Do your genetics influence your athletic performance?

Your genetic predisposition plays a role in how you exercise and how you recover.  There are genes being studied that are linked to 4 major categories such as mental & physical foundation; fuel utilization, training response; recovery & risk for injury. Some of these categories have a direct correlation to cardiovascular health as well as overall strength and what types of exercise suit your genotype for optimum performance. Some are related to how to optimize your performance in regard to what macronutrients you fuel your body with, how you recover and how you manage your risk for injury. Other traits are also relevant because they can affect your motivation and behaviors that support your exercise habits.


For instance, there are some clinically significant studies out there that show cardiovascular exercise response in individuals can vary. One large study followed participants that performed 50 minutes of cardiovascular training 3-4 days a week for 5-6 months. Individuals differed in their response to this form and amount of exercise based on their genetics. Some experienced better fitness gains, while others experienced smaller ones and also showed a decreased ability to perform at a higher level of effort. This is valuable information but doesn’t necessarily mean that those participants that experienced a lower level of fitness from the same form of exercise are not able to progress. With the right form for their unique DNA, they can obtain a higher level much like the other participants with a “different” form of exercise. It also doesn’t mean that they cannot improve their health by performing cardiovascular exercise. This group of people may do better with doing more strength training than the other group.


Other genetic traits that are studied and that influence athletic performance are VO2 Max (a gold standard measure of physical fitness) in response to cardio workouts, how you burn fat, how you use carbs and protein, your motivation to exercise; your sensitivity to caffeine; your ability to recover and reduce inflammation; your injury risk and the list goes on.


The body of evidence-based research on all of these factors continues to grow.  Recommendations can be helpful in helping fine-tune your strategy and quest for optimum health. Our genes are our genes, but we can make the most of them by changing the way they are expressed in our environment.

Kim Kugler, CPT, Certified Wellness Coach

View posts by Kim Kugler, CPT, Certified Wellness Coach
Certified Wellness Coach
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