Genetics and Training
The increased attention placed on genetic testing could lead to misunderstandings about designer babies destined to be Olympic gold medallists or Nobel Prize winners. But in reality, there are far more ethical and practical information we can take from the science of DNA to improve individual physical training programs that optimize our natural strengths based. Of course, it is critical to keep in mind that our athletic potential is only achieved through long hours of training and commitment. There's no easy way.
It is important to first understand genetic correlation versus causation. Our genetic profiles correlate to particular attributes. This correlation, however, does not automatically mean that we all exhibit this quality. In other words, having a genetic profile indicating fast twitch muscles doesn't mean we're going to break any world champion sprinting records. Genetic markers can indicate certain health predispositions, but lifestyle choices and the environment clearly play large roles in how our genes are expressed.
Having a deeper understanding of how our genetic markers may impact our body's natural physical abilities can be useful in crafting a training program that maximizes our potential propensities. Several genes have been linked to athletic performance, which can serve as useful indicators.
A few of them include:
ACTN3: a gene related to the body's composition of muscle fibre between slow twitch (potential for aerobic endurance) and fast twitch (potential for powerful, short bursts). RR genotypes: best conditioned for fast twitch; RX genotypes: best conditioned for a combination of workouts requiring endurance training and short spurts (i.e., both fast and slow twitch); XX: best conditioned for slow twitch. If you find yourself struggling to last those 45-minute runs and your profile indicates the RR genotype, you should be prepared to work harder to prime your muscles for endurance exercises. Or perhaps if you find your profile to include RR genotype, switching up your training to include short spurts of power (i.e. dead lifts, sprints), could leverage your natural strengths.
MCT1: the body's ability to remove lactic acid, impacting its ability to recover quickly from high intensity workouts. AA genotypes: very efficient system; AT genotype: less efficient; IT: less efficient. If you have the IT genotype, you may find yourself struggling especially towards the end of a hard workout or feeling completely wiped out afterwards. Your body's less efficient ability to remove the build up that occurs during physical exertion may suggest improved conditioning exercises to build endurance.
ADRB2: the body's composition of fat and lean mass. CC/CG genotypes: predisposition to leaner body mass; GC genotypes: predisposition to increase in fat mass. If your genotype is GC, you may wonder why the hours of weights and aerobics have not resulted in a slim, long, lean line body. Your dedication is still critical to your physical health, but you should be aware that your body's softer curves might simply be your strength. On the other hand, if you have a CC/CG genotype, you may have a natural propensity for a leaner body, but this is no excuse for not exercising. Ever heard of skinny fat? You have to keep up training no matter what your body type is.
As long as we keep in mind that having the marker does not automatically translate into a natural physical talent, we can hone in on our body's natural strengths as we continue to put the time, commitment, and energy to ensuring our overall wellbeing.