H ere’s a question we often get: “My BFF and I started out on the same fitness plan at the same time. We work out together, with the same personal trainer and are both on a so-called superfood diet. But how come she’s now lean and keen while I haven’t lost weight?”
It’s because each of us is built differently, and no fitness plan or diet can work optimally for everyone. You were both recommended the same workout plan because it has worked for most people, but you are not like most people. Researchers are finding out that sometimes, it’s your genes that determine how well you respond to certain types of exercise and food.
Whether you want to just lose weight, maintain your level of fitness or compete in a triathlon, DNA testing is now affordable and gradually becoming precise enough (from a larger database) to give you the insights that make your workout truly personalised.
Who are you?
And you can’t get more personal than by tailoring your workout to match your genome – your unique genetic code and the blueprint of you that’s in every single cell of your body. Bear in mind though, that genetic variance among humans is so far thought to be around 0.1%, so that’s the difference between you and everyone else! That much is enough to be significant for your fitness and requires some precise mathematical work in the lab. You may be surprised to learn too that humans and chimpanzees differ in only 1.2% of genes. In other words, we share 98.8% of genes with chimps...
Making sense of DNA
DNAtesting for fitness is a fairly new field, and you’re bound to be hearing more about it. So here’s a primer to help you make sense of the coming flood of articles on DNA fitness testing.
Your unique genetic code, or genotype, is found in a biological substance in your body known as DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Your genetic code is read from your DNA, which is in turn found in your chromosomes.
Chromosomes are found in the nucleus every cell in your body. You have 23 pairs of chromosomes inherited equally from your parents (and they, from your grandparents, etc). The genetic sequence of your DNA in your chromosomes tells your body how to make itself, among other things.
We can work it out
If you’re still following, great; otherwise, just remember that your genotype is unique to you and what you were born with.
Your phenotype, on the other hand, is how your genes are expressed. In other words, your phenotype is the observable evidence of how your genes, in interacting with your environment, have made you who you are – at least, as far as we can tell from a physical examination!
Not all of your genes are activated; some are on, some are dormant. Whether they’re switched on is partly influenced by your environment, lifestyle and other factors yet to be identified.
So, genes are not destiny; this realisation has come from the fledgling field of study known as epigenetics. Just because you carry the gene for a certain mental or physical trait does not mean it will express itself.
So, to properly personalise your workout, you need to consider your lifestyle, the climate and geography of where you live and, your unique DNA. Exciting isn’t it? Watch this space!