How Alex Uses His Results To Optimise His Training
April 5, 2023
As a performance athlete with a particular interest in endurance events, an understanding of my DNA through FitnessGenes has helped me ensure that I’m getting the most out of my training, nutrition and recovery.
Here are a selection of the reports and recommendations that I’ve found most informative when structuring my training.
1. Improving my blood flow
All endurance-based events require an ability to generate energy aerobically through a trained cardiovascular system. The more efficient we are at delivering oxygen and nutrients to working muscles and using them to generate ATP, the faster or further we can go.
The former of these reports analyses genes linked to the production of Nitric Oxide (NO), a molecule that aids in the dilation of blood vessels. My personal result suggests that, with 22% of our members, I carry genes linked to reduced production of NO, which can limit blood flow. As well as impacting performance during training and events, reduced blood flow can also slow recovery. To help address this limitation, I’ve adopted two simple actions:
- Increased consumption of nitrate-containing foods, such as beetroot and spinach
- Daily supplementation of CoQ10
Both of these strategies have been shown to increase the bioavailability of NO, helping to increase my blood vessel dilation, blood flow, and endurance performance.
2. Increasing my energy production
Coupled with my reduced NO production is another disadvantageous trait relating to my ability to generate new mitochondria in response to training.
Alongside 10% of our members I carry gene variants that are linked to reduced growth of new mitochondria, which is suboptimal for energy production. This result is related to reduced activity of PGC-1α, a regulator of mitochondria production.
Fortunately, increases in NO also activates PGC-1α, meaning that the above blood flow actions have a compounding effect on my endurance performance. An additional action I’ve adopted to help promote greater mitochondrial production is heat exposure, and I now end all of my pool sessions with 10-15 minutes in a sauna, which also helps to prepare my body for the heat of summer events.
3. Navigating my low VO2 max trainability
For anyone training for events such as a triathlon, high-intensity interval sessions around the track or in the pool to increase VO2 max are a staple of any structured plan. Until recently, it was no different for me.
However, through my results, I learnt that I am part of the 22% of FitnessGenes members that are classified as ‘low responders’ to this style of training.
While this report did have me questioning all of the early morning and late evening sessions where high intensity was the focus, it then allowed me to make adjustments to my training to focus on my strengths.
By reducing the number of sessions that focused exclusively on VO2 max, it allowed me to include more that address other aspects of endurance performance, such as running economy and lactate threshold. For me, this report was a great reminder that there is no such thing as a negative result as long as you know how to use the information to your benefit.
4. Explaining my muscle building limitations
Before turning my attention to endurance performance, like many other 20-something-year-olds my training was focused on maximising muscle growth. However, following workouts that I found on social media or copying friends often lead to underwhelming results.
The fact that I never made it onto the front cover of Men’s Health has been, in part, explained by a series of DNA reports that relate to muscle building potential. For example, I carry gene variants associated with reduced IGF-1 activity, a hormone that promotes the growth of muscle, bone, and other tissue. Similarly, my intermediate levels of mTOR, a molecule that regulates protein synthesis, further caps my muscle growth.
In combination with these reports, those relating to optimal workout parameters including training frequency, volume, and rest periods made me realise that my previous approach of targeting major muscle groups once per week with a focus on low-volume was working completely contrary to my genetic profile.
As well as helping inform my current strength and conditioning workouts, with the muscle building insights that these reports provide I now feel that I have the blueprint and tools to help maximise my muscle growth when the time comes to step back from event-focused training.
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