Our founder and CEO Dr. Dan Reardon was recently interviewed by Women’s Health & Fitness magazine in Australia for a great story on personal training in their January 2017, Strong, Lean, and Sexy New Year’s issue. This issue just hit the print and digital newsstands, so grab a copy today!
Below is the full transcript of the interview between Dr Dan and Women’s Health & Fitness journalist Katelyn Swallow. Katelyn ran a condensed version of this interview and featured several other noteworthy experts in her story and has granted us permission to run the full version for our own audience.
WH&F: In your own words, what exactly are genes and why do they have such a powerful effect on the way our body responds to diet and exercise?
Dr Dan: DNA forms the building blocks of life. It carries your genetic code from your parents down to you. It’s therefore the way that you pass on your genetic code to your children.
If DNA is the “recipe book” of genetic information, your genes are the “individual recipes” that lead to the formation of proteins. It’s the proteins in the human body that drive everything.
Here’s a really good example of how genes have a significant impact on how we should eat. The LCT gene codes for the enzyme lactase. Lactase breaks down lactose, so when you drink milk or consume dairy products, it’s the action of this gene that leads to the formation of lactase, enabling us to digest the lactose in milk.
However...some people have the LCT gene variation that does not code for this enzyme, meaning they do not produce lactase. These people are therefore not able to digest lactose in milk, and are ‘lactose intolerant’. These people should therefore not consume dairy products for all the side effects that lactose intolerance can bring.
WH&F: Who do you generally recommend genetic testing to? Is it for everyone?
Dr Dan: Fitness DNA Testing is without a doubt for everyone. If we look at the fitness and nutrition world, it’s inarguably broken. There’s entirely too much choice. Too much conflicting information. Too much guess work, and entirely too much failure. The Western world is getting fatter and more unhealthy by the day, so I don’t see how there could be any other conclusion than the current system doesn’t work. Genetic testing itself is not going to fix the obesity problem, but it does fix the problem of people guessing (mostly incorrectly), getting frustrated by their failures, and then simply giving up on the hope of achieving a healthy, sustainable, and desirable body composition and physique.
WH&F: How is it possible that we can test for all of these genes with a simple saliva test? i.e. how does that work?
Dr Dan: Great question and the answer is really simple. Saliva contains cheek cells. Every cell in our body contains DNA, so we are able to extract DNA from these cheek cells, and perform the genetic analysis. Okay...it’s not simple, but the phenomenal advances in science and saliva collection devices has made all of this possible and affordable to the average consumer. We use special Saliva collection tubes from our friends at DNA Genotek which are in fact the only FDA approved saliva collection devices on the market. Within these tubes is a non-toxic reagent that actually preserves your DNA for transport. When it arrives in our lab, we have a process that extracts the DNA from the cheek cells, that we can then run through our micro-array technology.
WH&F: Walk us through some of the most significant genes relating to fat loss, and how different copies can affect how we should train?
Dr Dan: One of the most important components to fat loss is diet. We look at many genes that give us information about how to structure an eating plan, so I will focus on one example here, and that’s the FTO gene. The FTO gene is a complex gene that was one of the first to have been found to be associated with obesity. It has many associations to physiological processes and eating behaviour, but ultimately gives us clear information about how an individual would need to structure their nutritional programs in order to be successful. If you carry the gene variations that put you at risk of being overweight, there are a number of interventions that we can take, to maximize your chances of being able to lose weight. For example:
1) We know that after you eat, you produce the hormone Ghrelin very quickly, which means you get hungry very quickly. So it’s very important for you to eat small meals frequently to try to control hunger. And you should also look at ways you can implement strategies to control hunger such as drinking cold water, drinking water mixed with glutamine, very low calorie and low glycaemic impact snacks, and so on. We would also recommend early morning protein as this has been shown to increase energy expenditure and reduce hunger.
2) Contrary to the modern day hype, eating diets that are high protein and high fat with low carbohydrates will almost certainly lead to failure. Research shows that when people with such gene variations follow these types of diets, within 10-weeks almost everyone will revert back to normal eating. This is because people with such gene variations require carbohydrates to get satisfaction from the foods they eat. Therefore when long term success is considered, a gradual overall reduction in calories within the right macronutrient ratios for your genotype, coupled with the right type of exercise is going to maximize the chances of long term weight loss success, not crash lowering carbohydrates in favour of protein and fat.
WH&F: Tell me about the most significant genes relating to building lean muscle, and how different variations can affect how we should train?
Dr Dan: It’s always a tough question to be able to rhyme off one or two genes when it comes to multi-factorial concepts like building muscle. When you consider how one builds muscle, there are so many things you must think about such as strength, time under tension, metabolic stresses, recovery and so on. Genetics plays an important role in many of these factors, and ultimately in understanding how genes such as ACE, ACTN3, PGC1A, PPARA, MCT1, CKM, etc. work individually and collectively, especially when combined with relevant environmental (lifestyle) data, you can start to personalize training approaches to building muscle. Some people respond to very high volume training whereas others absolutely do not...and these outcomes are predictable based on genetics. Some people require a high frequency of training in order to grow, whereas others are completely the opposite and require lots of rest. Some require high-intensity training, others low. For some people strength training periodization is critical, for others it’s not. Even training splits can be defined through what people’s genetics look like.
WH&F: Explain some of the most significant genes relating to cardiovascular training, and how different copies can affect how we should train?
Dr Dan: Endurance training is really a measure of how well you can improve your VO2 max--your body’s ability to utilize oxygen. There are some incredibly well-researched genes that give an indication as to how well someone responds to training to improve VO2 max, and for such people designing endurance style training programs is relatively straight-forward. The challenge is to define endurance style training programs for people who don’t respond as well to endurance training, and therefore don’t get the VO2max responses others get. We are currently researching a number of theories around this and how we can influence such individuals with training methods that would improve VO2 max. As a service, one of the things that make FitnessGenes superior is that we are continually updating our research for all of our members, so if you take the test now and we discover something in 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years from now, you personalised results and actionable advice will be updated to reflect the latest research.
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