Can Genetics Stop You From Getting Fit?
As a fitness trainer (strength coach, personal trainer….whatever you want to call it) I run across a lot of people who want to look good. Even athletes who want to compete at the very highest level concern themselves with looking strong and powerful. Every see a guy complete a complex of heavy squats paired with box jumps and proceed to look at his abs after the set? Trust me, it happens.
Let’s face the truth – we workout to look good. There’s nothing wrong with confessing that. I rarely get a question about lowering HbA1C or how to correct a pelvic tilt; but I do get asked a lot about “how to get toned.” Plenty of times, correcting your muscle imbalances or balancing out your blood glucose levels will in fact help get you fit, but no one wants to hear that. Our priority is getting in shape and we want to know how to do that – plain and simple.
However, there are some things that can disrupt your process and cause a lot of confusion. There are ways to work around these things, but the following list contains some things that you just can’t fix. These factors are also responsible for causing small discrepancies between us as well as explaining why your best friend can eat like a rhino and not gain a pound. As a disclaimer you can work past these things – it just takes a very tactical approach paired with hard work.
- Genetics- Yes, genetics play a role in how “fit” you are to begin with as well as how in shape you can get. Our genetics obviously are the blueprint for how our body functions and how we respond to stimuli like exercise. It’s estimated that 60% VO2 Max (a measurement of aerobic fitness) comes from your genes. If you want to change something about yourself, then you usually have to apply a stimuli that you’re not good at.
- Muscle Fiber Type- There are different muscle fibers that make up all of our muscles. Some cause fast, explosive movement while others help us get through a long run. These fibers burn different sources of energy, send unique signals to the rest of our body, and respond in special ways with other hormones. As a result, all of us look different. All the “arm toning exercises” in the world won’t help you if you don’t understand muscle fiber type and how to stimulate them.
- Origins and Insertions- This refers to where muscles connect on our skeleton. Some people were simply blessed with great origins and insertions; allowing their muscles to look fabulous without giving it much effort. Others didn’t luck out the same way. There’s really nothing you can do about this unless you work with someone who understands anatomy and knows how to train the body in order to “accentuate your strengths and hide your weaknesses.”
- Hormonal Environment- Have a friend who lives off of fried food but doesn’t gain a pound? Or that buddy that seems to pack on muscle without even getting off the couch? A large part of this is due to our hormones and to what extent and level we have them in the body. A guy with low testosterone is going to have an uphill battle trying to lose weight; but a guy with high levels can pack on muscle and stay lean with ease. The bad news is that you can’t do much about your genetic preset levels. However, the good news is that exercise and nutrition can help curb favorable hormones in a way to help us get lean. Once again, you need to know what you’re doing in order for this to happen.
Some of this material may help explain the frustration you have with getting in shape. Personally, I’ve had my fair share of frustrations over the years. But worry not – training and nutrition are all about manipulating our hormones to get a certain response. Master that, and you’re well on your way to getting the body that you’ve always wanted.