FLASH BACK: It’s 7:12 a.m. and I just finished a killer dumbbell workout before school.
I’d only been seriously lifting for about 6 weeks and couldn’t believe the changes.
You know what I mean? Those first few weeks when you start where it seems like changes are dramatic?
I only had a few minutes left to toss my clothes on and head out but heck- I was so proud I got carried away flexing in front of the mirror scoping out those baby muscles.
Hey don’t judge- it happens to the best of us!
Suddenly, my friend who was sleeping over walked by and said something that’s stuck in my head (even to today):
“You look great! If you didn’t have such unlucky genes, you’d be able to look like that poster on your wall…”
I was furious.
I spend hours a week training. I make sure I eat right. I even spend time reading and learning new ways to train and eat better.
Could all that really mean nothing because of my genetics?
If you think the answer is yes, you may not have heard of epigenetics.
Epigenetics all started with two mice.
In the year 2000 researcher Randy Jirtle took two mice that possess something called the agouti gene and did an experiment. Just so you know, the agouti gene is NOT something you’d want to have as a mouse- especially around swimsuit season.
Not only does the agouti gene predispose the mice to cancer and diabetes, but also it turns them a hideous yellow color.
As you can imagine, offspring of these agouti mice will possess the agouti gene BUT Jirtle made it so that the offspring of the parent agouti mice were slim and had brown hair.
It was as if Jirtle flipped a switch in the offspring to make the agouti gene disappear…
…So what happened?
Well, Jirtle took loving couples of mice carrying the agouti gene and split them into two groups:
One group was the control, they just had your run-of-the-mill mouse life.
The other group was fed a diet rich in methyl-donors. We’re talking beets, onions, garlic, and so on.
You see, these methyl donors ended up modifying the expression of the agouti genes in the baby mice.
Imagine that your DNA is a cookbook.
There’s the potential to whip up cancer, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease in there BUT what if you’re missing an ingredient for that recipe?
Exactly, you’ll have to make something else.
What researchers are discovering is that just because you have the DNA doesn’t mean that DNA will be expressed.
Another way to look at it is planting a seed in the soil but NOT giving it water, sunlight, and fertilizer.
Simply, right? How about we check out a few of my three favorite habits that can hack your genetics to help you look better, live longer, and have glowing health…
#1 Weight training
Even if you’re starting off skinny or weak you can still improve your strength with progressive resistance.
Genetically, you’ll have a tendency to develop muscles based towards power, endurance, or strength BUT with training you can actually modify this because your body will adapt to the stresses you place it under.
It turns out that this stress also has longer-reaching benefits into your health beyond from making you irresistible to the ladies and feeling like a badass in or out of your t-shirt.
For example, one study shows that exercise regulates methylation in your body. Yup, the same methylation that suppressed the agouti gene in those mice.
One recent study on breast cancer and exercise saw that 43 genes were changed due to methylation because of exercise. Three of those genes are directly correlated with breast cancer, showing that exercise can slow turn or “turn off” these cancer genes.
This S@#! works in humans too!
Similarly, exercise slows down the aging process.
A HUGE sign of aging is a lack of methylation. Your body gets a bit lazy and doesn’t regulate methylation as tightly as it used to, for some reason.
This is good news for you iron addicts though because exercise boosts methylation drastically reducing signs of aging. Not only will you look younger, you’ll actually feel and perform like you’re younger too…
… and all the ladies will appreciate that very much (trust me).
Plus, exercise increases the amount of GLUT-4 you make.
GLUT-4 is one of the proteins that takes insulin into your muscle cells with insulin. The more GLUT-4 you have the greater your insulin sensitivity. The end result? Exercise can reduce symptoms of- and even reverse- Type 2 Diabetes even if you’re genetically “destined” for it.
Did I mention all the benefits to fat loss and building muscle mass as well?
Dude, finish this article- then go hit the gym!
#2 Cold showers
Never tried one of these bad boys?
Change that today.
Turns out a cold shower isn’t just a fantastic way to boost your energy and your circulation. These little tests of will power also revamp with your genes.
To start, one study had 3,018 men and women take short cold showers for 30 days straight for 30-90 seconds of cold showering at a time (about 3 minutes total cold exposure per day). Over the next 90 days the cold shower group had a 29% reduction in sick days from work.
That means a few minutes a day can actually buy you 29% more days of productivity.
But that’s not even the best!
Cold exposure is seen to boost testosterone levels too.
That means bigger and stronger muscle growth combined with faster recovery times.
It’s a win-win-win. And all it takes is 2-3 minutes of cold showering a day.
Does even the thought of taking a cold shower fill you with despair?
A cold shower may be exactly what you need because there’s even evidence that cold showers can lessen depression!
Try a cold shower out today by starting out slow and cycling periods of cold water and hot water.
#3 Intermittent fasting
You may already know about the rapid weight loss benefits of intermittent fasting BUT there are a few other benefits that switch on life-saving genes.
Research illustrates that when you fast intermittently (for 16-36 hours) your body increases in free radicals, just a little. This change is big enough to trigger your SIRT3 gene. The result?
Your body produces sirtuins, a type of protein that protects your body and increases your lifespan.
Not only will you be living longer, you’ll be living healthier too. With fasting there is a significant uptick in your insulin sensitivity. This means a much lower risk of type 2 diabetes AND you can get away with eating more ice cream without it spilling over into fat.
And what’s the point of living longer if you can’t have ice cream??
There’s one more massive improvement from fasting as well. Fasting is seen to increase levels of a protein known as BDNF.
BDNF works to make your brain larger and smarter so you can have greater memory, learn new skills quicker, and be smarter overall. Even better, research suggests there may be a protective effect of BDNF on your brain to prevent dementia.
The bottom line is It’s easy to take your health into your own hands with simple habit changes. I don’t want you to EVER be a victim to your genetics. Instead, take your life by the balls and swing your health, body, and mind in the direction YOU want to go.
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Haigis, M. C., & Guarente, L. P. (2006). Mammalian sirtuins—emerging roles in physiology, aging, and calorie restriction. Genes & development, 20(21), 2913-2921.
Halberg, N., Henriksen, M., Söderhamn, N., Stallknecht, B., Ploug, T., Schjerling, P., & Dela, F. (2005). Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 99(6), 2128-2136.
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Zeng, H.; rwin, M. L.; Lu, L.; Risch, H.; Mayne, S.; Mu, L.; et al. (May 2012). “Physical activity and breast cancer survival: an epigenetic link through reduced methylation of a tumor suppressor gene: L3MBTL1”. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 133 (1): 127–35. PMID 21837478. doi:10.1007/s10549-011-1716-7.
Zhang, F. F.; Cardarelli R; Carroll J; Zhang S; Fulda KG; Gonzalez K; Vishwanatha JK; Morabia A; Santella RM (Mar 2011). “Physical activity and global genomic DNA methylation in a cancer-free population”. Epigenetics. 6 (3): 293–9. PMC 3092677 Freely accessible. PMID 21178401. doi:10.4161/epi.6.3.14378
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