As a New Year’s treat in January 2016 I decided to have a go at DNA testing after it came highly recommended to me by a successful professional fighter that I met at a social event. I was curious as to what information about my physiology it would reveal that I hadn’t already worked out with experience, intuition and a huge amount of fitness tests that I undertook in my youth when I was a competitive gymnast.
Where can I get a DNA test?
I looked up a number of companies offering genetic testing in relation to fitness and nutrition and approached a few to get clarifications on how the test works and what security measures are taken to ensure such sensitive information is not leaked or used inappropriately. I also compared the type of results that were being offered and the cost for the DNA analysis.
In the end I decided to go with Fitness Genes who were the company that was recommended to me as they seemed to offer the most comprehensive testing results with strong practical applications at a competitive price. My questions were answered by the founder himself who was very polite and gave me all the info I needed to feel confident about doing this. In addition to the straight forward genetic test Fitness Genes also offer the opportunity to receive nutrition and training plans customised to fit with your unique genetic makeup. I went for the Female Fat Loss plan because I was curious.
How does it work?
Within days of making my purchase I received a DNA test kit consisting of a vial with a stabilizing fluid, instructions and the return address. As soon as I registered the test kit I was asked to submit a short lifestyle survey that included questions about my body type, perceived speed of my metabolism, whether I thought I was lactose and/or gluten intolerant and my reaction to caffeine. This part is very important as the information provided will subsequently help the researchers compile your DNA profile.
The actual testing part is incredibly complicated and you can find out how it all works and how the various pieces of information are shared between the DNA Diagnostics Centre and the Science Team on the Fitness Genes website at this link and this link.
What did I learn?
As the results from testing the 40+ gene variations were trickling through I must admit that after receiving the first batch I thought “OMG have I just discovered hot water?” but then as more results were being released I realised that I was actually learning invaluable information about my physiology. Even after all the results were released I can honestly say that the majority of what I learned was very much in line with what I already knew about my body after nearly 50 years of feeding it and moving it with different degrees of intensity.
However, there were many aspects of my metabolism that were still a mystery to me and now they are less so. In essence the test confirmed that I have the ability to grow muscles AND gain strength easily and on top of that I also have good aerobic potential giving me the genetic makeup of an athlete that can do strength, explosive movements and endurance all at the same time. Hello gymnastics, pole fitness, dancing, martial arts and Parkour training.
What I also learned is that genetic test results can be incredibly confusing as what you find for each individual gene can contradict what you find for all the others. For example one gene result indicates that I have a fast metabolism, whereas another gene says I have a slow metabolism. I carry the obesity gene and am at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome but I also carry the gene that helps lose fat fast. I carry the gene that makes me overeat (great excuse for eating 3 large packs of crisps on my own: “the FTO gene made me do it”) but my insulin works fine despite this. I have the strength of an ox but don’t do too well with Vitamin D (contributes to strength) and it’s best to supplement (which I do). This is why taking the test results and looking at them on their own isn’t very useful as their expression is always related to environmental influences, how the genes interact with each other and our existing lifestyle. They must never be looked at in isolation and it’s always best to have an expert in the subject extract the meaning of the various findings.
This is where the reports and nutritional blueprints really came into their own as all the results were combined and analysed in relation to the information that I provided with the lifestyle survey that I submitted before sending off the sample of saliva. Most importantly the findings are written in plain English that any lay person can understand. My “DNA Diet” and nutritional recommendations were spot on and helped me overcome a fat loss plateau at the time to get “attract-random-compliments-everywhere” lean.
Some of the results are a bit hit and miss like the circadian rhythms test which suggests I am an early bird and that my sleep patterns are unlikely to be easily disrupted. Well, since I can remember I have been a night owl and both dangerous and slow to get started when woken up early in the morning. It’s much easier for me to be up all night working or studying than it is getting up at 5am to exercise. I can do it and have done so without spilling any innocent blood or causing a break up but it’s not my natural tendency. So whatever determines this predisposition wasn’t analysed on this occasion.
The only aspect of all this that left me slightly puzzled is the training plan. It involves doing resistance training 5 days and HIIT 1 day with just one day rest each week. Whereas this level of might have served me well in my 20’s and 30’s now that I am approaching 50 it wouldn’t work, not even by splitting the muscle groups so that I hit each one only once per week. First of all my DNA test results show that I might now have that much of a great ability to recover from a workout quickly and completely (hello stress fractures) so how on earth would I be able to cope with 6 weight lifting sessions per week? My lifestyle questionnaire clearly states my age so I feel that this is something that should be looked into.
As women approach menopause, when they want to lose fat, they tend to benefit more from relaxing activities to counteract the increased impact that stress has on their bodies following the gradual drop in oestrogen and progesterone. Because of this I got the best results, both for myself and my clients, by doing short sharp intense workouts 3 times per week max with a lot of leisurely walking in between. The exercises of the plan are beautifully put together but in my opinion it’s way too much for me. So I changed them slightly to what I normally do and it worked.
Overall, DNA testing was a great experience and I keep referring back to the results whenever I am wondering why something isn’t quite working as expected or to check that I am still taking the best supplements for me. Most of this stuff can be worked out with a little bit of Sherlocking but if you wanted to have a more accurate picture of what makes your metabolism tick and what helps you get stronger, leaner or faster then I would highly recommend the test. If you wonder how much genetic testing cost you can get the full report from Fitness Genes for around £150 and the fat loss or muscle building plans for a little bit more. Plus there are upgrades in the pipeline for existing customers which means that new and revised information will be available in the near future. I find this rather exciting and can’t wait for the day when it will be easy and affordable to have the full genome sequenced and results presented in a similar way.
I would be interested in hearing about your experience with DNA testing and whether you followed similar training and nutrition plans to the letter and if it worked straight “off the shelves”. Of course if you need help adapting the workout or DNA diet to your needs all you have to do is book a complimentary breakthrough call and I will gladly give you some pointers to make the plan work for you.