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Diet, Workouts, and Weight Gain for Ectomorphs

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I like to work out and build muscle. Follow my gains and get fit.

Paying attention to diet and how you work out will help ectomorphs build muscle.

Paying attention to diet and how you work out will help ectomorphs build muscle.

Are You an Ectomorph?

There are three general body types, or somatotypes, which people can be classified under. Everyone's genetics determine what their body composition and skeletal frame will be like, and generally, most people are some combination of the three. The three broader body types are ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph.

Ectomorphs are long and lean and have less fat and muscle than other body types. People with this body type have a fast metabolism, which can be both a positive and a negative. It may seem like ectomorphs can eat whatever they want and not gain weight, but it also means they might eat a lot—with the intention of gaining muscle or weight—and then nothing changes.

In this article, we'll be discussing the challenges of being an ectomorph.

What We'll Cover

  • differences in the three body types
  • nutrition
  • best foods for trying to gain muscle
  • supplements
  • workout tips and exercises to try

Ectomorph vs. Mesomorph vs. Endomorph

Here is a brief introduction to the three body types. You can be one of the three or a combination.

EctomorphMesomorphEndomorph

Fast Metabolism

Normal Metabolism

Slow Metabolism

Need less cardio

Need balance of cardio

Need more cardio in routine

Harder to gain muscle

Average at gaining muscle

Easier to gain muscle

Ectomorphs are long and lean. Despite working out, they may have a hard time getting their body from looking like the first drawing, to looking like the last.

Ectomorphs are long and lean. Despite working out, they may have a hard time getting their body from looking like the first drawing, to looking like the last.

The Challenges of Being an Ectomorph

So, you're a lean person and have a hard time gaining weight? It's not your fault. It's just your genetics. Being an ectomorph can be tough, especially when you're trying to gain weight and muscle. No matter how many hours you spend in the gym and eating, your body just doesn't seem to change. This is because you have a fast metabolism.

Metabolism is the biological process where your body converts calories from foods and drinks you've consumed into energy.

Since this is a natural process, if you want to get your body to change, you have to put pressure on it. Many people who want but are unable to gain weight are ectomorphs who don't do enough to push their bodies to want to change. They'll work out or eat foods that just aren't going to help make the changes they're wanting to see.

Is this you? Well, let's try to fix that.

Foods like oats, berries, and nuts are a great option for ectomorphs trying to gain muscle mass.

Foods like oats, berries, and nuts are a great option for ectomorphs trying to gain muscle mass.

Nutritional Guidelines for Ectomorphs

With a high metabolism, it can be hard to gain the excess calories necessary to build muscle and weight. It's important for you to take a look at what you're currently eating in terms of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Protein has the fewest calories per portion, fats have the most, and carbohydrates are in between. Why is that important? If you're eating a lot of foods high in protein, then it can be hard to consume as many foods that are high in carbohydrates or fats. This can equal fewer calories in your overall diet even though you're eating a lot of food.

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Just because a food has a lot of carbohydrates or fats doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad for your overall health. Of course, eating candy and cheese pizza all the time isn't a good idea; although these foods have calories, they don't have the other nutrients you need to have a good workout and gain muscle.

What Foods Will Help?

There are healthy sources of fats and carbohydrates that can give you the calories you need to consume faster than your metabolism works. Generally, unsaturated fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated) are healthy fats and can be found in foods like olive oil, nuts, peanut butter, and avocados. Saturated fat is often found in dairy products, which aren't unhealthy, but your body doesn't digest them as easily and they can contribute to bad cholesterol.

Opt for meals like oats and berries in the morning. Later in the day try to eat things like grains (whole wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice), nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, almonds), and vegetables as well as meats. Chicken, turkey, eggs, Brussels sprouts, or squash are just a few foods you could combine for a tasty and worthwhile meal. Everyday Health has a great list of foods and a sample menu to get you started.

Supplements and protein powders can help build muscle and can revive your body after an intense workout.

Supplements and protein powders can help build muscle and can revive your body after an intense workout.

Weight-Gaining Supplements

Ectomorphs will oftentimes turn to weight-gaining supplements for excess calories. These can be beneficial for muscle growth in a high-metabolic body. I have personally tried a few weight-gaining protein powders with some good results, including this one called Serious Mass from Optimum Nutrition.

What makes these supplements weight gainers are the carbohydrates and creatine they contain. I find taste to be the deciding factor when choosing a weight gainer supplement. If a powder tastes good, you are more likely to take it regularly.

As always, be aware of what you consume. Make sure to read the labels about what the supplements contain and pick the ones that are both effective and most appropriate for your well-being.

Gradually increasing how much weight you lift will build your endurance and grow muscle mass.

Gradually increasing how much weight you lift will build your endurance and grow muscle mass.

Training Plans and Working Out

When deciding on a workout schedule or training routine, you should always keep your body type in mind. For ectomorphs, here are a few things to consider when getting ready to work out.

Reduce Cardio

Ectomorphs likely don't need much cardio, at least not as much as other body types. If your aim is to build muscle, focus on lifting and other types of strength training. You shouldn't necessarily ignore doing cardio, but with a high metabolism, you don't need to do it that long or that often if the end goal is to add body weight. Schedule something like a 30-minute aerobic activity no more than three times a week.

Lift Heavier Weights

Generally, when you're trying to bulk up, lift heavier weights with more rest in between. For ectomorphs who are after muscle mass, then doing between 4 and 8 repetitions (reps) per set is OK. You may be able to lift more weight and do more sets if you do fewer reps. For those who have an easier time building muscle, aim for 8 to 12 reps for each set.

You have to make sure you're lifting enough weight to make a difference. If you don't have any idea of what you've lifted before, the chances you'll see results and actually gain muscle are smaller. Keep a journal or a note on your phone to record how much weight and how many reps you did the previous few sessions. Try to lift more each week. The more you can lift, the more muscle your body needs.

Do Each Rep Fully

When working out, focus on having good form and doing each rep all the way through. Doing the exercises correctly will help train the muscle fibers for both strength and endurance.

Weight lifting is a better form of exercise for ectomorphs trying to build muscle than cardio-centric workouts.

Weight lifting is a better form of exercise for ectomorphs trying to build muscle than cardio-centric workouts.

Exercises to Try

Try using kettlebells, rope extensions, fly machines, and various kinds of arm curls when at the gym. At home, you can try doing exercises like push-ups, burpees, lunges, and squats. Though these will help, it's better if you are able to add some external weight to push your body that much more. Try getting some cheap home workout equipment online or at stores like Marshalls if you are just getting started on your journey and haven't figured out exactly what you need.

You can find workout plans online like this one on Cellucor. Start by trying these exercises and over time, you can develop your own routine.

Attitude Is Important

This might sound ridiculous, but sometimes ectomorphs have trouble gaining weight because they simply become complacent with their workout and diet routine.

When is the last time you were impressed with your performance during a workout? When is the last time you thought to yourself, "I am eating exactly what I need to gain muscle."

Sometimes it's easy to get into a routine and forget our motivation to become stronger and more muscular. I encourage you to take a few minutes and ask if you're doing everything you can for yourself in the gym and the kitchen. If you've been following the same routine, research some new exercises you can start trying. Talk to friends that have been on similar journeys with their bodies, asking what foods and meals are their go-to's.

Building muscle can be a difficult and long process for ectomorphs. But if you stay motivated by adding variation to your routines and start to see changes, you'll be all the more motivated to continue your journey.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

skara manga on April 17, 2018:

Very informative

Benjamin (author) on November 15, 2013:

Very good point. I tried to allude to that with the candy example. What type of carbs do you prefer eating?

Kevin W from Texas on November 15, 2013:

Nice hub bodyathletics, However being a true ectomorph myself, simply adding calories is not the answer, you burn right through them and spend more time in the bathroom. Its the type of calories you you, slow burning carbs (low glycemic index) that will slow down your metabolism will help you gain and maintain.

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