How pro cyclists have used DNA testing to improve their riding

Madison-Genesis riders are using DNA testing to identify their weaknesses

(Image credit: Luke Webber)

Promotional feature with Muhdo

Taking a DNA test to improve your cycling may sound like science fiction, but the technology is here now – and top riders are already using it to give themselves the edge over their rivals.

Muhdo Health is one company pioneering the science of genomics, and last year it teamed up with Madison to profile a variety of riders from both the Genesis and Saracen teams.

The aim was to help riders to understand their own bodies, and how their genetic idiosyncrasies could affect everything from training response and muscle building to possible dietary deficiencies.

Connor Swift and Joey Walker were just two of the riders that were keen to see how, after a quick analysis of their genetic code, they could unlock some key areas that they either might have not of thought about or just simply overlooked.

So after taking their initial DNA tests they were both relieved that being an elite level athlete was confirmed in their genes; both were highly gifted in various outcomes such as Muscle Stamina, Strength, Lactate Threshold and V02 levels.

British national champion Connor Swift

But what about their possible weaknesses, and what could they then do to improve them to optimise each time they get on their bikes?

Both Swift and Walker (as with all of us) had various vitamins and minerals that they were less efficient at genetically converting and utilising. This will have a dramatic effect on multiple areas associated with their health and performance.

Swift had an increased risk of deficiency with magnesium as the genes associated with the transportation and absorption weren’t quite as efficient.

Magnesium is fundamentally important to your training as it allows the muscles to relax and improves muscle function, restores muscle length and circulation, which will improve your performance and reduce the chances of you becoming injured.

Swift metabolises caffeine extremely quickly which can be the cause of a few issues as well, due to the fact that the performance and cognitive enhancing effects that caffeine has will be short lived. This can lead individuals to top up with more caffeine to attain more of a kick.

Unfortunately with any action you will also get an opposing reaction, and in the case of caffeine that can mean dehydration, increased adrenaline and cortisol levels, which could lead to tissue degeneration and an increased chance of injury.

(Image credit: Luke Webber)

Walker on the other hand had an issue utilising selenium, which is an extremely important antioxidant that prevents cellular/subcellular lipids and fats from being peroxidised, meaning it prevents your body fat from going rancid.

During long distance cycling the body will be placed under an immense amount of stress, causing the body to produce Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) also referred to as free radicals.

Selenium helps to combat this, but Walker was completely unaware that his antioxidant levels were being affected.

After tweaking a few key nutritional areas Walker actually knocked 30 seconds off his 10-mile PB in just a matter of weeks, which goes to show that even the smallest adjustments can allow for major improvements.

While no one can promise that, like Swift, you’ll stun the nation by winning the National Road Race Championships, taking a DNA test with Muhdo will help you understand your body, its strengths and deficiencies – and in doing so, you can improve your performance and your overall health.

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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.