Do fitness genes or sports genes really exist? Is there something as a champion DNA? Is it nature or nurture or both? Why can't we all run like Usain Bolt or swim like Michael Phelps? is it just because we don't train like them or do they have fitness genes that are best suited for their sport? It turns out that there is a lot more to human physical performance then just dedicated training, which though absolutely essential, is not the only determining factor.
Here are a few incredible facts about physical fitness genes influencing human performance:
Fitness genes fact 1: 32 members of the Kalenjin tribe in Kenya ran a marathon faster than 2 hours and 10 minutes in October 2011, compared to 17 men who achieved the same feat in the whole of American history!
Fitness genes fact 2: The more the proportion of fast-twitch fibers a person has, the lower their capacity to burn fat – one possible reason sprint and power athletes tend to be bulkier than endurance runners. Among the 6 DNA variants that influence heft, the most critical is the FTO gene.
Fitness genes fact 3: Michael Phelps' lower body is proportionate with that of someone 5'5" while his upper body is proportionate with that of a 6'5" individual. Great swimmers have disproportionate arms length and wingspan compared to the average person. You cannot train for that!
Fitness genes fact 4: Croatian Water Polo players’ arm's length increase more than an inch, 5 times more than that of the Croatian general population.
Fitness genes fact 5: Less than one in 20,000 women in the general population have a Y chromosome but are insensitive to testosterone and thus develop as females. Over the course of testing at five Olympics, however, an average of 1 in every 421 female competitors had a Y chromosome. This is not just fitness genes but a whole chromosome!
Fitness genes fact 6: Heat dissipation is critical for endurance running as the Central Nervous System forces a shutdown or stop of effort as body’s core temperature passes 104∘ F. Marathoner Paula Radcliffe typically fails during summer marathons (2004, 2008 Olympics) because her smaller skin area (relative to her volume) means her body cannot dissipate heat as efficiently as shorter runners.
Fitness genes fact 7: Only two players in the NBA in 2010-11 didn't have unusually large wingspans. Humans typically have a height to wingspan ratio of 1:1, it's 1:1.063 among NBA players.
Fitness genes fact 8: 17% of men in America who are taller than seven feet and between 20 and 40 years of age are playing in the NBA.
Fitness genes fact 9: The guys with a lot of fast-twitch fibers that can contract their muscles very fast have much more risk of a hamstring injury than those with a lot more slow-twitch fibers. The former get injured far more often. The most popular of all fitness genes, ACTN3 influences your muscle fiber type.
Fitness genes fact 10: Redheads have a higher tolerance for certain types of pain. The same gene mutation is responsible for both phenomena. In the extreme scenario, there are individuals who are completely insensitive to pain, even when they fracture their bones, they don't feel any pain!
Fitness genes fact 11: A discussion of sports genetics is incomplete without the mention of Myostatin- the double muscle gene– Carriers of this gene mutation do not produce myostatin which is present in majority of us. Myostatin breaks down muscle in the human body, hence, absence of myostatin leads to net accumulation of muscles over time. People (and animals) with myostatin mutations are highly muscular.
Fitness genes fact 12: Slow kids cannot be fast adults. Speed is partially determined by the proportion of slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers in the body. Fast-twitch muscles give you more speed while slow-twitch muscles give you more endurance. It's possible to train fast-twitch muscles to have more endurance, but you can't get slow-twitch muscles to act like fast-twitch muscles.
Fitness genes fact 13: The serving arms of tennis players have forearm bones a quarter of an inch longer than the forearm bones of the other arm. This is true of non-athletes as well. We tend to have more bone in the arm we write with, simply because we use it more, so the bone becomes stronger and capable of supporting more muscle. This is an example of body adapting to routine. But we are all not made the same, the adaptive response of some individuals is much better than others, thanks to their fitness genes.
Fitness genes fact 14: Finnish skier Eero Mäntyranta became the “greatest endurance athlete” of his generation in part because of a mutation in his erythropoietin receptor (EPOR) gene which helps produce excessive amounts of red blood cells. His family was found to carry this gene. People whose ancestors have lived in higher altitude environment under less oxygen have developed adaptions such as larger lung size, greater RBC count to compensate for lower oxygen in the environment.
Fitness genes fact 15: Donald Thomas had barely 8 months of training when he won a gold at the Osaka World Championships in ’07 beating Stefan Holm, despite Holm’s extensive training. Later on, scientists identified one of the key reasons for his dramatic success – a 10.5” uncharacteristically long Achilles tendon. The longer and stiffer the tendon, the more elastic energy it can store, and when stretched, rocket its owner into air.
Fitness genes fact 16: 10% of people with European ancestry have a gene mutation that allows them to inject testosterone and not test positive in a dope test!!
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In the realm of sports doping, genetics is expected to play a dominant role as more gene modification techniques are introduced. Gene doping is now officially listed on the world antidoping authority website.
Watch this space for more facts. We will update this list regularly!
Also read about the Top 5 Fitness Genetic Testing companies here
Update on July 6th, 2021
Regardless of what your fitness goals may be, aerobic capacity is an important metric to focus on. It determines how well your body can utilize oxygen. Simply put, the better the aerobic capacity, the longer you will be able to sustain exercises. Aerobic training not only helps achieve peak fitness but also improves cardiac health and respiratory functions. An individual's genetic makeup can determine up to 50% of their aerobic capacity by influencing factors such as antioxidant production, heart functioning, etc. The analysis of such genes and their variants can give a clearer idea of the kind of training you need to take on to achieve maximum results.
Aerobic capacity (AC) is the maximum amount of oxygen consumed while performing intense activities that involve large muscle groups.
It is also a measure of how effectively the heart and the lungs get oxygen to the muscles. Hence, improving your aerobic capacity can directly result in more efficient use of oxygen by the body.
The other term which is used to describe aerobic capacity is vO2 max.
However, the vO2 max also takes into consideration the individual's body weight.
One of the best ways to estimate your cardiovascular fitness is by calculating your Aerobic Capacity.
If you are in a fitness center, one of the following two techniques can be used to measure your AC
A simpler and less accurate way of measurement is a walk/run test.
This requires walking/running at the maximum speed you can and measuring your heart rate at the end of it.
With this measurement, you can use one of the many online calculators that are available to check your Aerobic Capacity.
For instance, Rockport walk test is one such calculator that requires the input of your heart rate, time of the run/walk, and your weight to calculate your Aerobic Capacity.
Genes majorly control a lot of factors that have an association with the fitness levels of an individual.
According to a study in 2016, 155 genetic markers were found to be associated with better athletic performance, 93 of which were endurance-related markers, and the other 62 were power/strength related markers.
Polymorphisms of ACE, ADRB, ACTN3, PPARGC1A were one of the first genetic markers found to be associated with athletic performance.
There's another famous exercise genetics study conducted by a consortium of five universities in the United States and Canada revealed astonishing variation in the aerobic capacity amongst the 481 participants.
The study subjected its participants to identical stationary-bicycle training regimens with three workouts per week of increasing intensity under strict control in the lab.
These can be attributed to the variants of genes like NRF1, NRF2, VEGF, PPARA, etc. that an individual carries.
The nuclear respiratory factor (NRF2) gene influences the vo2 max. NRF2 regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins and thus can influence the oxygen uptake.
|AA||57.5 % higher training response|
|CC||Normal training response|
Some genes affect a few secondary traits that exert influence on aerobic capacity.
For example, genetic variations in VEGF in the gene influence heart structure, size, and function. These have an impact on the stroke volume which is an important determinant of aerobic performance.
|GG||Reduced aerobic performance|
|CC||Normal aerobic performance|
Genetics is only 50% of the fitness story.
The rest wires down to other factors like your lifestyle, your eating habits, and your training.
Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week is vital to ensure a longer healthier life
Augmenting your aerobic capacity can result in better blood and oxygen flow to muscles.
Therefore, this promotes faster recovery between sets and improves your flexibility.
Aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, and almost every other cardio workout.
When aerobic exercises are performed, your heart is trained to deliver more oxygen in a said span of time, and at the same time, your muscles are trained to utilize the oxygen delivered more efficiently.
To improve your aerobic capacity, it is important to understand how your body builds endurance.
It depends on the following three things:
When you train to increase all the above-mentioned variables, naturally the amount of blood and oxygen, reaching your muscles increase.
This, in turn, has a positive effect on your overall athletic performance.
Aerobic training usually, targets large muscle groups of your body that boost your heart rate for longer periods of time.
Some of the commonly recommended aerobic exercises include
Some of the aerobic exercises that you can do at home include:
If you are already not inspired to take up aerobics, take a look at the benefits you can acquire from aerobic training.
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What if you learned of a magic pill that could boost your metabolism, aid your weight loss program, help you feel full, increase your lifespan, reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases while controlling your cholesterol? You'd probably jump on it without thinking twice. Well, you don't need a drug to get these things in their real sense. Not when we can suggest a single ingredient that covers it all - Fiber.
Despite all the fantastic health benefits of fiber, researchers still point out that not many people are maximizing its full potential. Of course, that's expected because most people lack the knowledge of the amazing things that fiber can do in the body. To this effect, this article focuses on the benefits of microfiber, with particular interest on their potential to help in weight loss.
Fiber is often divided into different categories, with each category differing in their nutrigenomics. The most popular categories of fiber include insoluble fiber, soluble fiber, and prebiotic fiber.
This is a type of fiber that does not mix with water.
It acts majorly as a bulking agent, helping to form stool and pass it through the guts.
It has proven to be useful in treating constipation.
On the other hand, this category of fiber mixes with water to form viscous gel-like substances that are capable of slowing down how fast the stomach can release digested food to the gut.
Researchers confirm that eating enough soluble fiber reduces belly fat and the prevention of further add-up.
The last type of fiber is the prebiotic fiber that feeds the friendly bacteria present in your gut.
This helps the gut bacteria to produce nutrients for your colon cells, leading to a healthier digestive system.
Facts and research have always pointed out that fiber can help anyone lose weight, even if they don't make other adjustments to their diet.
First, fiber is super-filling, leaving your stomach with little space to eat other high-fat foods.
Besides, the digestive process of fiber is relatively slower compared to sugar and simple starches.
There are several other ways they help to reduce weight, and it's been proven repeatedly.
In fact, dieters who were told to get at least 30 grams of fiber per day without any other dietary parameters lost a significant amount of weight.
Fiber is not just high for keeping your weight and appetite in check; it is also great for your heart-health and can help reduce the risk of diabetes.
There are loads of other benefits that we will discuss as this article progresses.
When it comes to weight loss, fiber's the best choice as it encourages the diversity of gut bacteria.
It's important to know that there are already over 100 trillion helpful bacteria that live in your lower gut.
Such bacteria are harmless, sharing a mutually beneficial relationship with humans.
Since soluble fiber helps to improve gut bacteria, it's a no-brainer that it will help to reduce belly fat.
Most people have always been curious about how fiber helps in weight reduction. Here, let's review some of the ways it works.
It is no surprise that fiber is a powerful natural suppressant of appetite. This keeps you from regularly reaching out for junk.
It is important to know that soluble fiber makes it more likely for you to reduce your intake of calories by suppressing your appetite. This would, in turn, help you lose weight.
There are tons of theories regarding how fiber helps for the reduction of appetite.
However, the most popular one is that it helps regulate hormones involved in controlling appetite.
However, another theory suggests that fiber can aid in appetite reduction by slowing the movement of food through the gut.
Even though everyone can benefit from consuming a fiber-rich diet, the effects of such a diet can vary from person to person.
Some people can lose a considerable amount of weight from this diet, while for others, dropping a few kilos might take a while.
This is because our genetic variations influence how our body responds to different nutrients present in the diet.
Let us take the FTO gene, for example. We've heard several questions about how the FTO gene influences weight loss and weight gain.
The FTO gene, short for FTO alpha-ketoglutarate dependent dioxygenase, located on chromosome 16, is mainly associated with the body-mass index, obesity, and type II diabetes.
A recent study pointed to an association between a particular variation in the FTO gene and carbohydrate intake, with individuals having a certain variant more susceptible to obesity than if they carried the original C allele (normal variant).
We've also seen several other studies establishing a direct relationship between a T to A transition and an increase in BMI.
Over time, a significant association between another variation and dietary fiber intake was noticed.
The research study has, in fact, reported that individuals carrying the AA genotype exhibited lower waist circumference than the T allele carriers on a high fiber diet.
When on a high-fiber diet, people carrying the AA genotype tend to experience more weight loss than the other genotypes.
However, the A allele carriers, are also at a higher risk for obesity when physically inactive for prolonged periods of time.
Fiber-rich food can result in weight loss by increasing the feeling of fullness, thus leading to reduced calorie intake.
Since your genotype favors higher weight loss on fiber intake, you can include more fiber-rich foods in your diet.
Some natural sources of fiber include Broccoli, Lentils, Kidney Beans, Bananas, Barley, Almonds, Carrots, Dates, etc.
Since your genotype also puts you at a higher risk for obesity when physically inactive, ensure to include some light exercises in your routine.
Here are some simple exercises that can make you feel great all day.
T allele carriers may not experience a significant weight loss on fiber intake.
A lesser reduction in BMI on high fiber intake was noticed in the TT genotype in comparison to the AA genotype.
While ensuring adequate fiber intake, consumption of other weight loss-friendly foods can also help.
After several studies on the effect of fiber from food, researchers have concluded that the benefits of fiber from supplements cannot equal that of food fiber.
Plus, getting fiber from supplements might mean missing out on essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients present in fiber-rich food.
However, people who may have certain dietary restrictions like gluten intolerance may need to turn to fiber supplements to get the daily recommended dose.
Having talked so much about fiber for weight loss, and how the DNA diet affects your journey towards achieving the perfect body structure, it's also important that we suggest some dietary sources of fiber.
Bear in mind that most fiber-rich foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Some popular fiber-rich foods include:
There you have it now. We've reviewed everything you'll need to know about fiber and weight loss.
We've also made recommendations on foods with high fiber content. With the average fiber requirements for your body per day pegged between 25 to 30 grams, it lies on you to find what fits your body and stick to it.
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Exercise offers a range of benefits. It makes you fitter, stronger, and faster. But, if you're like most people, adapting to a new workout regime can be hard - you may face extreme muscle soreness. Ever wondered why? Exercising muscles can cause microscopic tears to them, fluctuate hormone levels, and increase inflammation. While they all sound negative, these are undoubtedly positive effects on the body. Following a strict workout regimen can improve posture, muscle growth, insulin sensitivity, better respiration, and heart health. If workouts are that good, then why is recovery important?
Post-exercise recovery (PER) is a vital component in a training program. Allowing the body to actively recover from working out lets you to perform better in subsequent exercise routines. Personal trainers often include various measures - changes in nutrition, compression garments, and cold-water immersion. These would help in quick recovery from their intense regimes and aid in consistent performance in their next workout.
For non-professionals, post-exercise recovery helps in becoming leaner, more flexible, and reaching your personal fitness goals! Repeatedly training a muscle group with no recovery time only leads to tissue breakdown instead of building.
To understand the importance, let’s look at an extreme situation. Over-training syndrome (OTS) is when an individual over trains and pushes themselves to limits without paying attention to nutrition, rest, and emotional status. This leads to depression, decreased performance, excessive fatigue, restless sleep, loss of appetite, decreased immunity, and so on. Muscles do not grow as you work them, but grow as you actively rest.
Recovery also leads to the following benefits:
Passive recovery is to be completely at rest after an intense workout. This could include lying down, sitting, and being inactive. This is not recommended for everyone, and should only be done if faced with a serious injury, or in pain. It is also good to follow passive recovery if you feel mentally/physically exhausted from your workout regime.
Active recovery, on the other hand, is mostly recommended. This includes doing light, low-impact exercises and routines that help the blood flow, allowing toxins (liked built-up lactic acid) to be flushed out. Examples of active recovery include yoga, walking, low-impact cycling, tai chi, or foam rolling. There are many ways to actively recover, you may follow a cool-down routine after your workout, or following cross-training- details will be covered later.
Like several fitness traits, the average time of recovery you'd need post-intense workout is determined by your genes. Many different genes are involved, two of widely studied ones are CKM and MMP3.
Creatine Kinase, M-type (CKM) codes for a protein that is involved in energy homeostasis. It is used in energy transfer channels within the body. This protein is also involved in maintaining body mass index, muscle damage repair, and inflammation response.
Certain variants of this gene influence your recovery time. One allelic variant is G. If an individual has GG genotype, they would have average time for recovery after an intense exercise. However, having a TT genotype would be requiring a longer recovery time than most.
The proteins of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP3) gene family help in tissue remodelling and wound repair. They have also been implicated in conditions like arthritis. Until triggered by another enzyme, these proteins remain inactive.
Gene variants of MMP3 has been linked to PER time. The A allele at a particular region in this gene is significantly related to a longer recovery time, which could be attributed to inflammatory responses being triggered.
It is important to schedule a break from intense training to allow the body to rest and repair itself before another set of intense training. This could be even last a week of no intense training, but of mild, low-impact exercises like walking. This allows for muscle growth and repair.
A good 8-hour sleep would help in repairing muscles. The body secretes growth hormones that help in muscle growth and repair. Try to avoid any distractions before sleep- like using mobile devices and having caffeine, and ensure that you clock in the 8 hours.
Incorporate active recovery into your training schedule. Ensure that you cool-down after exercising by doing yoga and stretches. This would help release the built-up lactic acid, and help in conditioning your muscles and flexibility. You could also cross-train- in this way, you avoid working the same group of muscles, giving ample time for recovery. Foam rolling is also a reliable active recovery, to relax strained muscles.
Athletes and professionals usually have ice baths that help tremendously in muscle recovery. Massages are also helpful to relax over-stretched and overused muscle groups. Wearing compression garments also help in quick recovery times.
Active visualization exercises, and listening to music with a slow tempo has also been seen to relax muscle groups, aiding in recovery.
If the muscles are over-trained, you may massage in some muscle creams, or take an anti-inflammatory like aspirin, to reduce the pain.
Even if you train optimally, if the nutrition is insufficient, you may suffer from increased muscle soreness, reduced performance, and increased fatigue.
It’s important to replenish lost water within 12 hours of training. Rehydrating should be done right after a training session. Dairy-based drinks like smoothies offer the full package from carbohydrates, lipids, protein, and electrolytes. For other goals, regular meals are enough. Drinking chocolate milk is also good, the protein kickstarts recovery, and the carbs in this drink energize the body. Tart cherry juice is another option, as it reduces inflammation. Skip alcohol for two reasons, one is because it could dehydrate you, and interferes in protein production, delaying muscle repair.
Proteins help in repairing and building muscle. Consuming the right amount of protein provides enough resources for the body to use to replenish the amino acid stores in the body. About 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight is recommended. Eating protein before sleeping helps the body in repairing muscles overnight, and eating protein in the morning helps curbs cravings. Eating protein before and after workout serves the same purpose- you trigger the repair mechanism even before you work out.
Fats could reduce the rate of absorption of a meal, however, adding a small amount of fat can help in promoting muscle growth. Saturated and trans-fats (fats derived from animals, or synthetic fats) are to be avoided due to their deleterious effect on health and recovery. Essential fats are important, and can be sourced from avocados, chia seeds and nuts.
Replenishing carbs is important for recovery. The amount of carbs is dependent on the intensity of training. If you do more endurance sports like swimming and running, then you would require more carbs. Also, if you train more often during the day, then it is imperative your glycogen stores by having adequate carbs. The ratio of carbs to protein should 3:1.
Some sample meals post-workout could be:- grilled chicken with roasted vegetables, salmon with sweet potato, cottage cheese, and fruits, pita bread with hummus, multi-grain bread, and raw peanuts.
This is a common misconception, but depending on the intensity of your training, it important to take 1 to 2 days of just to rest. This could be active or passive recovery, but the aim is to allow the body to repair itself so that you can come back to stronger.
Sleep is the most important factor when it comes to goals of gaining muscle or losing weight. It is the prime time when the body gets to repair muscles. As mentioned before, growth hormones have secreted that help in this process. Lack of sleep, reduces the amount of this hormone, leading to sabotaged fitness goals.
While these tools and techniques may help, it is not essential. The most important rest is sleep, and you need to make sure you get the full 8 hours’ worth of it. Diet is another important factor, and always listen to your body and do not force yourself to train if you aren’t ready for it.
As mentioned above, exercise does, in a sense, damage the body. But this damage is good, and once you've recovered, you become stronger and more fit. Studies on the effect of taking antioxidant supplements (like Vitamin C and Vitamin E) after working out show that it does not affect the reduction of ROS produced by exercise. While it is important to keep your vitamin levels in check, there is no need to include it in your post-workout meal.
Now that we have seen the importance of recovery, let’s look at other tips to stay fit.
People tend to stick to an exercise routine when they have a definite goal. Work towards that goal. Stay determined. You got this!
You don't have to have intense workouts every single day, the idea is to get moving- this, in turn, would produce endorphins and would motivate you to work harder.
Start with easy goals. When you finish them, this would motivate you further to set tougher goals.
If you don’t like lifting weights, try dancing, or if that doesn’t suit you, then try yoga. There are a lot of different routines that you can follow, and if you enjoy what you’re doing, the fitness goals become secondary.
Plateauing is normal while working out. When you feel that a routine is too easy, try adding more weight, or try to run faster, this also brings about some variety and pushes you further.
If you feel you cannot move or you just can’t work out for the day, it is also good to take a day off, just to recover.
Even if you work out every day, you won't see any progress unless you stick to a healthy diet. Try opting for fresh meats, green and leafy vegetables, fruits, and dairy.
Recovery is a part of your workout routine and has just as much importance as cardio or strength training. Over-training, pushing your body to limits, without allowing time for recovery, would only sabotage fitness goals. Try to take a holistic approach when you begin a workout regime. It is good to push yourself, adapt, and grow, but keep in mind active recovery practices to make your exercise effective.
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With the vague sound of audience’s cheering in the background, the athlete races forward, running, trying to make it first to the finish line. He has blocked every sound, every sense, and is only focused on his feet pushing the ground hard and propelling him forward. To take down the ribbon at the end of the line before anyone else reaches it. While others would normally feel exhaustion - physically and mentally, the athlete moves on and pushes forward, racing towards the finish line. What made him press on and remain active in the ground when his muscles were aching with pain? Endurance. Now, while he is relentless about his pursuit, some runners stop at hydration stations for energy drinks. Why is that? Do these drinks really give them more energy and boost their performance in the race? Let’s find out.
Endurance is the ability to exert oneself and withstand the challenge for a long time. It is a key factor in many sports. Marathon is a good test of endurance. It not only trains you to run faster but also extends the amount of time you can run at your optimal speed. Having a better endurance response implies that your muscles are designed for repetitive work, to withstand the challenge for a longer period of time.
Endurance athletes reach for sports drinks after their time on the field, to stay hydrated and to replenish electrolytes lost. You may have heard of electrolytes mentioned before, particularly if you're into fitness. So, what are they? What’s the fuss all about?
Electrolytes are important minerals that help your body maintain a stable internal environment. Particularly, they are essential for the proper functioning of your muscles and nerves. There are many different electrolytes, but the most important ones are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride. They are crucial for the proper functioning of the body and any imbalance in the electrolyte level can have serious consequences.
These contain carbohydrates, electrolytes, sugars, and some vitamins. The primary cause of concern lies in the flavoring and coloring agents used, because these are known to cause cancer among several other illness. The side effects of too much sports drinks are discussed in the following sections. Sports drinks generally contain two-thirds of the calories present in sodas. They were initially developed for athletes to replace electrolytes lost after an intense workout in the field. But, many individuals who consume these are not athletes and this is another cause for concern that is addressed later.
Energy drinks contain stimulants like caffeine, taurine, and guarana where the real harm lies. Also, most energy drinks contain thrice the amount of caffeine that is normally present in sodas. Kids, teens, and young adults under 25 contribute close to $5 billion of the total $10 billion of the market. This has raised so much of an alarm, that a separate code was assigned by the American Association of Poison Control to track overdose incidents caused by energy drinks. The side effects of the overdose are shocking; it ranges from liver damage and seizures to even death.
When racing on the ground, athletes lose fluids and electrolytes, whose levels the body is so carefully trying to balance. When electrolytes are lost, muscle contraction is no longer smooth. Too much of electrolyte imbalance can put the health at risk. To keep a good momentum and race towards the finish line, athletes have been known to take electrolytes and sports drinks. Electrolytes are important for a fluent muscle contraction that athletes will need when on the ground. But, do sports drink actually minimize the electrolyte levels lost? A study doesn’t think so.
Research shows that while taking electrolyte supplements and sports drinks help in replacing the essential electrolytes lost during workouts, they actually do very little to boost the performance or preclude an impending illness. A Stanford University study conducted on 266 ultramarathoners shows that electrolyte supplements are exaggerated in their claims about giving energy the athletes need for the race. The study was conducted on the rough terrains of South America where ultramarathoners ran in extreme weather conditions for 155 miles over a 7-day period. The blood work and physical stature measurement of the athletes were taken prior to the race along with information about the electrolyte supplements use.
The researchers checked the electrolyte levels of the ultramarathoners after 50 miles. One group had taken the electrolyte supplement before the race, while the other group did not. The marathoners who took electrolyte supplements showed a fall in their electrolyte levels, almost similar to those who did not take the supplements. Surprisingly, some marathoners had an increased sodium level in their body due to dehydration coupled with electrolyte supplementation, while others had a drop in their sodium levels. The electrolyte supplements had little to no influence to replenish the lost levels.
The authors of the study indicated that staying hydrated and having a balanced nutritious diet with a pinch of extra salt (rich in sodium) will help balance the electrolytes. Drinking a glass of milk after workouts will give you the sodium, exactly the same amount that some sports drinks give.
Another downside is that most sports drinks are taken by individuals who are not athletes. Drinking too much can cause tooth decay in young adults. They are also the cause of obesity, especially in children, shows a study. Additionally, sports drinks use food dyes like Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 5. These are known to cause cancer, among other ill effects on health. Isn't the price a little too high to pay? Especially when the benefits, that the sports drinks claim to offer, can be achieved from other safe options? Like coconut water and salty snacks.
This quote by the famous American football player powerfully captures the importance of genes for athletic performance. Understanding the genetic architecture of athletic performance is an important step for an optimal training regimen. The capacity to perform endurance exercise is influenced by a number of factors, many relating to cellular metabolism and cardiovascular function.
A 2015 study revealed at least 77 genetic markers associated with endurance. Some of these variants result in a better endurance response and make your muscles more suitable for repetitive work like high repetition weight training or longer duration cardio sessions. These genes influence endurance aspects such as the type of fuel used by the cells for energy production, the percentage distribution of muscle fibers (slow twitch and fast twitch), and the adaptability of the blood vessels to carry more oxygen. Some variants help you withstand challenges and make your better at endurance-based activities, while other variants are not very favorable for endurance. For example:
Angiotensin I converting enzyme, also called ACE gene, is important for balancing electrolytes and regulating blood pressure in the body. One particular variant of this gene, rs4343, causes a G>A transition. A change to the A allele increased the effects of ACE gene activity, thereby improving the regulation of blood pressure and electrolytes which are key for maintaining endurance.
This gene encodes the Actinin Alpha 3 protein and is primarily expressed in the skeletal muscles. Variants of this gene influence athletic performance. One variant of this gene rs1815739, causes a transition from T>C allele. This variant, however, influences contraction and interferes with muscular endurance, causing performance to suffer.
Long-distance running is a sport that requires muscular endurance. During a race, a marathon runner’s body performs the same movement and stride, over and over again. With each stride, the quads and calf muscles undergo ‘eccentric’ contractions: momentum forces the muscles to lengthen, even as you try to shorten them to push off again. Low endurance levels can result in a steady accumulation of microscopic damage to the muscle fibers.
The following tips can help in building endurance:
Hand-picked article for you: Why BMI Is Not The Right Way To Measure Body Fat
Exercises to boost your endurance
Sports drinks help in hydration and replenishment of electrolytes, and is therefore the go-to drink before and after a workout. Athletes can drink plenty of water and eat salty snacks before a race, instead of sports drinks, to help balance their electrolyte levels. If, however, they do prefer sports drinks, taking them only after an intense session is a good option. For individuals who are not athletes, it’s best not to reach out for such sports/energy drinks often as their ill effects far outweigh the benefits. Coconut water, or even plain water, is the best option when it comes to staying hydrated and having balanced electrolyte levels.
When it comes to endurance, sports drinks don’t offer much benefits. Changes to exercise and diet will help improve endurance. Endurance also brings with it a host of health benefits apart from making you better at sports. Having certain genetic variants will certainly work to your advantage!
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We often take things for granted in our life such as our body and the body parts that are involved in performing some basic functions.
For example, we use our hands and legs to perform many day-to-day activities, but we never pay attention to them unless or until we lose the ability to use a hand or a leg due to an injury.
Focusing on the hand, have you ever given a thought about your hand’s grip strength?
Handgrip strength is a vital force that is required to pull, push, or suspend objects.
It is a part of hand strength or physical strength that is utilized by animals or humans, especially athletes such as rock climbers.
Rock climbers require muscle power and the force that is generated by hands, which makes the handgrip strength extremely critical for their sport.
Hand-grip strength from one person to the other varies based on the ability of the hand to grip objects in many different ways or positions.
Hence, the handgrip is classified into three types:
This grip is usually required by the hand to perform functions involving a handshake or gripping an object against the palm and wrapping the fingers around the object.
Did you know a stronger variant of this grip can be used to break objects?
In this grip, the fingers are on one side of the object, and the thumb is on the other side of the object, so the object will not be in contact with the palm.
This grip is comparatively weaker and is usually required by the hand to grab an object.
This grip requires muscular strength and muscular endurance so that the hand can generate a proper grip and hold on to objects for a long time.
Any normal and healthy individual has some amount of grip strength in his/her body.
But, some athletes and professionals need to have a higher grip strength due to the activities they perform daily.
This needs them to increase or improve their grip strength, and this is possible by using different types of grip training methods.
Grip strength training requires a form of exercise that is different than what is necessary for muscular training.
All parts of the hand must be exercised to have a steady hand with a strong grip.
Working on a thick grip bar that is over 2 inches and performing activities such as deadlifts, pullups, or the farmer’s walk can help train the support grip.
This exercise involves grabbing plates smooth-side out and pinching them.
This activity includes levering a sledgehammer using the wrists to train the fingers and wrists.
This involves grabbing a plate and doing wrist or regular curls with them by placing the fingers on the bottom and the thumb on the top.
This helps train the wrists, fingers, and the thumb for a pinch grip.
This can be used for a full-crimp grip, a half-crimp grip, and an open hand grip, all of which are required for climbing.
To strengthen one’s opening grip, the extensor muscles (that are the opposite of the flexors of the hands) need to be trained to achieve the right balance between opposing muscle groups.
These extensors are significant in grip because they contract to support finger flexion.
To train these muscles, you can shove your hand into substances like rice and try extending it or placing an object like rocks in a coffee can and put your hand in the box and try to reach it to pick up the coffee can.
This is a great way to train the extensor muscles in your hands.
These are now sold by many companies and are a great way to strengthen your extensor grip.
Wrist extension exercises(also called as reverse wrist curls) are useful to stimulate the finger extensor fibers.
Another exercise that is good to improve the opening grip is fist pushups, done on the backside of the first finger bone that would increase the pressure put on the extensor muscles.
Handstands wherein the gripping strength is used to stabilize the hand to prevent the body from falling towards the front, and the extensor muscles prevent the body from falling backward.
Exercise using metal rods help to strengthen and stabilize one’s hand grip indirectly.
Fingertip pushups are useful to improve stabilization as they would use the opening as well as closing grip muscles to keep the fingers from sliding and help focus bone density in hand.
Hand-grip strength tends to reduce as individual ages.
Men’s grip strength starts to deteriorate post 55 years of age.
However, some exercises can be done to improve hand-grip strength, such as:
To improve grip strength, one must go through all these types of exercises and training and spread them out throughout the week.
Handgrip strength has genetic links and is used as a market for the degree of one’s frailty and helps predict a wide range of morbidities.
Some genes and SNPs increase one’s susceptibility to good or poor handgrip strength.
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The A allele of SNP rs72762373 is associated with better hand-grip strength as compared to the G allele.
This SNP is present in association with the DEC1 gene, the exact function of which is still unknown.
The A allele of SNP rs2273555 belonging to the GBF1 gene is beneficial for a better hand-grip strength because this allele is associated with higher levels of strength, muscle mass, and muscle fiber size.
The C allele of SNP rs4926611 belonging to the GLIS1 gene is associated with a better hand-grip strength compared to the T allele of the same gene.
SNP rs78325334 is located on chromosome 6 in association with the HLA gene.
This SNP has been linked to handgrip strength, and the presence of the C allele is a risk whereas, the T allele is beneficial to the same.
SNP rs2288278, located on chromosome 17 in association with the HOXB3 gene, is associated with handgrip strength.
The presence of the A allele is beneficial to people for better handgrip strength as compared to those who have the G allele.
rs80103986 is an SNP that is associated with the KANSL1 gene.
The presence of the A allele is beneficial and gives a better hand-grip strength as compared to the T allele.
The presence of the T allele of SNP rs374532236 belonging to the MGMT gene is beneficial for hand-grip strength.
A allele of the SNP rs10861798 belonging to the SYT1 gene is beneficial for hand-grip strength whereas, the G allele is a risk for the same.
The SYT1 gene is responsible for the release of neurotransmitter release at the synapse, which means that it is essential for the muscle movements and nerve signals.
In SNP rs958685, the A allele is beneficial for a better handgrip compared to the C allele.
Handgrip strength can be used to measure the risk of an individual with the onset of cardiovascular disease in adults.
Research studies have shown that a better handgrip is associated with healthier heart function.
An 11-pound decrease in grip strength is linked to:
The association between gip strength and heart disease was a strong irrespective of age, exercise, smoking, and other factors.
Grip strength could be an easy and inexpensive test to assess an individual’s risk of cardiovascular disease, said Dr. Darryl Leong.
You might also be interested in: The Secret To A Healthy Heart Lies In Your Genes: Analyze Your DNA Raw Data
Apart from the training methods and exercises mentioned to improve grip strength.
Diet plays a significant role in increasing the hand-grip strength.
Dietary protein intakes are proven to increase muscle strength in older adults, as the muscle strength increases the hand-grip strength, which is a part of it also tends to increase.
Protein, in combination with a healthy diet, can be useful in maintaining muscle strength.
Hand-grip strength is one of the characteristics used to identify adult malnutrition.
Clinically hand-grip strength is used to measure the risk of functional impairment of hands in older adults.
Upload your DNA raw data to Xcode Life. Our Gene Fitness Report analyses endurance, power, heart capacity, weight loss or weight gain with exercise, and more than 15+ such traits.
Fitness refers to the state of being physically fit and healthy.
It is also a broader term which encompasses the state of optimal health and well-being, not only w.r.t physical health but emotional and mental health as well.
It is the act of healthy living and the ability to perform daily chores, occupations, sports, etc.
The fundamentals of fitness are smart eating and active living.
It increases the ability of your lungs and heart to provide the required amount of oxygen and fuel your body throughout sustained workloads. E.g., jogging, swimming, cycling
It is the ability to move all your joints to the maximum range of motion. E.g., stretching individual muscles and performing lunges.
It increases the ability of your muscles to perform continuously without fatigue. E.g.: Cycling, Step machines, and elliptical machines.
It builds more strength by improving the contractibility of muscles through the usage of resistance. E.g., bench press, leg press, and bicep curls.
It is the proportion of fat and fat-free mass in your body. This is measured by underwater weighing, skinfold readings, and bioelectrical impedance. This kind of fitness includes exercises that help you reduce the fat masses including burpees, push-ups, interval training, weighted squat jump, etc.
Little steps like doing some sit-ups during a commercial break, walking to nearby stores instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. can help your body be on the move
A personal trainer can suggest an optimal workout for you and ensure that you stick to your regimen. Your trainer can also help you come up with an optimal diet that can aid weight loss
Recommended article for you: Genetic Facts About Sports, Fitness and Athletic Performance
Being fit can do you all sorts of wonders, from giving you a mental boost to improving your sex life.
The US Department of Health & Human Services recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes weekly of vigorous activity.
Taking part in physical activities regularly can help you fall asleep faster and also can improve the quality of your sleep.
Regular exercising lowers the incidence of cancers. (Colon, Prostate, Uterus & breast)
Workouts have been proven to reduce your stress levels and thereby subside your blood pressure and prevent heart disease risks.
Exercising regularly boosts your energy levels and keeps you energetic throughout the day.
While most people set a single or a narrow spectrum of fitness goal(s) like building more muscles or improving physical appearances, general fitness heads toward broad goals of overall health and well-being.
Appearance markers of good health such as muscle tone, healthy skin, hair, nails, heart, and other organs are improved by general fitness. It also prevents/delays age-related health deteriorations.
You need sheer dedication, will power and hard work to stay fit.
Once you get rid of those extra few pounds via good diet and physical activities, the fear of regaining them will help you stay on track,
Flexibility is a concept that people tend to overlook when it comes to exercises. Flexibility training improves quality of life and also aids your balance training
Doing physical activities for extended periods of time can build up your endurance. E.g., Walking as far as you can for several times daily and slowly increasing the distance over time.
Different kinds of exercises target different areas in the body, but for the most part, compound exercises serve you the best.
Compound exercises combine different workouts, making sure that predominant of your body muscles are being toned.
Some compound exercises include squats, clean & press, and deadlift activities.
Strenuous activities like running, biking and other cardio workouts fall under aerobic exercises. Such workouts get your heart rate up and make you breathe harder
They help combat health conditions like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
Strength exercises aid weight loss by burning calories from lean muscles by using your body's resistance
Focusing on your body's center of gravity, balance exercises help stabilize your body's position and enables to improve your posture
Flexibility exercises help increase the range of motion of your muscles, thereby decreasing the risk of muscle strain and injury during strenuous physical activities
All these four types of exercises in combination, complement each other and are enormously beneficiary to your health.
About three to five workouts per week can produce good results.
It is important to take a few rest days between workout sessions.
An equal number of days should be assigned to cardio workouts and strength exercises.
Genetic tests help identify the type of diet you can follow to lose weight.
Based on your genetic variations, they can tell you whether a low-carbohydrate diet or a low-fat diet can help you shed those pounds.
Genetic testing may be particularly useful for people with undiagnosed rare genetic conditions that hinder the absorption on particular nutrients.
Carb-sensitive individuals can benefit from a low-carb diet and fat-sensitive ones from a low-fat diet.
Studying how one’s nutrition and genetics interact is an exciting field which is still under exploration.
Although understanding the genes that are responsible for obesity can be useful, an aggressive public health approach is essential for weight loss.
There are a variety of DNA tests that can predict your perfect diet and workout regimen based on your genes.
Such Lifestyle DNA tests can not only predict your risk of developing diseases but also provide you clues pertaining to your nutrition, fitness, sleep or even the wine you might prefer!
These tests can reveal how your genetics respond to exercises and also provide a genetically-guided training regimen and a weight-loss plan designed exclusively for you.
These tests cost between $25 to around $200 depending on the type of tests, and they identify genetic markers linked to specific traits.
Based on your genetics, there might be a slightly better chance of shedding weight if you follow a particular type of diet and perform a specific kind of exercises.
However, it is necessary to understand that a person’s weight loss plans and fitness regimens to work efficiently also depends on other non-genetic factors and environmental factors.
The DNA diet plan investigates your results from tests (from either 23andMe or AncestryDNA) that provide in-depth genetic profiles and then advise you about how to lose weight.
The program takes into account more than 100 aspects of your DNA and then shortlists about 20 dieting tips suitable for you.
You get customized meal plans, grocery lists, recipes, and workout regimens as well.
There are also smartphone apps that feature tools that help you to scan the barcode of a food product in a grocery store and find out if your diet plan approves it or not.
The results also identify the risk of obesity based on your genetics.
The plan considers genes related to safe alcohol consumption.
It is based on previously published studies that have associated generics to nutrition.
Although these plans make it easier to find out what to eat or buy, it is recommended that you consult an expert nutritionist before making any radical nutrition changes.
Yoga can work your entire body, help burn fat as well as tone your muscles.
Including yoga poses in your fitness regimen can aid in overall improvements in both fitness and strength.
Yoga is known for both its mental and physical health benefits and does more than just burning calories.
Yoga is an overall body-mind workout which combines strengthening and stretching poses along with deep breathing and meditation/relaxation.
There are more than a hundred different forms of yoga; some are fast-paced & intense while others are gentle and relaxing.
The intensity levels of yoga asanas vary with its type.
Xcode Life’s Fitness Report provides information on endurance, aerobic capacity, heart capacity, ligament strength, and more than 15 such traits.
Dietary fats are important for energy and for cellular growth, however, the type of fat consumed is key.
One of the popular ‘dietary advice’ is that saturated oils are bad for health and that they should be substituted instead by polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).
However, this may not be true for everyone.
Every once in a while, there comes a new study that purports to debunk long-held beliefs, such as the one above.
How we respond to sunflower oil in our diet may depend on the genetic variants we carry.
Does that mean sunflower oil may be bad oil for some?
More about sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds and has has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and constipation.
Its benefits have, however, been more as a massage oil for helping the skin heal wounds, for psoriasis and for arthritis.
The current scientific study by The University of Finland focuses on the effect of using sunflower oil as cooking oil, stratifying the effects based on FADS1 gene variants.
FADS1 gene is associated with fatty acid metabolism and also in glucose metabolism.
The diet of an individual plays an important role in the concentration of the various fatty acids in the body.
Linoleic acid is the most common polyunsaturated fatty acid is found in plant-based oils, nuts, and seeds.
You may have come across studies that have shown how a high intake of linoleic acid helped in lowering risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes while another study may have pointed out its association with risk of low-grade inflammation.
This study helps shed new light by stating that these contradictions may be due to genetic differences.
This study opted for a unique yet preferable research setting, where the study participants were stratified based on their genotypes i.e based on their FADS1 gene variant.
This was done to find out if there was an association between FADS1 gene variant and the effect of linoleic acid on fasting glucose, on serum fatty acid composition, on C- reactive protein (CRP- a biomarker for inflammation) and insulin levels.
1,300 middle-aged men were included in the study that studied the metabolic effects, while 60 participants were included in the study on the effect of a diet based on genotype.
The participants consumed 30-50 ml of sunflower oil (linoleic acid) every day for four weeks.
The study found that the effects of linoleic acid were significantly associated with FADS1 gene variant.
This would mean that your genetic variant could determine if the linoleic acid supplement could effectively lower your fasting glucose levels and if increased intake of linoleic acid would increase or decrease your CRP levels.
Hand-Picked article for you: Have Your 23andMe Raw Data? Use It To Get 500+ Health-Realted Genetic Traits!
Knockdown mice study
One of the ways scientists determine the effect of a gene on health is to reduce the expression of the gene from mice and then study the effect that it causes.
Mice which had the FADS1 gene expression reduced were given a diet rich in linoleic acid and they showed better glucose metabolism but they also exhibited hepatic inflammation.
This confirms the results of the sunflower oil study.
What does all this mean to you?
If you have the CC genotype, a high intake of sunflower oil may lower fasting glucose levels.
However, there is an association with higher CRP (biomarker or inflammation) on high sunflower oil intake, which could mean that you run the risk of low-grade inflammation.
Low-grade inflammation is an important factor in progression to chronic diseases. Therefore, limiting sunflower oil may be better, based on this study.
If you have the TT genotype, a high intake of sunflower oil is not associated with a risk of inflammation.
Therefore, based on this study, you could switch to sunflower oil or continue to include it in your diet, if you are already doing so!
However, please note that Omega 6 which is predominantly found in vegetable and seed oils needs to be balanced with Omega 3 intake, with an optimal ratio between omega 3: omega 6 being around 1:2.
If you have the CT genotype, a high intake of sunflower oil is not associated with a risk of inflammation.
Therefore, based on this study, you could switch to sunflower oil or continue to include it in your diet, if you are already doing so!
However, please note that Omega 6 which is predominantly found in vegetable and seed oils needs to be balanced with Omega 3 intake, with an optimal ratio between omega 3: omega 6 being around 1:2.
Wondering if sunflower oil (PUFA) could increase your risk of weight gain?
Find out from Xcode Life nutrition genetics report, which analyses your genetic variants for response to macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, saturated fats, MUFA and PUFA in the perspective of weight gain.
There are more than 30 traits covered in the report including gluten sensitivity, a risk for alcohol flush, food preference and more.
If you find yourself lying awake in bed at night unable to sleep and the usual fixes like counting sheep or downing a warm glass of milk don’t seem to help, don’t take it lightly—it could be insomnia.
A 23andMe sleep study analyzed the genetics associated with sleeplessness and found that insomnia shares more genetic similarities with mental illness than with other sleep disorders.
This is not the first time that these scientists have shared such insights on sleep.
Another important determinant of a good night’s sleep- deep sleep, 23andme scientists revealed, also shares a strong genetic basis.
However, this is the first time a sleep trait has been linked to mental illness, making it imperative to find out more about your insomnia genetics.
Do you feel tired all day and alert all night? Is your sleeplessness less to do with monsters in the dark and more to do with underlying health conditions?
Not getting a good night’s sleep may sound trivial, but it has more serious and further reaching consequences than just a lethargic morning and a cranky, coffee-fuelled workday.
Insomnia has been linked to metabolic syndrome and can make sufferers more vulnerable to becoming overweight and developing diabetes and heart disease.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and is considered the second-most common mental disorder.
About 30 percent of adults report short term insomnia at some point in their lives, while about 10 percent report suffers from chronic insomnia.
In a study involving over 1.3 million test subjects who volunteered their DNA samples, researchers found that no single gene contributed to this disorder, but that it was complex combination of effects from multiple genes that predisposed a person to develop insomnia.
Researchers from the Netherlands and Amsterdam collaborated with scientists from genetic testing company 23andMe to narrow down 202 gene markers involved in insomnia.
They were also able to identify the specific type of brain cells and tissues involved in striatal medium spiny neurons, hypothalamic neurons, and claustrum pyramidal neurons.
Some of which have been linked to reward processing, sleep, and arousal in animals, but have never before been genetically linked to insomnia in humans.
Hand-Picked article for you: Have Your 23andMe Raw Data? Use It To Get 500+ Health-Realted Genetic Traits!
The most interesting finding in this study, however, was the large genetic similarity between insomnia and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, major depressive disorder, and neuroticism.
Despite being inherently a sleep disorder, insomnia had very little genetic material in common with other sleep traits like daytime dozing, snoring, excessive napping and ‘morningness’, the trait that makes some lucky individuals perky and chirpy early in the morning.
This discovery may help researchers understand the mechanism of insomnia better and help sleep specialists devise new methods and medications to treat the disorder, possibly helping patients stave off the more serious health issues that develop due to insomnia.
Moreover, understanding your risk of insomnia will help in being self- aware and to find solutions, thereby, lowering the risk of associated conditions.
The 23andme deep sleep report discusses the variant of the deep sleep gene you have, helping you understand your sleep better.
Xcode life sleep report has over 10 traits associated with sleep including insomnia, sleep quality, sleep duration and more.