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How Your Genes Can Help You Drop a Jeans Size

By Dan Reardon, MBChB ; Updated June 15, 2018

There are thousands of workout and diet plans out there, and while some people achieve phenomenal results, others — even with the same level of effort — don’t. Ever wonder why?

Everybody and every body is different, and as much as 50 to 60 percent of the variation between people and their physical performance is genetic. The other 40 to 50 percent is controlled by environmental factors like diet, exercise and lifestyle.

When it comes to body composition, genetics play a huge role in both how we exercise and what we eat.

Knowing your genes and how they relate to your diet might be the only obstacle between you and your skinny jeans and, more importantly, feeling empowered in your own body, no matter your size or shape.

Here are some nutritional components that are key to your healthiest you and that, for the first time, take the guesswork out of reaching your wellness goals.

1. Know Your Macros

Recently, there’s been an increase in the discussion around macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins and fat. Your genetic information can help establish the ideal macronutrient ratios that will optimize your specific weight-loss capabilities and still preserve muscle tissue.

2. Balance Your Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are found in many foods, and they’re an important source of energy. In the digestive system carbohydrates are converted to glucose, which can then be used as energy with help from the hormone insulin.

Your genes determine your individual insulin sensitivity (assuming you’re not Type 1 diabetic) and therefore help guide you to the ratio of carbohydrates to other macronutrients. Some people are suited to a diet high in carbohydrates, whereas others need to limit the amount of carbs they consume.

The PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor) genes are a great example of gene variations for which there are tests, the results of which give an indication of the type of diet you should follow. They provide information about insulin resistance and, in turn, key information about people who should follow higher- or lower-carbohydrate diets.

3. Fill Up on Protein

When you carry the risk allele (variant form of a gene) for the FTO gene (also known as the fat and obesity gene), hunger is going to be a challenge. Someone with this risk allele sees a rise in the hormone ghrelin after they eat, which makes them feel hungrier faster, leading to a tendency to overeat and choosing more calorie-dense foods.

This is where protein is an effective tool, because high-protein foods have a relatively low energy density, adequately suppress appetite and have been shown to assist in weight loss. Therefore, we know that people carrying the risk alleles for the FTO gene will need to follow higher-protein diets to increase the chances of success in losing weight.

4. Get the Right Amount of Good Fat

The FTO gene also provides some very useful information about fat intake that can help you reach your goals. One study investigating the effect of the FTO risk allele on body composition found that carriers were significantly less likely to complete a 10-week, calorie-restricted dietary intervention on the high-fat/low-carb diet than on the low-fat/high-carb diet, seemingly because obese individuals are less sensitive to the “filling” effects of fat.

5. Find What’s Best for You

So how exactly do you find out what your genes are saying about your macronutrient and exercise needs? Taking a very simple, noninvasive saliva test, such as the one from FitnessGenes, is all that’s required to assess the gene variations mentioned above, plus many others.

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