When we lose blood, our heart pumps faster and our vessels constrict to increase blood pressure. When we lift weights over long periods of time, our hands develop protective calluses. Our bodies are constantly adapting. As discussed in last week’s video, the fuel system of the body is no exception. When conditions are ‘easy’ it becomes lax and less efficient at what it does: turning food into usable energy. Athletes shouldn’t want their bodies to get used to ‘easy.’ Would you drive a car around a track to prepare for a foot race?
In previous discussions, Dr. Justin Mager broke down the body’s fuel system and talked with CrossFit Endurance founder Brian MacKenzie about maximizing efficiency of energy production through nutrition. This week, Dr. Mager takes Brian deeper with discussion of the ‘athletic gene,’ what it does, and how to manipulate it for peak performance and health.
The primal metabolic master regulatory gene in the human body is PGC-1α. It is responsible for regulating the production of mitochondria, the powerhouse of nearly every cell in the body. When it’s activated, more mitochondria are produced, making for a more efficient fuel system. Turn it off, and mitochondria production stops. Lucky for us we don’t have to sit back and watch our fuel system ebb and flow in a seemingly random progression. With proper nutrition, we can manipulate this gene!
Here are a few steps towards controlling your own athletic gene:
- Caloric Restriction – by taxing the body and asking it to do a lot of work with little resource, the PGC-1α gene will turn on for a more efficient fuel system
- Paleo Diet – high carb-based diets should be a thing of the past. By adopting a paleo way of eating and familiarizing your body with using fats and proteins as the main sources of fuel, your cells will be swimming in mitochondria in no time!
- Get Tested – the hemoglobin A1-C (HbA1C) marker can determine the average blood sugar saturation levels of the last three months, the life span of red blood cells, and further infer what glucose levels are optimal for fuel system efficiency.
Your body is great at utilizing the resources available, but it won’t adapt for better performance unless it has good reason. Whether your goals are fitness, athletic performance, or a long and healthy life, it’s important to know how your body works and what you can do to make it work for you.