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The Genetic Blame Game

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

"What is it about him that makes him stronger and faster than me?"

This is a question I've pondered many times, typically when my own athleticism is superseded by another's athletic capabilities. Most frequently and too hastily, we attribute an individual's superior athleticism to their inherited genetics.

And the truth is, genetics do play a crucial role in one's athletic abilities. However, the genetics we inherit from our parents are not a direct forecast of our athletic destiny.

What science has come to recognize in the last few decades is that genetics we are born with are not fixed. Thanks to the expanding field of epigenetics, we've learned that genetic expression is continually adapting.

Understanding DNA Expression

As a preface, DNA expression refers to the health and condition of the DNA, not the reconfiguration of DNA sequencing.

Playing an incredibly important role in our health, is a process called methylation. In simple terms, methylation is process in which a methyl group attaches itself to cytosine. Cytosine is one of the four bases of DNA, the other three base components being guanine, adenine, and thymine. When a methyl group attaches to cytosine, genetic expression is redirected, thus affecting every other biological action in the body.

Methylation is just one way in which specific genes can be turned off and on. Other processes that dictate gene expression include acetylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitylation, and sumolyation. For now, I'll focus on methylation.

As minuscule as this action is, it is indispensable to human health. For instance, if a individual is born with a genetic predisposition to a disease such as cancer, through optimizing methylation

processes, the genetic tilt towards developing cancer could be reversed.

Genes That Make You Stronger and Faster?

With the incredible hope that our inherited genetics are not the prognosis of our longterm health the way science once speculated, could it be hypothesized that we can then "turn on" advantageous genes? What we have come to know that the upregulation of athletic-specific genes is a plausible hypothesis that's shown to be a credible notion.

For example, angiotensin converting enzyme or ACE is a gene that's been widely associated with athletic performance. Moreover, the expression of this gene relies heavily on methylation processes. Thus, when methylation is under functioning, the ACE gene cannot manifest appropriately. Likewise, when methylation processes are optimized, the ACE gene will better express itself. This is just one, simply-explained way in which we can leverage athleticism via genetic expression.

As confounding as it seems, humans have the ability to redirect genetic expression so that athleticism will be bettered.

How to Wear Your Athletic-Enhancing Genes

Exciting as this information is, it's meaningless unless we know how to manage genetic expression. The good news is that we do know how to optimize genetic expression for health and increased fitness.

Overwhelmingly, literally everything we do affects genetic expression. Geographical location, exposure to toxic chemicals such as phthalates and parabens, exercise, nutrition, and stress all play positions in the way which our genes express themselves.

The foundational way to optimize genetic expression is through nutrition. Remember how methylation is a key influencer in gene expression, it turns out that methylation processes necessitate very specific nutrients, including but not limited to folate, B12, and choline.

If we're deficient in the key nutrients, methylation becomes ineffective, therefore suppressing the expression of serendipitous genes. Considering that the alarming rates of nutrient deficiency in the United States, it can be presumed that genetic expression is in fact not being optimized for health and athletic performance.

Genetic expression is yet another example of how the prevailing protocol in sports nutrition will leave athletes to perform below their capacity. Currently, standard sports nutrition is piloted by the idea that macronutrient and calorie counting is the way athletes can maximize their athletic abilities. This regimen will leave your athletic-enhancing genes unexpressed, making it crucial that we view nutrition with a greater understanding and appreciation.

Today's lesson is this: take control of your genes to accumulate health and skyrocket your athleticism.


“Commentaries on Viewpoint: Epigenetic Regulation of the ACE Gene Might Be More Relevant to Endurance Physiology than the I/D Polymorphism.” Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 112, no. 6, 2012, pp. 1084–1085., doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00065.2012.

Haslberger, Alexander G., and Sabine Gressler. Epigenetics and Human Health: Linking Hereditary, Environmental, and Nutritional Aspects. Wiley-VCH, 2010.

Ma, Fang, et al. “The Association of Sport Performance with ACE and ACTN3 Genetic Polymorphisms: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 1, 2013, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054685.

Moore, Lisa D, et al. “DNA Methylation and Its Basic Function.” Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 38, no. 1, 2012, pp. 23–38., doi:10.1038/npp.2012.112.

Mudersbach, Thomas, et al. “Epigenetic Control of the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme in Endothelial Cells during Inflammation.” PLOS ONE, vol. 14, no. 5, 2019, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0216218.

Weinhold, Bob. “Epigenetics: The Science of Change.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 114, no. 3, 2006, doi:10.1289/ehp.114-a160.

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