Last week we covered the UCP2 gene and how it relates to what fuel sources you use during different intensities of exercise. This week we’ll be following on from that and looking at the ACSL5 gene and its importance when it comes to fat burning. Many of us are aware that exercise can be a great way to shift some unwanted pounds but did you know that ACSL5 plays a big part in just how much fat you are able to burn during exercise?

Let’s get into why fat metabolism, known as beta oxidation, is so important for sportspeople looking to improve endurance performance or lose a bit of weight. Your body uses two primary macronutrients to fuel exercise: carbohydrates and fat. Both of these are eventually broken down into something called pyruvate which is then further broken down inside the mitochondria into Acetyl-CoA to create ATP. One glucose molecule can be used to create a total of 38 ATP through the process of glycolysis, the Krebs cycle and finally the Electron Transport Chain. In contrast, a single fatty acid, for example C18, can be broken down via Beta Oxidation to Acyl-CoA and then into 9 Acetyl-CoA. This results in a net gain of 90 ATP. More potential energy is always a good thing!

This is where your ACSL5 gene, which encodes the ACSL5 (long chain fatty acyl-coA synthetase family member 5) enzyme, comes in. This enzyme is responsible for the conversion of fatty acids into Acyl-CoA and allows the fats to be metabolized in the mitochondria, which then creates the ATP to fuel exercise. The ACSL5 gene also has an interesting variant, the ‘T’ allele. People with the ‘T’ variant have been shown to produce higher levels of ACSL5 in the muscles. This in turn can result in greater fat loss during periods of calorie restricted diet due to the potentially improved ability to use beta oxidation of fatty acids when glucose levels are low. For more information, check out this blog from FitnessGenes.

Knowing if you have an increased level of ACSL5 in your muscles can be beneficial in allowing your nutritionist to tailor your diet to best utilize your most efficient means of fueling your training and optimizing your body composition.

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