Best DNA Tests for Fitness & Nutrition

Updated January 29, 2019

This article was scientifically reviewed by YourDNA

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Are there DNA tests for fitness and nutrition?

Poor diet and exercise habits have plagued people for many years. It seems like a couple of times a year, a new diet or exercise fad pops up, promising a new level of results for followers.

In some cases, they work. But in many cases, they just lead to more frustration and feelings of failure when the results don’t match the promises.

What's in this Guide?

Disclaimer: Before You Read

It is important to know that your genes are not your destiny. There are various environmental and genetic factors working together to shape you. No matter your genetic makeup, maintain ideal blood pressure and glucose levels, avoid harmful alcohol intake, exercise regularly, get regular sleep. And for goodness sake, don't smoke.

Genetics is a quickly changing topic.

Even worse, these failures move people closer to related health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and other associated ailments.

That’s because these plans, while they may be designed well and can produce a certain level of results, are tailored to the masses. They don’t address the unique composition that each person has and that means biologically, they are inefficient to some degree.

The bottom line is that there is no highly effective one-size-fits-all diet and exercise plan.

To get the best results, a program must be designed that examines not only the lifestyle, diet and environment of a person, but also their biological composition as well, including an examination and testing of DNA to achieve optimal results.

To address this need, DNA testing for fitness first started in the 1990s, but has become much more prevalent in the past five years or so.

Here’s a quick overview of DNA and why it’s important to use testing as a tool for nutrition and fitness.

Children inherit genetic material from both their mother and their father, and this creates a unique chemical blueprint known as DNA. DNA makes up the contents of more than 20,000 genes in each person.

Those genes carry out instructions for a single protein that determines how we look and how our body functions.

Genes are found in 23 chromosome pairs that are found in almost every cell in our body. Genetic testing analyzes these chromosomes and genes, looking for changes or mutations that determine various potentials for disease risks, bodily processes and physical traits.

By examining a person’s DNA and combining it with an existing body of knowledge associated with chromosomes and genes, it is possible to apply this information to the areas of fitness and nutrition.

Should you take a DNA test to find the best diet for you?

It depends how serious you are about making a commitment to achieve optimal health.

DNA testing for fitness and nutrition offers several benefits such as eliminating much of the guesswork about what foods you should or should not eat.

This extends to supplements as well. With your DNA test results in hand, you’ll learn which supplements work with your genotype and which ones do not.

If you’ve often wondered why some supplements work well for some people and not for others, now you know one of the reasons why.

DNA testing also allows you to design an optimal workout plan as well. Unlocking your biological keys means you can eliminate those exercises that aren’t doing you as much good as others, saving you time and frustration due to a lack of results.

Even if you’re not a big exercise buff, DNA testing can also lead you to a better lifestyle in all parts of your day to day life as well. By eliminating the unknowns, you can make small adjustments that can produce lifelong results with minimal effort. Awareness is the key.

Does DNA testing for fitness and nutrition really work?

It depends on who you ask.There is a strong body of research that proves people’s bodies react differently to certain kinds of foods.

And how food reacts can form the basis for dietary changes that result in better health in a variety of ways.

So, if you follow a diet that includes foods that are especially good for you at an individual level, in the long run you should be able to lose weight, stave off diabetes and heart disease and improve all of your bodies’ systems.

Proponents make the case that measuring gene variants through DNA testing definitely plays a role in how each person’s body processes different foods. By using DNA testing to zero in on those dietary differences, the case can be made that this is a clear path to optimizing health.

Understanding your genetics gives you a clearer path to making the right decisions about food and exercise.

A study in 2007 used genetic testing that screened 24 variants in 19 genes involving metabolism. The group that utilized the nutrigenetic test screening was compared against a non-test group and diets were developed accordingly.

At the end of a 300 day period, a follow-up was conducted, and it was found that 73% of those patients in the nutrigenetic group maintained some weight loss while only 32% of those in the comparison group experienced a loss.

There are many other similar studies and anecdotal evidence to back up the claims associated with DNA testing for fitness and nutrition.

However, there is also a considerable amount of skepticism as well.

Most tests will examine the FTO gene which one of more than 100 genes that have been associated with obesity. But when all of these genes are viewed together, they only explain a small fraction of obesity risk.

In other words, the sample size may be too small to be an effective indicator. Critics claim that as a result, this limits the predictive power of DNA testing for fitness and nutrition to almost meaningless.

There is more of a tendency to place a greater amount of emphasis on a person’s lifestyle and environment which can have a much bigger overall impact on fitness that a person who is at risk of obesity due to a predisposition on their FTO gene.

Even critics will agree that this field is growing in leaps and bounds and could have much more value in the future, but the science still has a long way to go and their belief is that testing has little if any real value at the present time.

Are DNA tests for fitness and nutrition accurate?

This is a question that is still wide open for debate. Because the science is still in its infancy, there are a number of stories that widely discount the accuracy of DNA fitness and nutrition testing.

Reports that accompany test results are thorough, but there are disclaimers that hedge results to insulate test providers. Being cautious makes good sense, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration once ordered 23andMe to stop selling its kits because the firm had been marketing itself as a provider of health information without getting FDA approval.

While advancements have been made since that time, the entire industry is proceeding with caution. There is still real value in the results as long as those results are combined with other factors that can ultimately influence overall fitness and nutrition.

The other thing to consider is that different companies offer different tests and testing methods, so the results you obtain for one test could be significantly different from the results you get from another test. Those differences can translate into much different advice for test takers.

Because of the different methods of sequencing genes and the fact that the scientific understanding of gene expression is still in its infancy, conclusions can vary widely due to different interpretations of data.

This is countered by the fact that DNA testing companies make it clear that testing is only one part of an overall approach to fitness and nutrition which should also include input from doctors, dieticians and others to craft the most effective plan.

What are the benefits of testing your DNA for fitness and nutrition?

There are a number of potential benefits to DNA testing for fitness and nutrition.

  • When you know more about how you are built, you can tailor your lifestyle, diet and environmental factors for optimal health.
  • You will stop wasting time and money on food, supplements and exercises that don’t give you peak results.
  • You will learn what food sensitivities and intolerances you have.
  • You will learn what predispositions you have for diseases or injuries.
  • You will work with professionals to help you design the best possible diet and exercises for your unique genetic composition.
  • Armed with specific information about yourself, you will be more empowered to make changes that can produce the biggest benefits for your unique situation

What are the disadvantages of testing your DNA for fitness and nutrition?

Even proponents of DNA testing for fitness and nutrition will admit that there are some drawbacks and disadvantages in this growing field.

Many believe that society is still in the early stages of utilizing the science required to achieve breakthrough results. This is not to say that there aren’t clearly benefits, because there are, but because this science is still going through a period of discovery and research, one of the disadvantages is that there is still a lot of room for improvement.

However, there is also a belief that developing personalized fitness and diet plans could be one of the most important advancements in health in the coming decades.

One important piece of news that helps to validate DNA testing in this area is that the National Institutes of Health is focusing a considerable amount of research and credence for all kinds of genetic testing, including those that relate directly to fitness and nutrition.

Another disadvantage of having a DNA test done is that many times, people put too much stock in the results and tend to discount their lifestyle and environment choices. They assume that the DNA test is a magic bullet that will solve many of their health risks.

For genetic test results to be useful, the recommendations based on the test results must be put into practice. Sadly, this does not always happen.

You may learn from test results that you have a genetic predisposition of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or heart disease. But armed with this personalized information, do people make actual lifestyle or healthcare treatment changes?

The answer to this one is a resounding “no” according to Theresa Marteau, Ph.D., director of the behavior and health research unit at the University of Cambridge in England.

In a review study published in the British Medical Journal, for which Marteau was senior author, researchers found that when people had personalized genetic information about their disease risk, plus knowledge about how to lower that risk (quit smoking, eat less, move more, etc.), they were no more likely than the general public to make those changes.

The bottom line is, if you’re motivated enough to purchase a test and get the results, you need to be motivated enough to also follow through on the recommendations.

How long do DNA tests for fitness and nutrition take?

It takes just a few minutes to swab the inside of your cheek, place the sample in the mail and wait for the results.

If you go to a lab for a test, you’ll either swab a cheek or a small blood sample will be drawn (in the form of a pin prick from your finger). Depending on the test that you choose, these results could be returned to you in anywhere from one to six weeks.

How often should you take a DNA test for fitness and nutrition?

You only need to take a DNA fitness and nutrition test once in your lifetime.

In some cases, if you have already done a DNA test with one genetics company, you may be able to use those results with a company that focuses on fitness and nutrition testing without having to take a new test.

Where can I buy a DNA test for fitness and nutrition?

There are a couple of different avenues you can take if you want to buy a DNA test for fitness and nutrition.

The most popular and least expensive of these are direct-to-consumer tests that you can either buy in a drug store or online. You will get a certain level of results and interpretation going this route.

But if you decide you want more thorough follow-up and support, you might consider getting tested through a nutritionist or a medical professional. A nutritionist will be able to not only help you interpret the results, they will also be able to tailor a personalized eating plan to optimize the analysis.

Depending on who you choose, this support may extend for many months providing you with much needed support when you hit resistance or plateaus or lose motivation.

As the popularity expands, you may even be able to order a test through your gym, such as what Gold’s Gym SoCal is currently offering.

As with any important purchase, you must decide what your goals are before you order the test and then decide which test most closely aligns with how much you want to spend, what level of information you want to know and what level of ongoing support you may want.

Are there at-home DNA tests for fitness and nutrition?

You need look no further than to find more than 40 listings for at-home DNA fitness and nutrition tests you can order.

Costs will range from ORIG3N Genetic Home Mini DNA Test Kit, Recovery & Renewal priced at $13 to the DNA Spectrum: myDNA Fitness - Genetic DNA Test for Exercise, Activity, Sports, and Health - Custom Tailored Plan for Workout, Diet, or Weight Loss Based on Your DNA priced at $495.

Several companies also have individual websites you can access as well. These websites have the added benefit of offering additional research and information you may want to familiarize yourself with prior to making a decision.

How much are DNA tests for fitness and nutrition?

In-home tests range from under $100 to $500 or thereabouts, with the vast majority falling into the $125 to $300 range.

In some cases, you can buy a basic test and do add-ons to customize the exact kind of information you want.

If you want a higher degree of interpretation and support, you can order a test and work with a nutritionist over the course of several months. Expect to pay anywhere from $750 to $2,000 depending on how your plan and level of support are tailored.

Is a DNA test for fitness and nutrition right for you?

Deciding on a whether or not to have a DNA test is a personal choice. You need to look at your own individual situation before making a decision.

If you are on a hard core quest to gather as much information that will help you achieve optimal performance and health, perhaps because you’re a competitive athlete, then a test will give you added insights in achieving peak performance.

If you are at a point in your life where you are committed to making better lifestyle and environmental choices, then a test can also help bolster your motivation and pinpoint things that will give you the greatest returns.

However, understand that there are limitations to fitness and nutrition DNA tests. The science is still in its infancy and you will need to gauge the credibility of a company, including the claims, limitations, credibility of the research, the veracity of the academic and lab partners it associates with.

Understand that these tests aren’t heavily regulated and that means they are only working in the lifestyle realm and less so in the medical realm.

It’s healthy to understand there are both proponents and skeptics in this field. If you’re on the fence, you can do more research, talk to more people, search out anecdotal evidence and decide whether or not to move forward.

Even if you decide now is not the right time, keep in mind this is a highly dynamic field and a year or two from now, the science will be more mature than it is now.

What are the best DNA tests for fitness and nutrition?

Because DNA fitness and nutrition testing is still not an exact science in some ways, opinions will vary as to what the best tests are.

One recognized option is the Helix DNA DNAFit Test Kit. Recognized as the best fitness oriented DNA test kit by Business Insider, it is not cheap with a price tag of about $300.

But it is also unique among kits because it gives you a wide variety of results that pinpoint several fitness and dietary metrics that will make it easier to take better control of your weight management, nutrition needs and general lifestyle.

According to Business Insider, “Using the Helix DNA DNAFit Test Kit will help you learn if your body is predisposed to get great results from high-intensity cardio workouts or if lower intensity, prolonged aerobic exercise suits you best.

It will reveal if you might be predisposed to muscular injury and thus should take extra precautions during training. It can inform you about ideal post-exercise recovery practices for your body.”

For the best health risk predictor DNA kit, Business Insider touts the 23and Me DNA Ancestry and Health Kit. In addition to revealing your ancestry, the test also tells you which illnesses you may be more predisposed to get.

Armed with this information, you can develop a lifestyle that will help to reduce the chances that you will develop these illnesses while also learning what genes you have that may pass on to any offspring. The cost for the ancestry and health tests run about $200.

The reality is that each company will offer arguments as to why their test is the best, making it a tough job to actually pick one that stands above the others. Another option to help you decide is to look at various online reviews.

DNA tests for fitness and nutrition reviews

One of the best sites for DNA fitness and nutrition test reviews as at

More than 100 health tests are listed and reviewed, with prices listed in many cases. Links are provided to individual websites so that you can easily do deep due diligence and read 1-star to 5-star reviews.

Individual review pages detail the Editor’s Rating, Customer Service, Clarity of Results, References Cited, and Value for Money along with a detailed write-up of ordering and using the product.

One note of caution when visiting review sites, make sure to note whether or not the review site you’re visiting is an advertising affiliate of the various tests being reviewed. This could produce a review that is skewed to get you to click through and buy the test in question.

You can also visit Amazon and read the reviews for the various DNA tests as well. But also take those reviews with a bit of caution as well since reviews are sometimes “placed” to help goose the ratings of a particular product.

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