Search This Blog

Friday, October 18, 2013

All in Your Genes: Can Genetic Testing Determine Your Perfect Workout?

Genetic testing and exercise: find out your best workout
I’ve long proposed a combination of burst training and weight resistance provides the most efficient, effective exercise for most people. Earlier this year, I had a client who challenged that belief.

“You talk often about biochemical individuality and avoiding one-size-fits-all programs,” she said during her first session, “and yet you tell everyone to do the same exercise. Sure, you modify it for every individual, but it’s pretty much the same routine. What if I need something… different?

At first I felt enraged. How dare she question my over 20 years’ hard-earned fitness experience? I mentally categorized her in the PITA (pain in the ass) client category and hoped she would go away.

But she didn’t.

On her next visit, she showed me a profile that delineated her ideal workout, food, and supplement regimen based on her genetic profile.

Initially I was skeptical. Then I became curious, researched the science behind these profiles, and eventually did my own profile. Thanks to my client, I became a believer.

What are Exercise Genetic Profiles?

Pathway Genomics provides an excellent summary about genetic profiling in its Pathway Fit® test description:

Pathway Fit® analyzes over 75 genetic markers known to impact metabolism, exercise and energy use within the human body. Through the examination of these genetic markers, which are expressed in various organs such as the brain, stomach, gut, muscle, pancreas, as well as directly in fat tissue, we are able to gain an insight into how a person’s body processes sugars, fats, and nutrients and vitamins. What’s more, our report includes detailed analysis on how a patient’s body responds to exercise and performance, and provides strategies to help a patient reach an optimal potential to maintain a healthy weight based on that specific patient’s genetics.

Simply put, Pathway Fit® and similar profiles show the ideal diet, supplement, and exercise requirements for your genes. Many tests require you rub your inside cheek with a swab, mail in that swab, and voila! In a few weeks you’ve got a customized protocol to determine whether you should be bursting or distance running. Truthfully, the whole process is easy and painless.

I used SimplyFIT™. They provided copious science to substantiate my genotype results (great for science nerds like me), but SimplyFIT™ also broke down those terms into easy-to-understand, instantly applicable information.

Among my results:

80% of the 10 workouts are high intensity and 20% of the 10 workouts are steady state aerobic
My body absorbs approximately 60% of the fat I consume
Supplement with BCAA, Appetite Control, Adrenal Support, Essential Fatty Acids, Polyphenols,         and Arachidonic Acid

Cool, right? No more wondering what supplements to take or second-guessing whether I’m getting optimal results from a workout.

How Genetic Testing Became Mainstream

A few years ago, a study came out that provided serious credibility for genetic profile testing. Published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers looked at certain genes to determine why everyone responds differently to exercise.

Why, for instance, can your neighbor become ripped simply hitting the weights a few times each week, while you struggle to build muscle? And why do some people thrive with distance running while your body responds best to sprinting?

From this study, lead author Dr. James Timmons and other researchers pinpointed multiple genes that determined your fitness abilities. These genes determine why your neighbor got ripped while you didn’t, as well as why your body prefers bursting to jogging.

This study launched genetic profiling into the mainstream. “After he appeared on a BBC science program last year,” writes Gretchen Reynolds in a fabulous New York Times blog entitled “Are You Likely to Respond to Exercise?”, “Dr. Timmons was inundated with e-mails and calls requesting the test [so] he and several colleagues filed a patent (still pending) for the gene markers and brought the test to market.”

 Choosing the Correct Profile

Today you can choose among numerous genetic profiles with varying degrees of credibility. Some, like the one I used, employ top-notch science folks with the latest science.

Others aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on: they might use a single gene marker or unsubstantiated scientific method to determine your fitness abilities and strongest exercise areas.

Another criterion to choose the right test: do they evaluate full sequence (or whole gene sequencing) or single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)? Without getting too science-y, full sequence looks at all the variations present within your genetic sample, whereas a SNP analysis only identifies a single nucleotide base pair.

Because of their inconsistencies, an SNP analysis must be done multiple times. Even then, they can be up to 40% inaccurate. Why settle for inferior tests that don’t deliver the results you deserve? After all, we’re talking about valuable information that can help you become your leanest, healthiest self.

For a comprehensive, “big picture” analysis, make sure your genetic testing uses full sequence. Don’t compromise your results or your health to save a few dollars.

Pros and Cons of Genetic Testing

Those less-credible genetic tests give the whole business a bad name. According to Dr. Claude Bouchard, a professor of genetics at Pennington, most of their actual value “is approximately zero.”
Now, keep in mind that Bouchard is a paid consultant for the above-mentioned Pathway Genomics. That’s not to discount his theory, but he might have a little bias towards that particular company.

Even the upper-echelon tests have their limits. Experts like Dr. Tuomo Rankinen (another professor of genetics at Pennington) concur that while they provide far more accurate results, even more advanced tests like XRgenomics are extremely limited because they solely rely on VO2 max, a single measure of how you respond to exercise.

Here’s the deal. Yes, genetic testing is relatively new, and even the most advanced tests provide limited information. They’re also not cheap: plan on spending at least several hundred dollars on a test.

That said, I think a good genetic profile is worth every penny because it takes the guesswork out of your fitness and nutrition recommendations. As my good friend JJ Virgin says, “Test, don’t guess.”

I’ve already broke even on the test by not buying supplements I don’t need. And I can now custom-tailor my workouts to get optimal results with less time. To me, that alone is worth the price of admission.

My clients also respond well to genetic testing. “For years, I’ve been to numerous trainers but couldn’t get the results I wanted,” one client told me recently. “Once my genetic profile pinpointed my strengths, I saw instant gains.”

By the way, his profile recommends steady-state cardio. Does this drive me nuts, considering I normally recommend minimal cardio? Yep. But if that’s what the results call for, who am I to argue with science?

I’ve even designed high-end genetic testing for my A-list clients. These folks demand the very best and refuse to cut corners. This testing is pricey – yes, more so than even the professional-brand testing I mentioned above – but this is the Rolls Royce of genetic testing.

Your Genes are Not Your Destiny

Ultimately I believe in mind over matter, and that when we become determined to do something, we can overcome numerous obstacles.

Just because you’re genetically programmed for something doesn’t mean you should succumb to your destiny. Look at genetic profiling as inspirational and guiding, not self-defeating.

Maybe your profile suggests steady-state cardio is best for you. Don’t let that confine you not to try burst training at your park or heavy lifting. Your destiny is always in your hands.

“In the original 2010 gene,” concludes Reynolds in her Times blog, “the authors concluded that the gene profile they’d uncovered accounted for at least 23 percent of the variation in how people responded to endurance training, which, in genetic terms, is a hefty contribution. That leaves perhaps 77 percent of how you respond to exercise consciously up to you.”

I love that. Your destiny literally is in your hands. What are you going to do with it?

You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

If you use the article you are required to activate any links found in the article and the by-line. Please do not use this article in any publication that is not opt-in (spam).


Post a Comment