Evaluate Your Training with Epigenetics

Epigenetics is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing fields of science, looking beyond the genetic make-up and taking into effect outside factors that play a role in gene expression. Every little bite of food that you eat can literally alter gene expression and your health. So, how can you make this work for you?
When it comes to dieting, fitness coaches will agree that there are some questions that always come up: “what’s the best diet?”, “carbs are bad, right?” and so on.

The first thing to remember is that there is never a one-size-fits-all approach. But that is what makes it fun and exciting – you need to find out what will work for you. Health and wellness are part of a very large spectrum and there is never a simple “yes” and “no” answer that will apply to everyone. In fact, it’s a science to figure out what this phenomenon of epigenetics is. Let’s take a closer look.

Nutrient Dense Foods

In a nutshell, epigenetics refers to the science of gene expression. Our bodies listen to a variety of internal and external clues that can influence them, so the original thought that we are doomed by our genetic make-up is no longer true.

So, if we are what we eat, should we now avoid every bit of ice cream or slice of pizza? Absolutely not. If every bit of junk food influence us negatively, then every bit of healthy food will be beneficial to our bodies. So make sure that your diet is overall very healthy, with the occasional “cheat” meal at times. That is why trainers and nutritionists recommend the 80/20 rule – 80 percent of the time you should consume a healthy diet and 20 percent of the time you can indulge in your favourite meals.

Why You Might Need to Do More

Some people will be better off following a 90/10 lifestyle, as genes and family history might also play a role, especially when you suffer from diabetes or other health issues. Some people can also tolerate more carbohydrates than others, in fact we all have between one and fifteen amylase 1 genes. Amylase is the enzyme that breaks down the carbohydrates we eat. So, the more amylase genes you have, the better you will be able to process carbs. This is one of the many reasons why there is no one set diet that will have the same results for everyone.

But diet is not the only thing that influences your health. You should also factor in your sleep patterns, exercise, environmental toxins, and even your stress levels.

Epigenetics and Fitness Training

Epigenetics show that your body responds to a wealth of influences, making your lifestyle, diet and training choices all the more important. By adapting a decent training routine that works for you, your body will naturally respond and become stronger and healthier. So it’s important to realise that every person needs a customised training program to get the best possible results.

It has been shown in studies that the epigenetic pattern of genes that affect fat storage in the body changes with exercise, according to the Lund University Diabetes Centre. Your body's cells contain DNA, and it in turn contains genes. Although our genes are inherited and we cannot change them, they have methyl groups attached to them, affecting what is referred to as “gene expression”. Simply put, it determines whether genes are activated or deactivated. As a result, we now know that these methyl groups can be influenced by exercise, lifestyle and diet.

In one study, researchers monitored 23 healthy, slightly overweight men aged around 35, as they took part in physical activity that involved spinning and aerobics classes three times per week for a period of six months. They found that around 7,000 genes were altered, specifically the methylation genes linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity. "We found changes in those genes too, which suggests that altered DNA methylation as a result of physical activity could be one of the mechanisms of how these genes affect the risk of disease," says Tina Rönn, Associate Researcher at Lund University.

In Conclusion

Epigenetics is a very interesting, complex and relatively unexplored science that might have all the answers in terms of how our lifestyle choices affect our genes. As a result, trainers and nutritionists are continually stressing the importance of unique and individualised diet and training programs for athletes, as there is no single program that will work for everyone.

Although research is still out, it’s interesting to know that we have a say in how our bodies react to what we do and the environment we choose to live in. It might just pave the way for healthier choices that lead us to a healthier, stronger body.


1. University of Southampton, Medicine - Epigenetics.
2. Science Daily, Epigenetic Changes to Fat Cells Following Exercise