Always a student to learn how I can better understand myself and learn new techniques for improving my performance I was naturally interested when I learned that I could have my DNA tested for specific fitness markers. There are a few companies that have sprung up over the past few years doing gene testing for the masses at a relatively affordable price.

23andMe was one of the first companies on the market to offer gene testing. Unfortunately in 2013 they got slapped by the FDA and told they could no longer provide a health explanation for your results. So what you get from 23andMe now is just a ancestry report and the full list of how your genes tested but with no explanation with what they mean. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing you would just have to do your own research on your results. You can get a 23andMe test for $99.

DNAFit is a company offering gene testing for specific fitness oriented markers and offers up some health, nutrition, and training advice based on your results. DNAFit is located in the UK so they aren’t subject to the same reporting restrictions as 23andMe. They offer two testing services; a Lite for $189 and a Premium for $239. They also offer an interesting reporting service in which you can link your 23andMe test results to their service and they will generate a health and fitness report for you, the Lite costs $79 and the Premium costs $120. They seem a bit pricey for what they currently offer.

Lastly, Muscle Genes which is now Fitness Genes is a company also based out of the UK offering a genetic evaluation of over 42 gene types from a saliva sample. Fitness Genes was founded by three doctors (1 medical and 2 PhD) with the goal in mind to help people understand their genetic makeup in terms of fitness. The idea being that if you could better understand what you are genetically predisposed to you can make adjustments to your lifestyle (training and nutrition) to improve your performance. The Fitness Genes test was priced at $99 when I got my test, but have since raised their prices which looks like to account for return shipping.

The Fitness Genes test kit arrived rather quickly and the instructions were pretty straightforward on how to collect my saliva sample, package up the sample, and ship it back to Fitness Genes for testing. Fitness Genes received my sample and put it into their processing queue quickly. I got an email stating they had received my sample and that I could expect results in 3-4 weeks. As promised I received another email in about 4 weeks that my test results were ready for review at FitnessGenes.com

I’ve had some time to absorb the findings and do some further research. So, let’s dive in.

This isn’t a necessarily a review of the website, but I thought I would point out a few things. The original Muscle Genes website was somewhat “Bro-ish”, a look and feel right off the pages of Muscle and Fitness or Muscle Development magazines. However, it looks like they have since updated the site to be a bit more widely acceptable and modern. They have done a nice job with the site redesign and are now catering to a much wider audience (good move). I was hoping that I could download a report of my results with all the information about the results, but rather the results are embedded in the site which is ok and most people will be ok with this method of consuming the results anyway. The site is easy to navigate with easy language to help you understand your results.

Fitness Genes was originally testing 9 core genes , and 2-3 variations of each gene. They have since added 6 more genes and updated my results to reflect the new genes, a nice feature that they add additional research to your existing test on file.

ACTN3 – The speed gene

PPARA – The fat burning gene

MSTN – The hypertrophy gene (myostatin)

ACE – The endurance gene

PGC1A – The aerobic capacity gene

Il15RA – The muscle volume gene

UCP2 – The metabolism gene

LCT – The lactose intolerance gene

TESTOSTERONE – Gene for testosterone levels

New Genes added:

APOA5 – Blood Triglyceride gene

CLOCK – Gene affecting sleep cycle

CYP1A2 – Caffeine Metabolism gene

FOLATE – Gene impact for homocysteine levels

FTO – Appetite Gene

HERC2 – Eye Color Gene

Let’s review each gene, my result, and my interpretation based on the information from Fitness Genes and my own research. Please note, I am not a doctor or a geneticist I am just an enthusiast so it is entirely possible I get some of this information wrong or come to the wrong conclusions.

ACTN3 – Speed

This gene provides the encoding instructions for making a specific muscle protein. Specifically the instructions for producing the protein regulating fast twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers provide the necessary muscle contraction typically involved with power / speed activities like sprinting or weight lifting.  There are three genotypes associated to this gene; RR, RX, and XX

Studies have shown that individuals with ‘R’ type may have the ability to produce more of a boost in speed and power to those individuals with an ‘X’ type. Two copies of the R type (RR) suggest and increased number of fast twitch muscle commonly found in power / speed oriented athletes. However, those with two copies of the X type (XX) seem to have an increased aerobic capacity.

My result: RR

My interpretation: I read this as potentially having larger and more fast twitch muscle fibers that would aid me for sprinting and power activities, but that my aerobic base gets burned quickly due to that extra boost in power. This seems to make sense to me because I tend to do well on short burst activities and struggle on longer efforts. For example; I can do really well on a 30-60sec Airdyne effort, but struggle on a long hard row or bike.

PPARA – Fat Burning

This gene helps regulate how your body stores or leverages carbs/fat for energy.  Each person metabolizes carbs and fat differently as the main energy source for your muscles. The PPARA gene generates a protein that assists with which fuel your body likes to leverage most. There are three genotypes associated to this gene; CC, CG, and GG

Research has shown that people with a G type tend to have a larger pool of energy to draw from and endurance oriented athletes would test with a CG or GG which I believe leads to more efficient fat burning for fuel, whereas those individuals with a C type tend to burn energy faster and maybe less able to switch to longer lasting energy source such as fat.

My result: CG

My interpretation: My genotype tells me that I am right in the middle and that I have a regular amount of PPARA protein and slow twitch muscle fibers. Meaning that I am not a fast fat burner or a slow fat burner and that I can do well with power or endurance activities but have to work harder to perform at a high level for either one.

MSTN – Hypertrophy

This gene regulates muscle mass by a protein called myostatin. When the myostatin gene stops working it results in an overproduction of muscle mass, whereas when myostatin is present it makes sure your muscles don’t get too big. An example of this is the Belgian Blue cattle. Belgian Blues’ myostatin gene doesn’t function so they look like a cow bodybuilder bulging with muscles. There are 3 genotypes associated to this gene; KK, KR, and RR.

My result: KK

My interpretation: This is an easy one since my genotype is what 95% of the population have, meaning that my myostatin production is normal and I am not walking around like a Belgian Blue without training (obviously). Not sure how valuable it is to test this gene since it is so rare to have a KR or RR, it is interesting though.

ACE – Endurance

This gene is commonly referred to as the performance / endurance gene, it manages the activation of the angiotensin hormone which regulates blood flow in muscle tissue. There are three genotypes associated to this gene; II, ID, and DD

Studies have shown that those individuals with an “I” type tend to have improved endurance capabilities over those with the “D” type. Two “D” types are typically predisposed to strength and power athletes. Research isn’t entirely clear why “I” types have improved endurance oriented muscular efficiency, it might be related to an increase in slow twitch fibers or raised levels of nitric oxide which would improve mitochondrial respiration.

My result: II

My interpretation: My gene type would indicate that I should have strong endurance oriented performance with two “I” types. This gene type is typically found in elite climbers, runners, rowers, and cyclists. However, this doesn’t seem to correlate to my ACTN3 and PPARA genotype. ACTN3 more aligned with speed and power and PPARA middle of the road for burning fat fuel for long efforts.  I also don’t really enjoy endurance oriented efforts so I haven’t trained much for them, thus I really don’t have a baseline to know how well having this genotype would impact my performance. I need to do a bit more studying to understand the correlation between ACTN3, PPARA, and ACE.

PGC1A – Aerobic Capacity

This gene is a marker for aerobic capacity. It is thought that this gene produces a protein important for cellular respiration and plays a role in the pathways for aerobic exercise. There are three genotypes associated to this gene; GG, GS, SS

The G allele is associated to endurance athletes because they tend to have more PGCA1A protein as compared to those with the S allele.

My result: GG

My interpretation: My gene type of GG would indicate that I have a double G allele and as such a higher baseline of the PGCA1A protein which is associated to the predominance of slow-twitch fibers. This intuitively makes sense to me as I do seem to have a pretty good aerobic capability, being able to last on long endurance efforts and seem to recover quickly between high intense aerobic efforts.

Il15RA – Muscle Volume

This gene is linked to prevention of muscle breakdown and can give an indicator of how quickly and individual can increase their muscle mass. Studies have shown that this gene contributes to the production of a special kind of protein called ‘interleukins’ and interleukin-15 in particular is expressed in the muscle. Three genotypes are tested; AA, AC, CC

Those with double A allele tend to increase muscle mass more easily than those with a double C allele. While those with a CC tend to have increased strength without the hypertrophy.

My result: CC

My interpretation: My gene type of CC would indicate that I have a harder type gaining mass while at the same time will show improved gains with strength. This seems to correlate to my lifting performance as I tend to have pretty good strength ratios compared to my body weight while at the same time do not look like I should be able to lift as much as I do. Although it would be nice to have some increased mass to account for the strength, this result tells me why I have a hard time gaining muscle mass.

UCP2 – Metabolism

The gene is a marker for whether you have a “fast metabolism” or a “slow metabolism”. Metabolism in the general sense is how your body processes the necessary nutrients and chemicals for fueling your body. In some people these nutrients get processed rapidly and the body generates heat to burn calories, while others are more efficient with processing nutrients and generates less heat and thus less calorie burn. This is due to this gene playing a role in uncoupling proteins and the generation of ATP (energy for our body).

There are three genotypes tested: AA, AV, CC

Research has shown that those with the AA genotype tend to have a “fast metabolism”, while those with a VV genotype tend to have a “slow metabolism”. The VV genotype tends to show up in elite endurance athletes because of their ability to manage energy more efficiently.

My result: VV

My interpretation: A slow metabolism. This just means that I need to generally work harder and creating fat loss than those with an AA. I guess I should like endurance sports more than I do 🙂

LCT – Lactose Gene

A large percentage of the world is lactose intolerant, meaning that their bodies don’t break down lactose effectively resulting in various degrees of bowel / stomach problems. These gene is a marker for those that are intolerant or more tolerant to lactose in dairy products. The three genotypes tested are: CC, CT, TT

Those with a T allele tend to process lactose effectively and thus are “lactose tolerant” while those with a C allele tend to be “lactose intolerant”. Greater than 70% of the population have a double C allele.

My result: CT

My interpretation: Moderate lactose tolerant. I can eat cheese and various dairy products without much problem, I have never had bowel issues with dairy products. Unfortunately, or fortunately I never really liked the taste of dairy products so I don’t drink milk and eat very little cheese. But it’s nice to know I can without unwanted gut issues.

APOA5 – Blood Triglyceride Levels

This gene is linked to determining the levels of APOA5 molecule in your blood, which plays an important role in regulating your triglyceride levels. The three genotypes tested are: AA, AG, GG

Some studies have shown that those with a G allele have higher fasting high blood triglycerides and thus higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, while at the same time those with A allele don’t have any scientific association. Most of the population has a AA genotype.

My result: AA

My interpretation: Not sure that this test means much since there isn’t any scientific studies to show how an AA genotype tends to show up. While at the same time my triglyceride levels are historically very low, so maybe not having the G genotype is a good thing. In the meantime I’ll still be taking my fish oil just in case.

CLOCK – Sleep Cycle

This new gene test was interesting. It tests for the Circadian Locomotor Output Cycle Kaput Gene and the variants indicate whether you are predisposed to have a disturbed circadian rhythm and whether you tend to be a night owl or morning person. From NIH, Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. In other words, it helps synchronize your body with the hours in the day and will help regulate sleepiness and wakefulness over the 24 hour period. Three genotypes tested are: CC, CT, TT

Some studies have shown that CC / CT types tend to be more night owls while TT types tend to be early morning types. There are also some studies that show C types have a harder time losing weight than TT types.

My result: TT

My interpretation: Luckily, I have never had problems sleeping. I can sleep anywhere and anytime. I also tend to like the night better, so the TT type of being a morning person seems a little off, but at the same time I am an early riser it just takes me a while to get moving after rising.

CYP1A2 – Caffeine Metabolism

This gene peaked my interest as well, as I consider myself a caffeine aficionado. This test specifically checks to see how long you carry caffeine in your system. Three genotypes tested are: AA, AC, CC. CYP1A2 is responsible for more than 95% of the primary metabolism of caffeine.

AA genotypes are associated to fast caffeine metabolism, while AC and CC are markers associated to slow caffeine metabolism.

My result: AC

My interpretation: This would lead me to believe that my body metabolizes caffeine slowly and expect 100mg of caffeine to stay in my system for 11 hours, while 200mg can expect to be in my system for 30 hours. I get my caffeine fix primarily by way of coffee. A single 8oz cup of coffee has around 100mg of caffeine, and I drink about 24oz of coffee each day which could be around 300mg of caffeine. According to this test a single morning’s coffee intake of caffeine should be in my system for 2 days. Either I have built up an extreme tolerance for caffeine or this test is off. I can drink a cup of coffee in the evening and still go to bed at a decent time. It does make me wonder what I would feel like with less caffeine intake…will have to ponder that one.

FOLATE – Homocysteine levels

Folic acid is important in the production of red blood cells and tissue repair so it makes it a particularly important vitamin for fitness types and pregnant women (a doctor will recommend pregnant women take folic acid). Doctors like to call this gene the Mother-F’er gene as it’s acronym is MTHFR. This gene indicates how well you process folate from your food to be used in your body, it also shows how well you process homocysteine in your blood. High levels of homocysteine are linked to various health issues.

My result: MTHFR AA, MTR AA, MTRR AG

My interpretation: Generally this gene indicates that I process folic acid effectively and probably effectively reduce elevated levels of homocysteine in my blood, both good things. But since our bodies don’t naturally produce folic acid I will still continue to supplement by diet with folate rich foods like leafy greens and supplements.

FTO – Appetite

This gene is a marker for food cravings, meaning how biologically are we programmed to eat more or less. Three genotypes are tested: AA, AT, TT. Lots of studies have been conducted on AA types, AA types are the type that tend to overeat and are overweight, while TT types tend to manage their appetite much better and have a better chance of staying lean.

My result: TT

My interpretation: Nice role of dice here. Having a TT type indicates that I manage my appetite better than an AA type and in turn have a greater opportunity to stay lean. Interestingly, studies also show that TT types are less likely to preferentially choose fattier food options than AA types.

HERC2 – Eye Color Gene

Not sure how important this gene is to my fitness other than just being interesting. The HERC gene is responsible for the production of melanin and can be seen directly by your eye color. Three genotypes tested are: AA, AG, GG

My result: AG

My interpretation: I have one copy of the ‘brown’ A allele and one copy of the ‘blue’ G allele which normally results in either brown or green eyes. My eye color is hazel, so the gene result is spot on.

Overall

I thought this was a valuable test to conduct, easy to do, and the web site with Fitness Genes is easy to navigate and understand. All in all the results seem to be right in line with my qualitative experience. Fitness Genes also produces various fitness plans tailored to your genes so you can put together a plan that is in line with your genetic makeup to help you be more successful with your fitness goals. Next steps for me is to review these plans and see if I want to give one a whirl: The Genetic Fat-Loss System or the Genetic Muscle-Building System, if I give one a whirl you can be sure I’ll write up a post about it.