New study reveals athletes using DNA-matched training improved their performance almost three times more than those on mismatched programmes.

Reigning Olympic Long Jump champion Greg Rutherford using DNAFit´s training algorithm to go for gold in RiO

The DNAthlete – Olympic and World Champion Greg Rutherford with his DNAFit results

For the first time an independent clinical study shows those who trained to their genetic-makeup improved their athletic performance almost three times more than those on mismatched training programmes.

The breakthrough study is supported by reigning British Olympic and World Long Jump Champion Greg Rutherford who today reveals he is using genetically guided training information to help him go for gold at Rio 2016.

The independent study, which has been peer reviewed and published in the Biology of Sport, was conducted at the University of Central Lancashire with 28 young sportsmen and 39 young male football players over eight weeks. Each participant competed in the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) leagues.

The study´s participants took the DNAFit test, which screens 45 gene variants scientifically-linked to a body´s response to training and nutrition. DNAFit, which presents the results in a detailed report and infographic, is already being used by scores of elite sportsmen and women and several English Premier League football clubs.

The DNAFit test uses its DNAFit Peak Performance Algorithm. It´s based on validated genetic variant scoring methods to determine an individual´s genetic power/endurance response score. This is then used to devise bespoke training programmes. 

For example, those with more of a power bias on the algorithm would respond better to high intensity resistance training. Those with an endurance bias respond better to low intensity resistance training.

In the study, half the participants were given training programmes matched to their genetic analysis – high intensity training for those with a power bias, low intensity for those with an endurance bias. The remaining subjects were mismatched – those with more power were given low intensity training, those with more endurance, high intensity. None of the subjects or trainers knew whether their programme was matched or not.

At the beginning of the eight weeks of training, the participants were set two fitness tests to measure their power and endurance. Power was measured by a countermovement jump (CMJ) and endurance by an aerobic three minute cycle test (known as Aero3).

After eight weeks, those whose training had been matched to their genes improved their CMJ power test by 7.4% compared to just a 2.6% increase in the mismatched group. In the cycle endurance test, those who trained to their genetic strengths saw an average 6.2% improvement compared to 2.3% for the mismatched group.

This showed that those on genotype-matched training improved almost three times more in both tests than those on mismatched programmes.

82% of the participants who showed little or no improvement were from the mismatched group while 83% of those who improved the most were from the genetically matched group.

The study found matched genotype training improved the likelihood of significant improvement by 21 times in the CMJ and 28.5 times in the cycle test, compared with those on mismatched programmes.

The DNAFit test can also detect whether a person has a raised risk of developing connective tissue injury, their recovery speed from hard exercise and their VO2 Max trainability.

Greg Rutherford was asked to try the DNAFit test last May. He has not been paid or sponsored by DNAFit. His test results revealed:

  • Greg´s Power/Endurance response ratio was a majority of power response, but still with  some endurance - 53.8% Power, 46.2% Endurance
  • His genetic recovery speed and injury risk were medium
  • He has a raised need for anti-oxidants, omega-3 and Vitamin D
  • He has a high sensitivity to refined carbohydrates, which can effect weight gain 
Since Greg received his results, he has used the genetic data to help improve his training regime

Greg said: "I´ve long known that the training that works for me does not necessarily work for others. Understanding my genetic make-up has helped me reinforce the lessons I´ve learnt through many years of trial and error about how best to train my body.

"The natural progression within my training and understanding of my sport was to look at my genetics. I´ve always had these thoughts about how my body responds to exercise and what makes it work. 

"It´s actually been a big aid in training because it´s reinforced the views and values I already had. Since I´ve done the test, I understand my body better.

"But another thing the DNAFit test showed me was that I am a bit of an injury risk which I think is shown by the amount of injuries I´ve had in my career. Tapering down and not pushing or killing myself all the time is exactly what my body needs to perform well. I´ve found that having the genetic information from the test helps back up some of the training that I do What this test does is tell me exactly what my body is able to do and what I need to maximise it. 

"We measure as much as we can in training. It shows us if we´re getting better or not. So for us, genetic testing really helps because it gives an exact pinpoint on what our body is doing and how it responds. So for me it´s a huge aid.”

"Sport is facing a lot of challenges at the moment with doping scandals and revelations. You need to go in depth to find out how you train best, how you recover well and how you do things to the best of your ability. DNA testing is the future of that.

"Since London 2012 I´ve been lucky enough to continue to improve and win a number of major titles. The big difference I´ve noticed in the last year, since understanding my genetic data, is a great improvement in my strength and power in the gym. I´ve been hitting huge personal bests in the weight room and applying the DNAFit Peak Performance Algorithm has been a key part in this improvement."

DNAFit´s Andrew Steele added: "As an Olympic athlete myself, I´ve found out the hard way what works and what doesn´t for me in training. With the genetic data in DNAFit we are helping sportspeople and everyday users alike understand more about their body, so they can make the best informed exercise and nutrition decisions possible.

"Greg possesses a number of the key power or ‘sprint´ genes; in particular he has two copies of the C version of the ACTN3 gene, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘speed´ gene. This gene is present in almost every Olympic level sprint athlete and plays a key role in building the fast-twitch muscle fibres that power athletes need. 

"However, one of the most interesting aspects of Greg´s DNAFit test is his strong endurance response. For example, Greg possesses two copies of the G version of the gene PPARA, which is associated with increased mitochondrial response to exercise and is prevalent in elite endurance athletes. 

"It is important to remember that genetics only work in conjunction with our lifestyle, environment and training. Greg has been lucky enough to take advantage of all aspects, both how he is made from the inside and what he does to his body from the outside, to reach the ideal combination for elite athletic performance.

"Greg does possess some of the gene variants which are associated with a raised risk of sport-related connective tissue injury, but he is not in the highest bracket of risk here. However, the force he puts into his body while training and competing at long jump takes its toll, and would of course raise his risk of injury - as he has found out throughout his career.”

Geneticist Dr Keith Grimaldi, one of the authors of the study, said: "Greg has good genes and so do most of us. But if you don´t know your genes, you´ll just have to guess the right training by trial & error. We know quite a lot about some genes that do affect your biochemistry and physiology. By knowing what versions you have, you can reduce the guessing and the error and this is shown by this study.

"We chose the genes for the study very carefully, only using those for which enough evidence existed from at least several other studies. The algorithms were developed based on the effect of the genes, the strength of the evidence and from personal observations. Although we had enough evidence ourselves, it was essential to provide independent confirmation from other published studies. The results from the University of Central Lancashire study are quite remarkable.”

DNAFit founder Avi Lasarow added: "The difference between a gold, silver or bronze medal can be tiny. I believe this research will have a profound impact on athletic performance worldwide.

"We believe genetics are an important part of performance, whether at an elite level like Greg or for those who just want to get fit and eat well. I am confident this research and our scientifically-based genetic testing capability will not only transform the world of
sport but also the everyday health and fitness markets.”

Download the full research here