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Ribose (100% D-ribose) is for athletes and seniors or heart patients interested in improved levels of energy, endurance and recovery. D-ribose (or simply ribose) is a form of carbohydrate, actually a 5-carbon simple sugar, which is found in the heart, the skeletal muscles and in all other cells in the body. In fact, ribose is an important component of both DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid), the body's sources of genetic information and protein synthesis. Ribose is also a starting material for the production of ATP, the molecule which the body uses to provide energy to all cellular processes.

By the 1930s researchers were exploring the roles of ribose. However, ribose research began to yield significant results only after 1970. It was in that decade that the importance of ribose to proper circulation and energy levels in the heart was recognized. Since then, additional scientific work has continued to confirm the benefit of this compound to the heart and circulation. What's more, for the last ten years, the roles of ribose in energy metabolism in the skeletal muscles have been added to the actions previously recognized for the heart.

Energy Production by the Cells

Let's start with the energy basics. ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate. ATP contains ribose plus the compound adenine and three units which in chemistry are called phosphate groups. Almost all energy transfers in the body revolve around the linking and unlinking of one or more of these phosphate groups. Adenosine monophosphate (AMP, which contains one phosphate group) becomes a greater potential source of energy when another phosphate group is added to make ADP (adenosine diphosphate). For most of the energetic needs of the body, ATP provides energy when it loses a phosphate group to become ADP When the body has a chance, it gives a phosphate group back to ADP to once again produce ATP And so the cycle continues. Creatine, the most popular supplement for athletes and body builders, works in part by helping the muscles to very quickly replenish ATP by adding a phosphate to ADP during intense bouts of exercise.

The Ribose Links to Energy

ATP, ADP and AMP are known as adenine nucleotides. Under normal circumstances, the adenine/ribose portion of these nucleotides is conserved in the cells. The only change is the loss of a phosphate group as ATP provides energy, for instance, for a muscle to contract. This results in the creation of ADF With rest, the phosphate group is added back to ADP to create ATP once more. Under conditions of extreme stress and in certain disease states, however, the phosphate groups not reattached to form ATP Instead, ADP may be further broken down into AMP by the loss of still another phosphate unit.

The resulting build-up of AMP in the cells is not a stable condition. The cells must always maintain a balance among the three nucleotides AMP, ADP and ATP If there are too many AMP units within a cell, some are removed. This means that the adenine/ ribose portion of the nucleotide molecules is actually lost from cells. A reduction in the number of adenine/ ribose components in cells makes it much harder for the body to recover its ability to store and transfer useable energy.

The available amount of ribose is the key limiting factor in the body's production of nucleotide carriers of energy. Inasmuch as ATP cannot be absorbed by cells from the blood, each cell must make its own ATP Only about 90 grams of ATP are stored in the cells of the body at any one time - enough for perhaps 10 seconds of all-out exertion - so it is imperative for the body to be able to keep the ADP-to-ATP energy cycle flowing smoothly. The more active the muscle, the more ATP it uses. During intense exertion, the skeletal muscles quickly exhaust their ATP stores, and in this regard the heart muscle may be the most vulnerable of all muscles to shortages of ATP The heart and all other muscles in the body therefore can benefit from supplementation with ribose.

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Ribose Improves Muscle Energy and Recovery

When considering the benefits of supplemental ribose for athletic training, it should be kept in mind that ribose is not readily available from any food source. The body must make ribose from glucose, the sugar into which all carbohydrates are ultimately converted. Through a series of complicated and energy-intensive steps, some glucose can be converted into ribose. Unfortunately, this process is quite slow and may actually require days to complete. Supplemental ribose, in contrast, is immediately available to the body.

The body uses ribose in three ways.

  1. Since ribose is itself a simple sugar, it can be used to produce glucose and glycogen (the storage form of glucose), just as glucose can be used (albeit inefficiently) to produce ribose. It is important to know here that although ribose offers the energy benefits of sugars, ribose does not affect blood glucose levels.

  2. When plenty of oxygen is available to cells, ribose can be converted into pyruvate, yet another energy source.

  3. Most importantly from the point of view of improving athletic performance, ribose is a necessary factor in the production of nucleotides (the adenine/ribose portion of AMP, ADP and ATP). Without ribose, the cells cannot produce the energy carrier and donator ATP With ribose, the cells can more rapidly recover from the stress of intense exertion.

Researchers have shown that in skeletal muscles intense exercise causes significant decreases both in ATP and the total amount of adenine nucleotides. This may be an important component in overexertion and in over-training. In some tests, scientists found that high-intensity exercise in volunteers caused significant decreases in muscle ATP and total nucleotide content. These energy factors were not fully replaced even after 72 hours of rest.

Research presented at the 1999 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine indicates that supplementing with ribose may greatly reduce recovery time after intense exertion. This is because the rate-limiting factor in adenine nucleotide synthesis is the availability of 5-phosphoribosyl-l-pyrophosphate (PRPP), and ribose is quickly changed into the immediate precursor to PRPF For athletes, this fact can be of major importance. Depending upon the type of muscle fibers involved, the recovery and synthesis of the adenine/ribose component of ATP with supplemental ribose is between 3 and 6 times faster than without supplementation!

Usage and Safety

Ribose (100% D-ribose) is often available in powder form. A 1/4 teaspoonful of Ribose supplies 1000 mg (1 gram) of pure D-ribose. Athletes should take 1 to 5 grams before and/or after exercise on an empty stomach or as directed by a qualified health consultant. Dr Stephen Sinatra in his book The Sinatra Solution recommends that heart patients take 5 – 15 grams Ribose, depending on their condition. Ribose has been supplemented under experimental conditions at rates of up to 60 grams per day without side effects. However, very large single servings of 20 grams or more may lead to diarrhea and are not recommended.

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Gross M, Kormann R, Zollner N, "Ribose administration during exercise: Effects on substrates and products of energy metabolism in healthy subjects and a patient with myoadenylate deaminase deficiency," Klinische Wochenschrift 69 (1991) 151-155.

Hellsten-Westling Y, et al., "Decreased resting levels of adenine nucleotides in human skeletal muscle after high-intensity training," Journal of Applied Physiology 74, 5 (1993) 2523-2528.

Lee H, Graeff R, Walseth T, "Cyclic ADP-ribose and its metabolic enzymes," Biochemie 77 (1995) 345-355.

Stathis C, et al., "Influence of sprint training on human skeletal muscle purine nucleotide metabolism," Journal of Applied Physiology 76, 4 (1994) 1802-1809.

Tullson P, Whitlock D, Terjung R, "Adenine nucleotide degradation in slow-twitch red muscle," American Journal of Physiology 258 (1990) C258-C265.

Tullson P, Terjung R, "Adenine nucleotide synthesis in exercising and endurance-trained skeletal muscle," American Journal of Physiology 261 (1991) C342-C347.

Tullson P, et al., "IMP metabolism in human skeletal muscle after exhaustive exercise," Journal Applied Physiology 78, 1 (1995) 146152.

Tullson P, et al., "IMP reamination to AMP in rat skeletal muscle fiber types," American Journal of Physiology 270 (1996) C1067C1074.

Wagner D, Gresser U, Zollner N, "Effects of oral ribose on muscle metabolism during bicycle ergometer in AMPD-deficient patients," Annals of Nutritional Metabolism 35 (1991) 297-302.

Zimmer H-G, "Significance of the 5-phosphoribosyl-l-pyrophosphate pool for cardiac purine and pyrimidine nucleotide synthesis: Studies with ribose, adenine, inosine, and orotic acid in rats," Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy 12 (1998) 179-187.

Zollner N, et al., "Myoadenylate deaminase deficiency: Successful symptomatic therapy by high dose oral administration of ribose," Klinische Wochenschrift 64 (1986) 1281-1290.

Reprinted with exclusive permission by Jarrow Formulas.

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