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SOMATOTYPES: a Myth or a Reality?

Elissa Naim

Dr. Elissa Naim

In the 1940s William H. Sheldon, an American psychologist, introduced the concept of morphotype. Since then, nutritionists, physiologists and even doctors have used it to develop individualized fitness plans. Some argue that knowing the morphotype will guide you to the best way of choosing your diet and even your exercise program. Is categorization by morphotype a myth or a reality?

 

WHAT IS A MORPHOTYPE?

It has started with an observation: humans have varied morphologies: Is there a cause and effect relationship between morphology and eating habits? Morphotypes are a taxonomy to classify the human physique according to the relative contribution of three fundamental elements which Sheldon called "somatotypes": Ectomorph, Endomorph or Mesomorph.

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ECTOMORPH

Little body fat as well as little muscle, people with the ectomorphic morphotype are flexible with thin bones and long limbs. They can eat what they want without gaining weight. They have a fast and efficient metabolism, as well as difficulty gaining weight. Ectomorphs are hyperactive and strive to increase muscle mass. Models, ballerinas and basketball players generally belong to this group.
Although ectomorphs tend to be highly valued, it should be remembered that they have their own problems. Hence, males struggle to gain muscle mass and may appear stiff. Females tend to have flat breasts and may complain that they look masculine. These people have to work very hard to achieve their goals.
Worthnoting that with age, the ultrafast metabolism of ectomorphs slows down and, as a result, they sometimes gain weight if they are not used to exercising and monitoring their calorie intake.

 

MESOMORPH

An average size, mesomorphs can easily develop muscles and little fat. They are generally strong and muscular, without excess weight. They are characterized by a strong athletic body. Men have often wider shoulders than their hips and women tend to have an hourglass figure. Mesomorphs can have no trouble eating what they want because they can easily lose weight. Mesomorphs could be considered genetically lucky people. Generally, tennis players, skaters and bodybuilders are part of this group.

 

ENDOMORPH

Pear-shaped physique, people with an endomorphic morphotype have a curvilinear physique with the characteristics opposite to ectomorphs. They have a slow metabolism, gain weight easily and have to work hard to lose body fat. Endomorphs most often have a larger size and have hips wider than the shoulders. They have a higher percentage of body fat with less muscle mass. They are very often heavier, but not necessarily obese. No stress! Some of the sexiest and most beautiful singers and actresses as well as many heroes of action movies are endomorphs.

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WHAT IS THE INFLUENCE OF MORPHOTYPE ON WORKOUT AND DIET?

 

ECTOMORPH

Ectomorphs are effective in converting carbohydrates into energy and their rapid metabolism means that they burn fat easily. The downside is that they have trouble gaining muscle because their muscle fibers are underdeveloped. No worries! To become more muscular, they must minimize cardio sessions and focus on intense workouts using compound exercises to maximize the release of growth hormone. They are advised to eat every two to three hours.They also need to consume about 3,000 calories per day, including a large amount of starchy carbohydrates and whey protein, possibly in the form of supplements.

 

MESOMORPH

Mesomorphs have the best body type for gaining muscle. However, they tend to take their naturally athletic forms for granted, which can lead to diluted workouts and poor nutrition. Maintaining optimal physical condition means following a progressive plan that will make you stronger by increasing your power without becoming too bulky.To fuel your workouts, you should eat lots of whole grains, while limiting your total fat intake. You can indulge in exercises like sprinting, high jump and boxing.

 

ENDOMORPH

The endomorph is the most difficult body type to manage in terms of weight and fitness management. For a more balanced physique, you need to focus on developing the shoulders and removing excess fat from the lower body. A low to medium intensity cardio program will help you get rid of fat. Although aerobics is recommended by specialists, weight lifting training is preferable too because it can burn calories long after the last exercise. The best diet for your body type may therefore be a higher percentage of protein and fat and a lower percentage of carbohydrates. This diet can help you lose body fat while maintaining your energy level.

Remember that somatotypes are just a way to describe your body constitution, but the truth is that you have to design your training program and diet based on the goals you want to achieve. No matter what the scale says, if you’re in a healthy body-composition range, you’re doing well!

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maggy_mhanna

The COVID-19 Dilemma: 2 Strategies, Which is Worse?

 

Maggie Mhanna

 

There seem to be two strategies to fight coronavirus: The ‘contain’ approach & the herd immunity strategy.

 

 

The ‘contain’ approach

The first strategy is to try and completely contain the virus longer and perhaps long enough for a treatment to emerge. This strategy seems to be adopted by the authoritarian government of China, which has applied some of the strictest control measures and responded by massive lockdowns and extreme digital surveillance. The impact of these measures has been remarkable. In Hubei Province alone, over 60 million people were placed under lockdown and most factories were shut completely. The economic costs are enormous. About one-third of the medium-sized businesses surveyed said they had only enough to survive for a month.

In Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, outbreaks were brought under control without resorting to China’s draconian measures. These countries reacted only a few days after the Wuhan Outbreak by implementing mass testing, retracing every step and contact of suspicious cases, and imposing mass quarantines & isolations.

In Taiwan, a specialized unit has collected national health insurance, customs, and immigration databases, generating data to trace people’s travel history and medical symptoms. It also used data from mobile phones to track people coming from areas with the virus, who were then quarantined.

The South Korean government has published the movements of people who presented a potential risk, retracing their steps using their GPS phone tracking, credit card records, and surveillance videos.

At the individual level, the SARS experience in eastern Asia has helped to prepare people to voluntarily exhibit a tremendous amount of self-discipline.

Challenges

While the ‘contain’ approach has proved to successfully control the outbreak rate, the nature of the methods used, such as collecting phone location data and using facial recognition to track people’s movements, cannot be readily replicated in many other countries, especially ones with institutional protections & data regulations for individual rights.

On the other hand, many countries do not have the necessary infrastructure to implement these strict containment measures, which include widespread testing, quarantines, production and distribution of medical & protective supplies… This will divide the world into red zones and green zones, and travel will be restricted between the two zones until adequate therapy is found.

On the economic level, it seems that the lockdown approach could take long. Scientists fear that as soon as the strict measures are lifted, the virus will repropagate again. With a long-term containment, many businesses might be forced to close. With such economic instability, will we be seeing a growing societal & political unrest triggered by confined people with little means of survival?

Herd Immunity

Herd immunity is a theory normally used when large numbers of children (around 60 to 70%) have been vaccinated against a disease like measles, reducing the chances that others get infected, and therefore limiting the chances of propagation.

The supporters of this strategy believe we can let the infection spread through the entire population until we have herd immunity, and just space out the infections over a longer timespan by implementing some mitigation measures without resorting to the severe lockdowns occurring in China. With such lighter measures, they hope to slow down the spread of the disease, instead of containing it, to flatten the curve (a popular curve trending on social media lately) in order to slow down the spread rate so that our medical system is not overwhelmed and that our mortality rate remains reasonable. This strategy also means a less drastic impact on the economy.

The US, Germany, France and especially the UK seem to be the main advocates of this strategy. It can be sensed when Merkel gave the Germans a hard truth saying that 60% to 70% of German people will be infected and when Macron used the word “slow down” in his speech instead of “contain” the epidemic.

Challenges

This tactic in fighting against a pandemic for which there is no vaccine is novel and alarming as we do not know yet how long this immunity lasts. The virus could evolve. We have already seen multiple strains of the virus in Italy and in Iran and will probably see many more, as a result of a large number of carriers.

Another worrying reason is that flattening the curve is not that easy. What’s dangerous about these curves is that they don’t have numbers on the axes in a way that the used scale suits the advocates. If we set some estimates on the axes of these curves and compare the “with protective measures” curve and the “without protective measures” curve, we find out that the difference is huge. Dampening the infection rate to a level that is compatible with the medical system capacity means that we would have to spread the epidemic over more than a decade (Ref.).

An estimated Curve for the US (Ref.)

Based on today’s data, we can estimate that about 20% of the cases are severe and require hospitalization. If the propagation rate fails to divert below the medical system capacity the way it’s intended following such a risky strategy, we would surely witness a much higher mortality rate.

Even under the most optimistic assumption that countries will be able to control the spread rate the way they desire and provide more medical resources & infrastructure, it seems like the western leaders have found that the best strategy is a one for which 70% of people gets infected (47 million in the case of France) and 3% dies (1.4 million for France).

Dana.

Editorial Mars – Le Cèdre: Home Away from Home

Dana.

Dana El Batal
Corédactrice en chef du "Le Cèdre"

Seven months have passed, and I still vividly remember the first day I came to the Fondation Maison du Liban at Cité Internationale Universitaire. The night before flying to Paris, I had packed my luggage, and bid my friends and family goodbye. I had no idea what was awaiting me. All I knew was that my childhood friend was picking me up from the airport and dropping me at my so-called “new home”. It never occurred to me that I would ever be able to attribute the noun “home” to a place lacking my family and friends, who are the main reason I’m staying in France to pursue my master’s degree.  

It was the 4th of September at exactly 19h35 when my plane landed at Aéroport Charles De Gaulle. After picking up my luggage and getting my passport stamped, I met my friend who was very excited to see me. She hugged me tightly, helped me with my luggage and drove me to my “new home”. Except that my “new home” felt nothing like “home”. Everything was so strange to me: the plain room, the common spaces and the new faces welcoming me. Although the Maison du Liban and I are defined by the same country – Lebanon –, I never felt so homesick, I wanted to go back to the warmth of my mother’s and father’s arms. At that moment, I knew I wasn’t going to spend the night alone in such an unfamiliar place, that’s when – thankfully – my friend proposed that I would stay with her for the night.

The next morning, I had already grasped the idea that in order to embark on this new chapter in my life I had to face my fears and head down alone to Maison du Liban, the place where I will be living for the next year or more. At my arrival, Zigor, the receptionist, greeted me with a warm smile and showed me around the Maison: my room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the basement, the laundry room, the study area, the hang out area and finally the patio. “Indeed” I thought to myself, “this place isn’t that bad after all!” Later that day, I decided to pass by Mrs. Atié’s office, the vice-manager of the Maison du Liban, for administrative procedures. I was greeted and welcomed warmly, but one thing caught my eye other than Mrs. Atié’s amiability and soft voice: Her office is a living proof of her love and loyalty to Lebanon as well as an evidence of students' admiration for her, especially through paintings, pictures, gadgets and teddy bears they've gifted her throughout the years. I suddenly felt relieved and knew that I was in safe hands.

Days went by and I became accustomed to my room and to my new life. I started attending classes and made new friends at university. I even roamed Paris’ beautiful streets endlessly - what a charming city! Back at the Maison du Liban, I kept meeting a lot of students coming from different regions of Lebanon as well as international students. Ironically, I actually learned a lot more about my country meeting these amazing and diverse people than I ever did in the 25 years I spent in Beirut. I slowly started developing some habits, which is a clear consequence of familiarization and adaptation. Whenever the opportunity arose, I made sure to strike a conversation with the Maison du Liban’s staff, be it with Marguerite, one of the lovely housekeepers, Khalifa, or even Olmedo. I even had the chance to speak with Mr. El Ghoul, the manager of the Maison du Liban during several events organized by the Administration or the Comité, a very pleasant and charismatic man, who’s very open alongside Mrs. Atié to every idea we share and to every project we wish to implement. In fact, Dina Al-Ahdab (the adorable Founder and Co-Editor in Chief) and I wouldn’t have created the Revue de Presse - Le Cèdre if it weren’t for their continuous support.

Although Maison du Liban started slowly feeling like home, I still wasn’t convinced that “home” can be a place far away from my family until I met three amazing people: Amir, Oussama and Tracy. One thing is for sure, they’re making my stay at Maison du Liban very memorable. They stand by me whenever I feel homesick, and I’m certain that the memories we’re creating will be forever engraved in my heart. That said, it is only natural then for me to feel at home, surrounded by people who are all honest, light-hearted, passionate, and intelligent.

My stay at the Maison du Liban is teaching me valuable lessons, among them: Home is not merely four-square walls. It is somewhere where you are loved, respected, and cared for. When you look at it from the outside, home is just a house. A building. But on the inside, it’s a lot more than wood and bricks. The saying “Home is where the heart is” says it all. And my heart is definitely at Maison du Liban.