Can Your Genes Tell You How to Exercise?

Get-Fit Guy digs deep into genetics to figure out how genes can help us be better athletes.

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

Yesterday, I was reading an article that discussed the genetic differences between power athletes and endurance athletes. It was very interesting in that it showed that “elite” power athletes express a specific gene (with the fancy-schmancy name of AGT M235T, in case you cared).

Genes also affect your athletic ability or what kind of exercise you’d be best at. Specifically, a gene called ACTN3 has an effect on athletic abilities. This gene is responsible for making a specific protein in fast-twitch, explosive, powerful muscle fibers. More than a billion people worldwide have a genetic variation that causes them to completely lack the two parts needed for the highest level of this gene in their muscles – so they tend to be not so good at power and strength - and better at endurance.

This reminded me that I recently had my own genes tested with 23AndMe.com genetic testing, so I logged in to see if I have more of the power gene or the endurance gene. It turns out that I have one working copy of this fast-twitch muscle fiber gene – which means I’m OK at power, OK at endurance, but not particularly talented at either. On the flipside, it also means that I can both play basketball or do a triathlon and still be decent at either. If I would have discovered that, for example, I completely lack the gene responsible for making me naturally talented at fast-twitch muscle fiber formation, I could perhaps go out of my way to prioritize strength or power training at the gym, since this would be considered my weakness.

Isn’t it amazing to know that your genetic ancestry can affect the kinds of activities you’d be best at? If you find this fascinating, you may also enjoy the articles:

Can Your Genes Make You Fat?

Doping v. Genetics: What Caused Lance Armstrong’s Success?

Do you have questions about how your genes can show you what the best exercises for you are? Then leave a comment over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

Athlete cycling image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.