Did you know that your body has a preferred method of physical activity? Different genotypes determine how likely someone is to have a positive response to anaerobic vs aerobic (power training vs endurance) exercise, which in turn may help you choose which exercises will be most likely to help you reach your fitness goals.
By analyzing the DNA of 19,852 people, a meta-analysis identified nine genetic variations that have significant associations with being a power athlete. Other research has found that a specific allele of the ACE gene is heavily represented in endurance athletes, like elite long-distance cyclists, and is beneficial for endurance, rather than power-related sports. The benefits of anaerobic exercise are numerous, as are the benefits of aerobic exercise. Both types of physical activity can help you to achieve optimal health and fitness, but your cells will prefer either power or endurance.
Anaerobic or Aerobic? Your Muscles Determine Your Optimal Physical Activity
Whether you tend to be power or endurance-oriented largely depends on your muscle fiber composition. Generally speaking, muscle fibers can be broken into two types:
- Type I (slow twitch): Type I uses oxygen for fuel, fires slowly, provides continuous energy, and has high endurance.
- Type II (fast twitch): Type II relies on anaerobic metabolism for fuel, fires rapidly, and is quicker to fatigue. Fast twitch fibers can be further broken down into two types:
- Type IIa, which are intermediate or hybrid fast twitch fibers that use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally.
- Type II: Purely anaerobic fast twitch fibers that produce the highest rate of contraction for quick, powerful bursts of activity. They also fatigue very quickly.
Literature shows that healthy, sedentary people tend to have a 50/50 split of Type I and Type II fibers. Power athletes are estimated to have up to 80 percent of Type II fibers. Likewise, elite marathoners may have 80 percent of Type I fibers.
Your DNA largely determines your personal combination. While you can train and make adaptations to muscle fiber size, shape and—to a lesser extent—type, research shows that genetic predisposition accounts for greater than 60 percent of muscle fiber type with only about a third being influenced by training and nutrition.
Power & Endurance Training Sports: Anaerobic vs Aerobic
People with a higher response to power training will most likely see significant power gains while training. If you are born with these genes, you might succeed in sports where power plays a pivotal role, such as sprinting, basketball, football, tennis, track and field, competitive lifting, and CrossFit. On the other hand, if your genes promote a higher response to endurance training, you are more likely to excel at distance running, long-distance cycling, and triathlons.
If you’re curious to know whether your body prefers anaerobic vs aerobic exercise, take these simple steps:
- While not scientific, you can analyze yourself by determining which types of workouts you enjoy the most. Do you prefer long runs or weightlifting? You may be successful at both, but you may excel more at one or the other.
- Take a DNA test. It can give you valuable insights into your overall genetics as well as success strategies that cater to your molecular makeup and can help you reach optimal health.
Interested in learning more about taking a DNA test that can give you insights into your body’s specific preferences when it comes to physical fitness and nutrition? Apply to become a FOXO Beta Tester today!
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 Association of rs699 (M235T) polymorphism in the AGT gene with power but not endurance athlete status, NIH: National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23287839/
 Powers SK, and Howley ET. (2012). Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance, (8th Edition). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
 Clark M, Lucett S, McGill E, Montel I and Sutton B (Editors). (2018). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (6th ed). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishing.