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:

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For the first time in the UK, scientists have altered human embryos. Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, the scientists turned off the protein OCT4, which is thought to be important in early embryo development. In doing so, cells that normally go on to form the placenta, yolk sac and foetus failed to develop.

Source: BBC

Tesla and AMD developing AI chip for self-driving cars

Tesla has partnered with AMD to develop a dedicated chip that will handle autonomous driving tasks in its cars. Tesla's Autopilot programme is currently headed by former AMD chip architect Jim Keller, and it is said that more than 50 people are working on the initiative under his leadership.

Source: CNBC

Synthetic muscle developed that can lift 1,000 times its own weight

Scientists have used a 3D printing technique to create an artificial muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight. "It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It's the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle," said Dr Aslan Miriyev, from the Creative Machines lab.

Source: Telegraph

Head of AI at Google criticises "AI apocalypse" scaremongering

John Giannandrea, the senior vice president of engineering at Google, has condemned AI scaremongering, promoted by people like Elon Musk ."I just object to the hype and the sort of sound bites that some people have been making," said Giannandrea."I am definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse."

Source: CNBC

Scientists engineer antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains

Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and is built to attack three critical parts of the virus, which makes it harder for the HIV virus to resist its effects. The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". Human trials will begin in 2018.

Source: BBC

Facebook has a plan to stop fake news from influencing elections

Mark Zuckerberg has outlined nine steps that Facebook will take to "protect election integrity". “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity," he said during a live broadcast on his Facebook page. "I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy.”

Renault unveils unorthodox ‘car of the future’: a dockable, peanut-shaped driverless pod

Renault has unveiled its take on the car of the future: a peanut-shaped, mulit-directional driverless vehicle that is capable of docking into a train of vehicles.

Designed by Yuchen Cai, a student of Central St Martins’ MA in Industrial Design, the vehicle is the winning design in competition run between Renault and the prestigious design school, and was honed during a two-week stay at Renault’s Paris studio by Cai this summer.

Dubbed The Float, the vehicle was unveiled today at DesignJunction, a four-day design event that kicked off today in London.

“Everyone has accepted that cars will be part of the sharing economy in the future – that’s what’s going to happen,” said Will Sorrel, event director of DesignJunction, this morning.

“This takes it one step further and these pods are this peanut shape so they can join together, so the autonomous vehicles can link up and join together if they’re going in the same direction, conserving energy.”

The Float by Yuchen Cai, winner of the Renault and Central Saint Martins, UAL competition

The Float is rather unusually designed to run using magnetic levitation – known more commonly as maglev – and would be capable of moving in any direction, eliminating the need for tedious three-point turns.

Made entirely of glass, the vehicle is designed to have sliding doors. Two bucket-style seats enable up to two passengers to travel per pod, and swivel mechanism ensures easy departure from the pods.

When the vehicle is docked to another, however, the passengers aren’t just stuck grimacing at each other through glass. Instead passengers can rotate their seats using built-in controls and power up a sound system that allows them to talk to the pod next door.

Those who are feeling less sociable can change the opacity of the glass, ensuring privacy when their neighbours are not so appealing to communicate with.

The Float is also designed to be paired with a smartphone app, through which would-be passengers could hail a vehicle as required.

“Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design students really took this on board when creating their vision of the future,” said Anthony Lo, Renault’s  vice-president of exterior design and one of the competition judges. “Yuchen’s winning design was particularly interesting thanks to its use of Maglev technology and its tessellated design. It was a pleasure to have her at the Renault design studios and see her vision come to life.”

“From a technological viewpoint, the prospect of vehicle autonomy is fascinating, but it’s also critical to hold in mind that such opportunities also present significant challenges to how people interact and their experience of future cities,” added Nick Rhodes, Central Saint Martins programme director of product ceramic & industrial design.

“Recognition of the success of the projects here lies in their ability to describe broader conceptions of what driverless vehicles might become and how we may come to live with them.”