Could Your Genes be Responsible for Your Results (or Lack of) at the Gym?

You’ve been there, right? You bust your butt working out as hard as you can and yet somehow you don’t get the results you feel you should. It can drive you crazy and make you feel like you aren’t doing enough; which can be pretty frustrating when you know you’ve given it all you’ve got.

So, what is going on when this happens? Why is it that you can work out with your best pal at the same intensity, doing the same exercises and they seem to be getting fitter while you’re just staying the same?

According to research, your results when it comes to exercising may have more to do with your genes than your intensity level. That means that if you aren’t seeing the gains you’d like to see in your level of fitness, it may not be because you’re not working hard enough or doing the right exercises – the problem may be your genes.

Your body’s response to exercise

When your body undergoes regular physical exercise and responds well, it generally makes healthy gains in two areas: aerobic fitness and insulin sensitivity. The first one is pretty self-explanatory as obviously most people work out to improve their fitness and health overall. However, the second gain is a little less known.

You see, the more fit you are, the more sensitive your body is to insulin. Insulin is what your body releases into your bloodstream to deal with the sugars that are in it. Diabetics either don’t make the necessary insulin or their body is ineffective at using it, which is why they run into problems.

That is partly why studies in this field are so important. Not only does your response to exercise affect your ability to build muscle and look better, but it also affects your health.

So, what have some studies found in this area?

Study #1

In a Heritage Family Study that was conducted from 1992 to 2004, researchers wanted to find out why two people who performed the same exercises at the same intensity got such very different results. What was the major factor as to whether or not you made progress with your workouts?

What they found was that there are certain genes that dictate where you begin when it comes to fitness and certain ones that may also dictate how much you can advance. One particular gene that they studied, called the creatine kinase gene, may be one such variable.

Study #2

Another study conducted by Dr. Michael Mosley found similar results. That particular one involved doing just three minutes (yes, three) of exercise per week. The form of training used in this bit of research is called High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT.

This training method involved the participants warming up their bodies on a stationary bicycle for a few minutes and then increasing their intensity as much as possible for one-third of a minute. They would do this pattern three times and their exercise was done – for the week.

When you train using this particular method, you use more muscle tissue than you do with traditional aerobic exercises as it activates approximately 80% of your muscle cells.

So, what did Dr. Mosley find?

He noticed that there are a small number of genes that may actually predict how well the participants would respond to the exercise program, both aerobically and in dealing with their insulin levels (a 24% improvement, to be exact). Those with certain genes offered great responses while those without them didn’t fare as well.

Study #3

Professor James Timmons found similar results in yet another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology which involved two groups of participants. One group contained 24 healthy, but not overly active young white males. The other group consisted of 17 young white males who lived active lifestyles.

Each participant was put through a controlled exercise program and monitored every step of the way. What they found is that some of the participants in each group responded very well to the exercise program, whereas others had very little change despite the level of exercise they were doing. And, just as in the two studies showcased prior, researchers found that genes may have been to blame.

Putting it all together

So what does all this mean? According to these three separate studies it means that your genes may play a huge role in regard to any advances you’re able to make with your exercise program in regard to aerobic fitness.

And, the participant’s results were better for insulin sensitivity in each study than they were for increasing aerobic fitness levels. Why? Because of genes the participants had and didn’t have.


Perhaps you are working out as hard as you possibly can and not seeing the results you deserve. Research like the studies above now show that this is possible.

This is good because you now know that it isn’t your fault. You can do everything textbook right and still not see the gains in fitness that someone who is working the exact same program does. It takes some of the pressure off.

However, it also can be rather frustrating because how do you fix this? How do you get results so that you can advance your fitness level?

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