Ralph Pethica: Improving My Fitness With Genetics

1_RalphPethica_QS Talk 2014 Powerpoint

One interesting aspect of personal data is how it can reveal what is unique about you. Nowhere is this more true than with genetic information coming from DNA testing kits. However, people are still at an early stage on how they apply that information to their lives. Ralph Pethica, who has a PhD in genetics, was interested in what his DNA could tell him about how to train more effectively. His findings were presented as an ignite talk at the 2014 QS Europe Conference.

What did Ralph do?
Ralph loves to surf. When it is the off-season, he trains so that his body will be in good condition for when the warm weather rolls back around. He used genetic research to inform how he designed his training plans.

How did Ralph do it?
Ralph used a 23andMe kit to find out his genetic profile. He researched those genes that have been found to have an impact on fitness to see his body should respond to exercise. For example, did he possess genes that gave him an advantage in building muscle with resistance training? He then modified his training routines to take advantage of this information and monitored his results (using the Polar watch and a Withings scale) to see whether his assumptions held up.

What did Ralph learn?
Ralph found out that he has genetic disadvantages when it came to strength training. This told him that progress in this area depended more on his lifestyle. In particular, he found that eating immediately after working out was important.

When it came to cardio exercise, he had a number of genetic advantages. The unexpected downside to this is that his body adapts quickly to any training regimen, resulting in a plateau. To get around this, he varied his training plan and monitored his results. On one day, he would cycle at a steady rate, while the next, he would use high-intensity intervals. His body seemed to respond to the varied training plan and he hit fewer plateaus. Without knowing which genes he possessed, and reading current research on those genes, it is unlikely that he would have discovered these effective customizations to his training plan.

Ralph has taken what he’s learned and built a tool called Genetrainer to help people use their genetic information to inform their fitness plains. You can check it out here.

Tools: Genetrainer, 23andMe, Polar RCX5, Withings Smart Body Analyzer

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