“There is a kinship, a kind of freemasonry, between all persons of intelligence, however antagonistic their moral outlook.”
The Manipulation of training routines so as to more properly engage one’s genetic profile has much in common with the science and technique behind fat loss, in that one can quickly lose any sense of practical bearing, sliding headlong into the rabbit hole of minutia. As an example, just look at the comments that this post generated. After all that bantering over “is a calorie a calorie”, we’re still right back to making real-life decisions about what and what not to eat. Paleo works, and the mechanisms behind why it works are known (even if some of the minutia are still hotly debated); but really, though — does the minutia matter one whit when you’re out at the restaurant with friends, and faced with a decision between steak and pasta? Real life is where we operate, and the succession of real life decisions are where we ultimately either succeed or fail at out goals.
Now, as I’ve said before, I can geek-out on the minutia and specifics of a subject with the best of them — however, practically speaking, if real, tangible health and fitness is what we’re seeking, we’ve got to get out of bed in the morning and hit the ground running with a foundationally solid, and doable, plan of attack. At 5 AM on a workout morning, I have to have converted whatever applicable science I so choose into actual weight on the bar; sets, reps, total time under load — this is where real progress is made; this is where theory is converted to practice.
So I’ve been thinking a bit lately about individual genetic profiles, determinism, and sporting prowess; the specific genetic hand we’re dealt, and how best to play that hand within the limitations of the real world. First off, how about a little visual representation of what a mutation to a single gene (actually, the non-presence of the GDF-8 gene) can cause in an otherwise similar breed of dog. GDF-8, by the way, is responsible for signaling the production of myostatin, which, in turn, is responsible for limiting the amount of muscle production in an animal. Myostatin works the same way in humans as it does in these whippets. GDF-8, while being yet another stroke of evolutionary genius (muscle mass past a certain point is an unnecessary metabolic drag, i.e., survival limiting), is an area of obvious interest within the physical culture community.
No PhotoShop here, folks; just a dramatic demonstration of the effects genes can have upon muscling and athletic prowess. And this is a representation of what affects a single gene mutation can signal. What I find interesting is that if Wendy were a human, we’d just assume that she was much more dedicated in following her (fill in the blank) workout regimen; being that she’s a dog, though, we’re ok with the fact that she’s come by her appearance the old fashioned way — i.e., via inheritance. By the way, here’s an interesting Animal Planet video clip of Wendy, the defacto spokes-pooch of bully whippets. A normal whippet in every way, except in skeletal musculature. I find it very sad that appearantly these animals are normally euthanized at birth (I’m assuming because they are not charactoristic of the AKC whippet?).
So that’s a pretty dramatic visual. My intent here, though, is not is not to kick up a dust cloud of fatalism, but rather to bring a sense of realism to the endeavor of physical culture. We are, all of us, in theory, limited by our genetic make-up; the question remains, however, how many of us actually realize that genetic ceiling? Given the optimum training protocol for our individual genetic make-up, how far could even a mediocre genetic hand advance?
Here’s an article that appeared in the September 2000 issue of Scientific American which discusses the muscle fiber differences in sprinters vs that of endurance athletes. This article was also cited in Body by Science (page 141), and for good reason. Even though this article is going on 9 years old, it is still a relevant piece of work. There’s plenty of food for thought here, especially as related to the plasicity of the genetic make-up. For an analogy, think of your genetic make-up as a set of gaurd rails along a winding highway; lots of manuevering room in between. What the genetic make-up is not is a set of railroad tracks.
And by the way, see if the last portion of this article, “Brave New World”, doesn’t make you immediately call to mind Usain Bolt’s utter dominance in every sprint event below 400 meters as of late. I would love to know what Usain’s muscle fiber make-up looks like, and what his genetic profile looked like before he started serious training. One has to wonder if he might have a mutation which allows for the prevalence of type IIb fast-twitch fibers. That would be very, very interesting indeed. Which leads to the question of the inevitability of future gene “doping”, which is covered in the article as well. This is the new frontier of sports enhancement, and the results of successfully manipulating an already accomplished athlete’s gene pool will obliterate any “doping” response results seen thus far in the sporting world.
And had the wall not come down with the death of communism — had the eastern block sporting machines remained viable — this, in my opinion, would already be old, passe science.