How genetic test helps you to achieve the best health, fitness and physique outcomes.
Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.
Indeed, you can’t change your inherited genes, but you can compensate for their influence by choosing the nutrition, training and lifestyle that matches your genetic makeup. Simply put, you can upregulate your ‘good genes’ and downregulate the not-so-good ones by modifying your environment.
The obesity gene
Having the so-called obesity gene (FTO) risk variant doesn’t mean you must become obese. I am a good example of it. It will be harder for you to keep your weight low due to the tendency to overeat and binge eat. If this is your genetics, you will benefit the most from low fat, high protein and high fibre diet. Unlike some of your friends, you should engage in vigorous physical activity most days. If you have the FTO gene variant and are also genetically prone to inflammation, losing weight for you will be extremely hard, and your goal will be to prevent significant weight gain throughout your life. Unfortunately, with this genetic scenario, you won’t be able to be a movie star that gains 20 kilos for a role and then loses it the next month. But you would not know unless you did the test.
Genes, training and sports performance
You are more predisposed to endurance sports if you have a certain ACE gene allele. With this gene variant, you will make a great ultramarathoner if you have predominantly slow twitch muscle fibre. You can handle lots of distance at a slow to moderate pace. Still, your injury risk will skyrocket if you start doing too much fast twitch glycolytic training (i.e. short sprints at max effort or explosive powerlifting). Individuals with this genetic makeup will improve both endurance and power by engaging predominantly in endurance training and incorporating power training of lower intensity and volume. On the other hand, if you are more predisposed to power sports and have predominantly fast twitch muscle fibres, running marathons will make you inflamed and significantly increase your injury risk. You can improve your endurance by engaging in well-designed power training and by keeping your running at a lower volume.
Genes and fat loss
The ability to utilise fat for fuel is also coded in your genes. For example, decreased function or expression of the UCP3 gene can result in reduced energy expenditure and an increased tendency to store energy as fat. It is because UCP3 is involved in handling fatty acids to maintain mitochondrial oxidative capacity. While exercise and fasting upregulate this gene, any carbohydrate ingestion during exercise will block the upregulation, and you will struggle to use fat for fuel. You aren’t someone who can drink energy drinks and eat high-carb bars during your training if you are trying to utilise your fat stores.
If you run daily, fuel on lots of carbohydrates and can’t lose weight, you might have the genetic combo that benefits from resistance training and a low carbohydrate diet. Sure, you can figure this out by the trial-and-error method, but you will waste a lot of time and effort in the process.
Genes and coffee
Several genes regulate caffeine metabolism and sensitivity. Whether you are slow or fast, caffeine metaboliser is coded in your genes, and you can’t change it. If you are a slow metaboliser, lots of coffee makes you jittery and anxious, and you don’t benefit from regular consumption. In contrast, if you are a fast metaboliser of caffeine, you won’t feel much effect and get many benefits from the polyphenols in your coffee. Luckily, decaf is also high in polyphenols. If you are a slow metaboliser who loves the coffee taste and wants the benefits, have a good quality, toxin-free decaf.
These are just a few simplified examples of how genetic makeup affects our health and fitness. I’ve learnt all the information throughout my education with FitGenes, which I use to test my clients’ genes. Their health and wellbeing panel tests genes involved in inflammation, cellular defence, detoxification, vitamin D and B12 metabolism, methylation and homocysteine metabolism, blood pressure regulation, vascular tone, fat metabolism, energy metabolism and thermogenesis, and cholesterol regulation. The results allow me to create the most individualised and effective nutrition, training and lifestyle programs.