The next big thing in sweat tech isn’t a wrist gadget. It’s in your body.
The next big thing in sweat tech isn’t a wrist gadget. It’s in your body. Find out if and how the new trackers can optimise your every move.
Details about your body’s blueprint can help you make a training breakthrough.
You’re just a cheek swab or a needle prick away from ﬁnding out if your body is programmed for endurance, built for power, or hardwired to lift heavy. That’s because the sophisticated lab tests that were once reserved for Olympians have gone mainstream, thanks to a bumper crop of new com panies that o er to read your inner tea leaves—found in your saliva or in your blood—for about the cost of a high-tech ﬁtness tracker. These tests can give you instructions on how you can change your habits to see results and maximise your health,” says Gil Blander, a cofounder of InsideTracker, which analyses 30 biomarkers in your blood. For example, if you’ve ever wondered about your ability to build muscle, there’s a gene that can answer that. “There are indeed genes that are linked to your predisposition to develop certain types of muscle ﬁbre,” says Avi Lasarow, the CEO of DNAFit, a company in London that uses saliva samples to test for genetic traits. “People with the R version of a gene called ACTN3 have a higher likelihood of developing fast-twitch muscle ﬁbres [the stu that sprinters have in large supply, as opposed to slow-twitch muscle ﬁbres], but only if they do the right training.” The R version of this gene has also been linked to an increased growth of muscle mass when strength training, so they may see faster results from their reps, Avi says. On the other hand, people without the R version need to approach workouts di erently if they want to build muscle, he says. That may mean eating more protein and lifting moderately heavy weights for longer sets. The point is, according to the gene and blood marker trackers, when you tailor exercise to your body’s speciﬁc needs, you can ensure faster, longer-lasting results. So should you open wide or roll up your sleeve? Our guide can help you decide.
BLOOD, SWEAT, AND SALIVA
All DNA and blood analysis companies basically work the same way: You go online to select your tests, then you provide them with the appropriate sample – saliva for DNA tests, blood for blood analytics. (For saliva, swab or spit and mail your sample to the company in a prepaidenvelope. To get blood drawn, you can head to a local clinic, which will send it to the company.) The di erence is in the advice you get back: Each company o ers particular categories that it tracks and has its own method for translating the results into a plan of action. (See “The Fit Girl’s Guide to Testing Companies,” right, for a quick overview.)
If you go the cheek swab route, DNAcode (from $135) – available exclusively at Guardian – o ers a standard test kit that provides a detailed report on your weight loss ability, how well your body responds to strength training, and which vitamins you are lacking. You can then take these results to a Guardian pharmacist, who will be able to recommend supplements that will work best for your genetic makeup.
Similarly, the 32 insights from ONI Global’s DNA-me ($350) sheds light on your potential for lean body mass, stress fracture risk, the e ectiveness of a low-carb diet, and whether your skin has an antioxidant deﬁciency. A personalised list of recommendations and products aimed at boosting health, wellbeing, athletic peformance and skin health are also provided in the report.
Meanwhile, GeneLife offers packages that focus on various health aspects, including analysis on your metabolism, skin traits, risk of heart conditions, and muscle type, by targeting three genes. For a more comprehensive look at your health, but with a bigger price tag, GeneLife Genesis 2.0 ($399) tests more than 360 traits, including acne, Vitamin D insufficiency and bone mineral density, from 1,400 DNA-sequences, to give you an in-depth report comprising all of the above.
ELXR Sports (from $99) analyses your ACTN3 gene to uncover if your muscle ﬁbres are best suited for power-based sports, endurance activities, or a hybrid. The kit is part of mobile app ELXR’s subscription-based training programme, where your genetic makeup, together with sports assessments, are used to design a workout regime that’s optimised for you.
Among the blood analytics companies, InsideTracker o ers a variety of goal-based options. It will, for example, check your total cholesterol (LDL and HDL) and triglycerides using a few vials of your blood and tell you what the results mean in terms of your metabolism and ability to lose fat. “All those biomarkers optimise metabolism in a dffierent way,” Gil explains. “High cholesterol, for example, indicates you should eat less fat, fewer carbohydrates, and more fruits and vegetables. A by-product of this is that you lose weight.”
Another US blood analytics company, Blueprint for Athletes, caters to those who are more serious about their training (the company has partnered with the New York Giants) by offering options like an “endurance package.” The lab tests look at endurance biomarkers and key nutrients speciﬁc to oxygen-transporting red blood cells in the body, says Maren Fragala, the director of athlete health and performance for the company. “Endurance capacity is largely determined by an athlete’s ability to consume and utilise oxygen,” Maren explains. “Without it, your body won’t be able to perform effectively.” One ﬁx that might be given: Eat more ironrich leaner red meats and dark leafy greens, because haemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen) is closely linked to your level of iron.
But there’s a hitch: With blood tests (unlike genetic tests), many biomarkers in your blood, including glucose and haemoglobin, can shift quickly as a result of lifestyle modiﬁcations, so the tests may best serve your get-ﬁt mission when they’re repeated over time, allowing you to track your results and improvements. “Some biomarkers are radically affected by interventions as well as environmental changes, so we get better feedback if we do the test multiple times,” Maren notes. That said, doing it just once will give you a snapshot of your health, as well as baseline information that you can use to up your game.
SO ARE THEY LEGIT?
“Everyone’s looking for an edge,” says Dr Rehal Bhojani, a family and sports medicine specialist at the Memorial Herman Medical Group in Sugar Land, Texas. “When there’s a new test or lab value that can be used to enhance performance, society jumps on it, sometimes without proper conﬁ rmation that it is valid.” Dr Bhojani sees the value in having testing done to unearth any hindrances to your training. “If the test is one that has already been validated in the scientiﬁc literature, it can help adjust your training regimen.” Companies like InsideTracker state that they issue recommendations based on the ﬁndings of peer-reviewed medical studies, which have established the links between certain biomarkers or genes and various aspects of health and ﬁtness.
THE FIT GIRL’S GUIDE TO TESTING COMPANIES
Saliva test: For everyday exercisers who want tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, be it ﬁtness or nutrition. (From $135, guardian.com.sg/ dna-code)
Saliva test: Suited to those looking for recommended plans to reach their ﬁtness, nutrition or skin goals. ($350, gnc.com.sg)
Saliva test: For the ﬁtness junkie looking to train smart with a personalised workout regime. (From $99, sg.ﬁtlion.com)
“Genetics gives you an instruction manual on how to work out to best benefit you,” says Kurt Johnsen, cofounder and CEO of Simplified Genetics."