There are universal dieting rules that everyone should follow: eat more fruit and veg, less fast food and takeaways, don’t drink hydrochloric acid, etc. However, depending on your body’s current physical state and your genetics, you may do well to try a more specific endomorph diet.
What Is an Endomorph?
If you have stumbled across this article and would like to know what an endomorph is, please check out our post on body types. In brief, an endomorph is one of three primary body types, with the following characteristics:
- Typically larger and rounder than the average bear
- Seemingly gain weight with ease
- Have trouble shifting fat
- Larger frame
Lose, Gain, Re-comp or Maintain?
Before we get started, you will need to decide whether your diet is aimed at reducing your weight, maintaining it, or increasing it. Those looking to gain muscle mass actively target weight gain in a process commonly referred to as “bulking”. This process of bulking is often followed by a period of weight reduction, or “cutting”, and for the rest of the article, these are the terms we will use.
Nevertheless, there are questions you must consider before deciding whether your dieting requirements are aimed at bulking, cutting, or maintaining your weight. You will often find conflicting articles as to which you should opt for. If you are looking to bulk – and this applies to all body types – you will ideally already be lean. This is especially important to endomorphs, given their genetic predisposition to storing fat.
With the right diet and exercise, it is also possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, as we proved with our body re-composition experiment.
Fundamental Dieting Requirements
You are looking to begin a diet. This may be accompanied by exercise. It may be to gain weight, or to lose weight, or just to keep in shape. But in every situation, there are certain rules that will apply to you:
- Carbohydrates are not your best friend. Research has shown that a reduction in carb intake is beneficial to those who currently identify themselves as an endomorph.[note]A Coletta, B Sanchez, A O’Connor, R Dalton, S Springer, M Koozehchian, YP Jung, S Simbo, M Cho, C Goodenough, A Reyes, R Sowinski, L Wilkins, C Rasmussen and RB Kreider: Effects of matching diet type to obesity-related genotype on body composition changes in women during a six-month resistance-exercise training and walking program. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015; 12(Suppl 1): P16.[/note]
- Weight loss may take longer. Your metabolism is a little slower, and so you would need to be strict with your calories and/or up the volume of workouts.
- Dietary fat is not going to make you fatter. In fact, a higher fat combined with a lower carb diet will likely be a great combo to begin with.
- Your sensitivity to insulin is low. This basically means that your body will release a higher level of insulin when your blood sugar levels are higher. When insulin is released, your body switches off oxidation (which would allow fat cells to be broken down and used as energy) and changes the body into “storage” mode which means higher fat storage in most instances.
- The longer you diet, the slower your weight loss becomes.
Carbohydrates and the Glycaemic Index
Carbs come in many forms. In the simplest way, we can describe them as fast or slow release. An example of each would be: refined sugar – fast releasing, or most vegetables and oats – slow releasing. Fast releasing carbs will spike your blood sugars, and due to your low insulin sensitivity, your body will release more insulin to bring the levels back down – which is not what you want. Cut out (or at least greatly reduce) the fast releasing carbs. Another thing to look at is a food’s glycaemic index (GI)[note]https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods[/note] which rates foods based on how quickly they raise blood glucose (often referred to as blood sugar) levels.
Slow releasing foods have a score below 55, with the highest score of 100 attributed to glucose. An important note here is that other macronutrients such as fat and protein can slow down the body’s rate of absorption. This means foods such as chocolate have a low GI due to the high fat content, and so we must consider the carbohydrate proportion of the food. To account for this, there is a measurement of the glycaemic load.
When looking at glycaemic load, ratings of 10 or below are low, with 20 and above being high. So for example, Watermelon has an extremely high glycaemic index of 80. However, due to the low carb content, the load is only 5. Below we have prepared a list of slow and fast releasing carbs, along with their glycaemic load. For a list of nearly 2,500 items along with their glycaemic index and glycaemic load, take a look here.
We have sorted the foods from high to low, and colour coded them. Red to avoid as much as possible (or include as a small portion of your diet), Orange to eat in moderation, and Green you are fine to eat.
Although low GI foods are preferable, those with a high GI index can be beneficial in helping with exercise and recovery – though more predominantly in endurance athletes. In regards to your carbohydrate intake, stick to these rules:
- Lower your carb intake altogether. Research shows that endomorphs react better to lower carb diets.
- Try to form the bulk of your carb intake from the green section above. You can also head over to mendosa.com to find more.
- If you are weight training and want to include foods which have a high glycaemic load within your diet, use the window after your workout to eat these foods, as this is the most optimum time to do so.
- Even though some foods may have a low glycaemic load, they may still be very high in calories – such as pizza, ice-cream and chocolate.
Endomorph Diet for Cutting
Now that we have examined some basic fundamentals for you to consider when planning your diet, we will now take a look at the two primary dieting goals, beginning with losing weight.
At Fitness Savvy, we highly recommend resistance training and feel it should nearly always form part of your exercise plan. If you are looking to lose weight – although you can do it by simply cutting calories and switching to low-carb foods – you will experience faster progress and sustainable long-term results if you combine it with a decent fitness programme – which would preferably include an element of weight training.
You may find people recommending a ratio of macronutrients when suggesting foods you should eat. The ratio thing has never sat well with me. For example, you might require 150 grams of protein per day according to your size and build, but you might have a super fast metabolism and need a far greater volume of calories to grow, or a higher than normal volume of calories while cutting. This means that the ratio of protein will be lower. Instead of the 30 or 40 per cent being recommended, it may only make up 25% of your diet.
A far better way is to look at how many calories you should consume (taking into account the level of activity) and how many grams of each macronutrient you should be eating.
Maintaining muscle mass while in a caloric deficit will require you to consume 1g per 1lb of body weight – or so the vast majority of sources will tell you. And if you were able to calculate your lean body mass (or fat-free mass, as some call it – simply your total body weight less the fat) our protein calculator will recommend protein intake based on this. A word of warning here: calculating true body fat percentage is extraordinarily difficult. This means that you may be underestimating your body fat content. Other sources will suggest a higher protein content while cutting, which is what our calculator suggests.
The 1 gram per 1 pound of bodyweight is just an easy number to work with – more than anything. Studies have shown that, in fact, the body requires far less – only 0.82 grams of protein per pound of weight to maximise protein synthesis – and that’s pushing it. In fact, in subjects consuming 1.1g of protein per pound of body weight, protein oxidation occurred.
So for the following example, we are going to assume that you weigh 154lb (11 stone or 70kg)
Your BMR based on your planned level of activity (you are aiming for 4-5 times per week – again this is an example – you may wish to train 6 times per week) is 2,500 calories
It is advisable to drop weight at a slower pace in order to maintain muscle mass. There is much conflicting evidence, so Fitness Savvy will look to cover the subject in more detail at a later date, but for now, we are going to go with cutting slowly, just for the purposes of this example.
Therefore you need to cut around 5,250 calories per week. This gives you a weekly target of 12,250kcal and an average daily target of 1,750kcal.
Breakdown of Macronutrients
Now we must calculate how this 1,750 is to be made up. What we know is that we are aiming for around 130 grams of protein per day (154 x 0.82 = 126.2, but we shall round up to 130, which is 0.84 grams per pound). We are looking to eat a lower proportion of carbs. Once we have calculated our carb consumption, the rest can be made up of dietary fat.
Protein and carbs equate to 4 calories per gram, with fat being around 9. Again, there are further arguments regarding the calories in protein due to the fact that protein takes more energy to digest. But for this example, we will use the standard information available.
130 grams of protein, at 4 calories per gram = 520 calories. So here we have the rough ratio of protein for your diet and goals:
- Your total calorie target per day is 1,750
- Your total calories from protein are 520
- Remaining calories to be made up from fat and carbs is 1,230
So what constitutes as “low-carb”? Again, this will depend on various factors, and who you listen to for your dieting advice. If using the Atkins diet, you would be restricted to less than 20g of carbs per day to start with. Other sources suggest anything lower than 100g as low-carb.
If you are a larger individual, you would naturally be able to consume more calories, and therefore a larger proportion could come from carbs. So for our advice, we are going to base the carb level on a percentage of your calories. We suggest capping your carbs at 20% of your total intake.
- 20% of 1,750 = 350 calories: 350/4 = 75 grams.
- This leaves 900 calories coming from fats: 900/9 = 100 grams of fat.
Your average daily intake (based on the example above) will be:
- Protein – 130g
- Fat – 100g
- Carbs – 75g
What Foods Can I Eat?
We’ve looked at carbs and removed a chunk of possibly your favourite foods, so I guess you’re now wondering what you can eat? Well, anything with lots of protein and fat. Here is a list to help out:
- Meat – all the usual suspects, cows, chickens, lambs, pigs, rabbits, etc.
- Nuts & seeds
- Oils – olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil. Recent studies suggest reserving vegetable oil and olive oil for dressings due to its reaction, once heated, which releases aldehydes – a cancer-causing agent. If cooking, you are best using coconut oil, butter or lard (in that order) to reduce the risk
- Fruits – grapefruit, peaches, watermelon, oranges, and apples
- Fish – most of them really, except pet goldfish, other people’s pet fish and those really poisonous ones!
- Meat substitutes like Quorn, Linda McCartney, and others – but be sure to check the package – some substitutes can be very high in carbs, so opt for the lowest you can find
- Vegetables – peas, parsnips, carrots, spinach, broccoli, etc. – an endless list, really.
How Do I Keep to My Diet
Now that you know how many grams of each macronutrient you require, we can move on to the next factors. Firstly, how do you ensure you are going to meet your targets? Dieting is hard, and it is easy to overshoot.
We are huge advocates of Intermittent Fasting. It is a great way of restricting calories, and almost impossible to go over your daily limit due to a short 4-8 hour eating window, and you are on a low carb, high protein diet. However, all diets should be considered carefully and if in doubt you should consult a doctor before making any drastic changes. Some conditions mean that fasting for long periods could be detrimental for your health.
If you are having trouble thinking of some suitable meals, here are some mouth-watering dishes: low-carb meal ideas.
You can find vegetarian meals here: vegetarian low-carb meals.
And some great vegan meal ideas here: vegan low-carb meals.
Endomorph Diet for Bulking
If you have already slain some serious fat, and are now in the 8-15% body fat range, you will most likely be looking at building up some mass. This will require more calories (hypercaloric diet), and this will naturally mean more carbohydrates. The idea is to increase your lean body mass (which is made up of skeletal muscle, bone and organs), and limit your fat gains.
The diet will differ from cutting because you won’t necessarily need to restrict your carbs. In fact, you can now potentially use carbs to your advantage (depending on which sources you trust most).
There is no evidence to suggest you should consume more protein when looking to build muscle mass than you would while cutting. So for a bulking diet, we would still recommend around 0.82g per pound.
We shall continue using the example from earlier, whereby the calories required to maintain your weight is 2,500 calories per day. This time, instead of reducing calories to cut weight, we are going to increase them to put weight on.
Please, whatever you do – if you have read somewhere, or worse still – someone has told you “Increase your calories by 500 a day to bulk”, please, please, ignore it. One cannot simply say “increase your calories by 500 a day” for everyone and for it to be beneficial. As mentioned in our article regarding body types, it is imperative that you undertake a lean bulk. Your body is determined to store fat, and so you must ensure that you are not overdoing it. 500 calories a day would be overdoing it to the extreme – based on this example.
To understand how extreme this is, we need to understand the maximum amount of muscle one can expect to gain over the space of a year. There are various calculations for this, and it is important to remember that these maximums are assuming that training and diet are on point and that the individual is sticking to their programme religiously. And as we know, this will only apply to a small proportion of people. You should also consider that your mass gains will be skewed towards the beginning – newbie gains, as they are called.
|Year of Proper Training||Potential Rate of Muscle Gain per Year|
|1||20-25 pounds (2 pounds per month)|
|2||10-12 pounds (1 pound per month)|
|3||5-6 pounds (0.5 pound per month)|
|4||2-3 pounds (not worth calculating)|
“Year of Proper Training” means exactly what it says: If you have spent 2 years messing around, not sticking to your diet, missing sessions at the gym and performing exercises poorly, then none of this counts. You may have put on a few pounds of muscle, but you still have the potential for putting on a good 20-25 pounds in year 1. You also need to understand that if you are an older person just starting out, you will be on the low end of this due to hormonal changes and other factors that come in to play as you age.
If your maximum muscle potential is 2lb per month, why would you consume enough calories to put on 4lb? You want to maximise your muscle gains, but this is likely to just make you fat. And not just endomorphs; pretty much anyone looking to put on 4lb per month is just going to get fat. And then when it comes to cutting, you will lose the majority of your hard earned muscle mass.
Of course, not 100% of your weight gain is going to be muscle. When you see film stars packing on 30lb of muscle in 7 weeks, and saying they are not using anything to speed up the whole process, then you need to understand that they are probably not telling the truth. No matter what personal trainer or what diet they have, (aside from a very small percentage of genetically gifted people), this will be impossible.
So let’s be realistic and aim for 2lb weight gain per month, and keep it lean(ish).
Let’s use the simple 3,500 calories per pound of weight rule.
- 3,500 x 2 = 7,000. A calorie surplus of 7,000 calories is our target for the month
- 7000/30 = 233 calories extra per day
That’s it. 233 calories. Not 500. 233. That’s like 2 slices of toast with a low fat spread. Not 5 pizzas. You don’t need 5,000 calories a day – unless you want to get fat. As with losing weight, you will start to plateau after a few weeks/months. So as you grow – and providing you are putting on more muscle – your caloric needs will increase, too. So if after a couple of months your gains start to slow, simply increase your calories and perform some new calculations to establish if your BMR has changed or if you have been under or over estimating the amount of calories you are eating or burning during exercise.
What Are My Macros?
So what should your macros be? If you are looking to gain weight, it is highly likely you are attempting to build muscle. You may be concerned about your glycogen levels being too low if you don’t eat enough carbs and that resistance training might suffer on a low-carb diet. Recent research is beginning to cast doubt on this, and now means that low-carb diets may not be as detrimental as previously thought to glycogen levels. [note]Escobar KA, VanDusseldorp TA, Kerksick CM. Carbohydrate intake and resistance-based exercise: are current recommendations reflective of actual need? Br J Nutr. 2016 Dec;116(12):2053-2065.[/note]. The issue of glycogen (which is a readily mobilised storage form of glucose which can be broken down to release glucose molecules when energy is needed, and unlike fatty acids can provide energy in the absence of oxygen – and can thus supply energy for anaerobic activity)[note]Biochemistry. 5th edition, Chapter 21: Glycogen Metabolism[/note], is that resistance training can deplete it significantly, and so it is important to ingest carbohydrates to replenish.
It has also been stated that carbohydrates are needed, along with protein – post workout – to aid with protein synthesis. In regards to this, studies have shown that, “although carbohydrate addition may provide benefits for recovering athletes, on the basis of available data, no further beneficial actions of carbohydrates, irrespective of the glycaemic index, are evident concerning muscle hypertrophy when a protein supplement that maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis is ingested”.[note]Figueiredo VC, Cameron-Smith D. Is carbohydrate needed to further stimulate muscle protein synthesis/hypertrophy following resistance exercise?J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Sep 25;10(1):42.[/note]
It may be down to older studies which looked at multiple sessions of resistance training on the same day, where high levels of glycogen depletion were observed [note]Haff, G. G., et al. 1999. The effect of carbohydrate supplementation on multiple sessions and bouts of resistance exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13, (2), 111-7.[/note] that have led to the long held belief that it is imperative to boost glycogen stores post workout with carbs.
We established (following on from our example) that you would look to increase calories by 233, taking our average daily intake to 2,733 on average, per day. We will look to continue consuming 0.84g of protein per pound of bodyweight, so this remains at 130g. If we are to keep fats at 50% of our intake, this would equate to 150 grams of fat per day. This leaves enough calories to consume around 215 grams of carbohydrates. If, you are an endomorph who doesn’t particularly enjoy low carb diets, you may very well have improved your insulin sensitivity with weight loss. This is another reason why cutting body fat to the low-teens or single digits is preferable before trying to bulk up. So your macro percentages might look something like this for the bulk:
- Keep protein at 0.84g per pound of body weight.
- Keep fat consumption at 50% of total calories
- Make up the rest of your calories with carbohydrates, with a preference of lower glycaemic loading foods
If you are happy with your current size and physique, and are simply looking to maintain your weight, you will likely base your macronutrients around the type of exercise you are engaging in.
If you are concentrating on weight lifting with a few cardio sessions for cardiovascular health, and you are lean, you can incorporate a higher level of carbs into your diet. Keep your protein intake consistent and increase your carb level and see how you get on.
If you are engaging in more endurance training – such as long distance running or cycling, you are best off consuming a higher ratio of carbs to replenish glycogen stores – maybe 30-35% or so.
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