In the 1940s a psychologist called William Sheldon developed a system for categorising body shapes by somatotypes.
He found that there were 3 distinct types; Ectomorphs, Endomorphs, and Mesomorphs.
Ectomorphs are people who are tall, skinny, lightly muscled and tend to be physically weaker than the others. This article will be looking at how an Ectomorph can eat their way into being a bodybuilder.
Ectomorphs are characterised as having a very fast metabolism, this is a fantastic gift if your goal is to be lean but quite the curse in bodybuilding.
Having a high metabolism means that you will need to consume a lot more calories than Endomorphs or Mesomorphs to create a calorie surplus. A surplus is required to gain weight.
The benefits of being an ectomorph though, is that after your bulking phase is eventually completed it will be very easy for you to lose the excess body fat that comes with bulking. So when you need to cut, you can set aside less time than other people.
The first thing you will need to do is find out what the calorie target is for you to maintain weight, you can find this info online or you can complete the following equation which is known as the Mifflin, M.D. St Jeor formula.
10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) +5 = Resting Energy Expenditure (REE)
This is the amount of energy your body would consume if you lay down in bed all day doing absolutely nothing, as you are most likely a very active person (or you wouldn't be an ectomorph) we will need to determine your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).
This is usually done by splitting people into 4 categories ranging from Sedentary to Very Active. But 90% of ectomorphs will have a very active lifestyle in terms of the calories burned. So you will multiply your REE by 1.725.
So now that you have your TDEE, you can choose whether you want to gain weight, or lose weight. We'll assume you require weight gain and as a result you will increase your TDEE by 10-15%. So for example your TDEE was 2,500 your new target would be 2,750 (+250).
If you consumed those calories for 10 weeks you would gain weight, if you needed to do it in a shorter time period then you could increase the target calories by up to 20%, but any more would be irresponsible.
Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates
Now that you know your calorie target, you can start to look at your macronutrient targets as well. In Helms, Aragon & Fitschen's 2013 study on natural bodybuilding they found that the following macronutrient targets were most effective :
- Protein = 2.3-3.1g per kg of lean body mass
- Fat = 15-30% of total calories
- Carbohydrates = remaining calories
As an ectomorph, your body is going to be able to handle carbohydrates better than a mesomorph or endomorph, so you should probably look to keeping protein around 2.5 grams per kilogram of lean body mass, fat can total 25% of your diet and everything else can come from carbohydrates.
Of all the somatotypes, ectomorphs can gain the most benefit from increasing their daily carbohydrate intake, so take advantage of this. Foods like white rice, lots of vegetables, and bread and pasta will help you hit your carb targets with ease.
In terms of fat, whole milk, peanut butter, avocadoes, cheese, butter, eggs are all excellent sources. And protein can come from meat, fish, and supplements.
Supplements to pick
Whey protein is an obvious choice, as it is high in protein and easy to consume. Creatine would be an excellent choice as well. Caffeine for pre-workout and omega-3s and multivitamins would also be beneficial.
There are products out there that promote themselves as mass gainers, but so long as your diet is in check these products are unnecessary.
Mass Gainers are mostly whey protein mixed with a simple carbohydrate such as maltodextrin. If you are really struggling to hit your calories then this might be an idea, but otherwise healthy food choices will always trump mass gaining powders for nutrition.
This is probably not as important as you might have thought, make sure you have your 3 main meals, then add a couple of snacks, and spread your protein throughout the day. This will ensure that you will have enough protein for muscle protein synthesis after you train.
A quick note on training
This article is essentially on how to create a bodybuilding diet for ectomorphs but it would be crazy not to have a quick note on training programs. Try not to include too much (if any) cardio in your program, stick to compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. Perform low reps with heavy weights whilst bulking.
 Helms, E., Aragon, A., Fitschen, P. 2013. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11(20)