Genetic testing is a huge and exciting growth area but, as an athlete, what should you consider before you do it and what will it tell you?

Please note I am only referring here to genes that have been well researched and shown to be of specific relevance to athletic performance and where you can exert some influence over them via diet, lifestyle and environment.   It is important to understand that your genes are not your destiny – just because you have a specific genetic variation (single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP) does not mean that it is being expressed.   ALWAYS look at the results in context (ie your symptoms and history) and not in isolation.

Genes code for enzymes and these enzymes are needed for particular pathways to work optimally.  SNP’s are variations in a single position in a DNA sequence (made up of 4 bases or nucleotides A, C, G and T) and these can make the enzyme they code for work slower (downregulate) or faster (upregulate) with a knock on affect on many other pathway/systems in the body.

Some examples of information you may be able to gather are:

  • fuel metabolism – do you need more or less carbs/fat/protein than Jo Average to optimise your performance and recovery?  Are you set up to utilise fats as a fuel well and is a vegan diet a good choice for you as an athlete?
  • detoxification –  what ‘stress’ load can your body cope with?  Do you need more sleep or an extra recovery day, what extra nutrients (co-factors) do you need to support these pathways?
  • tissue restructure – how quickly do you recover and adapt to training?   What can be done to your training programme to optimise this and again, additional nutrients to consider?
  • inflammatory pathways –  are you prone to achilles injuries or has DOMS become more frequent?  Do you need additional antioxidants and to watch your pro-inflammatory food intake more carefully than other people seem to?!
  • neurotransmitter metabolism – how do your SNP’s affect your focus, mood and attitude to your training?  Knowledge of this allows appropriate nutritional support and coaching.  Many of the same SNPs also affect oestrogen metabolism and consequently hormone balance.
  • endurance versus power potential – looking a single SNP in isolation is not recommended but looking at an array of well researched SNP’s can provide insight into how your training should be focused.

Please see the table below for some ideas on specific SNPs in these areas that may be considered:

Genetic Testing for Athletes - is it worth it

Eating green alters genes

If you want to test you can look at companies such as 23andme but you will then need to run the data you receive through a software planner as provided by other companies such as MyDNAHealth or StratGene in order to interpret it.   There are other companies such as LifecodeGX which run specific panels, including one for athletes, and provide you with a detailed report in conjunction with the specific genetic SNP’s tested.   All data from LifecodeGX is kept anonymous, clients names are not submitted to the labs when samples are sent off and only certain genes are tested.   If you use a company such as 23andme where your whole genome is mapped, you should consider any changes in law where insurance companies may be allowed access to your data, currently governed by a voluntary agreement (1).

For more details on how Katherine can help you incorporate these results into a nutritional and lifestyle plan and if it may be useful for you, please read more about our services and remember, eating green alters genes!   Depending on your circumstances and reason for wanting to test, there maybe other tests that are more appropriate for you.

Booking LifecodeGX via a qualified practitioner such as Katherine entitles you to a 25% discount off listed prices when done in conjunction with a full diet and lifestyle assessment.

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