How Genetic Testing for Exercise and Nutrition Transformed Two Women (and how one did it all by herself)
Daysha, Pat and Jordan got buff. Two were guided by personalized genetic testing for exercise and nutrition. One got it going with a tip from Dad. Learn how genetic tests may guide you to the perfect plan, and see why they might not be needed after all.
YESTERDAY, I was reading about how two women, Daysha Edewi and Pat Baily, were using personalized plans based on genetic testing for exercise and nutrition to lose body fat and get fit.
I got to thinking that relating their stories to you would be a good way to introduce this relatively new capability for your DNA to guide lifestyle choices pertaining to exercise and nutrition, among other things.
Then I bumped into another article, this one about Jordan Kohanim, who lost a ton of weight simply by listening to a clever suggestion made by her father.
So, in effect, what you’re going to get in this article is how genetic testing for exercise and nutrition can help you finally determine which path will shred the body fat and get you fit, as well as how just applying yourself to the basics can get you there as well, if you allow Jordan’s father’s trick to work for you.
Genetic Testing for Exercise and Nutrition Will Soon Be Commonplace
Dozens of companies that offer genetic testing for exercise and nutrition have recently sprouted. Their pitch is that a genetic test can help you develop the ultimate, personalized plan to improve your body composition. Sounds great and maybe it is — that is if the test results are accurate. (I throw a fly in the ointment in “Your Takeaway” below.)
This genetic, or DNA, testing potentially provides valuable information not only to get buff, but to help you extend your healthspan – the years during which you’re healthy, as opposed to compromised by chronic health issues.
Currently, much of medical practice is based on “standards of care” that are determined by averaging responses across large cohorts. The theory has been that everyone should get the same care based on clinical trials.
But people are different, and thereby respond differently to medicine, exercise and diet regimes. People want medicine, exercise and diets to be tailored to their uniqueness, and the science, techniques and technologies are quickly fulfilling this desire.
Right now you can get some degree of personalized medicine, personalized exercise workouts and personalized diets that are fine-tuned to be most efficacious for you via genetic testing. Given the plummeting cost of genetic testing technology, various genetic testing companies aim to provide genetic testing for exercise and nutrition (and more) resulting in the perfect plan for you, so goes the pitch.
That’s what Daysha Edewi and Pat Baily did – they got genetic testing for exercise and nutrition that helped them design effective programs to substantially improve their body composition; ie: build muscle/lose fat.
As mentioned, Jordan Kohanim took a different approach – she listened to her father and lost 70 pounds.
Let’s delve into their stories one by one.
“I Tried A Diet And Fitness Plan Based On My DNA And Couldn’t Believe The Results”
In her BuzzFeed article, BuzzFeed author Daysha Edewi describes her life-long struggle with fluctuating body weight and how Dr. Dan Reardon, the CEO/cofounder of genetic testing company, FitnessGenes, helped her get results quickly.
“Growing up, my weight fluctuated a lot… I love cooking healthy meals and I dance four to five times per week. I have always been frustrated with why it’s so hard for me to lose weight. I tried all sorts of methods to lose weight and get fit, including a raw vegan diet, Weight Watchers, seeing a dietitian, doing a soup cleanse, P90X, and even getting a personal trainer. Nothing seemed to work for me.
Not ever seeing results discouraged me so much to the point that I wanted to just give up. It turned into a continuous cycle of embarking on a new diet or fitness plan, not seeing any real change after a few months, and then just giving up again.”
(If you rather watch than read, scroll down to Daysha’s video.)
Daysha goes on to say that it eventually occurred to her that weight gain issues might be tethered to her genetics somehow, and as you’ll see in a minute, perhaps it was. But I want to go out of my way here to emphasize that although tailoring your diet and exercise to your genetics is useful to tweak things a bit, it’s rare that your genetics is the most substantial reason you’re overweight and unfit.
As you’ll see when reading Jordan Kohanim’s story, you can move a mountain — in her case, 70 pounds — by just sticking to the basics.
That said, I want to compliment Daysha for going the extra mile to figure out what she needed to do. She took the FitnessGenes genetics test, saddled up next to Dr. Reardon and did the work.
This is what FitnessGenes does:
“… we combine our client’s specific fitness goals with their DNA results when creating our personalized recommendations. The actionable advice that we offer allows individuals to make positive lifestyle choices and consistent progression, so they can realize their full genetic potential in the sports they enjoy, with the physiques they desire.”
In her article, Daysha makes the following nine points:
(1) The genetics test indicated that she has a slower than “normal” metabolism. Often described as an “efficient metabolism”, Daysha’s stores energy than those with a fast, or “inefficient metabolism”.
(2) She has a gene variation for the FTO gene that’s linked to a hormone called ghrelin, which controls hunger. Daysha gets hungry easily, and that can easily lead to overeating. In this case, Dr. Reardon advised that she eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to control hunger.
(3) She has a gene variation in the APOA2 gene, indicating, pretty much literally, that saturated fat sticks to her more easily than the norm. Irrespective of the touted health of coconut oil (which is debatable), Daysha dropped it from her diet, along with other saturated fats such as animal products, butter, dairy products, and palm oil.
(4) Daysha discovered that the most effective time to work out is later in the day, something she suspected given that she’s “definitely not a morning person”.
(5) Her best form of exercise is “high-volume training”, meaning high sets and reps of weight training. She presumed that she needs a lot of cardio exercise, but for her (and many people) strength training was the key to getting leaner. The more muscle you build, the more fat you burn.
Her workout schedule:
- Strength training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) three to four times per week.
- Two active recovery days.
- A brisk walk every morning.
(6) Her body doesn’t easily switch from using carbs for energy to using fat, so she needs to consume a particular balance of macronutrients, which are carbs, protein and fat. In her case, this is the macronutrient proportions she tracks, rather than count calories:
- Carbohydrates: 40%
- Protein: 30%
- Fat: 30% (less than 8% coming from saturated fats, and the main source coming from monounsaturated fats. This would include foods such as almonds, olive oil, avocado, sesame oil, and canola oil.)
(7) She metabolizes caffeine slowly. Ideally, then, green tea would be more beneficial than coffee as a pre-workout drink; 30 minutes prior to a workout for optimal energy.
(8) She needed and benefited greatly from the support of friends and family. As you’ll see in the video, Daysha used the buddy system, wherein her friends encouraged and participated in her journey.
(9) The results speak loudly. Daysha learned to trust her body:
“This experience allowed me to trust my body more than I ever have. I realized that I was always caught in this mindset that I was somehow “broken,” and that nothing would ever work for me. In reality, I just needed to learn more about my body and how I function as an individual. We live in a culture where everyone is trying to tell you what’s healthy, and this gave me the peace of mind to know what’s actually healthy for my own body. This is only the beginning for me!”
Watch Daysha Edewi tell her story:
My thanks to Daysha for being so genuine and upfront about her body issues, and for sharing her story. And now we turn to another one, that of Pat Baily, who used a different company for her genetic test, called Habit, rather than FitnessGenie.
“I Tried A Diet Based On At-Home Blood + Genetic Testing: Here’s What Happened”
Habit marries our passion for food with the science of you to bring you the world’s most complete personalized nutrition solution.
Pat describes the Habit genetic testing processes in an article she wrote for MindBodyGreen.
This is the Habit testing process:
- DNA is captured by swabbing both cheeks.
- Blood is taken from your finger at three intervals: once in the beginning after fasting for 12 hours, once after the Habit shake is consumed, and then one more time at the end of the test.
- The blood drops are then smeared onto a blood card.
- You drink a “challenge” shake between the first and second blood sample that captures data about how your body responds to carbs, fats, and protein during the testing process.
Here’s a screen shot from the Habit website illustrating their genetics testing procedure:
What Pat learned (and changed) from the Habit test
Pat’s test results affirmed that much of what she ate that she intuitively felt was right for her was proven to be right by the Habit genetic test. For example, she loves and eats ample amounts of broccoli, and the test indicated that it’s among her “hero foods”.
Another example: Pat’s a vegetarian, typically a low-protein diet, and her test results show that a low-protein diet is best for her genetics.
Affirming her intuition was valuable, but Pat says that the best part of the experience was the incredible amount of data collected, and the support provided by Habit to use that data to make a plan tailored for her —all based in science.
Here’s some of what Pat learned about herself from the Habit genetics test:
- Like, Daysha, Pat metabolizes coffee slowly, so she should drink less of it.
- She’s a “Range Seeker”, meaning in the Habit parlance that her body is forgiving regarding the proportions of macronutrients consumes; however, ideally she should aim for:
- 50% calories from carbs
- 30% calories from fat
- 20% calories from protein
- She finally eliminated some of the agitation she felt associated with wondering if she was eating correctly.
When intuition and science collide
Pat underscores the importance of affirming your intuition:
“There’s feeling and there’s knowing”, she says. “There’s intuition and there’s science. When it comes to finding what feeds you, it’s important to look at the whole picture and realize that one-size nutrition does not fit all because we are not one size, we are made up of unique DNA and metabolic systems, and these things comprise our personal biology, which gives us a map for creating a personalized nutrition plan. Habit is special because the results are uniquely yours.”
Now that you’ve got an idea about how two people used two different genetic testing services to personalize their nutrition and exercise programs, let’s turn to someone who just used a little trick to get her exercising and eating well on a consistent basis.
“My diet consisted of yo-yo and guilt”
Let’s face it, most of us are unlikely to take the time and spend the money to get a genetic test in order to discover our best diet and exercise routines.
If you don’t want to take a genetic test, but rather just jump into an effective program for weight loss, consider one more story, that of Jordan Kohanim, a teacher at Northview High School in Johns Creek, Georgia.
In a Today.com article, Jordan tells her story. She had just won the Teacher of the Year award. Pictures were taken. She saw herself in those pictures:
“I was mortified about how unhealthy I looked. It was time that I admitted that what I was doing was not working. My diet consisted of yo-yo and guilt. I was overweight because I believed the narrative that society taught me: I was big because I wasn’t worthwhile enough not to be.”
Rather than slink off, tail between her legs, Jordan took five steps that helped a teacher shed 70 pounds, transform her life in two years.
How did she do it?
First, she used her father’s 15-minute rule.
Then she dropped counting calories and started counting macronutrients.
The 15-Minute Rule In Action
Here’s the 15-minute rule in a nutshell:
- Go to the gym (or wherever) and work out for 15 minutes.
- Once there, if you don’t feel like exercising, go home.
- If you return home without exercising, do not beat yourself up, but accept that you tried and that you’ll try again tomorrow.
Dear ole Dad was onto something.
Jordan tried her father’s “15-minute rule”. For a few weeks, she worked out 15 minutes a day, twice a week. Then, she started going to the gym three, then four, then five days a week. She discovered she enjoyed it and before she realized it, she was exercising for 60 minutes.
“I vowed to do my at-least-15-minutes workout five days a week. Once the habit was made, I was able to stick to it. I work out in the morning before I am exhausted from teaching and tutoring.”
Track macronutrients, not calories
Before you say, “Uh, Joe, you’re repeating yourself”, let me say that I know I am, and have a good reason for doing so.
While exercise helped Jordan transform her body, making better food choices made the biggest difference. When she first started, Jordan simply tracked her calories. Now, she follow a macros diet, where she counts macronutrients, which include carbs, protein and fat, to make healthy meals. It’s a different way of tracking what you eat.
“People don’t realize just how much of weight loss is what you eat. The truisms are truisms because they are — surprise, surprise — true.”
Genetic testing for exercise and nutrition can yield a lot of fascinating information about what works best for your DNA.
I only profiled two genetic testing services because they were associated with the two success stories I wanted to tell you about; however there are several other such companies that provide genetic tests, along online platforms to support their suggested lifestyle changes.
Along with the two here profiled — FitnessGenie and Habit — three others worth examining are:
- DNAFit offers a free 14-day guide about how genetics impact every aspect of your fitness and nutrition.
- Kinetic Diagnostics is focused on athletic performance.
- Simplified Genetics tells you the type, duration and frequency that would most benefit you, the best combination of macronutrients and the most effective supplements.
I suggest you look at these genetic testing options carefully. Despite the success that Daysha and Pat had, the results of such tests can be confusing and contradictory, says STAT reporter Rebecca Robins in her article, Genetic tests promised to help me achieve peak fitness. What I got was a fiasco.
Don’t let “perfection be the enemy of the good”.
In this context, what I’m suggesting is that you don’t indulge yourself with the thought that unless you get a genetic test to make the perfect personalized plan, there’s no point in trying anything at all.
Nearly no buff man or woman you see on TV or on those magazine covers got that way by following some genetic blueprint, which means that you should remember that Jordan Kohanim said something like, “15 minutes is good enough to start,” and with those first steps whittled 70 pounds off her frame.
And so can you!
P.S. If you want some ideas about nutrition and diet, chew on these articles.
For exercise ideas, run over here.