DNA Diet and Fitness
I met Leanne Spencer from www.bodyshotperformance.com when we shared a ride from Marrakech down to Ourzazate and the end of the Marathon des Sables together. She runs a hugely successful fitness business in London and we whiled away the miles discussing the industry and the various issues around diet and fitness. I may have spent quite a bit of it moaning about how hard it is to lose weight and gain fitness and sadly how easy it is to gain weight and lose fitness.
Her view was that the industry in general has to move away from the generic plans that are handed out currently, often according to the latest trend, and towards a more bespoke model. To that end, Bodyshot has launched a range of products called Bodyshot Performance™, and Leanne asked me to trial the Pro version for her.
What happens is that Bodyshot Performance™ Pro analyses your DNA and then based on your genetic makeup, devises a food regime which supports your body’s basic DNA profile. The www.bodyshotperformance.comteam then helps you navigate what the results mean to you and what you need to do in terms of both diet and training to play to your genetic strengths and weaknesses.
It all sounded pretty technical, but fascinating, and so after Christmas, I found myself taking a DNA swab from my cheek and sending it off to the Lab .
It is important to state straight up that the DNA sample taken is NOT tested for anything extraneous to the markers for diet and exercise, so there is no looking for alzheimers, cancer genes or any others. The DNA sample is also destroyed once analysed and so there is no need for any Big Brother worries. The process was really simple:
- Swab taken by client – simple, non-invasive and easy to self-administer
- Swab sent to lab in Norwich where the DNA is analysed (they look at 50 dominant genes) and then destroyed (it’s worth noting that DNAFit only look for genes that have proven correlation to health and fitness markers – they do not look for predisposition towards diseases as other tests do)
- Results are returned to DNA HQ and put into the comprehensive reports
- The reports are sent to Bodyshot who then arrange the consultation
This week, I got my results back and had my first consultation with Leanne.
The results were really fascinating and, although they were not necessarily what I wanted or even expected, they do make sense.
This was a massive disappointment to me as it shows that my power to endurance is weighed heavily towards power at 69.2% to 30.8%. Considering that what I really enjoy are long-haul endurance events, this was not what I wanted to see. But, if I am honest, it really does reflect the truth in that I do find the endurance tough but I can build strength easily. I was also surprised to see that I have a high tendency towards injury and that my recovery is medium. I have been relatively lucky with injuries and actually I also recover well in multi-day events, especially if they are over a longer period, when I tend to get stronger. I was not at all surprised to see that my VO2 max response was low. It is. I am a panter and often feel that I am not getting enough oxygen in.
So, what does this mean to me and how I need to train. Leanne explained, “This doesn’t mean you have to give up what you love doing or readjust your goals, what it does mean is that we need to tweak your training so that you play to some of your strengths. In particular, you need to do more strength sessions to build power and also more sprint sessions to build speed. Yes, you do naturally struggle with endurance but you can keep working on that. It might mean that you also benefit from doing shorter sessions and doubling up ie do one in the morning, try and fit a nap in and do one in the evening. By using what you know about your genetics, you can tailor your training so that you hit your goals quicker and more efficiently, and reduce the risk of injury. Using your DNA basically removes the need for guesswork.”
Is there a gene for being a greedy fat pig I wondered to myself before I got the test results back? No, it seems there isn’t, but there are definite indicators as to what works well with your body and what doesn’t.
As a 100% product of Scotland, I guess I was thinking that genetically surely I would be well adapted to foods like oats, root vegetables, lamb and with a high tolerance for alcohol. Cynically, I also wondered if the results would come back and show me that I needed to be on a low-carb, non-dairy, non-fat, non-wheat diet.
I was wrong on all counts.
What my test showed was:
- High sensitivity to carbohydrate – what this means is that I metabolise carbs very fast and if I don’t use them there and then, they go straight to fat
- Low sensitivity to saturated fats – I am not unusually sensitive to saturated fat and therefore can consume the recommended daily amount without gaining excess weight
- I am very tolerant to dairy and gluten products. My body likes them.
- Alcohol and salt – raised sensitivity which means that I am particularly sensitive to both these things. Some people carry a gene that means they metabolise alcohol slowly. Those people will also enjoy another benefit; small amounts of alcohol (175ml of wine for example) will have a positive effect on HDL, also known as “good cholesterol”. I have that gene, but as I am teetotal it’s not relevant to me. I have a heightened sensitivity to salt, which means I must be careful about overconsuming.
- Caffeine – slow metaboliser– so the effects last longer and I should not drink too much. Excess caffeine can inhibit the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, aide from the usual effects of overconsumption such as shakiness, clamminess and agitation.
- Raised need for anti-oxidants, vitamin D and omega 3.
- Normal need for vitamin B
- Normal need for cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower etc)
- Good at detoxifying which means my body is naturally good at producing anti-oxidants required to flush out free radicals. I can also support this by consuming lots of fruit and vegetables and avoiding smoked or charred meats, which commonly produce free radicals.
Again, Leanne took me through what that all means as it is quite hard to digest (sorry!) at first. “ Your biggest trigger is carbs,” she said. “If you eat too many of the starchy ones, you are going to gain weight. You need to balance this against training but for you, your basic diet should be low in starchy carbs and you need to watch your blood sugar. You should be eating about 7 portions of veg a day and 2 of fruit which will satisfy your carb need but not raise your blood sugar too quickly. ”
Of course, this is a genetic analysis and there are lots of other factors which bring to bear. For me, for example, I really don’t need to worry about vitamin D, even though I “need” more of it, because I live in sunny Marrakech.
What Bodyshot Performance™ Pro does for you, is set out a full diet plan, which incorporates all the things that your DNA says you should be eating and eliminates what you shouldn’t. At first read through, it all looks eminently sensible and very balanced. It has been designed specifically for me which I really like and I have committed to giving it my best shot over the next few weeks.
I did have a couple of concerns though. The first is that this is a maintenance diet and I really need to lose weight. What Leanne suggested is that I stick to it in the first instance and then we review after a couple of weeks.
The second worry was that I can’t get all the foods on the plan here in Marrakech. For example one breakfast option was eggs, seed bread and smoked salmon. Neither seed bread nor smoked salmon are readily (and affordably) available so we talked about substituting tinned mackerel and brown rice.
The third concern was keeping to a pretty low-carb diet while ramping up training for a three-day run at the end of March. We agreed that I would look at how I was doing for the first couple of weeks and then review after that and add in some starchy carbs if needed. Leanne explained that the DNA report is simply your genetic blueprint for good health. It does not take into account any aspects of your lifestyle such as environment (where you live and work), how much exercise you do, other lifestyle factors like alcohol and nicotine consumption, and how much stress you might be under for example. This is where Bodyshot add a lot of value, as they can marry the findings of the DNA report against your lifestyle and make suitable suggestions of adjustments, so that the plan is achievable and effective. It’s Leanne’s view that anything too drastic is unrealistic and won’t work in the long-term.
What I like so far about this is that it is very bespoke and that it is very practical – you get an eating plan and a training plan and a lot of high quality information. I am a little worried about sticking to it, but will see how I go over the next month and then report back. I am really interested to see if I start to see improvements in how I feel and my training. I’ll keep you posted.
For more information check out www.bodyshotperformance.com