Fact or Fiction: DNA Testing in Fitness

Fact or Fiction: DNA Testing in Fitness

Mapping your genome has become as easy as swabbing your mouth and sending your spit in the mail. A few weeks later, you can find your results online, giving you insight into your predisposition toward certain diseases, your ancestry, and your likelihood of being left-handed. There are tons of these DNA testing companies out there, collecting $100 per swab and churning out data that is changing the way we think about ourselves and our lifestyles. 

Now, the fitness community is learning how to digest DNA test results to better support training, weight loss, and performance at the gym. The hope is that insight into one’s DNA can give clues as to how to better tailor your diet and supplement intake to support better fitness habits. After all, if your body is more suited to certain vitamins but doesn’t metabolize others, it’s important to know which vitamins should be taken regularly and which should be used situationally.

What Works?

In most cases, genetic testing is highly accurate if sampled correctly. The popular DNA testing company 23andMe claims 99% accuracy, and it’s fair to say that the mapping of the genomes itself is fairly similar from one company to another. However, Rebecca Robbins, a journalist for STAT, reported that in spite of taking 5 tests with nearly identical mapping, it was the companies’ interpretations of these results that really varied.

What Doesn’t Work?

In Robbins’ exploration of various DNA test kits, she found that the mapping itself was mostly the same. But where one company told her a specific gene was responsible for increased risk of muscle injury, another told her that she was actually less likely to encounter muscle injury because of the gene. This kind of confusion can be dangerous for athletes leaning too heavily on the data received from these tests, and it begs the question: why not just establish a healthy balance of foods and supplements?

The Verdict

Genome mapping may be a near-perfect science, but interpreting the result isn’t. It can certainly be fun to get some perspective on your own body, as long as you take the results with a grain of salt. But when it comes to peak performance in the gym, nothing beats good old fashioned health foods supported by proper sports nutrition, vitamins, and probiotics.

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