USING DNA TO GUIDE MY ULTIMATE FITNESS AND DIET

Ultimate Frisbee is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing sports.

Amie Lightbourne took a Proactive DNAFit PLUS test to help inform her fitness training and approach to nutrition in preparation for the World Ultimate Frisbee Champs in June 2016. Selected for the New Zealand Women’s team, she wanted an extra punch in her approach and to reduce trial and error in her training programme.

Click here to find out more about the Proactive DNAFit PLUS product.

What a fascinating experience – getting my DNA tested to find out how I respond to certain markers for fitness and diet. DNA is only half the story, your environment and other factors contribute as well, but it’s great to be able to minimise some of the trial and error in my goal to be healthier, fitter and faster.

I met with Andy Reid, Exercise Physiologist at Proactive for my consult. I’d done a simple mouth swab some weeks before, and the results had returned from analysis at the DNAFit lab in the UK. Andy used to be the High Performance Coach at Cycling New Zealand and has also done the Proactive DNAFit PLUS test himself.

It was really exciting to read through my two comprehensive reports, one for fitness and one for diet. The results are also summarised in a handy infographic.

Amie’s handy Infographic summary supplied as part of the Proactive DNAFit PLUS results.

Amie’s Infographic Report PDF download click on the link to download

FITNESS REPORT

My power vs endurance ratio was a 45% to 55% mix with endurance bias. This means I’ll reach my fitness potential with exercise programmed toward both strength and power work in the gym as well as endurance exercise. This opened up a whole new world to me as I’d previously avoided weights and always preferred the long distance run to get myself fit. Now a have a new tool in my toolbelt for extra speed on the pitch.

I also have the handy GG version of the PPARA gene (a main regulator of energy metabolism). This means I’m likely to have higher levels of slow twitch muscle fibres which means I’m more resistant to fatigue – this version of the gene is associated with endurance sports. In general, I’ve got good genes for Ultimate Frisbee – potential for speed and high intensity as well as endurance.

I have a medium VO2 Max potential, which measures how effectively a person’s body uses oxygen during exercise. Having a higher VO2 Max lets you exercise at a higher intensity than someone with a lower VO2 Max – so it potentially takes me less time to get fit than someone with a lower VO2 max than I do.

My Recovery Rate was tested out as Medium, which means I’ll likely perform at my best with 48 hours break between hard training or exercise. I’ve changed my training plan to give myself that break between hard gym sessions and hard games of Ultimate frisbee. Ultimate tournaments can often go for 3 days in a row, so I need to put plans in place for good post-exercise nutrition to refuel and repair my muscles, keep my energy up & reduce inflammation.

Injury is always a default risk when undertaking any form of exercise, but some people appear to be more predisposed to injury than others, and some of this is based on genetics.

My soft tissue Injury Risk is Medium, which isn’t too bad, but as I often find myself injured through other environmental factors such as training too hard – I need to place a high importance on preventative tendon and muscle strengthening work, and consider other techniques such as compression garments and ice baths. I’ve introduced yoga into my training plan, which is great for general mobility.

Overall I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been given genetically for fitness. The endurance strength was not a surprise to me, but my potential for power-based exercise definitely was.

DIET REPORT

Genes play a role in how we process and react to different foods. While health agencies give us general nutritional guidelines, everyone is different and this test gives us the chance to see what is specific for you – nutrition just got personal.

The Proactive DNAFit PLUS test shows you how your genetics affect the way your body deals with fats and what carbohydrates mean to you.

I have a low sensitivity to saturated fats and a high sensitivity to carbohydrates. This means I have a low risk of developing weight issues from fats and oils, but carbohydrates are going to impact my blood sugar and health more than someone with low sensitivity. It’s going to be important for me to watch how much and what type of carbs I’m taking in.

However, Andy reminds me that I’m an athlete training for a Worlds level competition and that I need carbohydrates in order to maintain the exercise that I’m doing. Environmental factors weigh in here.

Sportspeople who are training hard need a good level of dense carbs and it’s important that I remember to have some carbs at the right time, such as after training and hard exercise sessions. When I’m back to living a normal life, I should look at reducing the refined carbs such as pasta and bread, and look to gain a good portion of carbohydrates from vegetables. In the meantime, carb loading with pasta before a tournament is no bad thing.

A test for detoxification ability is also in the mix, with the well-publicised risk of DNA damage from smoked or chargrilled meat. My test results showed that genetically I have the pathways in place to help detoxify any harmful chemicals taken on in my diet, so I don’t need to worry about limiting my BBQs or eating extra cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) to compensate.

The test also looks at genes associated with Vitamins and Micronutrient needs. I have a raised need for Antioxidants (Vitamins A, C and E) and Omega-3. I can’t really get enough Omega-3 daily through food, so I’m going to supplement these. Omega-3 is also useful to combat the higher natural inflammation tendencies that my genes (and my experience) show that I have.

My test showed a raised need for Vitamin D, which studies show is also beneficial for athletes, so I’ve chosen to go on supplements to get the Vitamin D requirements that I need plus some for good luck. In Summer I’m likely to get a good dose (although sunscreen limits that), but in Winter leading up to the Worlds tournament in June, it’s going to be interesting to see if I notice the difference.

One of the fun parts of this diet test was to see my sensitivity to salt, alcohol and caffeine. I learned that I’m a fast metaboliser of alcohol which means I don’t gain any cholesterol health benefits from drinking a glass of wine, and I’m likely to get foul hangovers.

I’m a slow metaboliser of caffeine – I don’t drink coffee – but if I did I would likely need to watch my intake. I have a normal sensitivity to salt – so I’m one of those people who can happily take salt after training and games as long as I’m not taking in too much salt generally.

Your DNA can also show whether or not you have a predisposition toward Coeliac Disease (Gluten), and Lactose intolerance. My genes show that I can digest lactase from dairy products, so I’m unlikely to be intolerant. However I have a raised 1 in 35 risk of being Coeliac – an adverse reaction to gluten found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. The average likelihood is 1% of the population, or 1 in 100 people.

It’s so great to have this personalised knowledge about myself and my genetic makeup, and use it to guide my fitness and nutrition approach. The long-term health benefits will be as valuable as my short-term fitness goals for the tournament. Best of all – your genes don’t change, so you only need to take the test once and the knowledge lasts you a lifetime.

Amie Lightbourne is a member of the New Zealand Women’s Ultimate team competing at the 2016 World Ultimate & Guts Championship (WUGC) in London, 18-25 June 2016. Click here to find out more about the Proactive DNAFit PLUS product.

The New Zealand Women’s Ultimate team (in dark) and the Australian Firetails (light) after their recent exhibition match in Sydney. Photo Credit: Scott George

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