Can a DNA test improve your fitness?

DNA Test

Since I got into health and fitness, I’ve become fascinated with how the human body works and what makes us unique as individuals. I’ve realised that when it comes to nutrition and training, a one size fits all approach simply does not work as we all respond differently to food and exercise.

Empowering your decisions through DNA testing is said to be one of the key fitness trends for 2017. DNA testing gives an insight into your individual biochemistry and the appropriate diet and training for your body.

Keen to give it a try for myself, I ordered a kit from FitnessGenes, provided a saliva sample and sent it away for anaylsis.

DNA Test

Genetic Results

I received my FitnessGenes report within two weeks of submitting my sample. The results are incredibly detailed and comprehensive, I’ve spent quite some time reading through my report and deciphering the meaning behind each result. FitnessGenes test for 43 different genetic variations which impact on either training, diet or both.

I’m actually in a private Facebook group with Dr Dan Reardon, the CEO and co-founder of FitnessGenes. This has been invaluable for getting more detailed advice, explanations and support since getting my genetic results.

I’ve pulled out some of the most interesting and relevant pieces of information from my report.

  • I have two copies of the ‘endurance’ I allele, which may be the optimal genotype for elite long-distance runners, swimmers, rowers and cyclists. This results suggests that I have a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibres and my muscles have more endurance than other genotypes. Good news for me as triathlon is by nature an endurance sport.
  • My genotype is related to better cardiovascular function and widening of blood vessels, plus a higher capacity for supplying the blood with oxygen.
  • I should have a greater capacity to clear lactate which will allow me to perform higher volume/high intensity exercise without inducing muscle fatigue early on.
  • I have two copies of the ‘higher fat breakdown’ allele. This genotype is related to higher weight, BMI and fat mass, however it is also related to a greater reduction in bodyweight after a calorie controlled diet.
  • I am at a higher risk of gaining body fat and weight, due to having lower CNTF levels and therefore a lower suppression of appetite. Despite having an increased susceptibility to gain weight, I should find it easier to maintain weight loss after a period of dieting due to higher levels of leptin (a hormone which inhibits hunger). This sounds fairly accurate to me, as I was able to maintain a weight loss of 80lbs for almost 5 years.
  • I have a greater sensitivity to saturated fat intake. My genotype is associated with higher weight, BMI and obesity when following a diet higher in saturated fat, therefore it is recommended that I keep my daily saturated fat intake below 22g. I’ve cut down on nut butter since learning this!
  • I’m at increased risk of high blood pressure, but lifestyle factors such as salt consumption have an impact on this.
  • I am more likely to be an early bird and least likely to have a disturbed body clock, otherwise known as circadian rhythm. This sounds accurate as I do tend to sleep well and prefer to get up early.
  • My result suggest that I am a fast metaboliser of caffeine and I can afford to consume it nearer to sleeping. I don’t actually consume any caffeine, so this wasn’t particularly relevant to me.
  • My results suggested I have an 84% chance of having blue eyes, 15% chance of green eyes and less than 1% chance of brown eyes. I do indeed have blue eyes!

Some of my results seem to contradict each other, but FitnessGenes point out that further research is needed in some areas of genetics. Genes work in combination with each other and the environment, so the results are not entirely conclusive as there are many other factors to take into account.

Nutrition Strategies

As part of the FitnessGenes report, I also received suggested on nutritional strategies:

  • Based on my genes, I am at lower risk of overeating and therefore there is no special need to spread my protein consumption throughout the day to control overeating.
  • My genetic profile for insulin is above average and I should be able to metabolise glucose well. However it is still recommended that I avoid refined and processed carbohydrates and grains. My main source of carbohydrates should be fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
  • It’s recommended that I pay close attention to my saturated fat intake and limit intake whenever possible. Foods which are high in saturated fat include coconut oil, butter, fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with the skin, lard, full fat cream, whole milk and cheese.
  • It’s also important for me to monitor the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Food rich in Omega-3 such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, fresh tuna, herring, halibut, flaxseed oil, walnuts or chia seeds are recommended to be consumed at least twice a week. I’m a big fan of oily fish and tend to eat it at least 3 times a week, so I think I have this recommendation well covered. Taking a supplement is not necessary, as long as I consume adequate amounts of Omega-3 in my diet.
  • I am genetically lactose tolerant and should be able to digest milk and dairy products with ease unlike those who are lactose intolerant. However, people can become lactose intolerant due to allergies, illness or not being exposed to lactose for a long period of time. I tend to avoid dairy milk as it leaves a horrible taste in my mouth, however I am fine with Greek yoghurt and some cheeses.
  • I have a lower risk of Vitamin D deficiency so supplementation would not be required unless medically diagnosed as deficient or if I wanted to boost my levels for the general health benefits. I do actually take Vitamin D supplement since I was diagnosed with Osteopenia.
  • It’s recommended that I take betaine supplements twice a day pre and post workout. This is to maintain my homocysteine levels with a healthy range. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to some diseases including heart disease and stroke. I’ve never really heard of this supplement before so this is something for me to consider.

Nutrition Calculator

Based on my current activity levels, it is recommended in order to maintain my weight I should structure my daily calorie in take as follows:

Total calorie intake: 1991 kcal
Breakfast: 424 kcal
Lunch: 594kcal
Dinner: 677kcal
Snack: 297kcal

My macronutrient breakdown is suggested as:

Protein: 426kcal, 106 grams, 21%
Fat: 653kcal, 72 grams, 33%
Carbohydrates: 912kcal, 228 grams, 46%

I’ve actually been following these nutrition guidelines since I received my results two weeks ago and I’ve actually lost 4.5lbs so far!

Training Strategies

  • My gene variants indicate that, to build strength and increase lean muscle mass, I would respond well to a high-volume form of resistance/strength training.
  • My results indicate that I have a lower-than-average tendency to store body fat. It is suggested that I can avoid fat-loss plateaus with a consistent and effective exercise routine.
  • It is suggested that I introduce HIIT into my training plan to spike my metabolic rate and significantly reduce body fat levels, in conjunction with a healthy diet.

FitnessGenes also sell personalised training and nutrition plans for fat-loss and muscle-building, but I haven’t purchased one as my goals are more sports performance orientated. Overall, I found the DNA test results fascinating and they are something I will keep referring back to. I do maintain a level of scepticism as I know the science isn’t perfect, but the results have given me a useful insight.

I was provided with the FitnessGenes kit for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

Have you ever had a DNA test?

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3 Comments

  1. January 31, 2017 / 4:43 pm

    Hey, what a coincidence that I’ve just had a DNA test done as well! I write a similar article to yours on my blog. I used DNAFit. There were certainly a couple of surprises and some great ‘aha’ moments! Overall, I felt that it is a useful tool but more research needs to be done in this area to make DNA testing an even more reliable tool!

  2. January 26, 2017 / 1:37 pm

    This is so interesting. I actually did the DNAFit, which is similar. But this sounds far more comprehensive! Love how much info you get.

    • January 27, 2017 / 9:20 pm

      Yeah I’ve heard of DNA Fit, but it does seem like FitnessGenes go more in depth and detailed.

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