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Train Smarter: DNA Testing for Health and Wellness

Train Smarter: DNA Testing for Health and Wellness

Over the last few years, genetic testing has grown in popularity. Testing now expands beyond disease and ancestry. New DNA tests include lifestyle testing, which is what health and wellness testing falls under. 

What is just starting to take off is the impact of these genetic tests on a personal trainer’s ability to properly program a client’s diet and nutrition program. This is a game-changer for personal trainers! It takes all the guesswork out of the program design specific to a client. These tests give personal trainers solid data they can then pass along to a client. 

Can Anyone Take a DNA Test?

The best part of these tests is how available they are to the consumer. Anyone can buy one, send it in, and receive a report of the findings. You can complete it at home, on your schedule. 

Do Your Research

The first step is deciding which test to take. There are many companies out there offering genetic testing options. Ensuring it is a trustworthy company needs to be at the top of the priority list. 

Research the companies by visiting their websites and looking at sample reports. Also, ensuring their lab is accredited is important. If you have questions beyond that contact the company to get those answered before purchasing a kit. 

Getting the Results

Once you select a company, then it’s easy! Follow the directions in the kit provided to you. Often the directions are standard: you register the kit online, take a swab of DNA from your cheek, seal it up, and send it off to the lab. 

Labs typically take about two weeks to analyze the data. From there, either the client or the personal trainer depending on the testing company will receive a detailed report of the results through a secure portal. 

What Are the Risks of DNA Tests?

The nice part about a test like this is that there are no physical risks. The only potential risk with a test of this sort is emotional. This is where it is important for a personal trainer to be involved in interpreting the report—so long as they have the proper knowledge to support it. Trainers can learn how to interpret these reports and apply the information to program design and nutritional coaching through the ISSA’s Genetics-Based Program Design course. 

While the health and wellness testing does not provide information on disease or illness, it can still deliver unfavorable information depending on the client. For example, a client may discover they need to perform more exercise minutes than people with other genetic histories for the same weight loss goals. For a client struggling with weight loss, this could be overwhelming information to decode on their own. However, their personal trainer can help them better understand these results and how they can adjust their training program to better suit their unique needs.

What Genetic Traits Does Health and Wellness Testing Cover?

These traits are different than those tested for diagnostic purposes. Rather than testing for things like cancer or a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease or Huntington’s disease, health and wellness testing will assess things like weight loss ability, macronutrient utilization or athletic performance. 

Typically, health and wellness tests break down into three categories:

  • Weight loss ability
  • Athletic performance 
  • Nutrients

Weight Loss Ability

Labs review different genetic variants of several different traits when assessing this category. When analyzed together, those traits indicate the person’s weight loss ability based on their genetics. Something to keep in mind here is that everyone can lose weight, so this test is not going to tell them they won’t lose weight. What it will tell them is what they need to do to achieve that weight loss goal based on their genetic predisposition. 

Common traits evaluated for weight loss ability may include:

  • Fat loss response to cardio
  • Body composition response to strength training
  • Macronutrient utilization
  • Micronutrient tendencies
  • Fitness response to cardio
  • HDL, glucose, triglyceride, and insulin sensitivity response to cardio
  • Impulse control and tasting preference

Athletic Performance 

The process for a genetic test for athletic performance is the same as the weight loss ability test. The difference is the genetic variants and genetic traits that get tested. An athletic performance genetic test isn’t going to say that your client could be a professional athlete or not. Rather, it indicates areas where they can excel and use their genetics to their advantage. Conversely, it will also show them where they may need to work a little harder to combat a genetic predisposition. 

Typical traits tests for athletic performance are:

  • Body composition response to exercise
  • Macronutrient utilization
  • Caffeine metabolism
  • Fitness response to cardio
  • Intrinsic motivation to exercise
  • Power and endurance potential
  • VO2 Max
  • Exercise heart rate response and stroke volume 
  • Recovery and Injury Risk


As with both weight loss and athletic performance testing, nutrient testing looks a third configuration of genetic variants and genetic traits. This is where your client will learn more about traits such as their ability to process protein. Typical traits tested for nutrients may include:

  • Protein, carbohydrate, and fat utilization
  • Vitamin and mineral tendencies
  • Addictive behavior and stimulus control 
  • Impulse control and tasting preference
  • Injury risk
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Sleep duration

The results of these DNA tests are interesting to know, and you could just leave it at that. However, the real power behind this information comes into play when a trainer uses it to help a client reach their goals more efficiently. It doesn’t have to be a guessing game trying to figure out how your client’s body responds cardio or how likely they are to give in to cravings. Genetic testing for health and wellness can open doors and enhance your ability to design increasingly effective health and fitness programs. 

To learn more about how genetic testing can impact health and wellness, check out ISSA’s Genetics-Based Program Design Course. Program smarter and get results faster.


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