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Genes dictate a lot of things that happen in the human body. They ultimately determine everything from the color of your hair and eyes to your body’s ability to metabolize nutrients. There is evidence to suggest that genetics may also play a major role in building muscle and strength.
A study conducted by Hubal tested 585 people, both male and female, from a very diverse group of backgrounds and ethnicities. These individuals were exposed to 12 weeks of progressive strength training and the range of muscle and strength gain was staggering. Those who responded the best to the program were able to increase their muscle mass by about 59% and their strength by some 250%. Those who responded the worst actually lost 2% of their muscle mass and didn’t get any stronger. They all had the same diets, and they experienced the same amount and type of exercise. The only explanation is genetics.
The simple answer to this question is a good diet and plenty of exercise, but there’s much more to it than that. When you work out and train hard every day, the results you see in the mirror are actually the result of a process called satellite cell-mediated myonuclear addition. That’s quite a mouthful, but it’s actually pretty simple to understand. There are satellite cells that orbit your muscle fibers, and these cells essentially sacrifice themselves so their nucleic material can transfer into your muscle fibers. This provides your muscles with more genetic material, which allows them to grow larger and stronger.
In the aforementioned study, scientists took a look at the possible reasons why some individuals responded better than others despite the same diet and exercise program. They found that those who responded the best had far more satellite cells surrounding their muscle fibers than those who didn’t respond well at all. Unfortunately, there’s no diet or exercise plan that can increase the number of satellite cells in your muscles. That’s all left up to genetics. Science is still tracking down the exact gene that regulates myonuclear addition, which may provide some insight as to why certain groups people seem to hit the genetic lottery when it comes to muscle and strength.
If you are one of the unfortunate people with very few satellite cells, don’t fret. You can still gain plenty of muscle and strength, but it’ll require more work and determination, and it’ll probably take you longer, too. As always, be sure to eat a diet rich enough in calories to provide you with the energy you need, and rich enough in protein to provide the amino acids your body needs to build new muscle tissue. Combine that with a solid workout routine, and perhaps even a supplement like creatine or whey protein, and you’ll find that you can overcome genetics after all.
As it turns out, your genes do a lot more than simply determine the color of your eyes. Your very DNA is responsible for the amount of muscle and strength you can gain. While this may be difficult for people who work and train hard for minimal results, those results can and will add up over time.