Quick Summary Points
- Genetic testing is the next big step into training more effectively and supplementing better.
- By discovering what genes you have, it is easier to tailor workout and supplement advice to help you achieve the BEST results.
- Genetic testing is cheaper and faster than ever before.
- Read on about how you can take your gains to the next level with genetic fitness & nutrition testing.
Genes for Fitness - The Future of Training & Sports Nutrition
Exercise and Sports Science has come a long way since the early days of Hippocrates and Galen – two notable Ancient Greek physicians who first connected that “movement” or exercise, and not just diet alone were crucial to optimal health. Over the next 2000 years, the field has expanded to include other studies such as:
All of these areas have been researched in relation to exercise and performance in order to find ways to boost its limits. Whether it’s the power of protein to support muscle building...to understanding why the Fosbury Flop worked so well as a high jump technique...or realising that dimples on golf balls helped them to travel greater distances. Science has helped us continue to break records and achieve more incredible goals. So what’s the next step in Exercise & Sports Science?
Genetic Testing & Fitness
Testing of physical structures, movements and nutrition is important and has provided us with plenty of information. However, most of these studies have focused on populations in general and as such, recommendations have been fairly generalised. Yes, many of the recommendations are sound, but the next step is to have individually tailored recommendations based on your own unique traits or genetic makeup.
A Quick Lesson on Genes & DNA
Before we dive into the nitty gritty, it’s probably best to understand a few key terms and facts:
- DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is what makes you, you. It contains all the information or code that governs how your body functions, what you’ll look like and so on.
- Contained in the code of DNA are smaller sequences called Genes. These sequences contain the code to make proteins, which provide us with physical characteristics such as eye and hair colour.
- Everyone has certain genetic variations in their Genes, which are known as alleles. For example, the gene encoding eye colour will have slight differences in its code depending on whether it’s encoding blue eyes or brown eyes.
- It is these differences which can affect how different individuals respond to drugs, foods and exercise for example.
How Do Nutrition & Fitness Genetic Tests Work?
Nutrition and Fitness Genetic testing these days are a fairly simple process. Depending on the company, you may have an initial consultation, but regardless, you will perform testing either in the lab or a test will be sent out to you. DNA collection kits these days will usually require a mouth swab or a saliva sample, which aim to collect cheek cells. These cells will be broken down to collect the DNA before they’re tested for a variety of genetic variations, which have been studied and linked to a range of physical performance and nutrition attributes.
What Genes Do They Test For?
Different labs will test for different genetic variations, but there are over 40 that can affect how your body responds to food and exercise. Some of them include:
- ACTN3 Gene – Also known as the “Speed” gene, it encodes a protein that is commonly associated with strength and fast twitch muscle fibres. Variations in the gene can determine whether you’re better at endurance based activities or speed/power activities.
- CYP1A2 Gene – Encoding the caffeine metabolism protein, variations in this gene can affect how quickly your body gets rid of caffeine and therefore affect recommendations on dosing.
- IL15RA Gene – Variations in this gene can show you whether your body responds to weight training by predominantly increasing muscular strength or muscular size.
- MCT1 Gene – Variations in the level of the MCT1 protein will determine how quickly your body is able to clear lactic acid, which is considered one aspect affecting fatigue.
- PPARA Gene – The two different alleles or versions of the PPARA help determine how efficiently your body switches between using carbohydrate or fat as a fuel source. This offers an insight into your inclination to endurance or speed/power activities.
Genetic Testing Results - How to Use Them to Your Advantage
So what can you actually do with the results that you get? Depending on the different genetic variations you have, you can:
- Change your Exercise routine – Say your goal is for fat loss and your results show that your body responds better to endurance based activities. You could switch it up and perform speed/power based activities as it might make be more metabolically taxing (ie, helps you expend more energy)
- Change your Diet composition – For some people, fat intake doesn’t affect them as much, whereas for others, they could react to even small amounts by storing it. The results of your genetic test can help you more accurately alter your diet composition to support your goals.
- Change your Supplementation routine – The test results can offer an indication to metabolism rates of certain compounds such as caffeine or vitamin D. This can help you better manage your supplementation to obtain greater benefits.
- Change your Thinking – Sometimes, it can be incredibly frustrating training a certain way and not getting the results. The tests can help provide an indicator of what training works for you and therefore how to tailor your workouts for better results.
Problems with Genetic Testing
Genetic testing to determine variations is an incredibly safe process. Of course, it’s still important to ask the companies relevant questions such as:
- Where will the genetic information be stored?
- Who gets access to the data and will the information ever be used for other purposes?
Another major limitation to genetic tests and their results is the effect of the environment, which can affect gene expression and can offer conflicting results. For example, you may have a gene variant that suggests you would normally have higher than average testosterone levels. However, you may also be overweight or obese, which can actually lower your testosterone levels. As such, it’s always important to factor the environment in when planning any dietary or exercise intervention in response to the genetic test results.
Costs & Speed of Nutrition & Fitness Genetic Testing
Costs of getting genetically tested do vary depending on the complexity of the tests, how many gene variations you are testing for, and how detailed you want your results to be. Depending on the company, it can range anywhere between $150 all the way into the thousands.
The speed of getting your results will also differ, but you’re looking at a minimum of 2 weeks to almost 3 months, depending on whether it’s a commercial or clinical lab.
Nutrition & Fitness Genetic Testing - Achieving Your Goals Faster
Exercise, sports and nutrition science has come a long way, making it easier than ever to find new ways to help you train better, be stronger, be faster, be more muscular and so on. Recommendations and advice these days however, are still very much generalised. For most people, near enough is good enough and you can easily fumble your way through this generalised advice to find something that works for you. But why work harder than you need to?
Genetic testing may provide the missing part of the puzzle to truly create a comprehensive picture of how to train, eat, supplement and live more effectively and achieve your goals faster. The field is still growing, but companies such as Fitness Genes, DNA Fit and Anabolic Genes are already making the process more affordable and convenient for the average trainer. So are you ready to reach your full genetic potential?