My approach to fitness is probably best described as changeable, to say the least.
Some weeks I stick to a strict, pre-planned schedule of workouts. Sometimes I'll happily push away on the cross-trainer for much longer than planned - usually if I have a gripping podcast I want to finish. And sometimes I skip cardio completely because my arthritis tells me to. I guess it doesn't help that I get bored easily.
All that said, there's one thing that never changes: my love of staying fit and healthy. Regular exercise is what keeps me happy, healthy and productive. I can't emphasise that last one enough.
Even though I'm not the fittest person in the world and still only consider myself a beginner in most things fitness-related, there's no doubt that it's a treasured part of my life - even when I'm cursing the trainer for making me do more burpees than I think is possible.
If you're at all interested in health and fitness, it's hard not to be at least a little bit curious about these DNA tests that have been popping up. The basic idea is that science can tell you the best way to approach your health and fitness routines to maximise your time and make sure you're getting the best results for you and your body.
I certainly was, and quickly Googled them when I first heard about them. And the first thing I noticed was... the price. Boy, they're not cheap. In many ways, though, the £100+ price tag made me more curious . Surely the price must mean they're full of value?
How the FitnessGenes DNA test works
When FitnessGenes offered me the chance to try out their DNA testing earlier this year, I obviously jumped at the chance. My excitement, however, was quickly replaced by apprehension: how exactly would they take my DNA? I'm really not a fan of blood tests or anything medical, so I was nervous about the first step.
As it turned out, the process itself couldn't be easier. FitnessGenes send you a little tube, you collect a saliva sample in it (a bit gross, but painless!) and post it back in the prepaid box. Apart from my first sample getting lost in the post, after which they sent another straight away, the whole process was super simple and took no time at all.
Getting my DNA results
The exciting part!
I was super excited when I got the email telling me that my results were ready and eagerly logged in to take a look. What I hadn't anticipated was just how much there would be to look at it. The first thing you'll notice is there's a LOT of information and, If I'm honest, it was a little overwhelming to begin with.
A whole week passed before I had time to sit and go through it. It took me about an hour to read through it in depth, but the time flew because it was so, so fascinating to learn about my body. Some of the results were surprising - others not so much. But more on that later...
In total, there was information on 41 different genes. They all have names that are just a combination of letters, so the page does look a bit like it was created by a cat walking over a keyboard. They're also impossible to pronounce - and that's coming from a linguist! - but luckily you don't need to.
The results hub is broken down into the following sections:
Genetic results: This is an overview of all the tested genes, each with a quick summary and a longer in-depth page should you wish to know more.
Action blueprint: A breakdown of the best workouts for your body, i.e. how many sets and reps you should do for maximum results, plus a suggested tempo and rest time. There's also a nutrition calculator here, with a breakdown of 'nutrition strategies' - i.e. how much carbohydrate, protein and fat you need. In this area, it covers your entire workout from beginner to advanced and even grills down to your recovery strategy.
Training and nutrition plans. This is probably my favourite bit by far - I love having a set of instructions I can just follow without having to think! Once you have your results, you can access personalised workouts for muscle-building, wellness, beginners - everything really. They draw out day-by-day plans that will work for you based on your genetic makeup, so you just have to follow them, without worrying about any time-consuming planning or decision-making.
8 things I learned from my FitnessGenes DNA test
1. I need to eat 97g of protein per day. Which sounds like a LOT to me, but... Hello, burgers.
2. I get hungry easily. Although I didn't need a test to tell me that beause my stomach tells me often enough. I was pretty gutted to find out that my genes make me at an increased risk of overeating (thanks, body), but I guess it means I can feel less guilty when I do over-indulge. It's in my genes, after all...
3. I'm extra tolerant to lactose. This was one of the most interesting findings for me. I gave up dairy around 4 years ago when my skin broke out and nothing else seemed to help, and I've only eaten limited amounts of it since. It turns out I have two copies of the 'lactose tolerant' gene, so I'm taking that as a green light to slowly reintroduce Greek yoghurt, kefir, milk and cheese into my diet.
4. I need to stop skipping HIIT. On the one hand, I was pleased to find out that slow and steady cardio doesn't do much for me (no more slaving away on the cross trainer when I just want to come home and chill!). On the other, my heart sunk a little to learn that HIIT is the only real effective cardio for me.
5. I lose fat easily. Hooray! Even though I have a copy of the 'obesity gene', the good news is I should be able to lose any fat I do gain more easily than most people.
6. I'm programmed for endurance. This was a theme that kept popping up in my results and came as a BIG surprise. I'm still not sure I believe it, to be honest. I always thought endurance was my weakness, but now I'm thinking it may all be a psychological thing. At the very least, I now have no excuse not to try.
7. I'm not good at sleeping. Well... this one comes as no surprise. Not only am I not great at sleeping, my workouts affect my sleep and my sleep affects the results of my workout. So I'm in a bit of an endless circle.
8. I have a less than 1% chance of having brown eyes. Yes, I obviously know my eyes are blue so this one is kind of irrelevant. But when I was younger, I desperately wanted brown eyes, so it feels a little bit like all my childhood wishes just got crushed. It also turns out that the gene giving me an 84% chance of having blue eyes is quite rare, because only 10% of people have this one. Unfortunately that it's also responsible for my higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and bone problems, so perhaps this will make me start taking my vitamin D pills more consistently.
This post could have easily turned into "100 things I learned" but I won't bore you with anything too in-depth. If you've ever been curious about DNA testing for health and fitness, the results it can throw out make for an incredibly interesting - and useful - toolkit to have at your disposal, whether you're looking for a full training plan or just some pointers to confirm you're getting the most out of your efforts.
Perhaps the most surprising result of doing the DNA test was the new-found appreciation I now have for my body. Without sounding horribly cheesy, seeing my body's makeup written out in a science-y way has made me so grateful to have a (mostly) healthy body and to be able to take control of its fitness.
The test isn't cheap and whether the results will help me achieve my health and fitness goals long-term is yet to be seen, but the amount of information I now have - and the training and nutrition blueprints - are well worth the price, given you'd easily spend that much on a series of personal training sessions.
Have you ever done a health and fitness DNA test? Is it something you'd like to do or do you think it's a waste of time?
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