Body Types, Body Fat, and Weight Loss

By: Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN


In 1940, a book by the name of The Varieties of Human Physique, written by Dr. Sheldon, was published. In this book, Sheldon introduced the concept of body types and showed that each person could be characterized as possessing a certain amount of 3 body types, which include:


The endomorph body type is characterized by soft roundness and large digestive organs. As such, the overall tendency for an endomorph is to obviously be heavier (or fatter). In general, it is more difficult for someone with a predominantly endomorph "somatotype" to lose fat because it greatly goes against their bodies natural state of balance. However, this doesn't mean that weight loss cannot be achieved, it is simply more work than say the ectomorph.


The ectomorph shows a predominance of linearity and fragility with a great surface area-to-mass ratio giving enhanced sensory exposure to the environment. For instance, it is easy for the ectomorph to both get hot and cold very quickly. Likewise, of the 3 body types, ectomorphs have the easiest time losing weight since it's their tendency to be "skinnier" in the first place.


The mesomorph is characterized by a predominance of muscle, bone, and connective tissue. This makes it easier for them to gain muscle mass, regardless of their workout routines. When it comes to weight loss, mesomorphs will never be as skinny as an ectomorph but they can lose fat and maintain a more natural muscular frame.

Each Person is a Combination of All 3 Body Types

In reality, you are not just one body type. Instead, you (and all of us) are a composite of all 3 bodies. For instance, Sheldon's research looked at somatotypes of Olympic athletes and found that they were predominantly high mesomorphy (more muscle) and low endomorphy (low body fat). However, the precise breakdown would obviously be different between a 100m sprinter and a marathon runner, for instance.

As such, it is difficult to make blanket fat loss recommendations for people. For instance, telling someone that they should reduce their body fat from 18% to 14% might not be wise if that person is already at 14% or lower because they are an ectomorph.

One of my good friends from school was in figure skating. Naturally, she was a very skinny ectomorph but do the pressures of her sport she developed an eating disorder (anorexia) because she was convinced that she was too fat. Unfortunately, because of her natural thin body type, she lost even more weight and was critical health for many months.

At the other end of the spectrum, I had another friend in school who was on the national team for swimming. One day she told me that she was released from the program because she couldn't gain the recommended body fat that was needed for her to be a more efficient swimmer. Already she was predominantly an endomorph (close to 20% body fat) and now they wanted her to add more fat. Obviously, if she really wanted to gain fat she probably could have because of her body type. But really, would that have healthy? No way!

In general, "ideal" body ranges for men are 10-20% and for women 15-25% but as you can see these will vary quite dramatically if you're in a certain sport or more of one body type than another.

Just remember that if you want to lose weight, it is really a change in body composition that you are after. No one wants to lose muscle, right? You want to lose fat (and still maintain a healthy body fat percentage) while getting your body in great shape through regular strength training and interval cardio workouts.

If you're more of an endomorph, I won't lie to you - it will be tougher to lose weight and keep it off. But you can do it. You just need to a little bit more hard work than the ectomorph. If you need help doing so, then you may want to consider my Fitter U iPod workouts which will allow me to coach you to long lasting weight loss!

=> Click here to get the best workouts to keep your metabolism elevated so you can burn body fat!


Sheldon, W. (1940). The Varieties of Human Physique. New York; Harper & Brothers.

Powers, S. & Howley, E. (2001). Exercise Physiology: Theory and appilcation to Fitness and Performance. New York; McGraw Hill.

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