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Racial Differences in Muscle Fiber Typing Cause Differences in Elite Sporting Competition

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JP Rushton

Richard Lynn

L:inda Gottfredson

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Blacks are, on average, better at sports than whites. Why? The answer is very simple: muscle fiber typing. Most individuals have an even proportion of muscle fibers, skewing about 5 to 10 percent less on type II fibers. However, when it comes to elite competition, race—and along with it muscle fiber typing—come into play more. Who is stronger? Why? Who is faster? Why? Who is better at endurance running? Why? The answers to these questions lie in muscle fiber typing, somatype, and, of course, grit and determination. Today I will provide yet more evidence for my argument that whites are stronger than blacks.

Muscle fiber typing by race

I’ll be quick here since I’ve covered this extensively.

Blacks have more type II muscle fibers in comparison to whites who have more type I muscle fibers. This difference in fiber typing causes differences in aerobic capacity which lead to higher rates of cardiorespiratory diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.

There are two types of muscle fibers with two divisions: Type I and Type II with the divisions being in the slow twitch fiber, further broken down into Type IIa and Type II x. Type I fibers fire slowly and possess greater aerobic metabolic capacity due to higher levels of lipid, myoglobin, mitochondrial and capillary content. Type II fibers, on the other hand, fire faster, have reduced aerobic capacity (and all that comes with it) and are better equipped for anaerobic activity (explosive sports). Type IIa possesses more aerobic potential than IIx, but less anaerobic potential than type I fibers. Some evidence exists showing that it’s possible to train type II fibers to have a similar aerobic capacity to type I, but I don’t really buy that. It is possible to make aerobic capacity similar to the aerobic capacity that type I fibers have, but type II will not be fully like them.

Blacks have more type II fibers while whites have more type I fibers. Type II fibers predispose people to a myriad of cardiometabolic diseases which are also associated with grip strength.

Differences in fiber typing in elite athletes

Now comes the fun part. How do muscle fibers differ between elite athletes? A few studies have been done but, as expected in physiology studies, they have a low n, but they still do show physiologic differences when compared to the control subjects, physiologic differences that were predicted due to what we know about muscle fiber typing.

Type IIa fibers possess more aerobic potential than IIx, therefore, power lifters have a higher proportion of IIa fibers compared to IIx fibers. It should also be noted that powerlifters have the same amount of type I fibers as the general population (Fry et al, 2003a), so knowing this fact, since blacks have a lower proportion of type I muscle fibers as noted in Caeser and Hunter (2015), this explains why there are very few black power lifters: they have the opposite type II fiber type while having less type I fiber.

Furthermore, Olympic lifters also use a higher percentage of type IIa fibers (Fry et al, 2003b). This also explains the lower amount of blacks in weight lifting as well. Fiber types don’t explain everything, but at elite levels, they do mean a lot and looking at the racial variation explains racial differences in elite sporting competition.

Explaining racial differences in sprinting competitions is easy as well. Type IIx fibers combined with the ACTN3 gene=elite human performance (Mills et al, 2001). The gene ACTN3 was discovered to explain explosive power, and it just so happened to vary by race. William Saletan writes:

the relative frequency of the X allele is 0.52 in Asians, 0.42 in whites, 0.27 in African-Americans, and 0.16 in Africans. If you break out the data further, the frequency of the XX genotype is 0.25 in Asians, 0.20 in European whites, 0.13 in African-Americans, and 0.01 in African Bantu. Conversely, the frequency of RR (the genotype for speed and power) is 0.25 in Asians, 0.36 in European whites, 0.60 in African-Americans, and 0.81 in African Bantu. Among Asians, you can expect to find one RR for every XX. Among whites, you can expect nearly two RRs for every XX. Among African-Americans, you can expect more than four RRs for every XX.

This allele is responsible for explosive power. Explosive power is needed to excel in events such as sprinting, football, basketball and other sports where power is needed in short bursts. However, where blacks have an advantage in explosive power sports, the advantage is lost once events like swimming, power lifting (described above), Olympic lifting (differing fiber type) etc.

Conclusion

Racial differences in elite sporting competition come down to a lot of genetic factors, largely influenced by hormones, genes, and muscle fiber typing. Population variation between known fiber typings/hormones/genes that affect certain types of athletic performance explains a lot of the variation within, and especially between populations. Due to anatomical differences, blacks excel at some sports and suffer at others. The same also holds for whites; there is considerable variation in somatype, some somatypes are better for strongman/powerlifting competitions than others. These differences affect the outcomes of elite sporting competition as well.

Blacks have a higher amount of type II fibers, which accounts for a lot of their disease acquisition (Caesar et al, 2015). Due to this physiologic difference, this is why blacks excel at some sports, and not others.

Once again: Blacks are not stronger than whites.

(Note: Click here for discussion on Kenyan distance running.)

References

Ceaser, T., & Hunter, G. (2015). Black and White Race Differences in Aerobic Capacity, Muscle Fiber Type, and Their Influence on Metabolic Processes. Sports Medicine,45(5), 615-623. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0318-7

Fry, A. C., Webber, J. M., Weiss, L. W., Harber, M. P., Vaczi, M., & Pattison, N. A. (2003). Muscle Fiber Characteristics of Competitive Power Lifters. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,17(2), 402. doi:10.1519/1533-4287(2003)017<0402:mfcocp>2.0.co;2

Fry, A. C., Schilling, B. K., Staron, R. S., Hagerman, F. C., Hikida, R. S., & Thrush, J. T. (2003). Muscle Fiber Characteristics and Performance Correlates of Male Olympic-Style Weightlifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,17(4), 746-754. doi:10.1519/00124278-200311000-00020

Mills, M., Yang, N., Weinberger, R., Vander Woude, D., Beggs, A., Easteal, S., & North, K. (2001). Differential expression of the actin-binding proteins, alpha-actinin-2 and -3, in different species: implications for the evolution of functional redundancy. Human Molecular Genetics,10(13), 1335-1346. doi:10.1093/hmg/10.13.1335

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2 Comments

  1. You are a racist says:

    You know you use fast twitch muscle fibres for weight lifting?

    Like

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