Maximising your genetic potential

In a recent blog I explained why I believe that there isn’t a single right way to approach training for a big event. I said that it depends on:

  • Your training age

  • Your fitness age

  • Rest of life pressures

I also said that it depends on your natural training requirements. This blog explains what I mean by that.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I not only love to do big challenges, I’m also incredibly time poor. So, I decided it would be a good investment to find out what my body could tell me about it’s natural preferences. To do so I did the DNAfit test.


There are many reasons to complete the DNAFit test, for me it was about structuring my training approach to ensure I make the most of the time that I have available.

The things you find out include:

  • Optimal balance between endurance and power approach

  • Injury risk

  • Recovery speed

  • Carbohydrate sensitivity

  • Caffeine sensitivity

  • and a raft of other diet related considerations

This is my high level infographic:

Screenshot 2019-07-09 at 19.42.37.png

So what does this tell me?

At a quick and uneducated glance you could say that I’m predominantly power based that maybe endurance sport isn’t for me. It isn’t quite that simple. In fact you need to read all the bits of information in conjunction to form a full view.

I also have several detailed reports that help me interpret each of these high-level summaries.

As you can see this is all about ME. It’s not a generic report, it is based my own DNA so it will help me maximise my potential by playing to my natural strengths.

Some high level observations:

Just over half of my training should be power based.

  • What I do today: When based at home, and therefore able to do masters training, I train with Guildford City swimming club and would do up to 10 hours of club training. On top of that I add another couple of hours of training focusing purely on technique for speed over distance. Club training is interval based with a fair amount of power work interspersed with endurance, though historically I have focused more on the endurance bit and shied away from the sprints. During the Dover training season, the endurance element is obvious and I also aim to do a third to a half of the training that I do at the weekend in the pool. Whilst some of this is recovery, I also use it to keep technique in check.

  • Challenges today: given that I work in Cambridge and haven’t managed to make training there work, actually getting the hours in that I want is extremely challenging.

  • Changes that I will make: I will embrace our club sprint sets. In terms of total hours of training, I am working towards less work in Cambridge and therefore more accessibility to good pool training all year round. However, given that it’s not all about endurance, it does mean that some short focused power sessions are more important than I had previously given them credit for. I will also seek to find a good personal trainer and add some power work into the mix in the gym.

High injury risk.

Specifically I’m more predisposed to tendon and ligament based sporting injuries of achilles, knee and shoulder.

  • Challenges today: Interestingly, when I think about injuries that I’ve had, mostly they’ve been tendonitis, though generally not of my shoulders, instead in my wrists. It does give me a good excuse to avoid running though!!

  • Changes that I will make: general strengthening of the risk areas is recommended. I’ll add this to the list for the gym sessions. I’ll also ensure I keep on top of my technique to avoid injuries caused by poor technique. Recovery is also important

Medium recovery speed.

I may also experience higher levels of inflammation after strenuous exercise and so a longer rest period between training sessions may be required compared to other people.

  • Challenges today. My work location and training availability does make me a bit of a binge swimmer with most of my training taking place Friday to Monday.

  • Changes that I will make: With Dover training I will consider whether back to back long swims are the right way forward for me, perhaps single long sessions are better. Work on making my training more evenly spread. Look at elements of my diet that support reduction of inflammation and aid recovery.

What else?

As you can see from the info graphic, there are also nutrition based recommendations again based on DNA and on what would support my training. What have I learned:

  • Simple carbohydrates lead to inflammation which increases my risk of injury

  • Slow to process caffeine therefore no caffeine after 2pm

  • Detoxification: eat slowly and food in sauces is preferable to dry food

  • Salt sensitive: only need salt after a training session

  • Cruciferous vegetables: help to reduce inflammation

Want the science & DNA details?

So, this really is based on my DNA and based on science and research. These are some of the elements of my DNA that have a significant impact on my personal recommendations:

  • Angiotensin Converting Enzyme. Associated with: Controlling blood pressure and the fluid (water)/sodium balance in blood. This is the most researched gene in relation to sporting performance.

    • DD: Power based training recommended. Good muscle growth expected from weight training and strength sports. Good muscle recovery. Ensure blood pressure is monitored during high intensity exercise.

  • Interleukin-6. Associated with: Stimulates the immune response to training and is involved in the inflammatory repair process.

    • GG: Associated with lower levels of inflammation after hard training sessions, leading to quicker recovery times. This genotype has been independently associated with success in power sports, perhaps due to improved muscle repair after exercise.

  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator-1. Associated with: Regulation of energy homeostasis, including production of mitochondria, fat and carbohydrate burning and conversion of muscle fibres to slow twitch type.

    • GG: Likely to respond well to endurance training. Carriers are good at burning fuel and can potentially maintain high energy levels for sustained periods.

  • Glutathione S-transferase M1. Associated with: the removal of toxins, metabolic by-products, and free radicals created during the detoxification process.

    • D = "deletion" - a part of the gene is missing rendering the whole non-functional and no protein is made. The absence of this enzyme can lead to greater levels of free radicals, increased fatigue and slower recovery from exercise. Your body has other enzymes that assist in these detoxification processes. Studies have shown that consuming cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and other members of the cabbage family can promote the activity of these enzymes.

  • C-Reactive Protein. Associated with: An acute phase protein which rises in response to inflammation in the body. It is stimulated by IL-6 and is often used as a marker for inflammation in blood tests.

    • GG: May experience higher levels of inflammation after strenuous exercise. A longer rest period between training sessions may be required compared to AA.

  • Growth Differentiation Factor 5. Associated with: Central Nervous System expression and the healing of skeletal, joint and soft tissues.

    • Increased risk of tendinopathy and osteoarthritis. Undertake prehabilitative exercises relevant to the sport and consider nutritional support for connective tissue.

Final thoughts

I did my last channel swim on zero calories for the first 13 hours - so most definitely low carbohydrate. I think this has just supported that as an approach for me.

Carbohydrates are most definitely my weakness, especially when I’m tired (which is most of the time right now). Reducing carbohydrates will almost certainly have a positive impact. Luckily I already like cruciferous vegetables. My challenge is being less in control over what I eat when I’m working away from home.

Binge swimming is not an appropriate training schedule for me, I need to work on ways to adapt.

I need to consider my training and diet on inflammation and therefore injury risk. I need to factor in recovery time from particularly heavy training sessions.

Surrey Masters 2019

Surrey Masters 2019


If you are interested in finding out more about what is best for YOU and how to maximise your training and athletic potential, feel free to chat with me about my experience in doing this. I’d gladly connect you with the right people.