Can't Squat? Can't Sleep?
Posted by Adam Meads
It could be down to your DNA and this test will tell you why.
If you've ever wondered why you struggle to train first thing in the morning or that your recovery time between exercises feels like forever, taking a DNA test might arm you with the information that explains everything. Once reserved for athletes and pros, there are now easily accessible and relatively affordable DNA tests that simply require you to send off a swab of your saliva and in a few weeks they'll send you an online report detailing everything from how prone you are to putting on weight to whether you need more magnesium in your life.
Intrigued (who wouldn't be?), we asked Journalist, Becci Vallis to try out one of the newest on the block - fitnessgenes.com (£129), present it to her Personal Trainer to see if the results on paper matched up in person and then report back. Here's what she found out...
How does it work?
All you need to do to get your DNA profile is spit into a tube and send it off using Freepost. After that it's down to a team of PhD scientists, doctors and experts in genetics, biochemistry and sports science (along with some high-tech analysis tools) to study your saliva and identify how your genes are impacting how you eat, sleep, train and recover.
Produced in an online report which is emailed to you around a month, each point is explained in easily digestible nuggets that tell you about the gene, your predisposition, insights and then actions you should undertake. There are also related articles, recipes and further reading should you wish to delve deeper.
What it told me?
Be warned, learning about your DNA is a rollercoaster ride. The first thing that stood out to me was the fact that I'm prone to obesity and I have a natural tendency to eat more - which if you ask any of my friends and family, is very true. Frustratingly I have put on weight recently so this was not music to my ears, but to soften the blow I continued reading down to the tips section that suggested I should add some HIIT, plan high-protein snacks and take 400mg of curcumin that's an anti-inflammatory and beneficial for preventing weight gain.
Once I'd digested that fact (pardon the pun) I moved onto the next subject which was how well I built muscle and this was low. Interestingly the actions said I should therefore avoid eating in calorie deficit - never a problem for me but good to know should I ever want to try Intermittent Fasting of similar. As for my metabolism, well that seems to work better when I'm exposed to the cold so clearly to have the figure of my dreams I need to move to chillier climates!
In total there are 52 tests performed and as well as food, it looks at things like the speed of your muscle contractions - mine was low which means I can clear lactic acid quickly so don't need too long to recover between sets of exercise; whether resistance training would work well for me - it would and other health insights such as if I need more omegas (I'm fine on 6 but need 3 more) as well as my sleep performance. Interestingly, while I don't really suffer with going to sleep, what was interesting is that my results showed I had 'good duration, poor quality sleep' which could be because I wake up every night to go to the toilet. On reflection I'm now wondering whether these toilet trips are impacting me more than I realise by scuppering my exercise routines and causing my sugar cravings.
Another point that stuck out to me was that my dopamine levels and my genotype is known as the worrier type, which means I'm susceptible to stress and anxiety. That's my incessant habit of over-processing explained then!
Is it accurate?
There's no way of messing with your genetic make-up and when the results were given the once over by my PT, Steve Cole, he was inclined to agree with the findings, highlighting the fact that the high oestrogen levels could be behind my uphill battle to build muscle. The recommendation of more fibre and protein on the plate was something he'd picked up on before and he even gave me a knowing look about the worry gene and my tendency to question every lift in case I wasn't doing it right.
When you log on to fitnessgenes.com to retrieve your results you'll notice nutrition guides that break down your macronutrients and how many calories on the basis of your results you should be having per day. There are also different activity plans you can unlock such as Get Fit, Lose Weight, Build Muscle or Get Lean. Naturally these have a shelf-like and after a week you are required to pay, but either way it gives you a good starting point.
Would I recommend a DNA test?
If you're interested in health and fitness, how your body works and want to find the exercises you'll excel in rather than flagging a dead horse in the gym, it's a definite winner. Some of the advice and detail is pretty deep and scientific but there are always links to blog and other features to try and explain the results in layman's terms.
It's also a good idea if you haven't done any exercise for a while and are looking for a helping hand or some motivation. And it might even be that you've tried certain ways of eating or exercising but they haven't been working for you that there's an explanation why. There's also a community aspect if you sign up to the full programme so you can share plans, workouts and recipes.
If I'm honest, I haven't utilised these extra services as I feel like I had enough information in the tips and actions, but if you want something to kickstart a plan or feel like you need some hand holding, it's all there provided for you. I'm not letting the results impact my life too much but it has made me stop and reassess some aspects of my life and now I have a 9pm cut off for drinks before bed to try and boost my sleep quality as much as possible. Baby steps!