New research from the University of Arizona (UofA) suggests that those with increased genetic risk for weight gain do not see the same benefits from resistance training as those with a lower risk. This unique study offers insight into how the genes that play a role in your weight can actually influence what kind of exercise is best suited for you, and your genes.
The Genetics of Weight Gain
It is well documented that our genes have a role on our waistlines. There are dozens of genes associated with our risk of obesity and higher body mass, but exercise usually reverses this risk. The research group from UofA set out to answer the unresolved question of whether our ‘obesity’ genes play a role in how effective resistance training can be.
The researchers observed a group of 148 women that either took part in 12 months of weight training or none at all. After their year of hard work, the ladies with a lower genetic risk for obesity lost more fat and weight overall, which was to be expected considering their lower risk for BMI increases.
However, those in the low risk group also gained significantly more muscle mass compared to the those with intermediate or higher risks of obesity, which was a new finding. So overall, the weight training program in this study was more effective for those with a lower risk for obesity.
Well what does this mean if I have a high risk for obesity?
You shouldn’t let your genes determine your fate. The study placed several limitations on the participants that might have held them back from losing any weight, or gaining more strength.
The participants were asked to not change their diet during the exercise program. This could have placed some serious limitations on the benefits from their workout if they weren’t already eating right. Intake of sufficient post-workout carbohydrates and protein is essential to strength training success. Supplementation with products like whey protein, creatine, and BCAAs is optional, but have also been scientifically proven to increase muscle strength and size.
If fat loss is your goal, keep in mind that these study participants didn’t do any additional cardiovascular exercise aside from the low-intensity circuit included in their workouts. Although cardio isn’t the most important factor in your fat loss (spoiler: it’s actually what you eat), high-intensity cardio (like sprinting up a hill or other high intensity interval training) can help get you to your fat loss goals.
According to the paper, it doesn’t seem like the researchers changed up the participants workouts that often. Exercises in the study were only changed by increasing weight every 6-8 weeks as the subjects got stronger. Variation in your workouts is important for constantly challenging your body in different ways and avoiding plateaus in your training, and your fat loss.
The Implications for Sports Genetics
What the research group from Arizona has shown is that your susceptibility to obesity might affect how well strength training works for you. Despite the limitations imposed by the study design, the researchers have found a new result that leaves a lot of room for new discoveries on the table.
They suggest that the some of the 21 genes analyzed in the study play a role in the way our brains regulate taste, fullness and energy usage. Even more is that the gene markers analyzed in this study have yet to be used in sports genetics profiling.
The notion that exercise should be personalized based on your own genetic makeup is becoming increasingly well-supported with studies like these. Given our complex metabolic intricacies, it’s time we embrace our differences and train and diet the best way meant for our bodies. With summer approaching, hit your nearest hill to get a few sprints in, challenge yourself in the gym, and supplement your activities with the right diet!