So, what is an ectomorph body type?

This post describes the ectomorph body type, and which lifestyle habits best suit this type.

If this isn’t you, check out the mesomorph and endomorph body type posts. The history of body type classification is described here.

How to spot an Ectomorph body type

Ectomorph Body Type | Downsize Me

From the outside, an ectomorph is easy to recognise – they’re long and thin, with a delicate build and flat chest.

Ectomorphs are the people often referred to as ‘bean poles’

There are three reasons that an ectomorph looks this way:

  1. They have a small, narrow skeleton (frame)
  2. Their muscles are mostly the small, slender type – known as endurance muscles, or Type I fibres, or ‘slow twitch’ muscles
  3. They typically have below-average body fat.

Ectomorph women have narrow shoulders, small breasts and slender hips.

The kids at school might have called you an ‘ironing board’ because you were tall, flat chested and had no real curves to speak of.

Ectomorph men have narrower shoulders and more slender hips than other guys.

In the gym, you’re known as a ‘hard gainer’ because it is difficult for you to gain muscle of any decent size.

Either way, your bug-bear is your embarrassingly skinny legs (aka ‘chicken legs’).

The ectomorph guys at my gym who were body building would wear tracksuit pants all year around – even at the height of summer – because they didn’t want anyone seeing their skinny calves and knobbly knees.

This 1940’s era cartoon shows the classic taunts that an ectomorph guy might have to face at the beach – the ’98 lb weakling’.

Ectomorph Body Type | Downsize Me

Ectomorph body type personality traits

William Sheldon, who devised the body typing system, describes ectomorphs as:

  • self-conscious
  • private
  • introverted
  • inhibited
  • socially anxious
  • artistic
  • mentally intense and
  • emotionally restrained.

Sure, your personality traits may be affected by your own upbringing and conditioning, but Sheldon theorizes that there is a strong link between physique and temperament.

This link seems partly due to the specific hormonal dominance patterns of your body type.

Here are some things that are usually going on for the ectomorph body type.

Common Ectomorph health issues

Ectomorphs are governed by their brain and nervous system.

That means you tend to get easily stressed, and your delicate constitution suffers.

So if you’re an ectomorph body type, you tend to struggle with:

  • nervous disorders
  • anxiety
  • elevated stress hormones
  • digestive problems (‘nervous tummy’)
  • regular colds and immune issues (linked to gut health).

These issues are partly influenced by the types of foods you eat, but also, how well you manage stress.

Stress and ectomorphs are a bad mix, and stress management is a key to both your sanity and your good health.

Best eating plan for Ectomorph body types

Compared to mesomorphs and endomorphs, the ectomorph body type needs a diet that is:

  • higher in carbohydrates
  • low to moderate in protein (spread regularly through the day)
  • lower in fat.

Check out this sample Ectomorph dinner plate, which contains:

  • leafy green salad and turkish sourdough (carbs/starch)
  • cooked chicken i.e. 100 g chicken (protein and fat)
  • 1 tbsp pesto (fat)

ectomorph body type plate

A Mediterranean diet with healthy, low GI carbs is the kind of eating plan that is suited to this body type.


Challenges of the Ectomorph body type

The most important macronutrient for ectomorph body types is carbohydrates.

If you’re an ectomorph body type, carbs on their own (e.g. fruit) may not be so good for you – it’s better for you to balance blood sugar with a little fat and protein added.

You typically struggle with neurotransmitter and hormonal imbalances (insulin, cortisol) when carb intake is restricted, or, when too many high GI carbs are eaten.

That shows up as insatiable food cravings, nervousness, anxiety, low moods, frustration, low energy or energy rollercoasters, depression, blood sugar problems and weight gain around the middle.

And one other thing – coffee is probably best avoided by ectomorph body types, because it pushes up your naturally higher levels of anxiety and can make those symptoms worse.

If you get onto this rollercoaster, a modified Downsize Me program can quickly assist to bring your body back into hormonal balance, and transition you into a longer term plan to suit your specific needs (customised nutrition).

Best Exercise for Ectomorphs

Ectomorph Body Type | Downsize Me

Ectomorphs are built for endurance – mid- to long-distance events like running, swimming, cycling…and walking or hiking.

These are the most natural, logical types of exercise that will keep your body in top shape.

If you are an ectomorph who wants to gain muscle, your best approach to is to start slowly (body weight, with higher repetitions), be consistent and work up to heavier weights.

If your exercise sessions are too intense, too hard, too heavy or go for too long (>45 minutes) it will quickly trip your stress hormones and sensitive immune system into overdrive.

If your exercise is wrong, you will quickly come down with a cold or virus.

Setbacks like that are annoying!

And if your goal is to gain muscle bulk then pushing too hard too soon will tip you into a hormonal mess where you over-train and your muscles actually shrink.

As an ectomorph, you need to keep your anxious, impatient nature in check with what you can realistically achieve in the gym.


Ectomorphs in peak state

In your peak state, you are calm, at peace, focused, energized and lean.

Since your type is prone to anxiety and being underweight, your priorities to achieve peak state are:

  • minimising stress and having a resilience plan (meditation, yoga, reading, mindfulness, rest, journalling)
  • eating the right mix of carbs (low GI), protein and fat (lower) including lots of green vegetables
  • endurance and/or moderate weight workouts that stretch you just enough.

With this combination, you can feel calm, in control and energized.

All that said and done, where are you at right now?

Do you need help to lose some flab, feel calmer, more energized and healthier?

If you want to get into the best shape of your life, get in touch to book a free 15-minute session and we’ll help you make a plan.

Melanie White

Melanie White

Chief Inspiration Coach

I’m a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.