Ah, the endomorph.
Just saying the word makes me think of a jelly filled Krispy Kreme donut. It brings to mind that fat kid in grade school who was always picked last for everything and whose mother had to buy husky Levi's jeans because the straight legged ones just didn't fit.
If you're grumbling right now thinking that I'm speaking directly to you, I am.
I decided to write this guide not because I’m overweight or an endomorph even, but rather because many of you are. And as a coach of 23 years, I’ve seen my share of men and women struggling. For an endomorph, diet and exercise are extremely important and must be approached from a different perspective than for other body types.
One thing to note is that this article is not for all overweight people or those who got that way by a living a sedentary lifestyle. This is for people who are genetically predisposed to many of the traits of an endomorph and are trying to improve themselves.
If you're not entirely sure of what body type you are classified as, take this free quiz.
As a side note, there are many similarities between the way an endomorph man and woman should eat and train, but there are also some significant differences. Please note that this guide has been written for men specifically.
As an endomorph, you know all too well the struggles you face each day.
- Clothes that seem to always be a half size too small
- Feeling like the "fat guy or girl" all the time
- Gaining weight just thinking of pizza or most carbs
So what exactly is an endomorph?
First off, an endomorph is nothing more than a certain body type, of which there are three:
- Ectomorph: Naturally thin, small bone structure. Hard to gain weight
- Mesomorph: Naturally muscular and strong.
- Endomorph: Naturally built like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Most people have traits of two body types and rarely is someone a "pure" body type. Usually there is a dominant one and in your case, it's endo.
In this post, I am going to talk about nutritional and exercise strategies specifically for endomorphs so if you want to learn more about the other body types, you can read my article, How To Eat and Train For Your Body Type.
From a big picture perspective, the endomorph struggles with the following issues:
- Easily stores excess fat (often in the belly and waist area).
- Gains weight easily and loses it slowly.
- Slower metabolism.
- Slow sympathetic nervous system, which is your body's "fight or flight" response.
- Shorter limbs and often seen as "short and squat".
The bad news is that your body type is largely determined by your genetic composition. The good news is that you can change how your body responds and adapts to your training and nutrition. This means you are not doomed to be overweight, soft, or squishy for the rest of your life.
Far from it.
I’ve seen dozens if not hundreds of transformations from people who had all but given up on being fit and gone on to build lean, athletic, and toned bodies. It can happen as long as you stay positive and put the right type of work into creating it.
The Endomorph Diet Plan
As with any body type, I will tell you that roughly 80% of your results (purely from a body composition standpoint) come from what you’re eating on a day to day basis.
In other words, you cannot out train a shitty diet and believe me, I’ve tried!!
For the endomorph, diet is even more critical because you can't eat like the other body types and see positive results. The problem is that your body has a tendency to store fat at a much higher rate than the ecto or meso.
The typical American diet is absolutely atrocious for the endomorph. Filled with processed foods, sugars, enriched products, chemicals, and hormone and anti-biotic laced products, it's a struggle to avoid these foods because they are so readily available and we’re so accustomed to eating them.
Plus they taste amazing, which is no accident and I believe that the food industry wants us to fail.
Know Your Macros
One key to success is going to be understanding your macronutrients (macros) and knowing how to balance them. This is extremely important for the endomorph.
Again, the normal diet we are eating is terrible for the endo and we can see by the macro breakdown that most of our calories are coming from carbohydrates. This spells disaster for the endomorph.
Now carbs aren’t inherently “bad” but most of the packaged, processed, and sugary foods we’re eating, are.
There is no need to remove all carbs from your diet or even restrict them significantly. If you’re eating the right types. Those include things like potatoes, quinoa, fruits, and veggies. It does not include Pop-Tarts, Ritz crackers, Lucky Charms, or Coke.
If you’re struggling with what to eat or have no idea how many calories you need to lose weight effectively, one of the best things you can do is to start tracking all your food. Do it for a week to start and I guarantee you'll be amazed at what you see. It’s kinda tedious to do, but can help you a ton in helping you understand exactly what’s going into your pie hole.
In my experience, most people greatly over or underestimate their caloric intake and therefore, have no idea what their BMR is. How can you expect to drop body fat when you don't have any idea how many calories you need? You can't. It ends up being a guessing game and most of you are guessing wrong.
But don't beat yourself up, this is an easy fix. Start by downloading an app called MyFitnessPal (or another similar app) and start tracking today. I'm serious, it's that important.
To figure out how many calories you should be eating based on your specific goals, I use a free online tool called the Harris-Benedict Calculator. Input your age, weight, and height and you will get a number.
You will then multiply this number (your BMR) by your activity level to determine how many calories your body requires to maintain your current weight. You can then reduce that number by 15-20% for fat loss. If you have a lot of weight to lose, a deficit of 25% is a good place to start.
Going much lower than that isn’t a good idea and can lead to a lack of nutrients, poor energy, and cause cravings and ultimately, bingeing.
As far as your specific macros, there is no one answer as everyone has different levels of sensitivities, but a good starting point would be something like:
- 20-25% carbs
- 30-35% protein
- 35-40% fat
This low(ish) carb intake will be a challenge for many endomorphs since they are typically used to eating a very high carb diet, often upwards of 60% or more. You can expect to have an energy crash for a week or two and possibly feel something called the carb flu, but after that, you'll feel 10X better.
Your main focus is to keep protein levels high. If nothing else, get your protein in every day. A good goal regardless of your body type is 0.7 grams per pound of body weight. For example, a 200 lb. person would need about 140 grams.
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Here are a few nutritional rules to live by:
- Limit sugars, breads, pastas, cereals, crackers, and other heavy starches. Also remove white flour and byproducts.
- Eat a shitload of fibrous vegetables.
- Limit alcohol. They are empty calories and your body doesn't need them.
- Aim to eat a lean protein at every meal, preferably 25-35 grams. Not only is protein the most satiating macronutrient, it is critical for building the muscle you desperately need.
- Eat fat. Many endomorphs make the mistake of severely limiting or trying to eliminate fat because they think it will make them fatter. Not the case at all. In fact, healthy fats like nuts and nut butter, oils, fish oils, avocados, are crucial to the fat burning process.
- Take fish oil supplements if you don't eat enough fish. Fish oil has been shown to have a positive effect of many deadly diseases like coronary disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and high blood pressure, that are common among overweight and obese people, and as you know, many endomorphs fall into this category.
Insulin, which is a hormone that controls how your body absorbs sugar (and ultimately uses it for energy production), becomes an issue when you have an intolerance or sensitivity to carbohydrates.
As an endo, your body just isn't as good at using insulin to reduce the sugar in your bloodstream, which is one reason why eating sugary foods and high glycemic Index (GI) starchy carbs is a bad idea.
Eating high fiber, low GI foods may be a good idea and can help to keep blood sugars stable. These include:
- Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa.
- Starches like oatmeal or sweet potatoes.
- Fruits. Raspberries, strawberries, mangoes, apples, and bananas are best.
- Vegetables, especially green vegetables. Spinach, artichokes, kale, broccoli, and beets are excellent choices.
Many endomorphs also tend to have a slight to moderate carbohydrate intolerance. What this means is that your body will react poorly to excess carb intake and likely store it as fat versus burning it for energy.
This means that keeping your cab intake low (30-35% of total calories) is probably a good approach.
One caveat to the carb rule is that the endomorph should always eat carbs after a workout.
The Paleo Diet
As I've mentioned before, I am not a big believer in severely reducing or eliminating entire food groups, but there is something to be said for the success of the Paleo Diet.
First off, I’ve tried dozens of diets personally over the years and have had the most success with an ancestral approach to eating, like a Primal or Paleo Diet. I have had clients eat this way with great results as well and teach it in many of my online programs.
I'm not going to get into all the specifics but here are 3 great reasons to at least consider a Paleo/Primal approach to eating.
To sum it up:
Basically, your diet revolves around the following:
- Lean meats
- Fish and other seafood
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and oils
These are all healthy things and while I'm not recommending you do or do not go on the Paleo, it's definitely with looking into it further, especially if you are struggling with carb intake.
I hate traditional diets. I hate that they represent a short-term solution to a long-term need. Diets are temporary and more often than not, cause more harm than good when it comes to healthy fat loss. The bookstore shelves are lined with new “best-sellers” every week and there seems to be some new “hot” fad, herb, of food that is the answer to your weight loss problems.
here is no fix and there are no shortcuts. Losing fat, gaining muscle, and being healthy takes work and time. Nothing you buy on QVC at 2am is going to speed the process up for you. My mother tried for years and it was one scam after another.
Let’s take this example:
Bob is a 40 year old guy and an endomorph. He knows he needs to lose 30 pounds and is desperate to try something that works. He hears from his friend that a diet he recently tried helped him lose 35 pounds so Bob decides to give it a shot.
Here's what happens:
- Bob starts his diet at 200 pounds and has 18% body fat (this translates to 164 pounds of lean body mass (LBM) and 36 pounds of fat).
- He starts eating 1,500 calories per day based on the diet guidelines, although he is used to eating much more than that.
- In 8 weeks, he loses 21 pounds and is ecstatic! His body fat has also dropped to 15%.
- He feels like he's succeeded at his goal, but when we look at the numbers, we see something entirely different.
- Bob now weighs 179 pounds and has 15% body fat. This translates to 152 pounds of LBM and 27 pounds of fat. He has lost 9 pounds of fat, which is great, but he has also lost 12 pounds of muscle, which is terrible.
- Now Bob starts eating his normal 2,000 calories per day and within 12 weeks, has gained all his weight back.
- He is now 200 pounds at 20% body fat and has 159 pounds of LBM and 41 pounds of fat.
- He is now worse off than when he started, has a slower metabolism, and will find it harder to lose weight in the future
As you can see, this can wreak havoc on your body and when you "diet" frequently (AKA yo-yo dieting), it can be catastrophic for your body.
This scenario is extremely common and is caused by the diet industry's desire to make money. They don't give a shit about our health; they want to sell books, programs, and products.
The reason this model sells is because it produces results. Anyone can and will lose weight when given a low calorie diet, which most diets are in some capacity.
Quick results sell. Long and challenging doesn't.
But you shouldn't care about quick results. You should focus on making a permanent change to how you eat, move, and live.
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The Endomorph Training Plan
Now that you know how important diet is for you, it's time to discuss the second piece of the puzzle; training.
As an endo, your body does not want to be lean and muscular. It wants to stay comfortable and be round and soft. Getting it to do what you want will require dedication, consistency, and a shit ton of hard work.
But if you do it, you can virtually "reset" your body type to be geared more towards a different one.
Rule #1 for any endomorph is to move more. Inactivity is your nemesis and living a sedentary life is the devil. Strength training is your savior and without it, you may live the rest of your life looking like one of the Teletubbies.
Your goal should be to reduce body fat, not weight. And the absolute best way to shed fat is to build lean muscle. This is done through progressive strength training.
Our 90-Day Transformation Program, The Fit Dad Blueprint, includes 4 separate strength training programs so you can get started immediately if you're a newbie to fitness or if you've been training for years.
This is going to be the main staple for your exercise program. Everything starts here.
Since your primary goal is to build lean muscle tissue in order to drop body fat, increase your metabolism, and improve your overall health, you MUST strength train. This means pushing your muscles way out of their comfort zones and overloading them to force growth. This is done with resistance training.
It's important to understand that all exercises are not created equal and using compound movements versus isolation ones can have a significant impact on your results and gains.
For the endomorph, the best use of your time and energy is using heavy, multi-joint compound exercise as the base for your strength workouts. Exercises like:
- Squats (front and back)
- Step ups
- Chest presses
- Overhead presses
- Pull ups and chin ups
Here is an example of a proper strength training workout for an beginner to intermediate endomorph man:
- 3-4 days per week
- 2 upper body and 2 lower body workouts
- Reps are in the 8-12 range, meaning you cannot do 13. If you can, add weight
- Sets are 8-12 per body part
- Rest periods are 60 seconds
Upper body workout:
- Dumbbell chest press: 3 X 10
- Dips: 3 X 8-10
- (Incline) Pushups: 3 X 12-15
- Assisted pullups: 4 X 8
- One arm dumbbell row: 4 X 8-10
- Barbell overhead shoulder press: 3 X 10-12
- Dumbbell shrugs: 3 X 10
- Kettlebell farmers carry: 2 X distance
Lower body workout
- Kettlebell front squats: 4 X 8-10
- Leg press: 3 X 10-12
- Dumbbell step ups: 3 X 10-12
- Dumbbell stiff leg deadlift: 3 X 10-12
- Weighted glute/hamstring bridge: 3 X 10-12
As you can see, these are all compound exercises, using multiple joints and muscles at once. Also note that I didn't include specific ab work because many of these exercises force the core to stabilize and work to maintain posture and stability.
This is also not a plan designed for anyone specific. I believe in individualization of all exercise programs and recommend you find a good coach to help set one up for your specific goals, abilities, and limitations.
I love high intensity interval training. Call it circuit training, interval training, or metabolic conditioning, it's all pretty much lumped together. The goal being to use short, very intense bursts of energy followed by short rest periods. The goal is to use this type of training to elicit a higher calorie burn, increase heart capacity, improve muscular endurance and strength, and reap the rewards of EPOC.
But this is hardcore shit and if you are deconditioned, this type of training is going to be extremely taxing. They key is to push yourself to your limits, not those of someone else. Your perceived rate of exertion will differ greatly from mine for example and you should always train for your goals.
Sample HIIT Workout
I'm a big fan of timed circuit training and use it often with my clients and for myself. Below is a sample workout that would be ideal for an endomorph who is at the beginner to intermediate stages of fitness proficiency.
- 25 minutes or less total. 15 minutes is plenty for a newbie.
- The goal is to get your heart rate up to 85% of your max for short periods. You max HR can be found by the following equation: 220-your age=max heart rate.
- 2-3 timed rounds
- 20 to 30 seconds of work followed by 30-40 seconds of rest
- 60-90 second rest periods between rounds
- Air squats (or jump squats)
- Medicine ball toss
- Dumbbell curl to shoulder press
- Alternating lunge with rotations
- Plank jacks
The key is intensity here. Push yourself as hard as you are capable of but make sure to read your body. This type of training can place a lot of stress on your central nervous system and can even make you feel nauseous or sick.
Remember to push yourself to your limits and your limits only. Don't worry about how fast or how many reps someone else is doing or what you think you should be doing.
Normally I am not a fan of steady state cardio like running, jogging, cycling and prefer high intensity work. However, since your goal is to move as much as possible, I do recommend doing traditional cardio several times per week. Walking, in particular, is a fantastic activity for the endomorph.
Just keep in mind that just because you get to walk on a treadmill for an hour, doesn't mean you get to take it easy. Push yourself on that thing too! Use inclines, speed variations, and hell..even walking backwards works!
That's all I have to say about that...
Now let's talk about the golden rules of fitness for an endomorph.
10 Things You MUST Do:
- Move more, sit less. That means a walk instead of watching Game of Thrones,
- Strength train 2-4 times per week depending on your fitness level. You NEED to build muscle in order to lose body
- Use interval/HIIT type training to supplement your strength training. The benefits are numerous and include a faster metabolism and a longer window of burning more calories.
- Track your calories (at least for a while).
- Give yourself a cheat meal every 3-4 days. This will help you from feeling trapped in a diet and give you a mental
- Reduce stress. Cortisol can fuck with your hormones and slow
- Drink a shitload of water every day. Half your weight in ounces is a good place to start.
- Be consistent and track your progress. Know your body fat and retake your measurements every 6-8 weeks to ensure it’s moving in the right direction…down.
- Eat high quality foods 80-90% of the time.
- Get support. Use a friend, gym buddy, or trainer to help with motivation and to keep you on point.
Follow these 10 things and you will make progress, this I know. You don't have to do all of them right now, but you do need to do some of them.
Now get to work!
You Can Do This!
Over the last 23 years as a fitness coach, I have seen many endomorphs struggle to lose weight/fat and have helped many of them change their lifestyles and physiques.
Focusing on just diet or just exercise is always a bad idea, but even more so for the endomorph. He must use both for things together for change to happen. If you follow this guide, you will see results but be patient because it may take time. You didn't get soft and doughy overnight so you can't reasonably expect to reverse it overnight.
Remember, it's not about losing a bunch of weight, it's about adopting a healthy lifestyle that you can sustain. This is the exact method I teach in our 90-Day Transformation Program, The Fit Dad Blueprint, and you'll get a step-by-step exercise and nutrition plan to help you shed some of that body and belly fat.
There is no reason to spend the rest of your life feeling fat, cursed by the metabolism Gods, or resigned to being called "big boned". You can make huge changes starting right now and some day you may look in the mirror and see a lean, muscular mesomorph staring back at you..
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