Review of FitnessGenes
Well this is interesting. FitnessGenes promised to analyse my DNA to understand my body make up and provide workout plans and nutrition advice totally personalised to my body. Well, that’s the description, but what’s it like in reality?
First problem is of course, time. How difficult would the process be? We’re all time poor, so when companies make it easy for us, we’re interested. Thankfully, FitnessGenes has realised this and answers the challenge of getting sign-ups by telling us what to do in very easy steps. With pictures.
Once you’ve signed up, you receive a small box through the post with simple instructions of how to proceed. Which is basically spitting into a tube and sending it back.
The biggest challenge for me, which is kind of worrying, was being able to comply with the request of not eating or drinking for thirty minutes before providing the sample. I hadn’t realised just how much I either sipped water or snacked on something or other throughout the day. So rather pathetically, it took a while to get that part done.
Reading about just what the results will analyse and provide did actually get me excited – and I don’t get excited easily these days. I was intrigued to know what attributes (or otherwise) would be found in my DNA. Would I have the gene for speed? Bloody doubt it! Endurance? Maybe. Muscle strength? Er, probably not. But that’s far from all, as there’s a long list of what other genes are detected.
Our DNA makes up our 20,000+ genes, which each carry instructions for a single protein. Together, this determines how our bodies function (and how we appear). FitnessGenes maps 42 genes and their variants, or alleles, and the results analyse which genes or alleles are present in our bodies, and how they may affect us in the realms of using our bodies for exercise.
The point is that if we know how our bodies are likely to react to different types of exercise, we can tailor our workouts to achieve our objectives. Still sounds good to me.
So, what did I find out? Well, the genetic results were indeed fascinating to read. A long list of details won’t make for great reading here, so I’ll omit those, but whilst it confirmed some of what I knew, i.e. my genes suggest I am capable of good endurance, it did produce results such as “your genotype is more commonly seen within power / sprint athletes” – er, nice to hear, but someone forgot to tell my body this. So, I was slightly baffled by some results.
My initial concern was that a list of results is not much use unless you happen to have the back up of Team Sky or a knowledgeable scientific coach behind you; so thankfully, the next stage of the result plan is an Action Blueprint. This told me what to do to maximise results for my body type.
There is a training strategy for beginners, intermediate and advanced, so I now know which muscle groups to hit and how long a recovery period to leave. Which sounds great, but to be fair, it’s pretty-standard advice and not much different to the general Mens Health magazine stuff I read.
Volume-wise for strength training, my gene variants indicate that to build strength and increase lean muscle mass, I should respond well to a low-volume form of resistance/strength training. It then lists a brief typical workout to stick to comprising the optimum amount of; sets, reps, tempo and rest. It also recommends that I incorporate HIIT training to keep my fat levels in check, which, as we all know, is easier read than done.
Next you enter your height, weight, body type, sex and age and it works out a nutritional plan. Which is nice. As well as informing me of my optimum calorie intake, along with how that should be broken down to carbs, protein and fats, it tells me what to eat and what to watch out for in meals; snacks, proteins, carbs, fats (general, saturated and polyunsaturated), lactose and caffeine.
I’m also told that “given you are a slow metabolizer of caffeine, you might benefit from caffeine pre-workout”. Oh yes, I know that one, thanks.
What was useful was the Supplements section. When reading about health and fitness these days, there are so many sources telling us we need a whole range of supplements – often with a vested interest in doing so. It was therefore handy to hear what FitnessGenes had to say on the matter. Especially when it included a verdict on whether it would be useful to my personal genetic make-up.
For example, it states that as long as I eat oily fish a couple of times per week (which I do), my body shouldn’t need extra Omega 3 supplementation. Damn, and I had literally just ordered a batch of £25 Omega 3 tablets too!
Here we can learn about optimising recovery, blood flow and vasodilation, susceptibility to oxidative damage and testosterone. Again, a tailored verdict is provided here, and it’s reassuring to hear I’m relatively normal in most regards.
Training and Nutrition Plans
This is basically the main take-away. Plans for working out and staying fit based on our personal genetic make-up.
The FitnessGenes Genetic Starter Plan is based on your own DNA and is a training system to rapidly progress you through what they describe in the personalised Action Blueprint. There are personalised plans for Fat Loss and plans for Muscle Building, which are well detailed and thoughtfully come with a print-friendly format.
There are also free workout libraries for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, so there’s plenty of bang for your buck, all in all.
My main concern for the FitnessGenes programme was that it was going to be a complex list of scientific terminology that, whilst factually correct, would be of little practical use. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how in-depth the whole process is, and the level of actual plans it provided. I do wonder how similar the plans are between all users, as a lot of the advice seems rather generic; but in fairness, I suppose that most fitness and nutrition basics will indeed need to be similar.
The website is well laid out, intuitive, and easily guides you through what you need to know. There are different plans to sign up to depending on your goals, so have a good look at the options.
The founder of the system says that “developing personalized diet and exercise plans could well be one of the most important fitness revolutions of the 21st century” and he’s probably right. Although that certainly doesn’t help you get out of bed for that pre-work run any earlier, nor does it push you to the gym for the optimum amount of reps and sets. However, all in all, it’s certainly a motivating way to kick-start a new regime. FitnessGenes is definitely recommended and I’m looking forward to sticking to my plans.
For a while anyway.