How Much of a Factor Do Genetics Play In Bodybuilding and Other Sports?

How Much of a Factor Do Genetics Play In Bodybuilding and Other Sports?
Learn How Much Genetics Influence Your Ability to Be Successful in Bodybuilding.

In this interview conducted by Alex Sorokin, I cover how much of a factor genetics play in bodybuilding and other sports.

1. Do you think that athletes inherit most of their athletic ability (endurance, power, speed), or is it something they acquire over time?

Genetics will determine how quickly results will be achieved from a training program and how far the body will be taken when pushed to the extreme. However, there is an even more important factor and that is the mindset. Many times I have seen a gifted athlete that never realizes his/her potential because the mindset to achieve goals and to push the body to the limit is simply not there. This in turn allows an athlete that perhaps has much less genetic gifts to surpass a genetically superior one. So at the end of the day, the wildcard is the human spirit.

2. I understand that training in every sport is essential in achieving success. How do genetics influence your progress in training, such as the speed of achievement?

As mentioned previously, assuming all other factors (such as training, nutrition, supplementation, rest and recovery tailored to the athlete’s physiology) are equal, genetics will determine how quickly the athlete will achieve progress. I have worked with athletes that have accomplished in one year what would take a more average one 8-10 years.

3. Do you agree that the way your body absorbs nutrients is mostly genetic?

Again, all other variables being equal, yes, nutrient absorption is a genetic factor as well. There are people that simply process nutrients much better than others. This explains why you can have athletes that may not always eat as clean as they should and yet they may be getting better results than an athlete that does everything by the book. This is one of those things that I just had to learn how to live with early on as for me, I need to follow everything by the book. However I have friends, and even my significant other, who can eat whatever they want and not gain an ounce of fat.

4. How is the ability to absorb nutrients by the body and rebuild itself important to sports. (You can pick a specific sport to provide an example, such as body building.)

I will speak of bodybuilding and one thing I should mention is that regardless of genetics every guy can get a lean and muscular physique and every girl can look lean and toned. When genetics start playing a huge role is if the athlete wants to be competitive at a professional level. In cases like this, your ability to absorb nutrients and use them for energy production and protein synthesis will give you an edge over someone who does not have an optimal ability.

5. I know that the speed of metabolism is largely inherited, and that a person can boost their metabolism to a certain degree. What kind of advantage would a person with naturally fast metabolism would have over a person with slow BMR.

That is correct. As far as your question the answer is simple. Going back to bodybuilding, a person with a fast metabolism will never have issues getting lean. However, if the metabolic rate is too high and the nutrient absorption capability is not optimal, gaining muscle for that person will always be a challenge. This is called an ectomorph body type (a naturally lean person). The mesomorph however is the one with an optimized metabolism and an incredible ability to utilize nutrients for muscle mass gains. The endomorph, or slow BMR person (like me) can have an advantage over a hardgainer since the slow BMR allows for good muscle production. The only thing that an endomorph has to worry about Is staying lean.

6. How would the quantity of fast twitch and slow twitch muscles in an athlete give him an edge in certain sports, like weightlifting and running.

Simple again. An athlete with an inherently larger makeup of fast twitch fibers will excel in power sports like weightlifting, sprinting and bodybuilding, while someone with slow twitch muscle fibers will be naturally good at endurance sports like marathon running. It is interesting to note that with training you can affect the ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch fibers. But genetically the athlete will be naturally predisposed to either power or endurance sports depending on the fiber makeup. Obviously it will be more challenging for a slow twitch athlete to be a good sprinter when the body is predisposed to be a marathon runner.

7. Which type of muscle fibers (fast twitch or slow twitch) would be more effective in body building? I was thinking since fast twitch muscles give short bursts of energy, they will be more effective in lifting heavy weights and thus gaining strength and body mass. While slow twitch muscle are more suitable for endurance training and doing lots of reps, thus gaining better body definition.

Fast twitch muscle fibers are optimal for bodybuilding due to their ability to gain size. Slow twitch fibers do not have the same capability to hypertrophy that fast twitch fibers have.

8. How important is the mental capability in sports, like determination and concentration.

This is the wild card as I said at the beginning and often times this is the great genetic equalizer. In my experience, the Achilles heel of many extremely gifted athletes is that they are not as determined as athletes who have to fight for their gains. As a result, many athletes with less genetic talent will surpass more endowed athletes. The only way a highly talented athlete can realize their full genetic potential is to be extremely determined and committed. So to answer your question, to me, mental capacity, determination and concentration is everything! I must say that beautiful things happen when you work with an athlete that has top genetics and who has the utmost desire and determination to be the best he/she can be!

9. Some certain behavioral traits that might be important to sports are believed to be genetic. Do you agree with that statement?

Coming from an obese family, I can say that my eating habits when I was little were perhaps a combination of genetics and also being raised in an environment where healthy eating and athletics were not the top priority. It is hard to say how much is genetic and how much is an environmental factor. At either rate, by experience I can say that via determination one can modify any behavior; genetic or not. The mind is no different than a computer. You can reprogram a computer and change its behavior…the mind is no different. So perhaps genetically we may be inclined to naturally want to do certain things, but there is nothing that prevents us from changing certain inclinations. I no longer have the desire to eat bad foods to be honest.

10. What difference does initial height and weight play in a sport like bodybuilding.

In regards to height, it depends. If you have outstanding genetics, the added height will allow you to carry more muscle than someone like me who is 5”5”. However, height without genetics is a hindrance as it is generally harder for taller bodybuilders to pack on the amount of muscle that they need to look impressive. For a shorter guy like me, that comes easier. 10-lbs of muscle on a 5”5” frame will look more impressive than on a 6” frame.

As far as initial weight, it depends on what type of weight we are referring to. A naturally muscular mesomorph (someone who is naturally built with low levels of body fat) will of course have an advantage over a bodybuilder who may weigh the same but who has a large percentage of body fat. So more than weight itself, I think it is the quality of the weight that matters most.

11. What is the perfect height and initial physique for a body builder?

I don’t think that there is such a thing since everyone is so different to be honest. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a perfect physique (in my opinion) at 6’1”, 235-lbs and 6% body fat while my good friend and top pro bodybuilder Lee Labrada has an outstanding physique at 5”6”, 200-lbs and 3% body fat. I think the key is to build a good amount of muscle mass, that is defined and that is symmetrical and in perfect balance. That is what I consider a perfect physique and this can happen regardless of the height. Again, the perfect physique to start with would be a muscular and lean physique but for most of us that will not be the case. I think that the beauty of bodybuilding is that regardless of what your body looks like when you start, you can re-engineer it and turn it into any sculpture you want.

12. Wouldn’t you agree that genetic diseases that cause health problems, like obesity and muscular dis-trophy would affect athletic performance.

It depends on the type of problem. Obesity is easily handled via training and nutrition so I do not agree with this one. I used to be an obese child and that did not prevent me from being a top finalist in the Mr. USA contest nor did it prevent me from winning other high level shows. Now, something like muscular dystrophy or Parkinson’s disease are conditions that at this point in time science has no idea how to prevent, and thus, if we are affected by one of these, they will eventually end a career.

13. Generally speaking to what extent do you see genetics effect athletic performance.

I think that at the highest levels of sports, the limiting factor for athletes when all else is equal (in other words, when everybody has the best training, diet and rest) will definitely be genetics. With that being said, no one knows what their genetic potential is and additionally, as I mentioned in the beginning, many athletes will surpass more genetically superior ones simply because they wanted it badly enough. I am an example of that actually. When I started bodybuilding I was told that I had no genetics to do it and that I would never compete successfully. Ten years after I started training I stepped on my first bodybuilding contest and won it unanimously. A few years later I became a finalist on the Mr. USA contest and I had 4 first place votes from the judges. All of this was accomplished drug free. Thus, the moral of the story is that the most important thing to have is the right mindset and to be extremely determined. I know of incredibly genetically superior bodybuilders that cannot follow a competition diet even for a day and thus, they will never get anywhere at the competition level. Again, the human spirit is the genetic equalizer.

14. If two athletes start training at the same point in time for a sport like sprinting or weightlifting, but one had superior genetics such as; better metabolism, fast twitching muscle fibers or just sheer size, would you say that genetically inferior athlete could ever overcome the gap of the given advantage to the superior athlete, and become as good or even better than genetically superior athlete.

The answer is yes assuming that the genetically inferior athlete has a much better work ethic and discipline than the athlete with superior genetics. Assuming that both athletes are equally motivated and have the same work ethic, then while the athlete with less genetics can still become very competitive, the genetically superior athlete will always be better. Again, all of these opinions and conclusions come from ideal case scenarios. In real life, all athletes have lives and as a result, maybe you could have a genetically superior athlete who while very determined, may be going through a hard spot in his/her personal life. This will have a negative effect on training, nutrition and recuperation. As a result, a less gifted athlete who is training for the same competition at the same time may do better.

15. Do you think that superior genetics are the result of the process of natural selection in certain geographic areas?

I think so. As a matter of fact, I have compared notes with friends of mine who have kids and we have noticed that our kids have better genetics than us when it comes to bodybuilding. I think that is no coincidence. Thus, geographic areas where populations are more active due to whatever lifestyle they follow will produce better athletes.

Conclusion

While genetics may impact all of the items that I already discussed, the fact of the matter is that no one knows what their true genetic potential is. Only by pushing yourself to the maximum every day by doing everything right (your training, nutrition, supplementation programs as well as ensuring the proper recovery) will you be able to maximize your physique and take it to another level. I guarantee you that if you do that, you will be amazed at how far you can go. We cannot all be Mr. Olympia’s but we can certainly become a thousand times better!

Note: Be sure to check out my video below on Bodybuilding & Genetics:

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3 Comments

  1. Please tell me rules of Rugby game, because I really love it and want to play.
    Cappers Island

    • Sorry…even though I love to watch Rugby I am far from being an expert in Rugby rules. Try Googling “Rugby Rules” and see what you can find. Best! HR

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