Following on from the release of the UCP1 (Uncoupling Proteins) trait last week, Fitness Genes have now given us a look at 5 more proteins, UCP2. For a better understanding of uncoupling proteins refer back to last week’s blog in which we discussed the relevance of UCP1 to your metabolic rate.

Whereas UCP1 affects how much energy is lost to producing heat and an indicator of a fast or slow metabolism, UCP2 relates to which fuel source you are using for energy, as well as other factors. So, how is this relevant to your training and nutrition? This will depend on your training goals. Are you a track sprinter or an ultra-endurance athlete? In the world of endurance sport there’s lots of talk about fat burning. At rest and when exercising at low efforts the dominant fuel source is fatty acid. As effort increases carbohydrate (glucose) becomes the dominant fuel. Within your body there is a finite amount of glucose, so, it is of benefit for endurance athletes to improve their fat burning efficiency and ‘spare’ their glucose for when it’s needed. There is never a time where you are solely using one fuel whilst exercising, so, you don’t need to be training for ultra-distance events to benefit from developing your fat burning efficiency. 

Poster. Fire woman concept image with plasma energy ball. Credit: FitnessGenes.

This uncoupling protein is just one of the factors that can affect which fuel source is used during exercise. It does this in two ways. UCP2 suppresses insulin release and therefore reduce glucose uptake. It also acts as a kind of metabolic switch, promoting use of fats and protein as fuel over glucose. Studies have shown that elite half marathon runners have higher levels of UCP2, as well as other genetic markers. The flip side of this is that having a higher level of uncoupling protein 2 may increase the amount of oxygen needed during cell respiration, reducing energy efficiency. This may affect the performance of a sprint athlete, who’s efforts rely more on glucose oxidation for a faster fuel source. For a more detailed scientific explanation visit the Fitness Genes website.

Your levels of UCP2 can also have other health implications. UCP2 reduces the production of potentially harmful reactive oxygen species, or ROS, which you may know as free radicals. ROS can damage cells on a molecular level leading to inflammation, ageing, cancer, and diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative (Alzheimer’s for example). 

Knowing if you have an increased or decreased level of UCP2 can allow a coach and nutritionist to truly personalise your plans, such as the development of aerobic fitness (VO2max), the balance of macronutrients before, during and after endurance training sessions, micronutrients that reduce that reduce the suppression of UCP2, or adjusting the amount of anti-oxidants consumed.

For more about training to improving your endurance see our blog post from earlier this year.

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