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Becoming a DNA-Based Fitness Coach: Genetic Testing FAQs

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, DNA, Genetics, Becoming a DNA-Based Fitness Coach: Genetic Testing FAQs

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DNA testing is easier and more accessible than ever before, sparking a trend that shows no signs of slowing. People can now affordably get lifestyle or ancestry DNA tests, telling them about family history, genetic diseases, and even the potential for muscle gain and fat loss. 

As a result of this trend, DNA-based fitness coaching is a real thing. You can get certified as a DNA-based coach, and use client test results to help them set smarter goals and achieve them faster and more efficiently. 

While the tests are common and affordable, general knowledge about DNA lags behind. Expect your clients to have a lot of questions and be prepared to answer them. 

What is Genetic Screening and DNA-Based Coaching? 

Your DNA is what directs every cell in your body. Everyone has a unique genetic makeup with certain genes that code for things like eye color and groups of genes that interact in complex ways to determine other attributes. 

A genetic screening is simply a test that maps out your DNA, often for a specific purpose. For instance, you might be screened for genes known to increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA mutation). 

Lifestyle tests are now common and affordable and can provide information about nutrient absorption, ability to lose weight, response to weightlifting, and other aspects of health and lifestyle. As a DNA-based coach, you can use that information to help clients set reasonable goals and achieve them more easily. 

Head over to the ISSA blog for information on what a DNA lifestyle test can tell you about nutrition, diet, exercise, and weight loss or body composition. 

Common Questions About Genetic Testing Your Clients Will Ask

Although these tests are common and accessible, it’s still a big step to take. There are many important considerations, from privacy issues to possibly finding out information you didn’t want to know. Every client should be asking questions before they go through with it. 

As a trainer, you should be prepared to answer them to the best of your ability. We’ve outlined some of the most common questions you’re likely to face, so you can answer with confidence and give clients the information they need. 

The Process of Genetic Testing

The most immediate questions many people have are simply what’s involved. How do you get a test? How do you take it? What does it tell you? 

  • What kind of test am I taking? This is an important distinction. DNA tests differ in the information they provide. For fitness and health coaching, clients are using lifestyle tests. These generally don’t include information about ancestry or disease risk. This is known as a direct-to-consumer test because you do not need to go through a healthcare provider. 
  • What company and test should I choose? If you train to become a DNA-based fitness coach you will be able to recommend a reputable company and test. But always encourage clients to do their own research. They should look for companies with professional websites full of information about the test, how to contact them, and the genetics professionals they employ. The company should list the lab it works for and that it is certified. Look for a privacy policy and data on the reliability of their results. 
  • How does the process work? Most companies work the same way. You get a test kit in the mail, which has detailed instruction for collecting a sample. You send the sample back through the mail and get results in a few weeks. 

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, DNA, Genetics, Becoming a DNA-Based Fitness Coach: Genetic Testing FAQs

Benefits and Risks

For some clients, the most important question is why should I do it? Help them understand the benefits of a direct-to-consumer DNA test: 

  • It is easy, fast, and inexpensive. 
  • You get information about how you absorb and use nutrients, build muscle, lose fat, and respond to different types of workouts. 
  • The information helps manage fitness and athletic performance expectations. 
  • It also helps determine the best way to workout
  • out and the optimal diet for weight loss, weight maintenance, and changing body composition. 

Of course, there are also some risks associated with these tests: 

  • There may be some inaccuracies or inconclusive results. 
  • There is always a potential for a mix up in the lab, although this is rare. 
  • Interpreting the results is not necessarily straightforward. 
  • Unfavorable results may trigger anger, frustration, or depression. 

Questions about Disease Risk

Your clients are likely to ask you what they’ll find out about disease risk. It’s important to make sure they understand that the kind of lifestyle test they’ll be sharing with you is not medical. It does not include information about gene mutation or genes that increase the risk of disease. 

If a client is interested in the type of test provides risk assessment for things like Alzheimer’s disease, ovarian cancer, or cystic fibrosis, refer them to their physician or a professional genetic counselor. A trained counselor can help them understand results and cope with any bad news that arises. This is out of the scope of practice for a personal trainer. 

Common Questions about Genetic Testing and Privacy

Privacy is a valid and serious concern when it comes to genetic testing. Help your clients weigh the risks against benefits and understand how to stay safe and keep their information private. 

  • Are there laws protecting my genetic privacy? The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act protects people who have had DNA tests from discrimination in health insurance and employment. 
  • What if I want my information destroyed? Some genetic testing companies keep your genetic information for use in advancing the technology. They may even sell it to a drug company to help develop better medicines. This is supposed to be done anonymously, but if you are not comfortable with it, you can submit a request to the testing company that your information be destroyed.
  • How will my trainer protect my privacy? If you are a certified DNA-based coach, you will be prepared with a confidentiality agreement. Explain the privacy policies of the company running the test. Then explain your own policies, for instance not allowing access to the information to anyone but the client. 

Questions about Results and How DNA Tests Can Help Training Clients

A client who feels confident about the process, the risks vs. benefits, and privacy policies may be ready to get started. Some will still have deeper questions about what exactly the test will tell them and how it will help them reach fitness and training goals. 

  • What will the test tell me about weight loss? It will tell you if you can reasonably lose weight through standard diet and exercise strategies, or if there will be barriers. Unfavorable results do not mean weight loss is impossible but does help a trainer develop different strategies to overcome those challenges. 
  • Will the test tell me exactly what to eat? No, but it will help your coach determine better strategies for your diet. For instance, you may find out that your body utilizes protein well and that including a higher percentage in your diet will promote weight loss and. 
  • How will a DNA test change my fitness plans? The results can tell you how effectively you can lose fat with cardio or weightlifting and how your overall body composition responds to workouts. This information helps your trainer plan a more effective training schedule and types of workouts for weight loss, fat burning, or muscle building. 
  • Will the results of the DNA test solve all my fitness and weight problems? Genes and the way they interact and are expressed is extremely complicated. There are very few traits, like dimples, that come from just one gene. This means that while the information from a test will be useful, it cannot provide easy, simple, or guaranteed solutions. Consider them to be guidelines that will make weight loss and good health easier to achieve. 

Good nutrition doesn’t have to rely on genetic differences. Help your clients develop easy, simple habits to improve their diets.

Genetic testing is probably here to stay. As the tests improve and research continues to untangle how genes impact every area of our lives, being a DNA-based fitness coach should keep you busy. Be sure to manage client expectations, protect their privacy, and provide them the answers that will help them make an informed decision about testing. 

The ISSA continues to lead the industry with specialized certifications, including DNA-Based Fitness Coaching. Check out this online certification to become an expert in helping clients meet fitness and weight goals based on their unique genetic makeup. 


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