Factor reviews: FitnessGenes fitness DNA analysis

FitnessGenes is a genetic testing service that analyses your DNA and tells you how to optimise your training and nutrition based on your genetic blueprint to help reach weight loss and fitness goals.

The process is pretty straightforward: You order your test kit, get it delivered, spit into a tube, seal it and send it back. Meanwhile you enter your lifestyle data and training goals into the company’s online portal, and within two to three weeks you receive the results of your DNA analysis (which is done by a certified lab in the UK) along with personalised training and nutrition recommendations.

FitnessGenes analyses 41 genetic variations, looking at various genes that impact your training, metabolism and nutritional needs. This includes genes relating to muscle strength, adrenaline signalling, blood pressure regulation, energy production, metabolism, fatigue and recovery, fat and carb processing, to name a just a few.

In isolation, the results of the DNA test read a bit like a science textbook, and if you haven’t done any biology since school you may get lost in the jargon pretty quickly. However, FitnessGenes interprets the results and turns them into recommended actions, so you don’t have to study sports science or nutrition to make sense of it all.

DNA-assisted training and nutrition strategies

The analysis package comes with a ‘personal action blueprint’ of training and nutrition strategies that suit your genetic profile. If you know your basics, you can build a workout programme based on that – or you can pay FitnessGenes to do it for you. Upgrade options for ‘premium genetic training programmes’ come in a range of packages – get fit, get lean, lose weight, build muscle and celebrity coaches – with a price range of £29 to £229 and a duration of four to 24 weeks.

Premium plans were not included in our review package, so let’s take a look at what you get if you buy only the DNA test kit, which is priced at £129 individually.

Training strategies are broken down into beginner, intermediate and advanced level. Each includes recommendations for workout types and frequency – at beginner level this is as basic as “do a full body workout three times a week”, while the intermediate and advanced levels come with a more detailed plan for hitting different muscle groups on different days, and a range of exercise suggestions.

As part of this, you also get personalised recommendations for workout types and volumes that work well for your genetic make-up, including the number of sets and reps and recovery time that is deemed best for your personal muscle-building or weight loss goals.

FitnessGenes also provides some pointers on how to optimise your strength and cardio training. Based on my results, for example, I’m told that strength training periodisation will help me make continual gains, and that I should to two to three HIIT sessions a week to overcome fat-loss plateaus. However, that’s the kind of advice I’ve been reading on every fitness website ever, so it probably applies to most people regardless of their genetic make-up.

Also in the ‘personal action blueprint’ you’ll find a nutrition calculator with a recommended calorie intake and macronutrient breakdown. Based on your genetic results, the nutrition blueprint will also tell you which meal sizes and snacking regimes work best for you, how to optimise your macros, whether you’re at risk of overeating and how to control appetite. There’s also a ton of general information on nutrition, macros, eating for fat loss and muscle gain, and using supplements.

Finally, you get some information about physiological strategies, including post-workout recovery, blood flow and vasodilation, susceptibility to oxidative damage and testosterone levels (if you’re male).

An example of FitnessGenes’ nutrition calculator results

DNA fitness analysis: how useful is it all?

Overall it looks like FitnessGenes has a pretty good set-up. The DNA test was easy to do – even though I had to do it twice as my first saliva sample didn’t contain enough DNA for a successful analysis.

The results were delivered as promised and the online interface is well-structured and easy to navigate. All content is colour-coded so it’s easy to tell the general info from the personalised recommendations, and a little DNA symbol used in menus helps to quickly identify sections containing personalised content.

The analysis turned out to be a lot more detailed than I expected. For each of the 41 genetic variations, there’s a quick overview as well as a full page explaining the gene and its function in detail. This part comes across a bit science-heavy and intimidating, but the key results are picked up in the action blueprint and explained in context of training and nutrition, where it all makes a lot more sense.

Based on my experience, I’d say FitnessGenes looks like a very useful system, especially if you like to take a structured approach to training and have a specific goal such as muscle gain or fat loss. You have to invest a fair bit of time into reading the results to really get something out of it, as well as being willing to adjust your training and eating habits accordingly. But then, if you’re spending £129 on a fitness DNA test, you’re probably a bit nerdy about your training and nutrition anyway, and will get exactly what you’re looking for.

Factor’s verdict:

Soviet report detailing lunar rover Lunokhod-2 released for first time

Russian space agency Roskosmos has released an unprecedented scientific report into the lunar rover Lunokhod-2 for the first time, revealing previously unknown details about the rover and how it was controlled back on Earth.

The report, written entirely in Russian, was originally penned in 1973 following the Lunokhod-2 mission, which was embarked upon in January of the same year. It had remained accessible to only a handful of experts at the space agency prior to its release today, to mark the 45th anniversary of the mission.

Bearing the names of some 55 engineers and scientists, the report details the systems that were used to both remotely control the lunar rover from a base on Earth, and capture images and data about the Moon’s surface and Lunokhod-2’s place on it. This information, and in particularly the carefully documented issues and solutions that the report carries, went on to be used in many later unmanned missions to other parts of the solar system.

As a result, it provides a unique insight into this era of space exploration and the technical challenges that scientists faced, such as the low-frame television system that functioned as the ‘eyes’ of the Earth-based rover operators.

A NASA depiction of the Lunokhod mission. Above: an image of the rover, courtesy of NASA, overlaid onto a panorama of the Moon taken by Lunokhod-2, courtesy of Ruslan Kasmin.

One detail that main be of particular interest to space enthusiasts and experts is the operation of a unique system called Seismas, which was tested for the first time in the world during the mission.

Designed to determine the precise location of the rover at any given time, the system involved transmitting information over lasers from ground-based telescopes, which was received by a photodetector onboard the lunar rover. When the laser was detected, this triggered the emission of a radio signal back to the Earth, which provided the rover’s coordinates.

Other details, while technical, also give some insight into the culture of the mission, such as the careful work to eliminate issues in the long-range radio communication system. One issue, for example, was worked on with such thoroughness that it resulted in one of the devices using more resources than it was allocated, a problem that was outlined in the report.

The document also provides insight into on-Earth technological capabilities of the time. While it is mostly typed, certain mathematical symbols have had to be written in by hand, and the report also features a number of diagrams and graphs that have been painstakingly hand-drawn.

A hand-drawn graph from the report, showing temperature changes during one of the monitoring sessions during the mission

Lunokhod-2 was the second of two unmanned lunar rovers to be landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union within the Lunokhod programme, having been delivered via a soft landing by the unmanned Luna 21 spacecraft in January 1973.

In operation between January and June of that year, the robot covered a distance of 39km, meaning it still holds the lunar distance record to this day.

One of only four rovers to be deployed on the lunar surface, Lunokhod-2 was the last rover to visit the Moon until December 2013, when Chinese lunar rover Yutu made its maiden visit.

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.