Combining Nutrition, Fitness, and Genetics to Produce Astounding Wellness Results
Meet Jennifer F! She’s an award-winning recipe creator from Austin, Texas that’s been featured in numerous publications including Saveur, Everyday with Rachael Ray, US Weekly and Better Homes & Gardens. As a biotech company, Orig3n appreciates her factual, science-based approach to nutrition that’s easy to digest. She has a lot going on, and as you’ll learn in this #Orig3nStory you might even say that she’s always on the run!
Q: Thank you for sharing your story with us Jennifer. We’ve followed your journey online this past year and are truly inspired. To start, can you share a few highlights with our community?
The pleasure is all mine. I can easily pick three things that I think help define me: family, fitness, and healthy eating.
For family, I have a wonderful, supportive husband and am a proud mom to three amazing, kind, smart and incredibly talented young men. They’re 16, 19 and 21 and are very into computer programming and engineering at school and I think they’ll use their gifts to help make the world a better place.
For fitness and nutrition, I’ve been able to fuse those two passions into one brand called “The Fit Fork.” I’m a competitive runner and CrossFit enthusiast, as well as an avid cook, so you’ll see a mix of photos from my online channels, of both food created from my recipes and workout selfies.
Q: You have some really fun photos in your feed but some of your fitness shots are truly impressive. Especially the ones from the Spartan races.
This is actually where I first learned of Orig3n DNA Tests. I took your Explorer test from my swag bag (thank you) at the Lake Tahoe Spartan World Championships.
My results piqued my curiosity about the genes that “make me” who I am. I wanted to learn more in-depth about my genetics so I decided to take the Orig3n Fitness and Nutrition DNA Tests, as those are the biggest areas that drive my life.
Q: I’m sure everyone would love to hear about your results. Before we dive into the specifics of each test, what was your general experience?
My DNA test results were an interesting combination of what I already suspected about myself, mixed with some information I wasn’t expecting to learn – both good and less so.
As a competitive endurance athlete (primarily running) my entire adult life, I assumed that my genes influencing things like Cardiac Output, Oxygen Capacity, Aerobic Fitness and Energy Output, and VO2 Max would be the most desirable variants. People have commented time and time again that my success in running and, more recently, obstacle course racing is something I was “born with” or have a “natural talent” for. I always thought that meant I got dealt a really good hand with endurance in the gene pool.
But, it turns out those genes are mostly “normal” and while that’s not a bad thing (I can do a lot with “normal”), it was shocking to learn that I have the gene variant associated with a lower VO2 Max and higher BMI. No one, even myself, would have guessed this by looking at my race times or body composition.
Instead of being discouraged, I decided that it implies how hard I must actually work to be a role model to others. I think it also shows that long-term consistency in training and leading a healthy lifestyle combined with “mind over matter” focus on goals can trump your genetic blueprint. While you are made up of a collection of genes, you are not defined by them.
Q: That’s such a great attitude and an amazing quote that summarizes our perspective too. Orig3n DNA Tests are meant to guide better decisions in wellness, so that users can optimize their routines for the genetic strengths and weaknesses to which they may be predisposed.
That’s so true. For example, I was VERY surprised by my Fitness Test results that showed that I’m gifted with several genes, such as ACTN3, eNOS, and VDR. I learned that these genes can contribute to fast-twitch muscle output, general athletic power and muscle strength, which translates into things like power lifting, sprinting, and activities with high-intensity bursts of energy.
This increased my interest to do gym stuff more consistently, and I’ve begun supplementing my running with activities that required more total body fitness (other than just running). Even though some of these movements have been required for many of my competitions (tire flipping, intervals, sled pushing and so on) and I have done okay, I always assumed, based on my own biases and the biases of coaches, family, friends), that high energy output moves were not a natural strength for me, and that I was “built” mainly for endurance running.
In hindsight, I am realizing that I can kill some burpees, can proportionally move a lot of weight for my size, and am not as bad at sprinting as I thought – all power performance moves. So, these insights about these genes gives me more confidence that I CAN do it and SHOULD be doing it!
Q: In addition to some of these surprises, can you share any confirmations you experienced?
Definitely. My Fitness Test results revealed something I had long suspected: My genes could be negatively impacting how my body performs in the joint health and recovery departments. I’m also genetically predisposed to inflammation more than many others.
I feel these aches and pains in the evenings after physically hard days and every morning when I get up. I have always wondered was it just me, or if everyone who is getting older feels this way.
Out of necessity, I have always been pretty good about rest days, listening to my body, eating healing foods over the years (and have had surprisingly few injuries). However, it IS useful to know that this is just how I am made and how I may be responding to physical stress. At a minimum, I think it’s a great “pass” to put my feet up or take a nap in the afternoon.
It was comforting to know that my joints and ligaments may have always been very inflexible because of my genetics. I’ve heard that this can actually be a plus for fast running but less so for getting into some of the crazy yoga poses I aspire to hold!
Q: Crazy yoga poses? Which ones are you currently trying to master?
Well… I’m not trying to master this, but have you heard that Goat Yoga is trending now? I tried it and laughed so hard as the little pigmy goats (and a baby potbellied pig) climbed all over us – so fun, like being a little kid at a petting zoo!
Q: Wow! What a funny, unique experience! Are there any other little-known talents you have that others don’t know about?
Well, most people don’t know I can play the piano, wiggle my scalp (so that it looks like I’m wearing a wig), and can stand in poison ivy without getting a rash.
Q: Those qualities sound like they belong to some kind of lesser known superhero sidekick. Ha ha! We’ll be sure to send you our Superhero DNA Test too… which leads me to ask… If you COULD choose any superpower what would it be?
Lol. I once took one of those silly online quizzes that told me that “Time Travel” would fit me best. Sign me up for THAT because I’d love to wormhole my way back into history and do some fun things, like stroll through Monmartre during the Belle Epoque and maybe be a muse for some soon-to-be-famous artist.
Or maybe I could take cooking lessons from Julia Child in the early 50s when she was still living in Paris, or run incognito with Katheryn Switzer as the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entrant in 1967 (the year I was born!).
Q: It’s comforting to know that you would only use your superpowers for good! Speaking of cooking, could you share any insights you learned from your Orig3n Nutrition DNA Test?
In my Nutrition Test, I found it interesting that I have the gene variant that has been attributed to quickly metabolizing caffeine – that explains a lot!! So, I’ve started looking at how I can use caffeine better to optimize my training and competitions.
One piece of info I was hoping not to confirm, but suspected, was that I am genetically predisposed to higher total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol concentrations. Thankfully, I am able to manage my cholesterol with exercise and eating well, including lots of fruits & vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. I also discovered that I have the “adapt” gene variant for almost every gene for vitamins – including vitamins A, B6, B12, D and Folate.
I decided to approach everything with the attitude “when you know better, you can do better.” Now, I can make sure I’m meeting my nutritional needs through the best food choices available and taking supplements as extra insurance.
The only thing I found intriguing was that my Nutrition test showed that I have a rare gene variant (only 5% of the population) that makes it more likely for me to be at risk of obesity. I will DEFINITELY be learning more about this gene since I have always been in the same weight range (barring 3 pregnancies) my entire life.
It’s hard to imagine that I could ever be in a situation where I was carrying an unhealthy amount of weight since my BMI flirts on the cutoff line between normal to too low. So, knowing about this gene puts me on alert that if I ever do start gaining weight, I can work with a nutritionist to nip it in the bud.
Q: It sounds like you’ve learned a lot about yourself as you’ve analyzed your reports. Have there been any major changes in your lifestyle as a result?
As competitive athlete for the last 30 years, my lifestyle has been what you’d imagine – lots of running, workouts, recovering and eating well. However, finding out that I have so many gene variants that may make me “gifted” in such categories as fast-twitch muscle output, general athletic power and muscle strength, has made me realize that in the fitness competitions I do where I have somewhat dismissed my abilities in these areas, these qualities can actually be my strengths.
I’ve decided not to let people put me in a box with respect to my athletic talents. All these years, I’ve been known as “Jennifer, the fast runner.” Even at 51 years old, it turns out, I’m stronger and more powerful than they thought!
At first I thought that my results would conform what I already “knew” from experience: that I am best suited for endurance sports like the running I have done for all of my adult life.
But, the more I’ve learned through Orig3n DNA Testing, the easier it has been to dial in my training and optimize my potential. For example, in the last couple months I have added more leg strength exercises (something I’ve typically minimized as a runner) and plyometric moves into my training.
Q: Has anything changed in your diet specifically?
In terms of the Nutrition Test, not much has changed in the way that I eat . . . because my livelihood and personal inclination is to eat healthy, wholesome foods. However, I am looking into how I supplement with vitamins after learning about the predisposition I have for my body to not absorb them well enough from the foods that I eat.
I also did allow mushrooms to come into my life after being a long-time hater – now I can’t get enough in any form or fashion!
Q: What do others think about your experience with Orig3n DNA testing?
Most of my family and friends were shocked about my lower VO2 Max propensity and possibility of obesity, but also got a good laugh that I am a “gifted” metabolizer of caffeine. It’s a mixed bag of support on the power performance stuff as many don’t see me as the mighty BEAST that I know I am. Some see me as a fit, but more “delicate”, mom who maybe shouldn’t be doing these crazy, challenging things at my age. Now, I can reply, “Hey, it’s in my genes!” Lol!
In terms of nutrition, my boys and I are somewhat concerned that they could have high cholesterol and vitamin deficiencies and be mindful of their diets. So, I’m shipping them to college with super-sized bottles of vitamins!
Seriously, though, before the test I knew that my mother, myself and 2 of my 3 children were low in vitamin D due to heredity. But I didn’t realize the absorption of other vitamins could be swayed by your genes. I guess I just need to stay on them to make good food choices and supplement as needed.
In the end, I think encouraging them to take supplements suggested by their doctors and to keep up with good exercise habits will help.
Q: Thanks again for joining us today. What does the future hold for you?
At 51, the future still holds great things in my fitness life. I’ll continue to train and compete in the various events, including road running (5ks to marathon), obstacle course races, and maybe even more fitness/Crossfit type events now that I have learned of some of my gifts in the “power performance” category.
I’m always striving to be the best I can be and the results of my DNA tests will help me fine-tune my training, recovery and nutrition to maximize my overall potential. It’s great to know that I can now ask specific questions like: Is my cholesterol getting too high? Is my vitamin D in check? How are my joints feeling?
It’s my goal to be still going strong in my sports over the next decades of my life, and it’s extremely helpful to know what indicators I should be paying attention too.
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