This is How Your Genetics Are Effecting Your Fitness

by Erin Mahoney, VP of Education for International Sports Science Association

Olympic and professional athletes, and even your friend who wins every tennis match—is their athleticism based wholly on genetics or are they affected by something more? If you think it takes more than just genetics, you’re right. But how much more? And what can you do to alter what your genes provide?

DNA defines our overall potential and 40 percent of our abilities – meaning more than half is within our control. For example, a sprinter could have the potential to break a world record but, without the training time, proper nutrition, and optimal lifestyle choices, may never get there. 

Genetic testing can help us understand where a person is starting from and know how to better stimulate the 60 percent within their control. A personal trainer qualified in this specialization through International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) can now use genetic information to realign a client’s program and nutrition to help them reach their goals faster.

Genetic Traits That Impact Athletic Performance

  1. Fitness Response to Cardio This trait carries some weight when it comes to performance. It shows the degree to which your fitness levels will increase by performing cardio exercise. There are many factors such as lung capacity, resting heart rate and recovery rate. People fall into normal, below average, or low genotypes. Each specific genotype identifies how often to perform cardio, how long and at what intensity.
  2. Body Composition Response to Strength Training Sports like wrestling, bodybuilding, and functional fitness athletes all can see a benefit to having lower body composition. That’s not saying it’s not important for other sports, just that it may not have as large of an impact. This trait helps a person understand not only how they’re going to react to strength training, but also what kind is best for them. It also dictates how many days per week an athlete needs to strength train to make gains in their sport. 
  3. Intrinsic Motivation to Exercise This gives insight into what drives someone to train for their sport. Those with a more likely genotype require less external motivation. They simply enjoy training and don’t need much motivation to get through it. Those who have a less likely genotype require more motivation. These people need a workout partner, competition or goal. They don’t enjoy the process of training the same way they enjoy competing with a partner.
  4. Power and Endurance Potential DNA can tell us what sort of exercise we are predisposed to be good at. A person falls into one of three categories:
    • More power 
    • Equal power and endurance
    • More endurance

This is the genetic predisposition of the muscle fibers in the body. Still, training has a lot to do with the actual output of an athlete. For example, a test may indicate you are an equal power and endurance genotype. But through training, you have gained more endurance muscle fibers allowing you to be better at your sport. 

  1. Exercise Heart Rate Response Having a lower resting heart rate is beneficial. As a person becomes more fit, their heart rate doesn’t rise as much to keep oxygen flowing to the muscles, in turn giving them greater endurance. Exercise heart rate response clues a trainer in on what sort of results in heart rate a person will have with longer endurance training. It also indicates how well they handle endurance. 
  2. Systemic Inflammation and Injury Risk Though assessed as two separate traits, these indicators go hand in hand. Systemic inflammation is the inflammation in the body we don’t see. Genetics can tell us if we are susceptible to this sort of inflammation. If an athlete is more susceptible, they may need extra rest time and planned recovery between training sessions. Those with a higher risk of systemic inflammation are at a higher risk of injury. This is also crucial for a trainer to understand and offers insight into what the athlete needs for recovery as well as volume and progressions throughout training. 

Whether you are a seasoned athlete or just getting started with a fitness regime, anyone looking for a fitness edge can benefit from learning about how DNA can help you train smarter and achieve your fitness goals faster.

About the Author

Erin Mahoney is the VP Education for International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), the leading international fitness certifications provider. As an expert in the fitness and nutrition education space, she has authored and served as the chief editor for textbooks on personal training, sports performance, group fitness, and behavior and lifestyle change. She has more than 20 years of experience educating fitness professionals and helping clients get to their goals and lead an improved quality of life.

About International Sports Sciences Association

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) is a global leader and pioneer in the personal training certification industry. For more than 30 years, ISSA has been committed to providing the highest quality certification program by merging the gym experience with practical applied sciences and building trust in order to help people build their goals.

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