Genes are, quite literally, the blueprint by which our bodies are built. Therefore, it’s an undeniable fact that our looks are largely affected by genetics. Scientists keep finding more evidence for this and are now trying to use DNA testing to actually reconstruct appearance. That work is very important for forensics, but it’s a slow going. In fact, all genetic research is going rather slow. This means you shouldn’t trust any claims about how a DNA test can explain everything about your body.
Our understanding of the human genome is woefully limited, but one thing is perfectly clear. It’s true that genes affect your looks and predispositions for certain body types. However, your lifestyle and environment are just as important.
Therefore, if you want to be an award-winning bodybuilder, you can do it regardless of what’s written in your DNA. Granted, if that “blueprint” isn’t particularly predisposed to muscle-growing greatness, you’ll have to review your training plans. Using direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits might be able to help you understand those predispositions.
How Genetics Affect Your Looks: What Little We Know
As the most basic guide on genetics for beginners explains, we are, in essence, a mix of both our parents. Every human being has 23 pairs of chromosomes, which means 46 total. They make up your DNA blueprint. 23 of those chromosomes come from your mother and 23 from your father. Note that each individual chromosome contains about 20,000-25,000 genes. Each of those genes is responsible for some trait you possess. Every little part and peculiarity of your physical body is determined by the genes, from the distance between your eyes to the speed of your metabolism.
Now, it all gets a bit tricky when you look deeper because there is a matter of relationships between the mixing genes. Some traits are dominant while some are recessive and will only resurface if, by chance, you hit the jackpot of having one recessive gene from each of your parents. For example, this is how a couple who don’t have blue eyes can have a blue-eyed child. Blue eyes are a recessive gene, and if you are lucky enough to inherit it from both sides of the family, you get blue eyes.
This is where it’s important to remember that you only get one half of each your parent’s DNA. They got it the same way, and so did their great parents, and so on. That’s why sometimes kids turn out looking eerily like their grandparents instead of parents.
In the end, it all boils down to the gene cocktail you inherit and the dominant-recessive relationships between them.
Theoretically, it’s possible to decode exactly how a person looks, including body type and propensity for growing muscle, by simply decoding the subject’s DNA. However, this research is just beginning and scientists can understand only a handful of the thousands of genes. Therefore, at-home DNA tests can only provide you with the most basic and generalized information. As they work by comparing your genes to the company’s database to determine similarities, they can’t really give you any detailed data about how exactly your body shape is “programmed” to be.
Those tests can give some interesting information about health risks and ancestry. In fact, the FDA recently approved the 23andMe test for ten genetic disorders. However, you need to understand that to be accurate, DNA testing, both direct-to-consumer and more sophisticated, must look for a specific gene. Genetic disorders are the results of mutations in individual genes. That’s why tests to diagnose them exist, because lab technicians know exactly what to look for.
However, no one really knows which gene is responsible for your ability to be a fantastic powerlifter or bodybuilder. Therefore, the best you can hope to get from at-home tests is the general information about your physiological predispositions. You might actually learn the same things simply by studying your family history.
The most important thing is that no matter what those tests say, being genetically engineered to look a certain way means nothing. This is just another take on the “nature vs. nurture” argument. In this case, however, “nurture” clearly wins.
What Can You Do to Beat Your Genetic Predispositions?
Train, train, and train some more! That’s all you need to do in order to achieve your fitness goals regardless of any genetics. Don’t forget that your diet matters for this just as much as the hours you put in the gym.
It’s true that pushing their bodies into great shape is harder for some people. Genetics definitely play an important part in this. However, the solution is just to keep working out.
You will need to change your routines and diet if your current one isn’t working. It would be best to do this with the help of an experienced trainer and nutritionist. These experts will be able to evaluate your current state of health and fitness and develop the most effective plans. Most importantly, they can monitor how you respond to them and make changes based on this data.
DNA testing can offer some small measure of help in this planning. However, as the accuracy of these tests is doubtful at best, the word of an expert should carry more weight.
This means that while you definitely can take any at-home DNA tests to learn something about your body and ancestry, you shouldn’t put too much trust in them. If something in those results alarms you, double-check with your healthcare professionals. But for advice on training, lifestyle, and diet, you should talk to experts instead of DNA testing companies.