Ribose

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

After the emergence of creatine over eight years ago, athletes began to search for the next “new” performance-enhancing supplement. Working in unique ways, ribose appears to be as important as creatine in the enhancement of muscular energy. Ribose is the essential “building block” of ATP — our muscle’s energy replenishment factory. Without ribose, our bodies’ ability to manufacture ATP is decreased by as much as 50%, leading to reduced energy and eventually premature exhaustion. Preliminary evidence suggests that ribose might be an adjunct to creatine supplementation — to further increase muscular work capacity.

Other names for Ribose

D-ribose, D-ribofuranoside

Where to find Ribose

Although ribose is naturally occurring in every living cell in literally every living creature, whole foods provide insufficient or very little amounts of ribose. One food, though, brewer’s yeast, is rich in ribose.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Ribose

Supplementing with ribose may stimulate the production of ATP immediately, so our muscles can continue working optimally. Basically, it helps increase our energy pools reserved for intense anaerobic activity, so our muscles have the energy necessary for sudden bursts of power. Ribose appears to be especially beneficial for athletes involved in activities that require explosive power, including sprinting, weightlifting, basketball, and hockey.

Ways that Ribose can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Speed muscle recovery following intense exercise by replenishing ATP reserves, which may volumize cells
Ways that Ribose can enhance Energy & Endurance:
  • Quickly replenish energy stores in muscle cells
  • Allow muscles to increase working capacity and maintain peak levels

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Ribose deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Ribose

Research indicates that Ribose may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Cardiac ischemia
  • ALS
  • Fatigue/Weakness

DISCUSSION

More about Ribose

All muscle cells require a constant supply of energy for peak performance during strenuous activities. Ribose, a simple sugar found in every cell in our bodies, is considered the “starting point” for ATP (adenosine triphosphate) — the key molecule our bodies use for muscular energy. Essentially, without ribose, energy is nonexistent.

When we work out, especially when weight training, sprinting, playing basketball, or participating in other sports that require sudden bursts of energy, we continually deplete this nutrient that’s vital to muscle cells for strength and endurance. In fact, studies show that ATP levels are depleted by as much as 70% after intense exercise, and it literally takes days to replenish it. But, if our bodies have available pools of ribose, energy stores can be replenished sooner.

How it works

A naturally occurring sugar, ribose is considered the essential “building block” of ATP. When our bodies don’t have this building block, this energy-producing mechanism shuts off or, at the very least, slows down significantly. It’s a little like a steam engine — it’s pretty hard to build the fire needed to create the necessary steam when there isn’t enough coal. Well, ribose is like the coal. Without ribose, our bodies’ ability to manufacture ATP is decreased by as much as 50%, leading to unsustainable levels of energy and eventually premature exhaustion.

Do we need ribose?

Our bodies create ribose on their own within the heart and skeletal muscles by converting blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose). This results in the production of ATP. Unfortunately, this natural process can take awhile — up to a couple of days — so when we’re exercising intensely, we don’t make it as fast as we’re using it. When we don’t have enough of this vital energy, our muscles can’t work as hard, and we’re left feeling fatigued… too soon.

Numerous studies have shown that by supplementing with ribose, we bypass the long wait for more energy. Supplementing with ribose may stimulate the production of ATP immediately, so our muscles can continue working at optimal levels, longer. Basically, it helps increase our energy pools (reserved for bouts of intense anaerobic activity), so our muscles have the energy necessary for sudden bursts of force and power. And if we can work our muscles harder (lifting heavier weights or training more intensely), we become stronger with an even greater capacity for muscular work.

In conclusion

Our bodies, in their quest for survival, naturally search for ways to preserve and/or rebuild ATP once supplies have been exhausted by intense physical activity. When supplementing with ribose, the search for this efficient source of energy is significantly reduced, likely increasing our bodies’ ability to train longer and harder — ultimately leading to greater chances for success when trying to enhance recuperation or improve muscle performance.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount
  • Most manufacturers suggest using three to five grams daily, which are the usual recommendations followed by athletes.
  • Most experimental studies, however, have used much higher amounts to elicit any beneficial effects, usually about 30 grams, taken in three 10-gram dosages throughout the day.
Timing

Research suggests ribose may be most beneficial when taken both before (possibly 30 minutes prior) and after (within 30 minutes following) strenuous exercise, without protein or amino acids, which may compete for absorption.

Synergists of Ribose

Ribose may enhance the replenishment of muscle energy reserves more effectively when combined with creatine.

Toxicity of Ribose

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Gross, M., et al., “Ribose Administration During Exercise: Effects on Substrates and Products of Energy Metabolism in Healthy Subjects and a Patient with Myoadenylate Deaminase Deficiency,” Klin Wochenschr 69.4 (1991) : 151-5.
  • Pliml, W., et al., “Effects of Ribose on Exercise-Induced Ischaemia in Stable Coronary Artery Disease,” Lancet 340.8818 (1992) : 507-10.
  • Tullson, P.C., and Terjung, R.L., “Adenine Nucleotide Metabolism in Contracting Skeletal Muscle,” Exerc Sport Sci Rev 19 (1991) : 507-37.
  • Tullson, P.C., and Terjung, R.L., “Adenine Nucleotide Degradation in Striated Muscle,” Int J Sports Med 11 S 2 (1990) : S47-55.
  • Wagner, D.R., et al., “Effects of Oral Ribose on Muscle Metabolism During Bicycle Ergometer in AMPD-Deficient Patients,” Ann Nutr Metab 35.5 (1991) : 297-302.