetened, Skimmed Milk
Medium to High Fat Protein Food
- Red Meats: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Chicken Thigh
- Fish: Tuna, Salmon, Trout, Butterfish, Herring, Mackerel, Sardines,
- Legumes: Soybean, Tofu
Healthy Fats and Oils
Below are some examples of high fat ingredients that have minimal protein and carb that support the Keto Diet requirement of 70% fat, 20% protein, 10% carb.
- Oil: Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Fish Oil
- Nuts and Seeds: Flaxseeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Almonds, Cashews, Pistachio, Walnuts, Pecans, Chestnut, Sesame, Pili, Macademia, Peanuts
- Dairy: Greek Yogurt, Egg Yolk, Cheese, Almond Milk, Goat’s Milk, Cow’s Milk, Coconut Milk
- Fruit: Avocado
- Dark Chocolate
Healthy Complex Carbohydrates
Carbs are still important in your diet, but incorporate unrefined complex carbohydrates because they’re rich in nutrients, high in fiber, and make you feel full longer. Depending on your goal, there are some low calorie carbohydrates that will help you in your fat loss, and some high calorie carbohydrates that will help you with muscle gain. Stay away from simple and refined carbs like White Bread, Potato, White Rice, White Sugar, Rice Crackers, Fruit Juices and Cornflakes.
Low Calorie Complex Carbohydrates
- Cruciferous Vegetables: Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Artichoke
- Leafy Greens: Lettuce, Cabbage, Spinach, Kale
- Marrow Vegetables: Cassava, Squash, Pumpkin, Eggplant, Zucchini, Eggplant
- Edible Plant Stem: Celery, Asparagus, Leeks
- Allium: Onion, Garlic, Shallots
- Root Crops: Sweet Potato, Turnips, Onion, Taro, Yam, Radish, Beet, Carrot
- Legumes: String Beans, Green Peas, Lentils
- Fruits: Okra, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Mangoes, Melon, Bananas, Apples, Oranges, Watermelon
- Other Vegetable/Grain: Corn, Popcorn
High Calorie Complex Carbohydrates
- Grains: Brown Rice, Black Rice, Red Rice, Wholewheat Bread, Oats, Buckwheat, Muesli, Wheat Bran and Barley, Quinoa, Amaranth
- Seeds: Chia Seeds
- Pulses: Chickpea, Kidney Beans, Black Beans
Diet and Workout Program for your Body Type
If you’re an ectomorph and you want to look huskier, you’ll need all the energy you can get. Regardless of your macronutrient split, you need to go beyond your calorie limit. If you’re body building, go for a high protein and high carb diet.
If you’re an endomorph and you’ve got too much fat, your goal is to lose fat and build some muscle by doing HIIT at least three times a week paired with a low carb diet, and Strength Training at least once a week paired with a high carb diet. Be sure to eat below your calorie limit and always pick low fat, high protein food so that you’re not replenishing the fat.
Shock Your Body to Restart your Metabolism
The guide above is a starting point. You will plateau in your weight loss or weight gain program if you keep doing the same thing for months. This is why it’s important to shock your body by rotating your routine between Anabolic and Catabolic exercises. The same goes for the macronutrients in your diet, the other thing you need to commit to.