#Functional Sports Medicine

Are your ancestral genetics impacting your athletic performance?

// December 7, 2020

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with former professional Olympic triathlete Greg Bennett on his podcast, The Greg Bennett Show. Greg and his wife Laura now consult with other endurance athletes around the globe to help them optimize their performance. During our hour-long conversation, we discussed my thoughts on individualized nutrition and supplementation, including when a high-performance athlete should consider taking steps to elevate their cellular glutathione levels above homeostasis with Glyteine.

For any athlete who has ever worked with me, you know I ask a lot of ancestral questions. Ancestral health and genetics have a huge impact on what we should include in our diet. As I told Greg, I wouldn’t, for example, want to recommend coffee with MCT oil if someone is genetically predisposed to manufacture more triglycerides than normal. It makes sense to take a methodical approach to diet that takes into account how an individual’s body functions and responds to nutrients.

As a group, however, we know that high-performance athletes expose their bodies to high levels of free radicals during training and competition. It becomes essential to manage the body’s response through diet and supplementation.  

Which led to our conversation about glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant. Greg commented that he was among several high-performance endurance athletes to recently have their glutathione levels tested. He was surprised to learn his, as well as most of the other endurance athletes’, was higher than normal.

As I explained, his results are higher, in part because his mitochondria are working more efficiently. Simply put: Naturally gifted endurance athletes inherited really good genes from their moms. They are more easily able to manage the imbalance of excess free radicals created by exercise.

However, I quickly gave Greg one important caveat. If you increase your [exercise] volume significantly for a certain period of time and you start to see your numbers plateau and are not seeing the improvement, at that point, supplementing to increase your cellular glutathione levels is a great idea.

To determine if you have truly hit a performance plateau, pay attention to your body. If your numbers have stabilized, that’s one clue. Also note if your resting heart rate is starting to creep up. If your heart rate variability (HRV) has stabilized or dropped a bit … or if you see a sudden spike in HRV … it may be your body slapping on the brakes because you’ve pushed it too hard. That’s when adding a rest period and strategically increasing your cellular glutathione levels by supplementing with Glyteine is important.