T Nation

Genetics

Just to see where the discussion goes, I thought it would be good to go over what “genetics” actually means in bodybuilding. People throw this term around loosely but then use terms like “ectomorph” to label themselves and judge all of their actions by.

I am just starting this now so anyone else can add to this.

First point:
-No one on Earth will know your genetic potential before you reach it.
There is no way for someone to literally “predict” how far you can go in terms of building muscle mass. We can use physical signs to “estimate” how good someone might be based off of physical shape even untrained, but this leaves out those who do not show early signs of good muscle building genetic ability.

I’ll give a good real world example of my friend of middle eastern descent. The guy would walk around in college at a leanness where you could see all of his abs, arms were slightly less than 17" and he would workout about once every two weeks. I mean, it was really disheartening to me and my workout partner as all three of us were friends but this guy did jack shit in the gym and ate horrible.

When I think of genetics I always refer to him because he literally ate no protein for days in a row and would seem to make more progress with 1/10th the amount of training time and effort.
I always used to try and push him to become consistent and eat well, too bad he didn’t really care about training.

Something I’ve always been curious about is why many people say you can go beyond your gentic potential when using certain drugs? To me if you continue to grows even when using AAS you are still within your gentic potential.

What I mean is, why do we say using supplementation, say creitine, protein, etc…, only helps us reach our limits while AAS help us exceed these limit? It’s not as if using AAS alters your genetics it just enchances them.

Not to be absurd, but if a doc surgically installed a hydrolic lever in your arms, I’d say that’s beyond your gentic limit, but using AAS, I’m not so sure.

Anyway I’m not sure I’m getting my point accross that well, but any thought?

USMC: AAS alter your physiology in terms of protein synthesis abilities. So they actually do alter your genetics just not literally changing the expression of genes if you get what i’m saying. Let’s say a guy who has x amount of test naturally has a protein synthesis rate of y. If he takes AAS, his protein synthesis rate will by 2y, or 3y etc. This in fact does raise the “genetic ceiling.”

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:
Something I’ve always been curious about is why many people say you can go beyond your gentic potential when using certain drugs? To me if you continue to grows even when using AAS you are still within your gentic potential.

What I mean is, why do we say using supplementation, say creitine, protein, etc…, only helps us reach our limits while AAS help us exceed these limit? It’s not as if using AAS alters your genetics it just enchances them.

Not to be absurd, but if a doc surgically installed a hydrolic lever in your arms, I’d say that’s beyond your gentic limit, but using AAS, I’m not so sure.

Anyway I’m not sure I’m getting my point accross that well, but any thought?

[/quote]

I think there is a difference between natural genetic potential and enhanced genetic potential.

Is your point that they are really the same thing, since AAS is just another supplement like protein, creatine, etc.?

If so, I see where you’re coming from but I think the bodybuilding community has drawn a line between natural and enhanced, and steroids are almost universally considered on the other side of the line as natural. Whether that line is arbitrary or not, I think steroids have been shown to make such a drastic difference that they are considered not natural.

I can eat more chicken to get more protein, and more beef to increase my body’s creatine levels, but there is nothing I can do to increase my testosterone production beyond a certain limit other than take drugs that increase my test levels.

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:
Something I’ve always been curious about is why many people say you can go beyond your gentic potential when using certain drugs? To me if you continue to grows even when using AAS you are still within your gentic potential.[/quote]

No, steroids enhance your genetic ability. They don’t “erase” it or “replace” your genetics, but it enhances what you have…so the guy who could get to 210lbs lean can now get to 230 or more. But he won’t become Ronnie Coleman.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Just to see where the discussion goes, I thought it would be good to go over what “genetics” actually means in bodybuilding. People throw this term around loosely but then use terms like “ectomorph” to label themselves and judge all of their actions by.

I am just starting this now so anyone else can add to this.[/quote]
As you know, genetics are among several factors that affect your success/progress in lifting. A lot of people like to say that genetics don’t matter which is kinda ridiculous. To say that it doesn’t matter is to say that if you take 2 people, give them the same diet, training, etc, that there results will be the same but we know that’s not the case.

I also think bodytype classifications are just that that, classifications. I think all these were meant to do was give an indication of what a person’s “natural tendeny” is, i.e. what your body wants to be. They don’t necessarily reflect what you look like at any given point. We can all change our look with enough effort. Just because a naturally thin person eats and becomes fat, it doesn’t suddenly make him an endomorph.

Yes, I’m an ectomorph but I don’t think any of us ever used it as an excuse; never said that we can’t gain; all a lot of us say is that it takes longer and requires more effort than the average person that walks in the gym for the first time. I ate more food than all my friends (yes, i lived with some of them in college, so i know what they eat) and they all outweighed me by 20lbs at least. Not much you can do with a small frame. I had to eat lots more, starting at 130lbs just to get to 160lbs or so, and I’m stil behind. If I quit, I go back to 130, for other people, they get fat. Don’t see how people can say that genetics don’t matter.

I see what you all are saying. It just seems arbitrary to me. AAS are affective, from what I understand, but so is proper supplementation.

Or here’s another example, why isn’t weight training considered a genetic enhancer. I mean it’s not like lifting iron is something that has been done since Adam graced this earth, so shoudn’t only body weight exercise be the basis for your genetic limit?

DaBeard & X, if AAS enhance your genetic potential wouldn’t altering insulin levels through supplementation be enhancing genetic potential as well.

Lanky, that is basically my point. They are really the same thing, just that AAS are well more effective if used properly.

Waht about natural T-Boosters like Tribulous (sp?). Is that enhancing genetic potential?

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:
I see what you all are saying. It just seems arbitrary to me. AAS are affective, from what I understand, but so is proper supplementation.

Or here’s another example, why isn’t weight training considered a genetic enhancer. I mean it’s not like lifting iron is something that has been done since Adam graced this earth, so shoudn’t only body weight exercise be the basis for your genetic limit? [/quote]

Well, your genetics literally means “the blue print for what your body is capable of and how it is built”. Your capabilities are not graded on whether they come to you naturally…since playing the piano and singing can both be learned and one can grow even better to their genetic potential.

Same with lifting weights. My “blue print” says I have “xx%” potential to do something. Your body is adaptive, however, so that “potential” is graded on “training”.

[quote]
DaBeard & X, if AAS enhance your genetic potential wouldn’t altering insulin levels through supplementation be enhancing genetic potential as well. [/quote]

Your genetic potential can only be altered through gene enhancement or gene splicing. We can’t do either in living humans yet.

[quote]
Lanky, that is basically my point. They are really the same thing, just that AAS are well more effective if used properly.

Waht about natural T-Boosters like Tribulous (sp?). Is that enhancing genetic potential? [/quote]

Tiribulus will not break your genetic potential. It will simply allow you to do better at reaching your own.

Discussing drugs, even with Gh and steroids and insulin, you are “enhancing” what your body could do naturally. This would also be ultimately limited but since drug use at that degree is poorly studied, no one can say exactly how much drugs can “enhance” an individual at the ends of the Bell Curve.

[quote]DaBeard wrote:
I’ll give a good real world example of my friend of middle eastern descent. The guy would walk around in college at a leanness where you could see all of his abs, arms were slightly less than 17" and he would workout about once every two weeks. I mean, it was really disheartening to me and my workout partner as all three of us were friends but this guy did jack shit in the gym and ate horrible.

When I think of genetics I always refer to him because he literally ate no protein for days in a row and would seem to make more progress with 1/10th the amount of training time and effort.
I always used to try and push him to become consistent and eat well, too bad he didn’t really care about training. [/quote]

Good post.

Your genetics refer also to how your body utilizes what you feed it.

Person A may eat chicken wings and biscuits all week and never lose sight of his abs after a month of this.

Person B can weigh the exact same and even be carrying the same degree of muscle and fat and his body will turn more of those calories to body fat.

This is your body’s “rate of anabolism”…how fast your body can turn what you feed it into muscle and or fat. This differs from person to person.

I had a roomate like that in college. Always lean. Always eating huge amounts of food, but walked around looking like some people who spend years trying to reach the same level.

Guess what…he HATED lifting for size even though he was clearly gifted for it.

That is why only looking at people who decide to compete is a mistake in judging what is possible. I have known a few people growing up who were gifted but seemed to hate building more size as if they hated standing out because of it.

People like that will never enter a bodybuilding stage.

Hmmm interesting. So would you consider for example the use of Indigo-3g a genetic enhancer? Or really any supplement that allows for a concentration of whatever (protein, cretine, etc…) in amounts not found naturally?

I guess I just think the distinction is arbitrary, but I understand what your saying X.

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:
Hmmm interesting. So would you consider for example the use of Indigo-3g a genetic enhancer? Or really any supplement that allows for a concentration of whatever (protein, cretine, etc…) in amounts not found naturally?

I guess I just think the distinction is arbitrary, but I understand what your saying X. [/quote]

Once you start getting into supplement and steroid use, the subject becomes murky because we still don’t know how much the human body can be “enhanced” from the use of these things…but again, your genetics structure is not changing. You are not becoming something else.

[quote]DaBeard wrote:
I’ll give a good real world example of my friend of middle eastern descent. The guy would walk around in college at a leanness where you could see all of his abs, arms were slightly less than 17" and he would workout about once every two weeks. I mean, it was really disheartening to me and my workout partner as all three of us were friends but this guy did jack shit in the gym and ate horrible.

When I think of genetics I always refer to him because he literally ate no protein for days in a row and would seem to make more progress with 1/10th the amount of training time and effort.
I always used to try and push him to become consistent and eat well, too bad he didn’t really care about training. [/quote]

I dont think it is like you say it is that he has an impressive physique by training 1 in 2 weeks. There’s lots of issues that might affect this.
For example,
1)He has done shit tons of sports/training in his youth, and his merely maintaining his muscles.
2)He does chinups/abs/pushups at home
3)He uses steroids and doesnt tell you
4)He still trains in other sports, and gym is just assistance.

Also eventhough you say he doesnt eat protein, vegetarian food still has protein in it. It’s quite difficult to not eat protein.

Another interesting aspect of genetics in bodybuilding is the importance of one’s psychological profile. I believe this profile is partly dictated by genetics (I believe I have seen some literature on this subject) and it certainly could be regarded as talent. There are people who seem to be more naturally disciplined than others, people who seem to thrive on routine and people who are capable of pushing themselves harder through pain/discomfort. Others may exhibit obsessive tendencies that lead them to pursue their goals more relentlessly than others.

This makes me think of a friend of mine how has very decent genetics for building muscle and staying lean. However, he is incapable of sticking to a program for any appreciable amount of time and as a result, his body has gone nowhere for years. He is easily distracted, in general, even though he seems to recognize the need to be more focused and consistent with his training.

I recognize that behavior is largely determined by one’s upbringing, but, as I said, part of it at least, seems to be genetic and this factor is also crucial to success in bodybuilding.

I think that genetics in what interests us is not one thing.

It’s not you have the “bodybuilding gene”… there are several different aspects to it.

  • Genetic predisposition to being lean
  • Genetic predisposition to be able to put on a lot of muscle
  • Genetic potential for round/full muscle bellies
  • Genetic potential for strength development
  • Genetic bone structure that makes you look larger than you are (wide clavicle, small joints)

Etc.

One can be of various levels in each of these (I’m sure there are others aspects too).

Take myself for example… I think that:

  • My predisposition toward being lean are below average(judging from my parents and family members)
  • My predisposition to be able to put on muscle is slightly above average
  • My potential for round/full muscle bellies is above average (but not excellent)
  • My predisposition for gaining strength is above average (but not excellent)
  • My done structure, when it comes to aesthetics is below average (narrow clavicle, long torso, fairly wide waist)

Then you can also factor in other genetic predispositions when it comes to enhanced bodybuilding… for the example genetic response to steroids (some blow up on small doses, some do not gain much from huge doses) and genetic predispositions to avoid side effects of drug use.

[quote]NikH wrote:

[quote]DaBeard wrote:
I’ll give a good real world example of my friend of middle eastern descent. The guy would walk around in college at a leanness where you could see all of his abs, arms were slightly less than 17" and he would workout about once every two weeks. I mean, it was really disheartening to me and my workout partner as all three of us were friends but this guy did jack shit in the gym and ate horrible.

When I think of genetics I always refer to him because he literally ate no protein for days in a row and would seem to make more progress with 1/10th the amount of training time and effort.
I always used to try and push him to become consistent and eat well, too bad he didn’t really care about training. [/quote]

I dont think it is like you say it is that he has an impressive physique by training 1 in 2 weeks. There’s lots of issues that might affect this.
For example,
1)He has done shit tons of sports/training in his youth, and his merely maintaining his muscles.
2)He does chinups/abs/pushups at home
3)He uses steroids and doesnt tell you
4)He still trains in other sports, and gym is just assistance.

Also eventhough you say he doesnt eat protein, vegetarian food still has protein in it. It’s quite difficult to not eat protein.[/quote]

  1. He has done a lot of sports in his youth, none of them involved lifting weights ever.
  2. He never did anything at home because he was my roomate for 4 years.
  3. He definitely doesn’t use steroids, this guy is a very very close friend of mine. he didn’t even know what steroids are let alone use them.
  4. The only training he ever did in other sports while I knew him was playing soccer on the weekends.

Also, you think you can maintain a significant amount of muscle by eating some protein from vegetables? He wasn’t even a vegetarian, it’s just that he had to eat halal meat (muslim version of kosher, same thing really) and where we went to college that was ridiculously rare. Clearly he got protein but i’d be damned if it was more than 50grams a day, tops.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
I think that genetics in what interests us is not one thing.

It’s not you have the “bodybuilding gene”… there are several different aspects to it.

  • Genetic predisposition to being lean
  • Genetic predisposition to be able to put on a lot of muscle
  • Genetic potential for round/full muscle bellies
  • Genetic potential for strength development
  • Genetic bone structure that makes you look larger than you are (wide clavicle, small joints)

Etc.

One can be of various levels in each of these (I’m sure there are others aspects too).

Take myself for example… I think that:

  • My predisposition toward being lean are below average(judging from my parents and family members)
  • My predisposition to be able to put on muscle is slightly above average
  • My potential for round/full muscle bellies is above average (but not excellent)
  • My predisposition for gaining strength is above average (but not excellent)
  • My done structure, when it comes to aesthetics is below average (narrow clavicle, long torso, fairly wide waist)

Then you can also factor in other genetic predispositions when it comes to enhanced bodybuilding… for the example genetic response to steroids (some blow up on small doses, some do not gain much from huge doses) and genetic predispositions to avoid side effects of drug use.[/quote]

You hit every nail on the head with this one post.

[quote]DaBeard wrote:

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
I think that genetics in what interests us is not one thing.

It’s not you have the “bodybuilding gene”… there are several different aspects to it.

  • Genetic predisposition to being lean
  • Genetic predisposition to be able to put on a lot of muscle
  • Genetic potential for round/full muscle bellies
  • Genetic potential for strength development
  • Genetic bone structure that makes you look larger than you are (wide clavicle, small joints)

Etc.

One can be of various levels in each of these (I’m sure there are others aspects too).

Take myself for example… I think that:

  • My predisposition toward being lean are below average(judging from my parents and family members)
  • My predisposition to be able to put on muscle is slightly above average
  • My potential for round/full muscle bellies is above average (but not excellent)
  • My predisposition for gaining strength is above average (but not excellent)
  • My done structure, when it comes to aesthetics is below average (narrow clavicle, long torso, fairly wide waist)

Then you can also factor in other genetic predispositions when it comes to enhanced bodybuilding… for the example genetic response to steroids (some blow up on small doses, some do not gain much from huge doses) and genetic predispositions to avoid side effects of drug use.[/quote]

You hit every nail on the head with this one post.[/quote]

Thanks, I should have added the predisposition to avoid injuries… some people break more easily than others. And we all know that when it comes to building muscle and getting stronger, injuries are one of our worst enemy.

Going along with everybody’s posts:

Isn’t recovery ability also a genetic ‘factor’?

Let’s say you have lifter A and lifter B.

Lifter A can handle 25-30 sets per muscle group per week and still make progress.

Lifter B can only handle 10-15 sets per muscle group per week and still make progress.

Besides proper nutrition and rest isn’t that somewhat determined by genetics/body type?