It’s fascinating to see how the most elite athletes prepare and train for their sport of choice. While specific diet and exercise plans play an important role, it’s also becoming more apparent that genetics is an important factor in athletic performance.

A 2018 study from the Anti-Doping Laboratory in Qatar, evaluated both metabolic and genetic factors as they relate to being either a power or endurance athlete. It was clear that different types of athletes had “unique metabolic signatures” that appeared to predispose them to excel at certain types of activities.

In recent years, the field of sports and performance genetics has grown. We now understand that athletic ability is a combination of genetic predisposition and training, and knowledge of these genetic predispositions plays an essential role in an athlete’s success.

Endurance Athletes vs. Power Athletes

Athletes are generally defined as being endurance or power-oriented, though some individuals have attributes of both.

Being an endurance athlete refers to sustaining energy and performance over time and longer distances. Examples of endurance athletes include long-distance runners or swimmers, cyclists, and triathletes.

Conversely, power refers to the ability to exert maximal strength over a short time. Examples of power athletes include weightlifters and sprinters. 

While several genes contribute to endurance and power tendencies, two genes play a critical role – the ACE gene and the ACTN3 gene.

ACE Gene

The ACE gene is involved in blood pressure management, fluid balance, and blood sugar levels.  

Having an “I” copy of this gene is associated with being an endurance athlete and is found in distance runners and other longer-distance athletes.

Having a “D” copy of this gene is associated with being a power athlete and is found in sprint and strength-oriented athletes.

ACTN3 Gene

The ACTN3 gene is involved in the development of muscle fibers. Muscle fibers are considered either “fast-twitch” or “slow-twitch,” depending on the speed they constrict and the force they generate.

A “C” copy of this gene is associated with increased muscle mass, strength, and a higher proportion of “fast-twitch” muscle fibers. This version of the gene is found in weightlifting and sprinting athletes. These athletes do best with high-load, low-repetition training as well as high-intensity training.

Having a “T” copy of this gene is less associated with being a power athlete, thus having fewer “fast-twitch” muscles. Those with a “T” copy may do better with low-load, high-repetition exercises when weight training.

Understanding Your Genetics

At ADx Health, we believe that with knowledge comes power. Understanding your genetic makeup can help you increase performance, train thoughtfully, and perform better at your sport. 

If you think you’d like to understand more about your genetics and how they may affect you, ADx Health recommends speaking to a medical professional about taking a genetic test. ADx offers a comprehensive report that gives you transparency into your genetics. Learn more about the myGenoFit panel here. 

These statements are not intended to replace a medical professional’s assessment.