The war on Endomorphs has to end

Why “eat less and exercise more” isn’t the answer?

Tarek Amr


In the last 20 years, obesity went from 30.5% to 41.9% in the United States¹. The usual suspects are fast food chains, sedentary lifestyle, and the lack of willpower. Your advice to your overweight friend is usually something along these lines:

“Eat less, exercise more, and have some bloody willpower to persist; loser!”.

I don’t think it is that simple. This one-size-fits-all advise isn’t fixing anything. I do not think willpower is to be blamed here, and fast food chains, though unhealthy, cannot be the only scapegoat we sacrifice all the time to our dietary gods.

I’ve been struggling to lose weight most of my life, yet, I cannot see that my eating habits are that much worse than everyone else. I am sure you too has the following questions sometimes.

Why does she ever gain wait though she eats sweets all the time? Why can he build muscles so easily, though we are gym-mates? Why don’t they exercise as much as I do, yet they can run for miles without getting tired?

It took me a while to find the answers to these questions.

Our bodies are different, duh!

I went to a dietitian called Farouk Shaheen, 20 years ago. He used to give me different diet plans each weeks, and I kept on consistently losing weight. Then one week, the diet was a bit more restricted, but it included a piece of chocolate during breakfast one day, and a fruit the other day. That week I gained weight instead. He then told me that he wanted to find out that sweets are my nemesis.

More than a decade later, I noticed that ketogenic diet works fine for me. It made me feel less hungry and lose weight easily. It's only problem is that it wasn’t very practical. More on that in “The war on Endomorphs” section below.

Recently, Phil Catudal’s book, “Just Your Type”, helped me connect the dots. Our bodies fall into three broad types, ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs. Often, one can be a mixture of two types. But the main idea is that each type reacts differently to different food macronutrients and workout routines.

Each body type have different muscle composition. One body type may have more fast-twitch muscle fibers (think 100m Olympic sprinters) and another type may be dominated by slow-twitch muscle fibers (think marathon runners). That’s why Catudal prescribe different workout routines for each individual depending on their body type.

Different people, different body types (somatotypes)
Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash

Here is my loose interpretations of what I’ve read in Catudal’s book, combined with some internet research .. ehm, browsing.


Those are the skinny one we use to envy as they can eat all the sweets they want without gaining weight. They have their reasons to envy us too. It’s usually hard for them to put on the big biceps they always fancied.

Putting all this envy talk aside. Ectomorphs have fast metabolism. They are also more insulin sensitive, i.e. they can afford to eat more carbs (bread, rice, fruits, sweets, etc). Of course, they do not have carte blanche to unhealthy eating, especially as insulin sensitivity decreases with age.

Since they have fast metabolism anyway, they may not need that much cardio. They can put more emphasis on weight training instead, so they build the hard-to-get big muscles. And since their bodies have more slow-twitch muscle — the ones associated with endurance and high-repetition training — they can compensate by focusing on heavier weight and low-repetition training instead, so they can get their bigger fast-twitch muscles in shape.


Now we are at the other end of the spectrum. The metabolism is slower, and the insulin resistance isn’t that great. That’s why I screwed my diet up 20 years ago, when I had one small piece of chocolate at breakfast. And that’s why I tend to have better outcome when I do any form of low-carb or ketogenic diet.

Since endomorphs have slow metabolism, they need to give it a boost with some sort of cardio or high intensity interval training. Additionally, we all know that muscles improve metabolism. And the Endomorphs’ bodies have more fast-twitch muscles. That’s why they should have a combination of cardio and weight training. For fat burning, it seems that high-repetition, mild-weight is the answer here. Think of it as the weight lifting that looks more like cardio. Nevertheless, I feel that these poor Endomorphs have to combine high-repetition mild-weight workout with low-repetition heavy-weight one. I will explain my reasoning for combining the two in the “Ageing and Endomorphs” section below.


The Greek prefix “meso-” mean “in the middle”. Thus, as the name suggests, they are somewhere between the two aforementioned body types. Of course, you can still read Phil Catudal’s book, “Just Your Type”, for more information, but I decided to keep it short, and not confuse you with yet another body type.

Ageing and Endomorphs

Two things come to my mind when it comes to ageing:

  • The first is insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance. One’s insulin sensitivity gets lower with age. Two obvious symptoms of low insulin sensitivity are bigger bellies and skin tags.
  • The other thing that comes to mind is the loss of fast-twitch muscle fibers. These kind of muscles degrade with age more than their slow-twitch counterparts.

As for insulin sensitivity, we already know the answer. Endomorphs seems to be destined not to indulge the delicious bakery and sweets, and they should reduce their carbohydrate intake as much as they can. In fact, they can also try other tools such as intermittent fasting if it is going to help keeping their insulin level low.

As for the loss of fast-twitch muscles. I feel that we are in front of a dilemma here. They are advised to focus on cardio and high-repetition mild-weight to boost their metabolism. Though these kind of exercises are good recipes for slow-twitch muscle fibers. That’s why I feel they should still combine the aforementioned workout with low-repetition heavy-weight one to maintain their fast-twitch muscles that are declining with age.

The war on Endomorphs

It’s not just their bodies that gives them a hard time, but the society and the food industry as a whole is against them. If you are a vegetarian or gluten intolerant, it is guaranteed nowadays that you will find items on the menu for you. These dietary options are also there if you are filling a form for a company diner. There are vegetarian products at your local grocery story. It’s always there.

I wish Endomorphs had the same privilege.

Try asking for a low-carb food in a restaurant and watch the puzzlement on the waiters faces. I was somewhere where we had lunch catered to us everyday. The catering company allowed us to decide whether we want a vegetarian option, a vegan one, gluten free, nut allergy. It was a long list of all options we can tick. I then asked them if there is a carb-free option. They simply said, sorry, we cannot offer that!

The supermarkets and packaged food producers are also part of the problem. Say you are hungry and want something to eat on the go, what can you think of? Chocolate? Potato chips? Biscuits? Or maybe if you are healthy, a fruit? These are the stuff neatly wrapped, that you do not need to sit down and eat with cutlery on a plate. And these are the cheap stuff available at any supermarket. And none of these stuff is endomorph-friendly!

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

A piece of meat or some broccoli aren’t the same. Don’t you wish Lay’s had packs of cooked broccoli or Snickers had grilled beef bars? Unfortunately, these healthy endomorph-friendly snacks couldn’t be preserved easily like their unhealthy alternatives. Besides, nuts are 10 times as expensive as chips, and meat is far more expensive than bread.

Let alone the low-fat pseudo-healthy food products. What you are offered as healthy food in a supermarket are usually low-fat yet high sugar options. It seems that the food industry is still unaware that sugar is bad. Their healthy labels are usually misleading. They remove milk or meat and add soy. Fine, maybe milk isn’t that good, but soy isn’t that good either. They say no sugar added, when they add artificial sweetness and fructose. They basically claim to be offering healthy options, when they are doing more harm than good.

Is 30% of the world too narrow of a niche to be catered to?

I couldn’t find good estimate of the percentage of endomorphs in the world, but let’s say they are 30% of us. That’s a lot of people. Thus, I do not see why it isn’t business viable for supermarkets and restaurants to cater to the neglected endomorphs?

I could only see it this way. It’s not the number that matters, it is how many of that target audience is vocal about their need and is insisting on buying the right product for themselves.

“A strange idea hit me. The Kosher population represents less than three tenth of a percent of the residents of the United States. Yet, it appears that almost all drinks are Kosher. Why? Simply because going full Kosher allows the producer, grocer, restaurant, to not have to distinguish between Kosher and non-kosher for liquids, with special markers, separate aisles, separate inventories, different stocking sub-facilities”. — from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Skin in the Game.

I had a rough idea that too much carbohydrates are bad for me, but I was never sure about it. Though my own experience proved I should reduce my carb intake, the common wisdom and the marketing narrative are rarely confirming my experience.

You can hardly be a vegetarian and not aware of it. You know you are. You probably are a vegetarian for moral or health reasons. You know you do not want to eat meat because you believe it helps the environment, reduce animal cruelty, or because you find it a healthier option. And because you are aware of it, you probably call that restaurant before you go there, asking if they have a vegetarian option for you. You are vocal about it, and that makes them listen.

But few know they are endomorphs, let alone knowing how it affects their insulin sensitivity. That’s why even if one third of us are endomorphs, very few of us are vocal about their dietary needs. I always feel uneasy to tell my friends I prefer low-carb food, when I am invited to their home and they order pizza. Partially because it’s not a common knowledge that many of us have hard time dealing with carbs. And partially, because I know I will be putting burden on my host, since I know that Pizzas are cheaper and easier to order than any carb-free alternative. It’s a vicious circle, that has to be broken. But for now, I give in and eat whatever food is offered to me in the end.


Understand your body, and know what is good for it. It’s not as simple as eat less and exercise more. It more about what to eat and what kind of workout fits your body type. But knowing what is good for you, and following that advice are two different things.

When it comes to exercising, it isn’t that hard, but we all know that the majority of the gains come from our eating habits, and this is the hard one. The food industry isn’t on your side if you are an unlucky Endomorph. Sticking to a low-carb food isn’t practical. Your aunt won’t make low-carb food for you, neither the restaurant has that option on their menu, and good luck finding carb-free products in the supermarket.

But I am optimistic still. Seeing how the vegans and vegetarians made it clear to the food industry that their choice matter. Same thing for those who eat halal or kosher food. They made it clear that they are not eating but halal or kosher food. And today all restaurants and supermarkets cater to what Taleb described as the intolerant minority. Maybe it is time for endomorphs to be more stubborn about what is good for their bodies.

Disclaimer: I am obviously not a physician. Anything I mentioned here is not a medical advice. It’s just my personal experience, combined with stuff I read here and there. So, take anything I mentioned here with a grain of salt, and feel free to comment if I get anything wrong. Also, keep in mind that all links to Amazon are affiliate links.



Tarek Amr

I write about what machines can learn from data, what humans can learn from machines, and what businesses can learn from all three.