Ectomorphs Eat More!
If you are a thinner built person, then you've probably heard, "You need to eat more! You are too thin!" and "You don't look healthy!" for most of your life. I know I did. So, I thought it would be nice to look at the science behind why us naturally thinner folks don't "get fat" and what it takes to make us look "healthy" compared to our non-ectomorph friends. Do you want to develop better looking muscles and turn the tables on those naysayers? Good news is that by eating and exercising appropriately, even the little guys and gals like us can develop great looking physiques! So let's gets down down to it...
The first thing that we thinner people have to think about is what made us thin to begin with. Some are truly just thin due to genetic factors, but this is by no means the norm. More often, we grow up smaller than we should due to malnutrition or digestive issues no one was aware of. Our brains naturally produce growth hormone and several other hormones necessary to make us develop properly before we are even born. In some cases, this is impeded by our mothers not eating enough, being on certain medications or even just being overwhelmed with stress during the pregnancy. Each of these disruptions can cause a "stunting" of the growth centers of our fetal brain, and slow hormone release necessary for proper development through childhood. The next time our brains are affected comes right before and during puberty. At this time, we normally would have surges in all of our hormones to become the adult form of ourselves. However, when malnutrition, digestive issues or high stress occur during this time; we are again held back from our potential. Issues during either of these crucial times in our development could have hindered us, but the good news is that the guys in the lab have figured out how to get the gains you've been looking for!
To negate the previously mentioned issues, we need to check all current lifestyle factors that are within our control. Let's use little Private Steve Rogers of the Avengers to illustrate how we would do this. First, Rogers would need to prioritize his recovery. The same brain detriments from before can also cause sleep and recovery issues. Ectomorphs born of developmental stressors are prone to insomnia, anxiety and other excitatory disorders; so staying away from blue light sources after sundown is imperative. We have to establish a relaxing wind-down routine, devoid of electronics, to promote sleep. Getting the MINIMUM of 7 hours of sleep per night will allow our tissues (and Private Rogers') to use food and rebuild like they should be.
Next, Steve would need to make sure he's actually eating enough to USE that sleep. He'd start by multiplying his weight by 12 to get his minimum calorie goal. At 5'4" and 95 lbs, Steve would need at least 950 calories a day just to maintain health; let alone gain weight, where he'd need approximately 1,520 calories/day. A knowledgeable nutrition coach would also need to set his macros correctly (ecto's usually need 25% protein, 20% fat and 55% carb) and put him on an ascending dietary protocol for maximal weight gain. It may be surprising to see carbohydrate percentages that high, but for ectos this is actually ideal! We need more starchy/healthy sugar carbs to vegetables than other body types because constant growth needs constant available energy. So, for Steve, this higher proportion of healthy sugars actually acts as his Super Soldier Serum! An ascending protocol means increasing meal sizes over the course of the day so that the body has left over energy to fuel new tissue growth overnight. All in all, having adequate daily calories, appropriate macros and bigger meals in the evening; our diet would maximize our sleep/recovery enough to make us superheros while we sleep!
Ectomorphs trying to gain weight need AT LEAST 12x's their bodyweight
at 25% Protein, 20% Fat and 55% Carbs, before exercise is considered!
Now we have a baseline to work from. Unlike the typical fat loss individual, the ectomorph trying to gain weight will start with a multiplier of 12 rather than 10 to figure out his/her caloric needs. With that in mind, we would want to next consider how well Private Rogers' digestive system was working. For ectos with digestive complications (constipation, diarrhea, etc), we would need to resolve these issues before adding exercise to the regimen. Increasing water to appropriate levels (# of ounces = half of body weight in lbs), ensuring we get a cup of vegetables per meal, and moving the recommended 10k steps daily would likely resolve these problems; but if not, a digestive repair protocol could be necessary. Once digestion is working right, it's on to the fun part...the exercise!
"He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldier." - Col Chester Phillips
Best case scenario for an ectomorph looking to gain weight would be exercising five times a week, with a rest day every 3-4 days. Since Rogers (and most ectos) don't have a regular exercise routine to start, we would want to build up gradually. We'd start with exercising an hour three days a week, with rest days between, and work up to five days over a couple months. This way we don't cause the body more stress than necessary, and ensure adequate recovery. To accommodate his new exercise loads, he would simply add between three and five (respectively) to his calorie multiplier, taking 95 lbs x 15 to 17. This would make his calorie goal between 1,425 and 1,615 calories/day adjusted for exercise. To calculate our own calorie needs, we just multiply our weight x (12 + our # of exercise hours per week). Exercise serves as the gamma radiation needed to supercharge the machine that brings out the hero in any ectomorph, so we have to just make sure everything is in order before we turn on the power!
Question: So what KINDS of exercise should us skinny guys be doing?
The Answer: Compound Full Body Lifts
Because we tend to have longer arms and legs relative to our torsos, it requires coordinated full body movements to properly engage our trunk and hips. Just getting on machines and doing isolated muscle movements won't work! Our long limbs tend to take on most of the load before our chest, back and hips ever get to engage. Ever notice your arms and legs getting ripped without any signs of pecs or butt? development?...this is why! Steve's coach would do well to build his program on a foundation of Squats, Deadlifts, Power Cleans, Power Snatches, Push Presses, Pull Ups, Incline Bench Presses and Bent Over Rows. This means we would benefit most from joining a facility with olympic platforms and coaches knowledgeable about olympic lifting. Big box and boutique gyms that have a few olympic platforms could also accommodate us. Unfortunately, the less expensive "mall-style" franchises boasting $10-20/month memberships with no olympic equipment are an absolute no go. There are only machines in those gyms, and as such, we wouldn't be able to get the full body responses we would need to reach our potential!
Now, Private Rogers is all ready for the transformation! His predispositions are accounted for, his recovery is optimized, and his nutrition and exercise are set up appropriately. Just like him, the gains you've been looking for as an ectomorph are just a knob turn away!
So what have we learned about ectomorphs trying to gain weight?
They have to overcome our predispositions (prenatal stress, malnutrition, digestive issues),
Their sleep and recovery have to be prioritized,
Digestion must be normalized and sometimes addressed by a professional if not seeing progress,
Adequate caloric intake based on weight and exercise volume has to attained with correct macro percentages, and
Proper exercises (made up of mostly compound olympic lifts) must be done to stimulate trunk and hip development due to increased leverage and hormone production!
That's it! Time to crank up your very own Super Hero juice, by following these steps and optimizing your physique for your frame. Let us know how it goes by telling us about it in the comments or clicking here!