I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.
And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.
As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.
So, in this round, I answer the following question:
- What do you think about companies that do DNA testing to make diet and training recommendations?
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].
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3:57 – What is DNA testing?
7:20 – Is DNA testing a gimmick?
9:59 – Should you get DNA testing? Can DNA testing help you?
Mentioned on the show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hey there. Welcome to Muscle For Life. I’m your host Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And quickly before we get into the episode, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast, please do subscribe to it in whichever app you are using to listen to me because one that’ll make sure you don’t miss out on new episodes, they will automatically download.
In some apps you’ll get a notification. And two, it’ll help me because it. Boost the rankings of the show, making it easier for other people to find my work. Okay, so I field a lot of good questions every day via social media and email, and in this episode I will be answering a recent question that I thought you all may like to know about.
And that is what are my thoughts on companies that do DNA testing to make diet and training recommendations? So that’s what this episode will be all about. And if you want to ask me questions, by the way, you can reach out to me on Instagram, just shoot me a DM at Muscle for Life Fitness or send me an email.
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All right, so DNA testing for diet and training recommendations or personalization, Is it worth it? First let’s talk about what these services purport to offer. Obviously, DNA testing, right? So you’re gonna send in a saliva sample, and then they’re going to analyze your dna, and then they look for variations in different genes that are supposedly linked to certain dietary needs or.
Linked to certain sensitivities to types of foods or macronutrients or types of training methodologies. Saying for example, that because you have this gene, you should eat a low carb diet or you are going to be healthier on a low carb diet, or you are going to even gain muscle faster on a low carb diet.
And the same type of recommendations are made for training as. You should be focusing on heavy weights and lower reps, or you should be focusing on lighter weights and higher reps. Now this whole endeavor has a very scientific flavor to it, of course, which is one of the reasons why it appeals to many people.
Evidence based is a marketing macro trend that is only gaining momentum, and I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future. I think more and more consumers are going to be looking for science based, not. Sports supplements, but science based is certainly things that they put in and put on their body.
But in general, if you can convince people that your product or service has scientific evidence backing it, they are going to find it more interesting. They’re gonna be more interested in learning about it or buying it. If you were to not make that appeal, and that is not good or bad. It depends how it’s used.
Of course, if there is good science behind a product or service, then it deserves to get extra attention. But of course, most people are not trained in. The scientific method. They’re not trained in analyzing scientific research. And so they ultimately are just taking the word of either the companies themselves or other organizations that vouch for the scientific integrity of the companies.
But anyway, that’s a different tangent. Maybe. Maybe a marketing podcast. Maybe that’d be a good topic for a marketing podcast. Another reason why these DNA. Testing services have gained a fair amount of traction. Is the marketing trend of personalization. People in general are more drawn to products and services that they believe specifically meet their needs versus.
Just generally trying to meet the needs of large populations of people. So think of multivitamins for example. There’s a trend right now to either fill out some sort of questionnaire or even do a saliva test. A DNA test to personalize your multivitamin, to have a multivitamin formulated just for you.
That’s the marketing of it at least. And it sounds nice, but oftentimes, It is not actually based on good evidence, not based on good research. Like the product that is formulated, quote unquote for you is certainly no better than just a well formulated general multivitamin. But anyways, in the case of DNA testing, it’s not.
A complete sham. For example, if you carry the type CC of the A P O C three gene, you are probably gonna be advised to follow a low fat diet because that cc variation is associated with higher levels of LDL cholesterol, the quote unquote bad cholesterol when you follow a high fat diet. Now, I’m not saying that if you carry that CC variation, you should follow.
Low fat diet, but you should know that there is evidence that if you follow a high fat diet, you may have higher LDL cholesterol levels than people who carry a different type of that gene. And if that were taken in the context of healthy living and blood work and your LDL levels were too, And then you reduced your fat intake, especially if you’re falling, let’s say a ketogenic diet.
So you’re eating a lot of dietary fat and your LDL levels are quite high, and you are exercising regularly. You are maintaining a healthy body composition. You are getting enough sleep, blah, blah, blah. You’re doing all the most important things mostly, right? And if you then knew that you had this variation of this gene and you.
Reduced your fat intake and saw that your LDL levels came down to a healthy level, then, okay, you’ve learned something useful. And these DNA testing companies will use examples like that to sell their services. They’ll say, by testing your DNA and comparing your results to their database and their research, you will be able to tailor your diet and your training and your supplementation, and sometimes even other elements of your lifestyle.
Your body, you’ll be able to get more out of the time that you’re putting into your fitness. You’ll be able to get more out of your meal planning by not just eating let’s say, 80% of your calories from nutritious foods or not just eating a couple of servings of fruit per day or a few.
Servings of vegetables per day. But eating these specific foods, avoiding these specific foods, maybe even eating on a specific schedule, maybe following an intermittent fasting diet, for example. And with training, I mentioned rep ranges earlier, that can be in the results. Balancing strength training and cardio can be in the results.
Recovery and mobility and quote unquote functional training related advice can be in the results. And Okay, that’s enough preamble. Let’s just get to the point. I wish I could endorse services like these. I wish there was at least one that I could endorse, because if it could deliver on many of the promises that are often made, it would be pretty cool.
And I’m talking bottom line results, not just. Learning some interesting things about your body, but learning things that are practical that you can do something with, that you can lose fat faster with, that, you can gain muscle faster. With that, you can significantly improve your health with.
Unfortunately, though the state of the space right now is mostly marketing sizzle, there’s very little stake there because it’s just such a new line of research and science moves slowly. It takes a lot of time and a lot of. Work to build up enough evidence to have high levels of certainty about anything.
And so in the case of associations between variations of genes and specific physiological manifestations that you can then use to. Tailor your eating and your training. A lot of it is very speculative. It’s interesting, but speculative. And of course, that’s not how these DNA testing companies promote their work.
They don’t say, We don’t really know. Yet if this matters, but here’s some preliminary evidence that there may be a relationship here. Of course, correlation is not causation. We have not established causation yet, but there appears to be an association. We’re not sure yet. So this may help you. It may not.
No, of course not. They promote a lot of the science as settled. You express this gene in this way, therefore you should do this because this study shows that. And we can say that about energy balance. We can say. There’s enough evidence now to support the black and white statement that if you wanna lose weight, you’re gonna have to consistently eat fewer calories than you burn.
We can say things about protein intake with that level of certainty, but that’s only because we’re talking about thousands of studies done over the course of a century. And in the case of the research, looking into how different genes lead to different bodies with lower or higher risks of different types of disease and dysfunction, or different strengths and weaknesses, physical strengths and weaknesses, psychological strengths and weaknesses, emotional and It’s all very interesting, but it’s also all very new.
And what that means is things are going to change and they’re going to change a lot over the course of the next 10, 20, and 30 plus years. And so while I do think this line of work is going to become more and more useful over time, and I do think it will be able to deliver at least on some of the promises that are being made right.
We’re just not there yet and it’s gonna take years before we are. And the reason I say deliver on some of the promises is the purported benefits of following the instructions that you’re given are completely overblown, For example you may be told to not just eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day, but if you eat these specific ones and you avoid these specific ones, your body is going to get so much more out of your diet, out of your eating regimen.
That is simply not true. There are no quote unquote super foods in the way that. Marketers would have you believe. There are certainly foods that are more nutritious than others. There are foods that have unique molecules that do unique things in their body, but the 80%, if we’re talking about Preto principle, right?
So the 20% of eating that gives you 80% of the gain is simply getting in those few servings of fruits and vegetables every day, regardless of what they are. And yes, it is better to eat a variety, but now we’re chasing that. 20%. And the same thing goes for training unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
Most of it should be strength training and a minority of it should be cardio. I generally tell people who have anywhere from let’s say, four to six hours per week to exercise. That’s where most people I interact with are at that they should put 80% of that time into the strength training and the remaining into cardio.
And that approach is going to give them at least 80% of the potential benefits that exercise has to offer. The exact type of strength training doesn’t matter so much unless they are trying to get as jacked as possible. But now again, we’re chasing that final 20%. We’re now saying we don’t just want.
To be in great health and have a body that works well. We also want to have really big muscles, or really strong muscles, and the same thing goes with cardio, whether it’s lower intensity, moderate, higher intensity, not too important when we’re talking about getting to that 80% mark. Now if we want to go further than.
We want to use cardio to maximize our stamina, right? Our endurance capabilities or if we want to use it to maximize our body composition. Maybe we are cutting and we want to get really lean, or we wanna stay really lean. Yes, you now can get into the weeds a little bit and make some specific. Choices to optimize based on your goal, but if your goal is to just look and feel good and healthy and fit, then what you do precisely.
with your cardio, just as with your strength training isn’t too important so long as it follows a few basic principles that you certainly know about if you’ve been following me in my work for some period of time. And so I don’t foresee DNA testing ever changing that a hundred years from now. I do not foresee discoveries that actually.
We used to think that doing a lot of strength training was good for everyone, but we’ve isolated these people who have these genetic variations who should do very little strength training. Actually, it’s just not gonna happen. And so what I foresee is this line of work, this line of research, is going to become useful to people who are trying to get the most out of their bodies, professional athletes, for example.
And I also do think that there’s gonna be some utility for the rest of us around disease and dysfunction. Risk. For example, I did DNA testing a couple of years ago and I worked with a guy named Jay Anthony. He came on my podcast to talk about DNA testing and to talk about my results. And I did learn some interesting things.
And he also though, was very straightforward about the speculative nature of a lot of these associations. He didn’t want me to see my. Misinterpret the results as more significant than they are, and also to see it as something that is set in stone that, for example, I’m looking at my report right now.
I have a couple genetic variations that are associated with an increased likelihood of anxiety. He didn’t want me to think. That’s it. I have an anxiety disorder, or it’s inevitable, I’m going to develop an anxiety disorder. He was very careful to explain the level of certainty with the results. So in some cases, there’s more evidence for a relationship between a genetic variation and an increased risk of anxiety, for example.
And in some cases there’s not a lot of evidence, but enough that he felt it. Putting on the report so long as he can explain it. And then of course, he always offered ideas of how I can counteract that. And what I took away from that experience is just that I had a pretty good sense, of my body.
I’m not an anxious person, but I am a higher, strong person. And for example, If I don’t take a little bit of time to relax at night, if I don’t go to bed feeling a little bit sleepy, chances are it’s going to be a bad night’s sleep. I’m gonna wake up several times throughout the night, and that was reflected in my DNA test.
There were the genetic variations associated with an increased risk of anxiety as well as some genetic. Variations associated with dysfunctional metabolism of melatonin. So you combine those things and you have a recipe for potentially screwed up sleep. Now, aside from that, Jay said that it looked like I had quite good sleep genes.
So he asked me before I even told him about the type of sleep. Troubles that I will tend to have if I have sleep troubles. And he asked me, he was like, If you don’t sleep well, do you tend to wake up several times at night? You don’t have trouble falling asleep, you just have trouble staying asleep.
And he said that the. Genetic variations in my body are probably contributing to that, and that’s interesting. Now what to do about it. Of course, I already came up with solutions because I simply was observing that was the problem. And then I was looking into simple solutions that have been shown to resolve that problem.
And the most effective I’d say two are that, that I’ve found and I. Supplements and all types of little behavior and lifestyle changes. The two most effective interventions have been taking some time at night to relax before I go to bed, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Don’t work straight up to going to bed, for example.
Don’t watch stimulating movies or TV right up until the point of going to bed. Of course, these are also just. Sleeping well, 1 0 1 at this point, but it’s particularly applicable to me. And then also manage stress levels because if I have too much stress, and that doesn’t just mean psychological or emotional stress, you have to also factor in physical stress, training, stress.
So I’m always training. Fairly hard in the gym. And then if you add on top of that psychological and emotional stress related to work, for example, if it gets to be too much, it doesn’t bother me. It just bothers my sleep. And so I have also just had to keep a closer eye on overall stress levels. And I do like to push the envelope.
I’m not looking to remain solidly in my comfort zone, so to speak, but if I. Too far. Outside of that, I don’t sleep well. And then of course that makes everything more difficult and less enjoyable. And so I have learned to prioritize sleeping well, even if that means working a bit less or training. Bit easier than I would like to.
Maybe doing a little bit less cardio, taking a couple of days off, for example, or deloading early. Those are a couple of easy ways to bring down physical stress from training. I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes.
And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you. And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share.
Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future. I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.