Research

The scientific background behind Muscle Talent Scan and how it works.

Muscle types

Human skeletal muscles are composed of two different types of muscle fiber. White muscle fibers, called fast‐twitch or type-II fibers can generate bursts of speed and power. Red muscle fibers, called slow-twitch or type I-fibers have a strong resistance to muscle fatigue.

Most people have a more or less equal distribution of fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers. But some people have a lot more fast-twitch fibers, which means they are born to excel in explosive sports. Others have a lot more slow-twitch fibers, making them destined to become endurance athletes.

This muscle fiber type distribution is largely genetically determined and is only to a small extent trainable. An athlete’s personal muscle typology can be used for early talent identification and is also a crucial factor to consider when designing individualized training, so as to optimize muscle potential and minimize risk of injuries. Knowing what an athlete’s body is made of and where their talent lies is therefore important information for athletes and their trainers and medical crew.

How does it work

In the past, muscle fiber type distribution was rarely measured because it involved an invasive and painful muscle biopsy, followed by a time-consuming and complicated analysis. The Muscle Talent Scan is a new, fast, reliable and non-invasive technique using an MRI scan instead of muscle biopsy.

Scientists had already established a significant positive correlation between muscle carnosine levels and percentage area occupied by type II fibers. It was found that compared to a reference population, higher carnosine levels (which means more fast-twitch fibers) are linked to excellence in explosive sports, whereas lower carnosine levels (which means more slow-twitch fibers) are linked to excellence in endurance sports.

With this knowledge, the Victoris team at Ghent University developed a new method to measure the muscle fiber type composition in resting muscles. The method, called the Muscle Talent Scan is based on a technique known as proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (¹H-MRS), which makes it possible to accurately quantify these carnosine levels in human muscles.

Academic References:

Muscle Talent Scan report

After the scan, you will receive a personalized report with your Z-score, which indicates your muscle typology.

A Z-score between 0 and +3 means a more fast-twitch typology and a Z-score between -3 and 0 means a more slow-twitch typology compared to the population average. The reference population for calculation of the Z-scores is the current control population that consists of about 300 (fe)males.

The report compares your Z-score to that of elite athletes in various sports. It also suggests the ideal sports discipline based on the Z-score and indicates how to interpret the score and use it to individualize training and minimize injury risk. The Z-score is a crucial factor to consider in planning total training volume per week and the optimal recovery duration.