Blog: Healthy Eating = Healthy Living - Lose weight the right wa...
by OntheBorder

4. Doing the best with what you got

Trying your best with what you got.

Date:   4/8/2009 7:28:25 PM   ( 10 y ) ... viewed 1913 times

No two people are exactly alike.

There are 6.2 billion people on our planet today and no two are exactly the same. Just as individuals are born with various eye, hair and skin colors, people have also inherited different metabolic and physiological characteristics which influence how easily they can build muscle and lose body fat.

The classic example of metabolic individuality is when two people follow identical training and nutrition programs and one makes amazing progress while the other gets no results at all. This proves that no single program could possibly work for everyone. One of the biggest secrets of permanent fat loss is to develop the ability to recognize and understand the uniqueness of your physiology and adjust your nutrition and training accordingly instead of blindly following someone else.

There are four keys to understanding body types. The first is to learn how to recognize which is your predominant body type. The second key is to learn how to adjust your training and nutrition to fit your body type. The third key is to be patient, persistent and maintain a positive attitude as you work towards your goal. The fourth key is to assume responsibility for the outcome, for better or worse.

In the world of fitness there are genetically gifted people who seem to just "touch" the weights and their muscles grow. (These are usually the same people who eat McDonalds every day and have ripped abs!)

Seeing other people get results more easily than I did was always very frustrating. I was eating perfectly; pushing, working, struggling and straining with every bit of energy I could muster for every ounce of muscle I could get. Then one of these "genetic freaks" would come along and pass right by me, without even breaking a sweat. To add insult to injury, they were often training completely wrong and breaking every so-called "rule" in the book.

The roll of the genetic dice

There's no question about it; some people have the genetic card deck stacked against them, while others were dealt a "royal flush." You can't deny that it's much easier for some people to lose body fat and develop muscle than it is for others. Nor should you deny it. An intelligent person will realistically assess their body type to the best of their ability and then adjust their goal time frame and training protocol accordingly. To do otherwise would be counterproductive; it would also be denial.

The best approach is "realistic optimism." Not everyone has the biological raw material. However, absolutely everyone can improve their physiques from where they are today. One of your primary goals should be to achieve your own personal best, while avoiding comparisons to others who may have totally different genetics than you.

The 10 major genetic variables affecting fitness, fat loss, muscle development and athletic ability

1. Basal metabolic rate

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy (number of calories) you burn at rest just to maintain normal body functions such as breathing, circulation, digestion, thinking, etc.

2. Number of fat cells

You were born with a predetermined number of fat cells. Some people are born with more than others. The person born with more fat cells is at a disadvantage compared to someone with fewer fat cells.

3. Limb lengths

Some people were born with long legs and long arms, others with short legs and short arms. Your limb length can affect the way your body's symmetry appears and it can also affect your strength, athletic prowess and ability to gain muscle mass.

4. Joint circumferences

People may be either large boned, medium boned or small boned. Many people complain of being "big-boned," citing that as a reason they are overweight. Joint size affects the way your body is shaped, however it has nothing to do with your ability to lose body fat.

5. Muscle insertions

The muscles insert onto the same bones in all humans; however, the exact point of insertion can vary. Even a tiny difference in insertion points can create large increases in mechanical advantage.

6. Number of muscle fibers

Like fat cells, you were also born with a pre-determined number of muscle fibers. Hyperplasia, the process of splitting existing muscle fibers into new fibers, has been hypothesized but never conclusively proven in humans.

7. Muscle fiber type

Within each person's predetermined number of muscle fibers, there are also different types of muscle fibers. Some fibers are suited to endurance activities (red or slow-twitch fibers) while others are suited for strength, power and explosive activities (white or fast twitch fibers).

8. Digestive capabilities

Some people have highly efficient digestive systems capable of greater absorption and utilization of nutrients: from the digestive tract.

9. Food allergies and insensitivities

Some people are born with or acquire food allergies and sensitivities.

10. Insulin response and sensitivity to carbohydrates

Some people are more carbohydrate sensitive than others. Your level of sensitivity to carbohydrates will have a direct bearing on your ability to lose body fat, and it's one of the most critical factors in determining the correct nutritional strategy for you.

Success does not always come: from holding a good hand of genetic cards, but in playing a poor hand well. If you're on the below average side of the genetic bell curve, then you must accept that getting lean might be a slower process for you than for others. You'll also need to meticulously tailor your nutrition and exercise program specifically to your body, while ignoring what the "genetic: freaks" are doing, because anything will work for them.

Rating body types

Although there are three basic categories, pure body types are very rare. Few people are 100% of one body type and 0% of another. Usually there is a mix of two or even all three types. However, most people will tend to gravitate towards one type predominantly.

The first number ranks the endomorph component; the second number the mesomorph and the third the ectomorph. For example, an extreme endomorph would score 7-1-1:

Endomorph 7
Mesomorph 1
Ectomorph 1

A pure mesomorph such as a world champion bodybuilder who gains muscle easily and was lean and muscular before ever touching a weight might score 1-7-1:

Endomorph 1
Mesomorph 7
Ectomorph 1

Combination body types

Combination body types are more common than pure body types. For example, someone who gains muscle easily, but who also tends to gain fat along with the muscle is an endomorphic mesomorph (endo-mesomorph). This body type is typical of football linemen, heavyweight wrestlers, shot-putters and many bodybuilders. This is the type of person with high levels of muscle, but the muscle is often covered with a layer of fat. Someone with this body type might score 5-6-1:

Endomorph 5
Mesomorph 6
Ectomorph 1


Another example is the ectomorphic mesomorph (ecto-mesomorph). This is the type of person without an ounce of fat and with some fairly substantial muscle development on a tall and linear frame. Basketball players often have ecto-mesomorph body types. An ecto-meso (think Michael Jordan) might score 1-4-5:


Endomorph 1
Mesomorph 4
Ectomorph 5

Because the lines between body types are obviously quite blurry and somewhat arbitrarily chosen, the question is, how do you know which is your predominant type? Let's take a closer look at the characteristics of each somatotype to better help you classify yourself.

The Ectomorph

The ectomorph tends to be tall and skinny with small joints and a small waist. Ectomorphs are naturally lean and usually never have trouble with excess body fat during their entire lives. Many ectomorphs can maintain extremely low body fat while doing no cardiovascular exercise whatsoever. Ectomorphs have overly efficient metabolisms. In other words, they "waste" excess calories as body heat, so they can often eat whatever they want without gaining fat. The downside is that ectomorphs also have a very difficult time gaining muscle.

Ectomorphs usually stay close to the same body weight within a fairly narrow range. If they have any weight fluctuations, it's usually in the direction of losing weight, especially if meals are skipped or caloric intake is too low. When an ectomorph increases their activity level, they will usually drop body weight and body fat very rapidly sometimes too quickly. Excessive cardio is usually counterproductive.

Although ectomorphs will seldom, if ever, develop the massive muscle thickness of the pure mesomorph, with persistence and hard work, most can overcome their body type and build impressive physiques showing excellent muscular definition. However, ectomorphs will usually lose most of the muscle they gained if they quit training or if they allow their calories to drop too low for too long. Without proper ectomorph training and nutrition, they will eventually slide back towards the level of leanness where their body is most comfortable. It takes lifelong commitment for an ectomorph to keep the muscle and body weight up.

The mesomorph (a.k.a. the "genetic freaks")

Pure mesomorphs are naturally lean and muscular with small waists, broad shoulders, medium-sized joints and large, round muscle bellies. Mesomorphs are the typical natural-born athletes and bodybuilders. Most of them were lean and muscular before they even started working out.

For example, Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson is very mesomorphic (5) with very muscular arms, shoulders and chest. He also has a moderate ectomorphic component (4) with small joints and very low body fat. There is no sign of any endomorphy (1) whatsoever. Johnson would probably score a 1-5-4.

The endomorph

Most people who are working hard but still struggling to lose body fat are endomorphs. An endomorph is someone with a slow metabolism who is genetically prone to store fat easily. Endomorphs are usually, but not always, large framed with medium to large joints.

Endomorphs sometimes have varying degrees of carbohydrate sensitivity and insulin resistance, so high carbohydrate diets are usually not effective for body fat control. Processed and refined carbohydrates that contain white sugar and white flour are especially detrimental and tend to convert to body fat more rapidly in endomorphs. Low to moderate carbohydrate diets with higher protein usually work best for endomorphs.

While some genetically gifted mesomorphs and ectomorphs can eat whatever they want and never gain any fat, the endomorph must eat clean and healthy almost all the time. This requires the development of high levels of nutritional discipline. Endomorphs are the types who will tend to gain body fat very quickly if they eat too much or if they eat the wrong types of foods.

Endomorphs cannot "cheat" frequently and get away with it. Their metabolisms are extremely unforgiving. One or two cheat meals per week seem to be the limit. Poor daily nutrition habits or frequent cheat days always set them back.

Endomorphs generally have a very difficult time losing fat with diet alone. Even a nearly perfect diet sometimes won't work by itself because the endomorph needs the boost in metabolism that exercise provides.

A larger quantity of cardio is almost always necessary for the endomorph to lose body fat. Someone with a low endomorph component may stay lean with little or no cardio at all. Extreme endomorphs usually need cardio every day before the body fat begins to come off.

Occasionally, an extreme endomorph (7 on the endomorph scale), will have a difficult time losing fat even while on a well-constructed training and nutrition program. Extreme endomorphs sometimes need to restrict carbohydrates drastically (under 100 g. /day for women, under 175 g. /day for men) before any substantial fat loss occurs. They may also need to use a carbohydrate cycling approach that rotates high carbohydrate days with low carbohydrate days in order to stimulate their sluggish metabolisms and prevent going into starvation mode. Santa Claus is the archetypical endomorph.

The Most accurate measure of your True Body type

One final note should be made about somatotypes: You can’t always jump to conclusions about a person's body type based only on the way they currently look. If you've been training for years, then how you look now might not be the most reliable indicator of your body type. How you looked before you started training is much more revealing.

In addition, the way you respond to training and nutrition is also a good indicator of your body type. If you grow muscle like crazy and the fat melts off with great ease, you have genetic gifts; you have the mesomorph's muscle-building qualities and the ectomorph's fat-burning qualities.

How quickly you respond to de-training is also a good indicator of your true body type. What happens when you stop training? Do you hold your muscle gains? Does the body fat stay off? If so, you are genetically gifted. If body fat starts accumulating the second you stop training, you have a higher endomorph component.
Beware of absolutes.

Here is one of the greatest truths you will ever learn about nutrition and exercise: There is no single best way! When you read diet and training books, keep in mind that what you are reading is "A" way, but it is not "THE" way.

Since there is such a wide range of different body types, you should always view "absolutes" with great caution. When it comes to nutrition and exercise, be very suspicious of the words "never" and "always." In the diet world, there is a tendency for people to dogmatically believe in a single nutrition or training method while refuting all others. Doing this can seriously limit your progress.

The most common example of absolutes is the advice that "carbohydrates will make you fat." This sends people - of all body types - into a state of total fear of carbohydrates. For someone to lump all people into a single category and make the sweeping proclamation that carbohydrates make you fat, totally fails to take into account the issue of metabolic individuality.
The zero carb gurus have caused more confusion by their "carbs are bad" brainwashing than anything in the history of the industry. High protein, very low carb diet programs will work phenomenally well for carb sensitive extreme endomorph body types, while causing other body types to lose their muscle and have their energy levels plummet.
The same premise could be extended to exercise programs. There is no single training program that is best for everyone. Some people need daily cardio; some people hardly need any cardio at all. Some people respond very well to high volume weight training, while others become easily over trained on such programs. Again, you must think in terms of your own uniqueness and individuality without being tempted to copy someone else's program - especially if they are blessed in the genetics department.
While there are few absolutes in developing a better body, there are certain fundamentals and laws that apply to everyone.

Once you've mastered the fundamentals of a good baseline nutrition plan, then you MUST make the adjustments for your goals and your body type. Failure to do so could be the difference between great results and zero results.

Assume 100% responsibility for your results

There's no denying that heredity plays a major role in how difficult it will be for you to lose fat. However, excess body fat is the result of many influences. Genetics is only one of them. Heredity may be a factor that governs your rate of progress and ultimate level of development; however, most of the factors that affect body composition are entirely under your control Like it or not, the primary cause of excess body fat is your own behavior and attitudes. NO matter what your body type or genetic potential, you can always lose fat by taking consistent action in all the areas you control.

The factors you control
How much you eat
What you eat
When you eat
What type of exercise you do
How frequently you exercise
How long you exercise
How hard you exercise
Your overall lifestyle
Your mental attitude about your situation

This might offend some people, but the truth is, if you have too much body fat, it's your fault; you're responsible. Refuse to accept this, and you'll never reach your full potential If you have excess body fat, and you want to lose it permanently, the first step is to accept 100% total responsibility for your circumstances.

We create our circumstances through positive thinking and positive action, and we create negative circumstances through negative thinking, lack of action and wrong actions. In other words, you are responsible for who you are, where you are, and what you have - and that includes the way your body looks.
Some people get very upset when I tell them this: They say, "Hold on a minute; are you trying to tell me that when bad things happen to me, it's my own fault? That I brought unemployment, financial hardships, failed relationships, weight gain or even health problems onto myself? Because if that's what you're saying, that's totally unfair!"

With very few exceptions, yes, that's exactly what I am saying. When you're not getting the results you want, the easiest thing to do is to cast the blame somewhere else and make excuses: "It's my genetics," "I have big bones," "I have a slow metabolism", "I don't have enough time to exercise," etc. But if you don't accept that you're in control, how can you ever expect to succeed? You might as well grab a bucket of fried chicken wings and plop down in front of the TV.

Make no excuses - you are in control!

Making excuses is relinquishing control. It's conceding that you' are at the mercy of circumstances instead of being the creator of your circumstances. You must avoid blaming and take responsibility for your results and your life. Take action! Start working out. Eat better. Do something - do anything - but don't just sit there on the couch and curse your parents for passing you the wrong chromosomes.

It's no surprise that so many people put the blame outside themselves because so many psychologists, dietitians and physicians argue that your weight is determined completely by genetics and if you're fat, "it's not your fault." Please don't accept this. Genetics are only one factor. Believing that you're destined to be overweight for life because you've inherited "fat genes" is the most self-defeating attitude you could ever adopt.
No one ever said life was fair. In fitness as in other areas of life, there will always be people above you and below you. If you were not blessed with a fast metabolism, you have two choices on how to view your situation; you can either sit around cursing and complaining, or you can get moving and make the best of what you have; you can choose to become the best that YOU can be.

So called "limitations" that force you to learn more about exercise, to eat nutritious foods, to adopt a healthier lifestyle, to develop a strong work ethic and to become a more persistent person can be a blessing in disguise. You'll find that when you finally work your way to your goals, you'll have become a much stronger person than you ever though you could be. When someone has it easy, they don't develop the qualities of persistence and determination. They often become "coasters." There are a lot of "natural born athletes" and bodybuilders that "coast" on their genetics. Instead of making them stronger people, being genetically blessed has made them lazier people who never fulfill 100% of their potential. Don't envy them.

Before you get mad at your mesomorph: friends, who can eat whatever they want and never gain an ounce of fat, remember: The more difficult the challenges, the stronger you will become when you overcome them.

Understanding your body type doesn't mean throwing in the towel if you're an extreme endomorph. It doesn't mean, "I'm genetically inferior so I won't even bother trying in the first place." Be realistic about your body type and accept the role it plays in changing your body. Don't get discouraged if you feel you don't have Olympian genetics. You can overcome nearly any obstacle if you are willing to work hard enough. No matter what your genetic endowment is, you can totally transform yourself with hard work, dedication, persistence and a positive attitude.

Don't try to become better than someone else; become better than you used to be. Instead of focusing on comparisons, focus on progress and self-improvement. Do the absolute best you can with what you've got and you'll be able to look at the face in the mirror everyday and with the pride and self-esteem of a true winner.

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