Train Your Cells!
I apologize for my long absence, but I was very busy finishing up with my last semester of college. Saturday May, 11 I graduated from Hendrix College with a double major in Biology and Spanish. Needless to say I was a little more than busy with my senior comprehensive exams, exams and projects for courses and trying to have the best experiences with my close friends. I had a blast and I can thank Hendrix College for a lot of my fitness motivation. If you are in the Conway area, Hendrix offers a great facility for personal fitness, a great group of personal trainers (Deb Parks and Clif Wynn my favorites!) and a great assortment of group fitness classes. www.hendrix.edu/wac/
As promised I now have a post for the get2running readers. I have decided this is going to be a NERD or DORK post, as dondthird would say. My junior year at Hendrix I took, in my opinion, the two most rigorous courses in the biology major, Advanced Genetics and Advanced Cell Biology. Not everything that I learned is specifically applicable to fitness and to running, but two bits of information are relevant here.
The first has to do with epigenetics. Epigenetics is “the study of changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence – hence the name epi- (Greek: επί- over, above, outer) -genetics, some of which are heritable” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics). What this means is other than your DNA, there are ways that your genes can be modified, and these modifications can be passed on to your children. One modification is to the histone proteins which function in condensing DNA in an organized way. These proteins can be modified either to allow the genes to be accessible to other proteins, for example RNA polymerases that transcribe DNA for protein production. Along the same order, histone proteins can be modified to block transcription.
Here is how this is important: A study was conducted on mice that showed that mice with a high fat diet produced offspring that were more inclined to eat a high fat diet if they had the choice. This is because the histone proteins in the parent mice had been modified to allow transcription of genes for proteins that are required to process a high fat diet and genes for a high protein diet are modified to block transcription. In consequence these epigenetic markers were never erased and their offspring had some of the same epigenetic markers and were inclined to a high fat diet. Basically, what you eat and the consistency of your diet can alter your genome and not only affect your health but also the health of your children. Think about this now! This is applicable to many processes. The more you exercise, the more the genes for muscle fitness and regeneration are active. The better foods you eat, those genes are active and genes for a high fat diet are inactive. If you spot eating a high fat diet, those genes are off.
The second has to do with autophagy. Autophagy is “the basic catabolic mechanism that involves cell degradation of unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components through the lysosomal machinery (from the Greek words, auto “self” and phagein “to eat”)” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autophagy). The autophagic pathway is basically the process by which your cells can recycle amino acids and phospholipids under conditions of “stress”. One form of stress that can induce this pathway is starvation, but this pathway can also be triggered by exercise. Autophagy is very important for muscle homeostasis during exercise. When you exercise your body is burning a lot of energy and your cells need to have materials available to replace what is required when you are initiating “stress.”
One of the main victims of autophagy is the mitochondrion. Mitochondria are the organelles in which cellular respiration occurs. Cellular respiration requires input of oxygen and glucose (air and food) to produce ATP (energy). You can see why the mitochondria are so important during exercise; they use the oxygen you take in and stored food to keep you going. Thus, faulty mitochondria, which can produce toxic free oxygen radicals, need to be broken down by the autophagic pathway, and exercise initiates this process.
Phew! That was a workout in itself! Nerd time over, for now! Remember your body is a machine. What you put into it is where your energy will be spent, and your body will not waste energy to keep other parts of the genome active. Likewise, your body needs some stress (exercise not starvation) to stay healthy. While you are training yourself, your cells are also in training. Keep running! Train Your Cells! #nerd #sheruns #collegegrad #trainyourcells