Humans vary in their 'natural ability' related to sports performance. One facet of natural ability reflects so-called intrinsic ability or the ability to do well with minimal training. A second facet of natural ability is how rapidly an individual adapts to training; this is termed trainability. A third facet is the upper limit achievable after years of prolonged intense training; this represents both intrinsic ability and also trainability. There are other features of natural ability to consider, for example body size, because some events, sports, or positions favor participants of different sizes. In this context, the physiological determinant of elite endurance performance, especially running and cycling, are well know and can be used as a template to discuss these general issues. The key determinants of endurance performance include maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), the lactate threshold, and running economy (efficiency in the case of cycling or other sports). In this article, I use these physiological determinants to explore what is known about the genetics of endurance performance. My main conclusion is that at this time there are very few, if any, obvious relationships between these key physiological determinants of performance and DNA sequence variation. Several potential reasons for this lack of relationship will be discussed.
Sports Med (2019) 49(Suppl 2):199-204.