3 Types of Body Fat. Your Body Shape and Fat Patterning

BODY FAT

There are 3 types of body fat, there are 2 female body shapes.  I have rolls. If you want to find my fat you just have to pinch me. These lovely rolls sit around my waist and on my back. My fat is ‘subcutaneous’ meaning that it lies under the skin for all to pinch! I do not have the typical female fat patterning. Most women have smaller waists and hold fat on their butt, hips, and thighs, often giving a nice curvy look. No, this is not me. My legs are slim and hips narrow; you may see me in shorts but never in a belly shirt.

Body fat is stored in different ways and zoned differently between men and women. The rolls I have are subcutaneous fat. Other people, especially women, have ‘intramuscular triglycerides’ (IMTG) and their fat is stored in the muscle. Imagine a slab of meat. Some meat has the fat layer on the top (that would be me) and is the type of fat you may ask the butcher to trim off, whereas other meat has a marbled effect, with fat running throughout.  That is IMTG (intramuscular triglycerides)

IMTGs, in my opinion, are more attractive. It is those curvy ladies, the girls with solid butts and thighs but not a roll to be seen, the girls you see in music videos with the tiny waists, curvy behinds, and shapely legs. Their fat is within the muscle which means you cannot pinch it. It is the same fat that some women confuse with muscle.  They mistakenly think they have heavily muscled thighs, in most cases, it is muscle full of fat.

I have known ladies that don’t want to train legs because they think their legs are muscular enough already. In most cases, the reality is that they are holding fat in their legs which makes them look big. It would be a real mistake NOT to train that area because that lower body fat is not going anywhere unless it is burnt up as fuel. The fear of their legs getting even bigger is unfounded because if the exercise uses some of that fat for fuel, their trained legs will most certainly get smaller.

IMTGs show up in women as heavier triceps, solid hips and butt and thighs that dominate. Overall I might have less fat than these women, but these ladies have a much sexier way of carrying any excess.

The ultimate test is the flex test.  If you flex your thigh muscles and you don’t see any separation, then what you are looking at is fat. The muscle may appear to be rock hard, but if there are no lines to show the different muscles of the thigh, then you looking at fat.  If on the other hand you flex your legs and you can see all sorts of detail going on, then you are looking at some beautiful, lean muscular legs.

It is the people with the IMTGs that I have difficulty measuring their body fat using manual calipers. The calipers measure the thickness of the skin, and if your fat is underneath the skin like mine, then it’s a simple measurement to take. When a person’s fat is in the muscle, I cannot pinch it using calipers, and the reading is often inaccurate. For this reason, I also use an ultrasound device that can measure body fat held in muscle.

Visceral fat. This is the dangerous fat that has a strong link to heart disease. Visceral fat wraps itself around the organs and makes for a protruding mid section. Its the guy with the 42-inch waist that proudly lifts up his shirt to show how solid his “abs” are, proudly he slaps them declaring “It’s all muscle, baby.”
I can see how the confusion arises as the midsection is indeed solid and you would expect fat to be soft and squishy, but a 42-inch waistline with 18-inch thighs is neither healthy nor attractive. If your waist measurement is greater than your hip measurement, it is a reason to be concerned, rolls or no rolls.

This visceral abdominal fat is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, type II diabetes and premature death.

So we have subcutaneous fat (SQ fat), easy to see, easy to measure and hard to ignore. We have intramuscular triglycerides (IMTG), the fat stored within the muscle, can look sexy, is hard to pinch and often mistaken for lean mass. Thirdly visceral fat that wraps around the organs making for a turtle belly often joked about but far from being a laughing matter due to its known relationship with heart disease.

One more place we find fat is in our blood. The liver makes fat and releases it into the blood as Triglycerides (TG). You may have seen it in the results from a blood test. It is important to know how much fat is in your blood as this may indicate a necessary nutritional adjustment. High triglycerides can show that you are eating too many carbs because an excess of carbohydrates will be turned into fat by the liver.

Triglycerides are the storage form of fat.  As the name suggests, TRI-GLYcerides are comprised of 3 fatty acids and 1 unit of glycerol.

Section 2.   BODY SHAPE & BODY TYPES

BODY SHAPE

Our body shape is dependant on our bone structure and on where our fat decides to take up residence. Fat patterning is firstly a matter of gender. Men hold more upper body fat, especially on their torso, back, waistline and chest. Women seem to have a wider range when it comes to body shape, from the very estrogenic body to the very androgenic body.

Estrogenic women, at one end of the spectrum, are usually shorter, bustier, have small waists and larger hips and thighs. On the other end of the spectrum is the more androgenic shape. These women are taller, have smaller busts and blockier waistlines with comparatively slim hips and thighs. The estrogenic women usually have rounder faces, whereas the androgenic women have squarer jaws. These are two opposite ends of the spectrum, and there lies everything in between. I have a much more androgenic, straight up and down physique (with rolls).

I can eat well and train hard, but I will never create the curves of Shakira or the Kardashian clan. Likewise, they could spend their fortunes and never have my boyish lines – although I doubt that would be a good business move for any of them.

Identify with your body shape and how you hold fat, own it and get over any hangups you might have.  Be the best version of yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. If you need someone to aspire to please pick someone who has the same body type and fat patterning as you.  You will be continually frustrated is you idolize a body type that is not your own.

BODY TYPES

There are three classic body types that apply to both men and women.

1.     ECTOMORPH
This is the person who seemingly can eat what they want and never gain weight.  They have a lighter frame and very few curves. A true ectomorph will have slightly pointy facial features, long fingers, and fine hair. Ironically they are often very active or hyper active people. Infuriatingly, with no noticeable weight issue, they tend to love exercise. It’s the skinny chick that runs 8 miles a day or that annoying guy in the office that is still full of life well after 5 pm.
Ectomorphs get very little sympathy when they complain about their weight, but in their defense when they do hold weight it is in their midsection.  Lift up their shirts, and they have a little pouch of fat that drives them mad.  When they try to lose weight they get even skinner, and that pouch stays put.
“Ectos” are hard gainers – it’s a real challenge for them to build muscle even though pound for pound they can be extremely strong.

2.    MESOMORPH
A “Meso” can build muscle quite quickly. but they can also gain fat. This is your American football player or almost any strength athlete. A true meso will get great results if their nutrition and training is on point. They have the advantage of being able to build muscle, which increases their metabolic rate and makes fat loss easier.
Meso’s can eat pizza and drink beer and get away with it for a little while, it will, however, catch up with them eventually.
If I had to identify myself with a body type, I would consider myself a Mesomorph.
Female Mesomorphs have an athletic build, fewer curves, with more of a boyish figure.

3.    ENDOMORPH
Endomorphs can build muscle but they can also carry a lot of body fat. A true “Endo” will have a rounder face, shorter pudgier fingers, and toes and they have beautiful skin that is less prone to wrinkles. Endo’s have a much tougher time losing weight, however it is not impossible. When they do lose the weight, they may appear to be closer to a Mesomorph but they have a lot less wiggle room and have to be diligent if they want to keep the weight off.

Although we have three body types, most people will fall somewhere between two of them. You may identify yourself as an “Ecto-Meso” or  “Meso-Endo.”  These classifications are useful when determining the most effective way to exercise and diet. By identifying with a body type, you can put your focus in the right place. If you are working with a personal trainer or nutritionist, it should be one of the first things they take into account.

The classifications should not be seen as limitations. We all know the Ectomorph/hard gainer that built a killer gym physique and we all know the Endomorph who dropped the weight revealing a whole new body shape and went on the inspire millions

Examples

A True Female Ectomorph in her 30s:
This lady needs to lift big weights.  She is never going to get “too big” and the muscle she does build will add shape to her small frame.  This lady does not need to follow a restrictive diet; her main concern will be the protein necessary to build muscle.
This lady will be conscious of her belly pouch, and a good nutritionist will show her how to time her higher carbohydrate meals around her workouts to allow her to maximise fat burning without sacrificing her muscle gains.

A True Male Endomorph in his 30s:
This guy is concerned about his weight. It would be a mistake to focus his workout time on lifting heavy weights because although he is carrying a fair amount of fat, he probably has a lot of muscle as well.
A good trainer will incorporate more circuit training, with resistance work at a much faster pace. Both moderate intensity and high-intensity training will be beneficial when combined with a restriction on carbohydrates. If carbohydrates are allowed, they will be eaten immediately after a workout (see the previous chapter regarding carbohydrate storage)

A True Mesomorph in their 40s, male or female:
These people have enjoyed a carefree time during their 20s and 30s. They worked out, got great results and if they gained a few pounds they could sharpen their diet and be back on track in no time.
These blessed individuals can get a wake-up call in their 40’s.
The athlete that is no longer competing gains weight and now its a challenge to get it off.  This is a person who has never had to work too hard on their body composition; just that identity shift can be a real obstacle for the former athlete.

Some Mesos in their 40s and 50s will find their inner athlete again and soar, while others don’t change their eating habits and with less activity, they slide into more of an Endomorph physique.

Former Mesomorphs cling to their identity of years gone by, posting photos 20 years old.  Its now that the tortoise beats the hare.  The ectomorphs and endomorphs that have been struggling all the while at long last sail past the failing meso proving hard work does pay off.

If you have spent your whole adult life working hard to gain or lose weight you are more equipped to stay in shape than the Mesomorph approaching middle age who suddenly finds they cant button their pants

A good personal trainer or nutritionist will recognize a (former) Mesomorph and will guide them accordingly. A more balanced nutrition plan with high-Intensity cardio and resistance training will usually be enough for them to shed the excess pounds.  The biggest obstacle here is a Mesomorph and the identity shift they have to come to terms with.

Consider the following:
How do you store your body fat? (subcutaneous, intramuscular and/or visceral)
Ladies, are you curvy or are you more straight up and down?
Ladies and Gentlemen, which body type do you identify with?

Section 3    OUR CHANGING BODY SHAPE

As you go through life, your body shape may change. Sex hormones decline, waistlines thicken and ladies as you get past menopause you might find that those thighs you hated actually slim down. We spoke earlier about the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and how it helps cells to store fat. When women go through menopause, LPL activity is reduced in the lower body and increased in the upper body, legs slim down while waistlines grow. We know this as “middle-age spread”. The same goes for men; as they age testosterone decreases and this hormonal shift increases LPL activity in the upper body and fat goes to the chest and waistline.

The hormonal changes during pregnancy promote fat distribution. LPL activity is increased in the lower body, and weight is gained in the butt, hips, and thighs.  Once the baby is born, LPL activity decreases in the lower body and increases in the breast tissue.

Another interesting observation is with yo-yo dieting; people who diet to lose weight only to regain it and repeat the cycle over and over.  This fluctuation in weight leads to an increase in upper body fat. I have seen this a great deal in the fitness industry.  Cute young girls with teeny waists do one competition diet after another and that waist starts to grow.  Within just a few years of competing, they are not wearing those bra tops in the offseason anymore.

Ladies with heavy triceps nearly always hold fat in their upper hamstring area.  Heavy arms usually mean heavy legs but there might be a tiny waist in between.

Hormones determine weight gain, weight loss, and body shape.

A young girl suffered burns to her lower arm and hand, doctors took skin grafts from her thighs to repair the damage. Thirty years later she had to have liposuction to remove fat from her forearm.  This is how powerful hormones are in governing fat distribution.

Fat is itself an organ and where hormones are stored and created. We have found at least 19 different hormones in fat! Too much body fat can create a diseased state and a great many health risks can be reduced by shedding excess weight. One example of this is estrogen.  There are 3 types of estrogen. One type of estrogen is found in fat and the more fat you have the more of this estrogen you have also. One form of breast cancer is linked to this estrogen.  When we have excess fat we may be increasing our risk of this cancer because of the increased estrogen.

Section 4    WHY FAT IS A GOOD THING?

Fat is future energy; excess nutrients stored in adipose tissue aka fat. We should grateful that we store our energy as fat because it doesn’t hold onto too much water.
Carbohydrates are also fuel, and they can be stored in our muscle as glycogen.  For every unit of glycogen, we hold onto 2 units of water. When we cut carbohydrates, we use up the glycogen.  When the glycogen unit is gone there is nothing to hold the water units.  Initially, on a low carb diet, this is the weight loss you see.

If we stored all of our energy as carbohydrates we would also hold a huge amount of water. A 165 lb person with 20% body fat would weigh over 240 lbs if that energy were stored as carbohydrates and not as fat.
Thankfully there is a limit to how many carbohydrates can be stored in muscle.

Coming us next Fat Formation, how we gain fat and YES Fat Breakdown  – the one way we can breakdown and stored bodyfat and change our body shape!

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