Zoe Schilling, PharmD., Nutrition Coach, ACE Certified Personal Trainer
There is NO body like you! Before you begin a new workout program or nutrition regimen, it may be a smart idea to understand your unique body type so you can get results faster.
Understanding your individual bone structure, fat and muscle distribution, as well as overall mindset will help you better tailor your diet and exercise plan.
*Disclaimer this blog is NOT medical advice. This blog was inspired by Dr. Stephen Cabral, an integrative functional medicine practitioner. Everyone should be completing daily cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, and/ or stress relieving activities to maintain a healthy life.
What are the three main body types?
· Ectomorph (Vata)
· Mesomorph (Pitta)
· Endomorph (Kapha)
Try this free quiz to help you find out which body type best suits you. Remember, you can be a hybrid body-type. In fact, most people are.
Ectomorph (Vata): Generally, this body type appears thin and lean. Vatas tend to have slender waists, narrow hips and shoulders, small joints, and long legs and arms. They tend to be slim, without much body fat or noticeable muscle mass. The Vata body type has a fast metabolism, which means they burn calories faster than others. Hence, ectomorphs may find themselves hungry more frequently throughout the day. However, because of their fast metabolism, Vatas typically do not gain weight or muscle easily.
The Vata’s mindset is typically “go-go-go” always planning ahead and on the move. Likewise, Vatas usually have elevated cortisol, the stress hormone. In addition, the body of the Vata is more catabolic (breaking down, not building up) and the nervous system seems to always be ramped up. These individuals like lots of activity- running, dancing, walking and talking fast, etc. However, for this catabolic body type, overexercising is not recommended. Remember, we want the human body to be balanced. You will notice trends that the different body types mindset does not always match up to the recommended desired activity.
Recommended Cardiovascular Training for Vata Body Type: Walking and more relaxing type of exercises are key to re-balance the Vata. Remember, this body type’s nervous system is already revved up compared to the others. Choose an enjoyable form of exercise that doesn’t necessarily burn a high number of calories. For example, a light bike ride, hike through the woods, light jog or walking. We want to help this body type relax and calm the nervous system.
How many days? Can vary, most experts recommend 2-3 depending on fitness goals.
Recommended Resistance Training for Vata Body Type: Remember, this body type is prone to injury. These individuals typically have thinner joints, knees, and ankles. Be careful with plyometrics and avoid over-training. “Maxing out” with lower reps and heavy weight is more strain on the nervous system and could also lead to injury if not done properly. To avoid too much training volume, it is recommended to perform exercises with higher rep ranges of 8-15, for 2-3 sets. Hypertrophy strength training with multiple sets with moderate weight to promote muscle growth is ideal.
How many days? Can vary, most experts recommend 3-5 depending on fitness goals.
Recommended Stress-Relieving Activies/ Yoga for Vata Body Type: ALWAYS STRETCH post workout. With this body type, we want to leave the nervous system in a calming, relaxed state. Light yoga, meditative exercise, and breathe work is highly recommended. Ironically, this is usually very challenging for this “go-go-go” mindset that wants to be on the move.
How many days? Everyday! Try to incorporate stress-relieving activities into your daily routines. Shoot for at least 1-2 days of planned 20-to-30-minute light yoga or recovery stretching.
Recommended Nutrition: Vatas need to increase their caloric intake since their metabolism is already so high. If you most identify with the Vata body type then you should consume protein regularly. Try every three to four hours if your goal is muscle building or strength training. Your intake of protein before and after a workout is extremely important. For example, Vatas may need both a pre and post-workout shake within an hour or so after the training session. There is also research to suggest that consuming protein before bed can help to increase muscle protein synthesis rates overnight.
Endomorph (Kapha): This body type has a medium-to-large bone structure and typically more body fat than the other body types. Women who are Kaphas are often described as curvy or full-figured, while Kapha men might be described as stocky or round. Kaphas usually have narrow shoulders and wider hips. These individuals may also carry excess weight in the lower abdomen, hips, and thighs. This is typically the most challenging body type for weight loss unfortunately due to the slower metabolism. However, with the right diet and training approach, weight loss can be achieved. Kaphas typically enjoy more rest. The Kapha mindset is more comfortable with rest and relaxation as compared to the Vata “go-go-go” personality. It is easier for this body type to gain weight due to the slow-moving metabolism. Likewise, exercise is extremely important for this body type, boosting both mood and metabolism. The Kapha body type is already anabolic (building up, rather than breaking down) and has more natural muscle mass compared to the Vata. Likewise, the exercise recommendations are much different and probably not what people with this Kapha “mindset” may enjoy. Keep in mind, the body type’s mindset is not always the same as the body’s physical features.
Recommended Cardiovascular Training for the Kapha: When it comes to training for this body type, most experts recommend high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Kaphas are more prone to fat storage and typically have sluggish metabolisms, so the main focus of training should be on fat loss and steady state cardio. Consistent anaerobic and aerobic training routines will help the Kapha increase their metabolism. Workouts with short rest periods and circuit training are some great examples. The Kapha body type was built for endurance. Longer training intervals such as 45 minutes to 1 hour spin classes, kickboxing, running and other forms of steady-state cardio keeps the metabolism higher as well as bring down blood sugars. The Kapha body type is also more prone to diabetes. Since Kaphas can have a slower metabolism, being active throughout the day and avoiding sedentary lifestyles can help overcome this. Try to never sit for more than 1-2 hours. Take brief breaks throughout your work day if you have a sit down desk job.
How many days? Everyday, or at least most days of the week. We want to keep the metabolism boosted. At minimum, get your 10,000 steps per day. This may seem intimidating at first; however, it can be very feasible with two 30 minute walks or three 20 minute walks per day.
Recommended Resistance Training for the Kapha Body Type: Muscle building usually is not as much of a challenge with the Kapha body type. Because of the natural anabolic state, it is easy for the Kapha to gain muscle. Individuals typically do not need to go super heavy to see body transformation. Try to incorporate more circuit training. For example, 3 days of full body workouts alternating between muscle groups is perfectly fine. Try to keep your heart rate and metabolism elevated throughout the entire workout. Circuit training may incorporate 3-5 exercises in a row with higher reps.
How many days? 2-3 days per week. Training repetition ranges and rest times may vary depending on fitness goals.
Recommended Stress-Relieving Activies/ Yoga for the Kapha Body Type: Typically, Kaphas prefer rest and relaxation so yoga, meditation, and other stress-relieving exercises may serve as an enjoyable activity for this body type. Although stretching is important for all body types, we do want to leave the workout still revved because of the Kapha’s slow metabolism. The best yoga practices for the Kapha are the ones that turn on the nervous system. For example, Hot Yoga, Ashtanga, or 90 minute or longer yoga classes are wonderful options.
How many days? Can vary depending on health-related goals. Typically, 1-2 days per week.
Recommended Nutrition for the Kapha Body Type: These individuals typically have a slower metabolism which leads to higher fat storage. Therefore, keeping a healthy diet of high protein to help support lean muscle building, and keeping a healthy balance of fats and carbs would be recommended. You can never go wrong with “eating the rainbow” with a diet high in fruits and vegetables! Try to make at least half your plate veggies and eat lean protein with every meal.
Mesomorphs (Pitta): This body type is naturally muscular. Pittas typically have moderate-size frames, with wider shoulders and a narrow waist. Pittas tend to have naturally strong arms and legs, with modest amounts of body fat. Generally, Pittas are able to lose or gain weight easily. When it comes to exercise recommendations, Pittas are the most flexible. The Pitta mindset enjoys competition and challenge. This can serve as both a pro and con in society today. To balance the body it is important to avoid over-exercising. This body type can get over-heated easily. We want to avoid the overproduction of cortisol and stress hormones.
Recommended Cardiovascular Training for Pitta Body Type: This competitive body type typically enjoys HIIT workouts, sports, cross fit, spin classes, etc. Pittas also tend to have more natural fast twitch muscle fibers. We want to be careful to avoid the overproduction of cortisol and stress hormones. This body type can also get over-heated easily. This is why swimming is a wonderful form of cardiovascular training for the Pitta.
How many days? Can vary depending on health-related goals.
Recommended Resistance Training for Pitta Body Type: These individuals typically have the “best of both worlds” in terms of muscle-building potential. Training this body type will vary depending on the individuals unique goals. Depending if you are trending towards weight gain or loss, training ranges may be different.
Hypertrophy- 3 to 4 sets of 2-6 reps, rest 30-90 seconds in between sets
Endurance- 2 to 3 sets of 12-20 reps, rest less than 30 seconds in between sets
Strength- 3 to 5 sets of 2-6 reps, rest 2 to 3 minutes in between sets
How many days? Can vary depending on health-related goals. Typically 3-5 days per week.
Recommended Stress-Relieving Activies/ Yoga for Pitta Body Type: Remember, the goal is to balance the body. Slow flow yoga and other meditative exercises would be a wonderful option to slow the competitive Pitta mindset. Stretching post-workout is also important to avoid injuries post exercise sessions.
How many days? Everyday! Try to incorporate stress-relieving activities into your daily routines. Shoot for at least 1-2 days of planned 20-to-30-minute slow flow yoga or recovery stretching.
Recommended Nutrition for the Pitta Body Type: These individuals are genetically predisposed to build muscle. For this reason, Pittas often requires a slightly higher caloric intake and higher protein consumption as compared to other body types. Muscle requires more calories to maintain. Depending on the individual’s fitness goals, nutrition can be very flexible for the Pitta body type as well. Work with a dietician or nutrition coach for an optimal nutrition regimen that can best suit you to accomplish your goals.
Ecto-mesomorphs: (Vata-Pitta) These hybrid individuals are common in the athletic world. In fact, for both men and women, ecto-mesomorphs tend to have the “fitness model” look. Often muscular with V-shaped torsos (think: wide upper back, developed chest and shoulders, narrow waist), ecto-mesomorphs are lean and agile, with strong-looking (but not bulky) arms and legs.
Meso-endomorphs: (Pitta- Kapha) This is the most common hybrid, according to research. Many bodybuilders and contact sports athletes, such as football players have this body type. Characterized by thick arms and legs and a boxy chest and mid-section, this type looks powerful but it is not chiseled. This may be partly because people with this body type tend to retain water and a layer of fat on top of their muscles. People with this kind of build who want to get a leaner physique should be prepared to take a more refined approach to resistance training, cardiovascular workouts, and diet in order to prioritize fat loss.
Ecto-Endomorphs: (Vata- Kapha) Usually, this is a behaviorally acquired body type. Basically, someone who is really an ectomorph has added significant body fat, whether it’s from poor eating habits, sedentary ways, or a combination of these poor habits. With long limbs and a smaller bone structure, ecto-endomorphs often have soft midsections, droopy chests, and flabby upper arms and legs. To improve fitness, body composition, and health, the most efficient plan for this type involves resistance training and HIIT cardio, both of which promote muscle growth and stimulate metabolism. Since ecto-endomorphs may have developed some insulin resistance, their bodies may not be as efficient at burning carbohydrates, so they should follow a dietary plan that is suited to Kapha, with a slightly higher protein intake, a medium fat intake, and lower carb levels until the excess body fat comes off and metabolic function is optimized. Then these hybrid types can switch to more of a Vata approach such as adding in more carbohydrates in the daily diet.
· Most people are hybrids of two body types, typically Pitta-Kapha.
· Everyone should incorporate cardiovascular training, resistance training, and stress-relieving activities into their daily routines.
· Usually one’s body type mentality does not always match the type of exercise that is most necessary to rebalance their specific physical body type.
· It is important for all body types to get at least 10,000 steps daily.
· Training regimens will vary depending on individual fitness goals.
· Work with a nutrition coach, dietician, and/or personal trainer to help you find a sustainable, and healthy approach to accomplish your fitness-related goals.