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Whether you are a triathlete or considering joining a gym, you may be curious about how your genetics plays a part in your physical fitness. Every person has a unique set of genes, and interestingly enough, your DNA can play a role in your physical endurance, performance, and even motivation levels. Analyzing your DNA can help to reveal your genetic potential.


Taking a DNA test can reveal some interesting information about how your body reacts to exercise. In the third part of our DNA miniseries, we take a look at how a DNA test can help to unlock your genetic potential. What do your genes say about your fitness?


A DNA test can allow you to discover your fitness potential. Most DNA tests look at the ACE gene, which is a gene that determines your endurance ability. Many sports scientists study this gene since it is commonly found in athletes or endurance trainers. Analyzing the ACE gene location can help you understand how to best treat your body for optimal fitness results.  

A man runs on an open road next to a lake and mountains.
The ACE Gene tells us a lot about endurance levels.

The ACE gene is unique because it can reveal a wide range of information regarding your proclivity towards endurance, as well as your sensitivity to carbohydrates and salt. This gene is slightly different from other genes. It can be represented as either an Insertion (known as I) or a Deletion (known as D) allele. A DNA test will measure whether the variable portion of the DNA is present or deleted. 

As mentioned previously, the ACE gene is one of the most studied gene variations in the sports science world. There is a good reason for all of this interest. Those who have the “I” version of the ACE gene typically see an increase in endurance while training. Those with the “D” allele are often more prone to higher intensity training abilities. Knowing if you have either of these gene variations can help you determine how to get the most out of your training.  

Effects of the Ace Gene

A diabetes patient pricks their finger to test their blood levels.
The ACE gene can also say a lot about your blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

In addition to fitness level, the ACE gene has also been linked to carbohydrate sensitivity in some people. Those who have the “DD” genotype often suffer from a lower insulin sensitivity. The DD genotype is found in around 30% of the general population. It can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  

ACE is also one of the key players in controlling blood pressure. This gene has also shown some connection to the development of salt-sensitive hypertension and increasing blood pressure in those who have a high salt intake. Testing the ACE gene will allow you to see how sensitive your body is to salt intake and decide whether or not to cut back on the sodium. 

The ACTN3 Gene

A man flexes and shows off his rippling muscles.
Muscle-bound bodies tend to have more type-llx muscle fibers.

In addition to the ACE gene, the ACTN3 is one of the most studied genes in the field of sports fitness. Also known as Alpha-actinin-3, this gene codes the protein found in the highest performing muscle fibers known as type-llx. These “fast-twitch” fibers can contract powerfully and at lightning speeds. These fibers are often found in serious sprinters and weightlifters. 

In many cases, more muscle-bound bodies will have more type-llx muscle fibers, while those who are better at running long distances will have more type-I fibers. Type-I fibers are often called “slow-twitch” muscles and are great for endurance. 


A high energy man jumps through the clouds.
Our genes control our energy production as well.

Hopefully, your tongue is equipped with some slow-twitch muscle fibers because this next one is a mouthful. The PPARGC1A gene is responsible for encoding a protein known as PGC-1a, which is involved in energy metabolism.

After we exercise, the PPARGC1a gene is responsible for several positive changes that occur in our bodies. The key to why exercise is beneficial to our bodies lies in a process called mitochondrial biogenesis, which is the muscle’s way of producing new mitochondria. 

If you are having trouble remembering your high school biology classes, the mitochondria are often referred to as the “powerhouse of the cell,” or even a cell within a cell. The more mitochondria our body produces, the more energy we make. The more energy we produce, the longer we can exercise and the fitter we become. 

When our muscle cells are running low on energy, they switch on the PPARGC1A gene and kick PGC-1a production into high gear. 

A DNA test can tell you what version of the PPARGC1A gene you have and whether or not your body produces more or less PGC-1a. This information can tell you what type of training your body will respond to best. 

Exercising for Your Genetic potential

A trainer helps an older woman maintain correct form while training.
Your body may react better to a certain type of exercise.

After your DNA test tells you which type of exercise is best for your body, you will be ready to hit the gym. For some genotypes, it is better to focus on power exercises, while others should focus on endurance. If you are in the middle of the spectrum, a balance of both will be best for you. So what exactly is the difference between power and endurance exercise? 

Power Exercise

If your fitness goal is to focus on power, you will see better results with quality of movement rather than quantity. That means that short sets of high-intensity repetitions should be mixed with short periods of rest. To achieve maximum results, try to work at peak intensity during each set. 

Power training exercise usually includes movements that produce the highest amount of force in the shortest time possible. The basic formula for power exercise is speed + strength = power. If this type of exercise is right for your body type, you can try: weightlifting, powerlifting, sprinting or jumping rope.

Endurance Exercise

If your fitness goal is to focus on endurance, you will need to focus on repeated muscle movements with normal contraction. That means that instead of stacking on more weights, repetition is key. 

If your body type is predisposed to endurance exercise, you should try swimming, biking, running, jogging, dancing, stair climbing, or even walking briskly. Unlike power exercise, you should maintain these activities for extended periods of time. 

Unlock Your Genetic Potential

So how can a DNA test help you unlock your genetic potential? It can tell you everything you need to know about what your body needs and what works against your genetics. No two bodies are the same, and a DNA test will help you create a customized exercise plan to help you reach your fitness goals. 

If you are ready to unlock your genetic potential and take your health and fitness to new heights, you can read more about all of the benefits of taking a DNA test here.

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