Why do some people have a much easier time losing weight and building lean muscle than others? Of course unhealthy habits – procrastinating, over-eating, etc. – are partially responsible. However there is new evidence that suggests that your genes are also to blame and that DNA tests can help.
We all know that our genes are the basic building blocks of life and they determine all of our physical characteristics. I guess it stands to reason that our genes also dictate how our bodies respond to certain foods and exercise regimes and even our body’s ability to regulate weight and muscle production. DNA testing has become a huge trend in the fitness industry over the last couple of years as scientists seek to determine just how big of a part our genes play in our overall health and how we can use that knowledge to create healthier lifestyles.
Through DNA tests, we have come to learn that health is a very individualized notion. The generalized assumptions that have become the standard in assessing health and fitness may not actually be completely accurate. The concept of health and fitness may in fact be more accurately determined on a person-by-person basis, relying heavily on ones specific genetic variables. New advances in technology now allow for individualized DNA testing. These tests allows you to discover a huge wealth of knowledge about yourself that could be helpful in taking steps towards better health (maybe more than you ever wanted to know). For example, are you at greater risk for certain types of cancers or are you in possession of a particular enzyme that quickly metabolizes caffeine, making a coffee habit less risky for you than someone who does not have the enzyme?
Knowing more about your genetic makeup allows you not only a much broader understanding of your own individual health risks and strengths but it can also serve to be a launch pad for developing a full, completely personally tailored health and fitness regimen, which has only been available to world-class athletes until recently. At least that’s the idea behind the trend.
What’s the Aim of These Tests?
In theory, in order to maximize your workouts, you need to discover first if your body is pre-programed for things such as endurance versus power. Some of your genes are closely linked to your predisposition to develop certain types of muscles. For example, according to research from the University of Sydney, people who have the R version of a gene called ACTN3 can develop their fast-twitch muscles faster and with the right training, become sprinters.
On the other hand, people who don’t have that version of the ATCN3 gene need to have a different approach to their workouts if they want to build their muscles properly. In some cases, this means consuming more protein on a daily basis and lifting moderately heavy weights for longer sets.
How does it Work?
If you ignore the slogans, pitches and other marketing tactics that describe a certain company with epithets like “exciting” and “original” most DNA analysis companies work the same way. And unlike before, you don’t even need a lot of effort to undergo a DNA analysis these days.
For example, online services like AncestryDNA make the process pretty straightforward. You just need to register on their site, apply for a DNA test, and wait for the testing kit to arrive. Once you have taken the tests, check your results after a couple of days on their site.
The only difference is – each company tracks different categories and has its own unique method for translating your results into plan of action. Some packages will provide you with a workout plan, while others will also give you a nutrition analysis. It all depends on what you are looking for and how much you’re willing to pay. A few companies exist that can offer you, individualized DNA testing for the price of an ordinary fitness tracker.
How Will All of This Help You?
Our understanding of how DNA affects our overall body response to exercise is still in its infancy. So these tests will not tell you, for instance, how exercise will affect your blood pressure in the long run or how much weight you might lose from certain exercises.
However, this doesn’t mean you should refrain from these tests simply because they won’t be able to predict your body’s response to the exercise regimen. They are there to help you tweak your workout and diet, start focusing on exercises that better suit your genes and in the end, maximize your training sessions.
The Bottom Line: Are These Tests Legit?
Skepticism is normal. It seems that every time there’s a new trend claiming it can be used to enhance performance the public jumps on the bandwagon in a matter of months, in some cases, without any proper proof that it is valid at all.
The validity of DNA testing has been highly studied and repeatedly tested and proven by the scientific community. With so much of who we are and how we function hinging on our individual DNA markers, it is safe to assume the adage that knowledge is power. It is certainly advisable to do some research, read the fine print, check qualifications and do some homework before signing on the dotted line and choosing to move forward with any specific company. Rest assured, there is plenty of information out there for anyone looking to educate him or herself further.
The more we can learn about our own personal makeup, the more we can make well informed decisions that improve the effectiveness of the paths we choose towards good health.
We want your feedback! Tell us what you think about our article. Do you have any experience with these DNA tests? Have they helped your fitness efforts? Whatever the case may be, make sure to leave a comment in the section bellow and share your thoughts with the rest of us. By Theresa Brawner
Theresa Brawner is a 28-year-old fitness instructor from Boston, MA.
She regularly writes articles for www.diet.st. When she isn’t helping new moms get back in shape,
you can find her in the kitchen, working on new recipes.