Fit in my 40s: ‘My DNA test results are in. How did I do?

Photograph o models of strong men in a bin, by Kellie French

Remember my DNA test a few weeks ago? I got my results back from FitnessGenes, and spent a couple of hours awed by my own capacities, before I realised how to interpret the information. Starting from the top: ACE is the endurance gene. You either have two copies of the long version, II; two copies of the short, DD; or one of each, ID. The long version is associated with endurance athletes, the short with being a power/strength athlete. I’m an II, so my endurance is epic.

I have these endurance genes in spades – in ACTN3, the gene for speed, I’m an RR, which is associated, in women, with higher-than-average baseline strength, and in older women, with better response to resistance training. (The letters are just the names of alleles – genetic-sequencing variations.) With the fat-burning gene, PPARA, I’m a GG, which is another endurance athlete’s trait.

I slid from self-congratulation to self-hate, believing I was so genetically superior that the past 43 years have been a giant waste of my Herculean bequest. All this time, sitting around with my thumb up my arse, when I could have been Ellen MacArthur or Nicola Adams. I could have been a contender.

Then I spotted the mistake in my analysis: these traits are pretty common: 61% of people are GG, and we’re not all endurance athletes. We’re just a bit better at fat-burning. Following this realisation, triumph and disaster both receded: as a CT in the vitamin D-processing gene, I am less good than I could be, but so are 40% of us.

After that, I concentrated on my rarer genes. Let’s be honest: none of us is all that interested in our genetic make-up. We’re only really interested in being better than other people or, if we’re worse, in knowing about it.

In the metabolism gene, UCP2, I am a VV, a slow metabolism, which I share with only 17%. It is again associated with endurance athletes and, like a number of genetic patterns – such as the fat and carbohydrate processing gene – is useful if you’re lean but makes you worse off if you’re already fat. VVs’ levels of spontaneous physical activity are 20% higher than the other types, which just means fidgeting and being annoying to spend Saturday mornings with.

My only stand-out result was the slowness of my caffeine metabolism, which I share with only 7%. I love caffeine, I have no desire to process it any faster. Once, in Starbucks, they mistook my name on the cup for my order, and gave me a 20-shot espresso. That was the best day of my life.

Advice, based on my results: resistance training, and lots of it; recovery, and lots of it (three days a week – I have a slow-recovery gene); green, leafy vegetables, and lots of them. No shit, Sherlock. As if any fitness guru ever recommends anything else.

This week I learned

There’s a variant of FTO, the appetite gene, that leaves you biologically programmed to eat more. Being AA is the new “big-boned”.

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