What I Learned About My Body from Fitness-Based Genetic Testing

running in pink nikes

Lately I’ve been really interested in digging deep into the science and details of things and have decided to do a Wellness/Health/Fitness column where I try out a lot of the fitness and health things you hear a lot about. Some things that I’m skeptical about (crystals, vitamins, detoxes, etc.), and others that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time because I suspect they are probably awesome (wellness vacations, yoga retreats, long digital detoxes, full spa days, blood type diet, etc.).

My first test — doing CrossFit for a year, and my second — how I limited my diet to see what it would do, have been really interesting and just make me want to dig in so much deeper!

My latest test for this column was testing my genes with FitnessGenes to see how it might affect my workouts and diet. Or simply just to learn about myself and understand my body better. With FitnessGenes you do a DNA test (saliva kit) with them where they test and analyze 42 of your genes, and they tailor a diet and exercise program based on the results.

Since my husband has been a CrossFit instructor for years and I am a pretty active person who works out regularly, I wasn’t really interested in the workout and diet portion of what they offer because I think I could infer a lot of it on my own (although I think most people could absolutely benefit from it), but I was mainly interested in learning about my genes and seeing if what I was doing was actually helpful or not according to my genes.

While they say, “keep in mind that almost no gene acts alone, and there are likely to be other significant genetic and environmental factors that contribute to physiological performance in each case,” I think that it is helpful to know some things that you are predisposed to, or why you are or feel a certain way.

I won’t go through all of the 42 results with you, but let’s chat about the ones I found interesting, or where I was in the minority and why. FitnessGenes goes beyond just telling you the results, they have information you can understand, and also link to studies. FYI, this post is NOT sponsored, they did provide the test for free but didn’t pay me to write this post — I approached them curious about my own genes! Also, FYI, some of this info from my results is copy from their website (see how the information is presented below).

fitness genes results

My results:

I have two copies of the ACE or ‘endurance’ I allele, meaning that I have a potential aptitude for endurance and aerobic activities. It’s likely that I have a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers than other genotypes. This result also suggests that my muscles have more endurance or I can improve my endurance capacity after training. Also it’s likely I may respond best to lower-intensity, higher volume resistance training. Only 30% of people have this type.

There were several other endurance-type and fat-burning genotypes where I had the alleles that were on the endurance/fat-burning side, but I didn’t mention them because they were common, meaning 50% or more people have them as well, so they didn’t seem noteworthy.

I also have two copies of the BDKRB2 T allele, which only 16% of people have this and it helps with the relaxing and widening of blood vessels and therefore helps regulate blood pressure. They said it was also good for endurance athletes. I also have two copies of the AGT ‘average angiotensin levels’ allele, meaning I have a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, but environmental and lifestyle factors will influence this risk too. Only 13% of people have this type. Neither of these surprise me because I’ve always had low/good blood pressure.

Not surprisingly, but worth mentioning as it’s not in the majority, I have a lot of the ‘fast metabolism’ genes. One of which — the UCP2, 33% of people have the AA alleles, and the other, UCP3, only 3% of people have the AA alleles, I have both. Which helps explain why I’m naturally thin.

I have two T copies of the FTO genotype, meaning I have a lesser appetite and exhibit more controlled eating compared to carriers of the A allele. They said it seems I am less likely to preferentially choose fattier food options, consuming a lower proportion of energy from fat, although this has been debated. And supposedly individuals with one or two copies of the obesity-risk A allele are therefore considered to be biologically programmed to eat more. Again, this doesn’t surprise me because I can easily leave food on my plate without feeling the need to finish it (except when it comes to chocolate ice cream and wine I can’t seem to stop…).

I also learned that I have two copies of the T allele for the ‘clock’ genotype which makes me more likely to be an early bird. Which we know has started to be true. Also that I am a fast caffeine metabolizer (which actually surprises me), and that I have two copies of the G allele for HERC2 meaning I have blue eyes (obviously, however they seem to be green sometimes too). Only 10% of people have GG for the HERC2!

I was really interested to learn that I have one copy of the ‘lactose tolerant’ T allele, and am likely genetically lactose tolerant. High sigh of relief! Only 16% of people are this way and another 8% of people have two ‘lactose tolerant’ T alleles — so I would infer that dairy would never bother them. So that leaves 76% of people as lactose intolerant. Gotta say, I am so glad I’m not in that camp. Generally dairy has never bothered me. Cheese, ice cream, and yogurt are things I eat often, so I’d be very sad if it does start bothering me in the future (as it has my mother). Apparently having just one of the T alleles, I’m able to effectively break down lactose, but I may be more susceptible to lactose intolerance at times of stress or gastrointestinal infection. I’ll soothe my stress with ice cream…

Common themes:

The themes I picked up in my results really just reiterate what I’ve mostly always known about my body — endurance, fast metabolism, high in fat-burning. I think with more extensive testing (I think there are thousands of genes in our genome) I could learn even more things I didn’t already know.

I think if weight or health issues are something you’ve always struggled with, getting genetically tested could be very interesting for you, and also make you feel better about yourself. However, I’m actually reading a book right now Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years that claims you can sort of reset your genes, so I’d also recommend reading that. Don’t get tested and then just give up depending on your results!

To note:

While I don’t think there’s enough information out there about the thousands of genes that are tested and the analyzation process and how they work together with your body, how you’ve trained in the past, what you eat, how/where you grew up (nature/nurture), I do think that starting to get into this information is interesting. So if you are super skeptical, at the least you are starting to learn about yourself, and even if in 10 years the testing is way better than it is now and you learn something slightly different, that’s ok! We have to start somewhere!

I look at this first wave of genetic testing and altering diets and workouts based on them as us testing what does and doesn’t work and collectively we help science more forward. I’m not a scientist or an expert on any of this, I can just take the information, try to apply it to my life, and see if I see any sort of significant difference and hopefully help further the science on it.

What am I going to do now? Was it worth it?

I think the most interesting thing I learned is my predisposition to endurance exercise. I’m not sure if this surprises me or not. I love short workouts that are super intense (like CrossFit) but then I also love a 3-4 hike or bike ride.

I’m not surprised that I’m more endurance vs. strength — I think that’s fairly obvious. I’ve never been able to put on muscle easily like some of my friends. They do spin for a month and have insane quads!

For me the specific information I learned via FitnessGenes just reaffirms what I already knew about myself, but I do think it was SUPER interesting and I’d love to dig deeper into this genetic testing business.

I think it could be worth it if you are having issues in some way or if there something you can’t figure out about yourself. Always good to know what you are dealing with!

Have you done any gene testing? Did you learn anything interesting about yourself? Did you apply any of it to your life?

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Two articles I found interesting:

The Problem with Genetics-Based Training

I Tried DNA Testing To Personalize My Workouts

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Pictured in photo: Blush Nike Flyknit shoes; Lululemon Fast and Free Tight; Reebok Muscle Tee

Photo by Emma Weiss