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How Can Ribose Help with Sports Performance?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 9 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Sports Nutrition Sports Nutrition

Many people who want to increase their fitness levels or better their sports performance are turning to nutritional sports supplements for help. Ribose, touted as one of the safest supplements, promises a quick fix in that it purports to hasten recovery after work-outs and deliver energy to the muscles. But does it live up to its promise?

What is Ribose?

A naturally occurring sugar, ribose is made in the human body from glucose. It is a vital part of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which delivers energy to cells. It is also present in RNA, or ribonucleic acid, which is very similar to DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid.

Ribose today is present in many energy drinks, bars, shakes and other sports nutrition supplements, mainly because it is perceived to be helpful in delivering energy during high-intensity muscular workouts. The thought behind it is that ATP is rapidly used up during these workouts, and that RNA is crucial in helping our bodies synthesise protein.

Manufacturers of sports nutrition supplements containing ribose claim their products are god at helping recovery after exercise, and that they also help with post-fitness fatigue. They have also claimed that it helps the heart regain its post-exercise energy levels, and that it has widespread benefits to the skeletal muscles. We get some ribose in our diets naturally from ripe fruit and veg.

Medical Evidence

In scientific trials, ribose has been shown to be of benefit to people with coronary heart disease, however, there is no published evidence to support the fact that it can be helpful as a nutritional sports supplement for healthy individuals who wish to improve their sports performance. The only people it has been shown to help definitively are those who don't have the ability to synthesise ribose anyway, namely patients with heart disease.

Side Effects

Ribose seems to be safe and well-tolerated, although taking it in excess amounts can cause tummy upsets such as diarrhoea as well as other gastrointestinal complains. It may also lower glucose levels, so people with diabetes and hypoglycaemia are advised to consult their doctor before taking it. There are no known drug interactions but ask a qualified health professional before taking any sports nutrition supplements of any kind, or indeed, any supplements at all.

Supplements containing ribose also often contain other sports supplements, such as glutamine, glucosamine and creatine. The manufacturers claim that these combinations can produce miraculous results in athletes who use them. Be wary of any companies that promise miraculous and/or instant results, and only buy any nutritional supplements from a well-known supplier, and preferably a well-known brand.

Bottom Line

Research on ribose as a form of sports nutrition is scanty at best. While it does not appear to be dangerous, it also does not appear to have any valid effects for people who are purchasing it purely to improve their sports performance or overall fitness levels.

Sports nutrition supplements containing ribose may be of little or no value. People who want to improve their sports performance are better advised to have a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and safely, stay well hydrated and invest in the right kit and training programme.

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