Is Athletic Talent Born or Bred? Discover How DNA Impacts Health, Fitness and Diet

It's pretty clear that I'm not a genetic anomaly. I don't run as fast as a cougar or build muscle like Popeye with a can of spinach (thanks mom and dad for that), but I'm healthy, capable, and with a little hard work I have the potential to crush personal goals. This time with no sarcasm, thanks mom and dad for that.

Without any hard DNA evidence, I've always assumed I had reasonably good genes. My grandmother lived to 101 years-old with nary an ache or pain, let alone sickness or disease. When she told her doctor at age 100 that her pinky finger was bothering her, her doctor replied, "Well, Mary, that might be your first sign of old age." There are not a lot of cases of a disease in my extended family. When my doctor asks about family history, I don't have a lot to report. I'm happy to claim a piece of those genes. 

At the IDEA World fitness convention, I met with a company called FitnessGenes that administers testing and provides the DNA results that consist of the most important genes that impact your health, fitness, and diet. They give you the science, then break it all down in plain English, then provide recommendations on how you play up your strengths and fill in the gaps of your weaknesses. Cool, right?

This blog is a sponsored post. I was offered the FitnessGenes DNA test for free in exchange for a blog post and social media posts about my experience. This blog contains affiliate links, that means if you make a purchase I make a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. It helps with running (pun intended) this blog. Thanks, as always, for your support. All opinions are my own. If I hated it, I would tell you. 

me and my spit.

me and my spit.

In the middle of the San Diego IDEA World fitness expo, I spit in a tube to provide FitnessGenes with my DNA for testing. They checked that I hadn't had any food or drinks within the last 30 minutes, and it was a small miracle that I hadn't since I was stuffing my face with samples for most of the expo. I over-spit the fill line in an attempt to skew my results as a natural overachiever. I don't think it worked. They shipped it off right from there, and I waited for my results. 

I received an email  a week later that they had received my spit and that testing was in process. The excitement was building. Maybe I did have the genes of an Olympian, and my potential has been drastically undertrained. Hey, you never know!

About two weeks later my results arrived in my email box, I was excited to go through the results. I wasn't at home at the time and was happy that their site was mobile friendly and easy to flip through the initial results on my phone. The report is so comprehensive that it took several visits on my computer to consume all of the information, and I will surely be back again to reference.

There was a lot to uncover, and I'll be honest, even spelled out in plain English, a lot of this is over my head, but it's fascinating. 

Is athletic talent born or bred. Discover how DNA impacts your health, fitness, and diet.

Is athletic talent born or bred. Discover how DNA impacts your health, fitness, and diet.


The report came back with 44 different genes and my results. Let's dig in to see if I have the genetic predisposition to be a world-class powerlifter or the most winningest marathoner. It has to be one of those two, right? 

Since 44 results would make an incredibly long blog post, I'll share the ones that were most meaningful or most surprising to me. 


Since I consider myself first and foremost an endurance athlete (long and slow runs are my jam), It peaked my interest to learn more about the "endurance gene" ACE. 

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A gene for endurance
The ACE gene encodes an enzyme called Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE). This enzyme produces angiotensin II, a hormone that can constrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure. This, in turn, influences blood flow and metabolism in muscles. The short version of the ACE gene, the I allele, is associated with producing lower amounts of the ACE protein.

Huh? And here is the best part of these reports. They give you the scientific explanation (above) and then explains what the heck it means. 

Slow versus fast-twitch muscles. You are likely to have more fast-twitch muscle fibers compared to other genotypes. If you have not previously done any strength training, you may be initially stronger than a similarly untrained II individual.

Strength endurance
Studies have suggested that the DD genotype is associated with better ‘strength endurance’, where sustained anaerobic activity is required. Therefore, this could be the optimal genotype for elite sprinters, power athletes and middle-distance runners.

Interesting. I'd always assumed that I had more slow-twitch muscle fibers, which benefit long, slow marathon type training since sprinting and power performance has never been my priority. It gives me something to think about in my training. Is there untapped potential? Do I train long and slow because that is what I've always done? It's worth exploring if my genes indicate I may have a predisposition for success in these areas. 


This result was interesting, because it doesn't seem accurate to me, but it's essential to remember that your genes don't dictate hard facts, they only show that you may have a genetic predisposition. Every gene present isn't necessarily expressed. 

I don't drink much caffeine after my morning coffee, but in my past experiences, I could drink Diet Coke with dinner and sleep like a baby through the night. Maybe my fantastic sleep genes overpower my poor caffeine metabolizing genes. 

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Caffeine metabolism
You are a slow caffeine metabolizer

In addition to your CYP1A2 gene, lifestyle factors can also alter your caffeine metabolism. If you consume lots of caffeine (more than 3 cups of coffee a day), smoke, live in a polluted area, or eat lots of leafy green veg, then the rate at which caffeine is cleared from your system increases.

Rate of clearing for 100mg dose
Expect caffeine to stay in your system for around 11 hours.
Cruciferous veg, 7g per kg of body weight: Expect caffeine to stay in your system for around 10 hours.


I knew it! My husband wonders why he ever asks me if I am hungry because the answer is always yes. Always. Hungry. My #1 motivation for getting out of bed in the morning is that the sooner I get up, the sooner I can eat breakfast. 

An outstanding example of how you may have pre-determined genetic traits, but it doesn't necessarily dictate your outcome. I am not obese or overweight, but I have struggled with my weight throughout my life. I do feel hungry a lot of time, and that is probably also due to increased training.

Healthy nutrition habits and physical activity have a significant effect on outcome despite genetic predisposition. I had one copy of this gene, and the report stated that people with two copies have an even higher risk. Your genes are not an excuse, but maybe an explanation as to why you may struggle more than some at managing or mainaining your weight. I know I do. 

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People with one copy of the A allele have been shown to weigh, on average, about 1.5kg (3.3lb) more than those with no copies. This is likely due to changes in appetite, hunger and feelings of fullness (satiety) after meals. Carriers of the A allele have an increased appetite and are more likely to eat excessively (disinhibited eating).

Food preferences
Those with the A allele may have a stronger preference for fattier foods and consume a higher proportion of calories from fat. A large study found that the A allele was strongly associated with increased fried food consumption.

Eating behavior
Individuals carrying the A allele have a natural tendency to want to eat more. They have higher levels of the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin in their system, meaning they are likely to feel more hungry, especially after a meal. Studies also show that their brains respond differently to ghrelin and to the sight of food, leading to an increased appetite.

A study of 40 normal-weight men reported that A allele carriers felt hungrier than non-carriers after a 12-hour overnight fast. They had a greater desire to eat and believed that they could eat significantly more than the non-carriers. Even after eating, there is evidence that A allele carriers are less likely to feel full.


I'll share one more because I thought their response was funny. Hypertrophy means muscle growth. If you train for hypertrophy, you are trying to build large muscles. My result? Dammit. I have the same genotype as 87% of the population. 

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Do I have the myostatin mutation?
You don’t have the genotype for the myostatin knockout gene that gives you huge muscles with minimal effort. We guess you already knew this! You have two copies of the A (K) allele, the most prevalent genotype for the gene SNP we test for. Over 87% of the population carries this combination of alleles.

In some other highlights, the test results reported that based on my genes that I am likely lactose intolerant, which I am not, but my mother is, so it makes sense that is in my DNA. Thank goodness, because I love my ice-cream...I mean, my Greek yogurt and whey protein.

The test reported that based on my genes I had a 54% chance of green eyes, a 40% chance of brown eyes and 6% chance of blue eyes. I have brown eyes, but my sister has green. 


The best part of the testing is it not only give you the results but provides recommendations on how to apply in regards to your lifestyle, nutrition, and training. The reports are dense with information, and I am still going through it all. Here are some of my personal insights on training. They have similar reports for nutrition and lifestyle. 

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Some of the recommendations seem like they would apply to most people, for example, as a trainer, I would recommend the below to the majority of my clients. 

Your optimal types of exercise are resistance and low-intensity cardiovascular training, including some high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Incorporating these into your workouts will help you stay in shape.

Overall, it has been a fascinating and eye-opening deep dive into my gene pool. While this information is interesting and incredibly helpful, I'll stand by that training, lifestyle, and nutrition habits are the primary factors in health, wellness, and athletic performance. We can work with what we have to maximize our genetic potential and fill in the gaps of our weaknesses. This test can help you learn where to start. 

While I will never win a marathon or a powerlifting competition, my drive and determination for self-improvement will always put me ahead of those who choose to sit on the couch. I may not have the genetic potential to be the world's best, but I try to be better than I was yesterday. 


Interested in learning more about your DNA? Click on the blue box below to learn more. FitnessGenes offered a discount for my readers if you want to try it yourself. Use code GENDERS10 at check out!


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