How Genetics Affect Fitness: The FitnessGenes Review

I’ve wondered for a while how genetics affect fitness. Growing up, I wasn’t particularly athletic. In fact, I was the opposite of athletic. With the exception of dance class, the idea of movement did not appeal to me. I much preferred a book to athletic activity, particularly organized sports. (Especially since I was discouraged from participating, but that’s another story.)

Yet somehow, in adulthood, I’ve fallen in love with distance running and CrossFit. And I’m not terrible at either; while I still fall firmly in the “scaled” division for CrossFit, I’m starting to master some of the more advanced moves (like toes to bar). Similarly, I typically run a sub-2 hour half marathon. Not terrible. And I wonder where this comes from because neither of my parents is athletic. 

When I heard about FitnessGenes, I was intrigued. I’ve done the 23andMe genetic testing (no BRCA mutations, high caffeine tolerance, and low risk of early-onset Alzheimer’s). I also took an Orig3n test that said I’m gifted with bone density and muscle force. But a test that could provide actionable training insights? I’m definitely in to find out how genetics affect fitness and performance. There’s something to be said for DNA and how it shapes who you are; it’s what gave me green eyes, frizzy Mediterranean hair, and my height, or lack thereof. So I definitely want to know what my DNA says about my fitness abilities.

Want to know how genetics affect fitness? Read on to find out what I discovered about my own training from a FitnessGenes test.

Taking the FitnessGenes Test

If you’ve ever taken a mail-order genetics test before, you won’t be surprised with FitnessGenes. The process is very similar:

  1. Fill a sterile tube with saliva.
  2. Seal the tube up per instructions.
  3. Mail the saliva sample to the lab.
  4. Wait for the results.

I mailed my test on July 1, 2018 (a Sunday) and received my results by the end of July. FitnessGenes is supposed to send an email when your results are ready, but I didn’t see one. I just knew my results were in when one of my friends, who also took a FitnessGenes test around the same time, posted her results.

My Genetics, My Fitness

Logging into the dashboard for FitnessGenes is pretty straightforward. Right away, I clicked on the DNA Results tab.

You have one copy each of the long (I) and short (D) versions. This is associated with intermediate levels of ACE and an aptitude for endurance and power/strength performance.


This result, for the ACE gene, indicates that I have a good balance of endurance and strength. The ACE gene (which is for an enzyme called the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme), is basically an endurance gene. Having one of each allele means I’m right in the middle for both endurance and power.

The rest of the DNA Results are similar. FitnessGenes tells you what alleles you have and what they mean. So where’s the actionable advice?

How Genetics Inform Training

That’s where the Personal Insights tab comes in. This portion of the results tells you how to get the most out of your training. For example:

If I want to build muscle, this is what FitnessGenes recommends. A “moderate” rep range is 8-12 reps, for example. And I apparently don’t need to rest for 3+ minutes and text on the leg press. The screen included seven recommendations, another of which is to combine cardio with resistance training.

FitnessGenes also offers recommendations for nutrition and lifestyle changes. For example, based on my genetics, I need to increase my magnesium intake when endurance or HIIT training.

Oh, and there’s also a Personal Actions tab that goes into even more detail. It’s arranged in a “frequently asked questions” format, so you click on one of the tiles and receive an answer to questions like, “What should my daily coffee rules be?”

As you are a fast metabolizer, don’t use coffee as a “pick me up” during the day. Your caffeine levels will both increase and drop more quickly than usual, which can ultimately leave you feeling tired.
Instead, have a couple of glasses of ice cold water to refresh you and increase your hydration level. Make coffee a drink you consume for enjoyment rather than habit or as an energy booster.


While I feel like I have a lot of these insights already from 23andMe, I didn’t have actionable advice. If you’re looking to break through a plateau or fine-tune your training and nutrition, it’s worth looking into FitnessGenes and learn how genetics affect fitness for you. If nothing else, you’ll learn things about yourself that may help you live a healthier lifestyle.


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