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Old 10-04-2006, 04:34 AM
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Default What is the Role of Genetics and Practice in Superior Performance?

A member recently made a post on something I have been studying that is very interesting. Here is a link, http://www.abcbodybuilding.com/forum/sho...;page=0#1229591

And a quote on what I am interested in:

[ QUOTE ]

While I (hopefully) have your attention, I would like your thoughts on the role genetics have in regulating mRNA transcription, protein translation and protein synthesis...

Namely...

- Do genetics regulate/limit a human's ability to make lean gains?

and

- Can we manipulate these processes with exercise, diet and or supplements (i.e ebol)? In other words, is it possible that increased protein and AA intake could go to waste (somewhat anyway) if the user has less than desireable genetics?

[/ QUOTE ]

Deep, deep question.

Incidentally, I am studying this very question right now. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer, yet. [img]/forum/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

One of the leading research scientist, Anders Ericsson, has done an incredible amount of research on the mechanisms behind elite performance.

To summarize his data, he strongly believes that the key to peak performance is deliberate practice: that is, practice, with intent. So if someone practices enough, using the right training variables and such, he believes anyone can reach a peak level of performance.

He shows a lot of convincing evidence for this.

The model he has created is called the expert performance model. Here is how it works.

1.) Find an expert performance that can be replicated in the laboratory, such as 100 meter sprint, or marksmen shooting skills. 2.) Find the cognitive, anatomical, or physiological mechanism which underlie these superior performances through various paradigms. 3.) Identify how different types of experiences and practice activities explain the acquisition of these mechanisms, and whether experts practice certain ways to obtain these skills.

Let me give you an example.

They have tested expert marksmen shooting accuracy in a laboratory (step 1), they notice that certain sides of their brain are not active during their shots, and others sides are (the left and right hemisphere, respectively; the right hemisphere is associated with vision, so it is needed for their skills). They correlate performance with activation of these sides of the brain, and find that when one side of the brain is inactive during the shot, the performance is high; but when it elevates slightly, errors occur (step 2 validated). This identifies that the inactivation and activation of certain areas of the brain during expert shooting is an important component of performance (step 2; mechanism of superior performance identified). What results indicate, is that experts go through complex learning and problem solving techniques to lead to these superior adaptations in performance (step 3).

Anyway, while he showed a lot of convincing evidence that high level performers do not have a genetic advantage in things such as memory state, he did a poor job, in my opinion, on physiological mechanisms, such as muscular hypertrophy which underlie high level performance.

Basically, all he showed is that it takes practice to facilitate superior performance.

Yes, the evidence is absolutely clear that deliberate practice is a mandatory component to peak performance.

But my problem with what he is saying, is that does not mean that someone cannot reach peak performance with greater ease, and less practice.

Further, his definition of peak performance was vague. He and others define Expert Performance as consistent superior athletic performance over an extended period. But what does superior mean? It is much to subjective.

The key question I have is: is one of the differences that separates a triple A baseball player from a professional, genetics? Clearly both athletes are performing feats of superior performance; but one is performing better than the other.

He also says all healthy humans have the same genes. So genetics can't explain superior performance. Sure, we all produce fast twitch fibers, and can stimulant protein synthesis through diet; but this does not mean at all that our genes have the same efficiency. So I find this arguement very lacking.

He suggests that the key is longitudinal studies. For instance, you test people during a whole life span, and see what practice variables and such underlie superior performance. This is lacking in the literature; logs are the closest thing they have on this.

What would be great is to take hundreds of individuals, put them on the same training program from youth, and see who grows more. But that would be hard to do! Especially to control all external variables.

There also appears to be a "window" in which we can really facilitate peak performance for sports. And this window is related to age. For instance, ballet dancerís ability to turn out their feet and the range of motion of a baseball pitchers shoulder joints are both influenced by appropriate practice at a young age; and once their bones calcify around 8-10 years old, this change is permanent.

To summarize my question:

1. What role do genetics play in peak performance, particularly muscular hypertrophy?
2. If genetics do play a role, can they be overcome, through increased practice, diet, and other variables? Or are certain people destined to be mediocre athletes?
3.) what window(s) do we have to maximize our athleteic potential, as related to age?

I look forward to your thoughts! I am going to be investigating this, and discussing it with several of my colleagues tomorrow.

And if anyone is interested, I can give more information on this topic, and various studies.
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Gabriel "Venom" Wilson, Ph.D. Nutritional Sciences
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