From Bambi to Beast with FitnessGenes!

Thursday, February 22, 2018. Author Alex Auld

Alex Auld shows off his quads

Even before joining FitnessGenes, I knew that muscular and aerobic endurance was my strength from team sports and athletics. While I was never the most skillful footballer or powerful rugby player in my teams, I was always one of the fittest which would work to my advantage as opponents started to tire. I always assumed that this was purely down to the hours I spent running laps of my local park all year round and in all conditions.

However, receiving my FitnessGenes results made me realize that there was also a genetic reason for this physiological advantage, and I’ve now guided my training to focus on events and activities that demand a high endurance capacity, with great results.

 

ACTN3

The first gene that confirmed my preference for endurance activity was my ACTN3 variation. I carry two copies of the X ‘endurance’ allele, a result only 18% of the global population share.

While this means that I produce no functional alpha-actinin-3, a protein strongly linked to speed/power-based sports, there appears to be a trade-off with reduced fatigue during exercise.

This is why the X allele is over-represented in elite endurance sports and has certainly worked to my benefit in recent long-distance running, cycling, and multi-discipline events!

MCT1

While being in the 18% globally that carry ACTN3 XX appears to be rare, I’m in even more of a minority when it comes to my MCT1 result. Only 13% of people carry my AA variation, which again explains my tendency for endurance activity.

The MCT1 gene codes for a transporter protein that removes lactic acid from muscles during exercise. My AA variation produces the highest levels of this protein, allowing for more efficient lactic acid removal and the delay of muscular fatigue.

With results such as ACTN3 and MCT1, my training history was all starting to make sense. As well as helping me to realize why endurance had always been my strength, it clarified why other training strategies such as 5x5 and targeting muscle groups once a week had previously produced underwhelming results.

It’s now no wonder I was the skinniest kid on my rugby team and carried the nickname ‘Bambi’. If I had this genetic insight back then, my resistance training would have focused more on high-volume, low-intensity with short rest periods, and would have been far more effective.

 

PPARA

As well as changing the focus of my training, my FitnessGenes results have also helped me readjust my nutrition to complement my workouts and overall goal.
Before joining the company, my limited knowledge of nutrition led me to largely avoid fats because “fats make you fat, right?”

In fact, my PPARA result revealed how efficiently I switch from carbohydrates to fats as a primary fuel source. As fats contain 9 kcal per gram compared to the 4 kcal per gram contained in carbohydrates and protein, this makes it an ideal fuel source of long-distance events, as long as you can access it.

I now make sure that fats make up at least 25% if my overall daily calories (depending on activity level), whereas previously it would have been as low as 10%. 

APOA2

As well as increasing my overall fat intake, my FitnessGenes results helped me identify the types of fats I should be consuming or avoiding.

As I carry two copies of the APOA2 ‘lower sensitivity to saturated fat intake’ A allele, it means that I can enjoy foods that may be slightly higher in saturated fat without a feeling of guilt – because my genes allow it!

Fitter than I’ve ever been

In summary, receiving my FitnessGenes results helped me switch from an underachieving muscle-builder fueled by protein and carbohydrates to an endurance athlete fueled by fats and carbohydrates.

By building my training and nutrition around this genetic insight, I feel that I am now fitter than I have ever been; and when the training feels tough or motivation is low, I know I have the genetic advantage to pull me through.

Apart from our founders, Alex is FitnessGenes' longest-serving team member and is responsible for (among other things) our Personal Trainer educational development program in the UK and USA

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