(ad gifted) I’m fascinated by how our genes might influence our health, weight, longevity and fitness – and so when I was given the chance to try the new DNAFit test I jumped at the chance – but, what would it reveal…
Seriously, I am never going to be able to commit a crime – there are samples of my DNA in labs all over the place.
So far I’ve had my genes checked to determine what diet I should follow (twice) and how wrinkly I’m likely to be (twice) – and now I’ve had my exercise genes checked as well courtesy of a service called DNAFit.
Specifically, I tried their test called DNARun which tells me about my suitability for putting one foot in front of the other either at speed or for a long way – they also do tests called DNACycle and DNAGym (I’ll let you work those out for yourself).
2020 Update: It looks to me like DNAFit have altered the tests slightly – that they now only offer one fitness test which is included in their HealthFit test. This covers diet, nutrition, fitness, stress and sleep – but, from what I can see online, the report does cover the same detail as discussed below, it’s just not sports-specific. The information can easily be tailored to your sport though.
How Is DNAFit carried out?
You can sample DNA from a few different sites in the body – hence all those soap opera stories where they’re collecting hair and toothbrushes to find out if some member of the family is really the milkmans – however, DNAFit uses a cheek swab sample.
This is super easy to do and just involves rubbing a swab against your cheek for a little while.
You then post the sample off to a lab where it’s analysed.
What Does DNAFit Tell You
The test analyses the genes involved in two main areas of run-related fitness.
The first examines which variations you have of 13 different genes that control things like how well your blood vessels dilate during exercise and whether you can mobilise fat as fuel once you’ve run out sugar in your muscles – the results of these things determine whether you are better at endurance-type-exercise like marathon running, or power work like sprinting.
Turns out I have 61% endurance genes and 39% power ones – which means I’m a mid-distance endurance runner with 10km and half marathon my ideal events.
Well isn’t that handy considering I’m off to do both of those this weekend! Nothing like being told you were born to do the distance to give you a little confidence burst!
I was confused though, if I was born to run middle to long-distance – why am I so blooming slow?
Thankfully I had someone to ask as the test includes a consultation with an expert to go over your results. They talk through exactly what your personal make-up of genes should mean and then give some recommendations on how to train to accentuate your strengths and minimise your weakness.
When I asked the doc that question and confessed my 11-12 minute mile pace his answer was interesting. “You shouldn’t be,’ he said. “Genetically, you should run faster than you do – there’s something else stopping you doing so.”
Whether that’s lack of confidence or the fact that I’ve never really worked closely with a running coach to get the best out of me he couldn’t say – but he did suggest that should I want to get faster I start to incorporate more stride work into my long runs to make the most of the fact that I do have power genes I can call on when I need them, and do more speed work and less plodding through the miles.
However, saying that, he did warn me to be careful.
You see, the second half of the test looks at how well you recover from exercise and how at risk of injury you might be.
Here I didn’t score quite so well.
Apparently, I need to be a bit careful as my gene variants mean I’m prone to inflammation and have a risk of soft tissue problems – my Achilles has been niggling ever since it heard that!
I did take on board the warning though, but thankfully I already do most of the solutions which include a diet containing omega-3 fats and lots of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, getting lots of rest and listening to your body and pulling back if it’s not happy – I’m good at all of those.
Two things I did add though were an anti-inflammatory supplement to try and counteract some of the aches and pains further and a sports drink on all my long runs. Apparently, this helps decrease the stress hormones you produce during endurance work which also contribute to inflammation.
My Verdict on DNAFit
So that’s me, but is the test going to be any good for you? Well, my overall verdict is that it’s a brilliant test for people who are serious about their sport, whether that is at a proper athletic level or for whom things like PB’s really matter.
Personally, I have enough stress in life and so I’m not hugely interested in making running another part of my life with pressure, so whereas I learned a lot, found the test fascinating – and a got a lovely confidence boost for my races this weekend – the results and detailed training plan are a little bit wasted on me.
For those who do want to compete though – with others or yourself – it could provide a really valuable insight to help you do that more quickly and efficiently.
Oh, and I’m currently updating all the posts on this blog in 2020 – about five years after my DNA prediction – and that thing about the injury that one most definitely came true.
In fact, after I then also ended up with a hip problem that he couldn’t fix, my physio actually asked whether I’d ever been tested for inflammation issues! Thanks mum and dad!
The DNAFit Diet Plan
I didn’t try the diet element of DNAFit in this test, but I had, kind of tried it before when it was known as the Nordiska Diet.
It seems DNAFit bought out Nordiska a while back and have been slightly refining the test and the diet ever since – and now it’s back. And it’s bigger.
Before they tested for eight genes – DNAFit test for 13 – including some interesting variations like the CLOCK gene which helps determine not only how your energy fluctates throughout the day but also how much of the appetite increasing hormone ghrelin you produce. Plus they look at your risk of inflammation – something increasingly being linked to ability to lose and gain weight. It looks a pretty thorough test – better than the original.
I’m not as keen on the new version of the diet plans though. As before, they offer three suggestions depending on your genetic profile – low-fat, low-carb or Mediterranean and, while the three-day diet plan they give you to choose from is, tasty and easy to follow, it’s not as customisable as the original Nordiska plan.
That basically gave you a set number of protein, carb and fat servings a day – and a list of the right portion sizes for certain foods – so you could really tailor it to your likes and dislikes. Try as I might, I can’t see patterns in this plan that make it easy to swap things in and out and be certain that you’re still getting the right quantities.
They suggest if you do want to swap things around you speak to a dietitian (a 15-minute consultation does come as part of the package) but I still like the fact that the last diet was easy to adapt without any professional help – it made it far easier to follow long-term.
After all, you do want a plan you can follow for life if you’re going to keep the weight off. Adding a simple ‘carb’, ‘protein’ and ‘fat’ swap sheet would make this a really, really good product.
If you do try it, I, therefore, think a good piece of advice if you do try it is not to book the dietitian’s chat as soon as you receive your report. Instead, follow the diet for a few days so you can see what you do and don’t like about it – and make a detailed list of what foods you might want to add in. You can then ask specific questions about your likes and dislikes and really get the most out of those 15 minutes.
Oh, and just to be fair as I criticised the My-Gene-Diet for doing it – this plan also uses cups as a measurement – but don’t explain how big a cup is to us in the UK who haven’t got a clue. I suppose that’s what google is for but still it’s a simple thing to clarify.
If you’re keen to try the test you’ll find more details at www.dnafit.com,
Oh, and if you are interested in this kind of stuff, you might also want to check out the quick home test that can help show you which types of muscle fibres you mostly have – which also plays an important role in your training.
You’ll see this piece starts with the words ad-gifted – what the heck does that mean? It means I was sent the product to try and all blogs must now declare that right up front when it happens.
This doesn’t affect my reviews on anything though. Also, even though the word ad is used, the company didn’t pay for their placement nor do they have any say in what I write – they don’t even see it until it comes out. It’s just the word we’re asked to use.