The study was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It was conducted by researchers from Beijing Sport University as well as Georgia State University.
D-ribose is a naturally occurring monosaccharide found in the cells and particularly in the mitochondria and is essential in energy production. The sugar was developed as a standalone ingredient by the firm Bioenergy, which has a patent on its product, though there are other sources in the market.
Bioenergy references recent science on its ingredient that involves chronic fatigue syndrome as well as its use as an adjunct therapy in coronary bypass procedures. The company does reference one older study from 2004 that points to the product’s sports performance benefits.
Early promise in sports nutrition
But at one time the ingredient was being developed specifically as an aid in exercise performance. Bioenergy sponsored an Olympic athlete, short track speed skater Katherine Reutter, who won gold and silver medals in the 2010 Winter Olympics and subsequently won a World Cup overall title. Reutter credited the use of D-ribose in helping her maintain her power output over the course of a meet, which in short track speed skating includes a number of heats.
However, subsequent research seemed to blur that picture. A 2017 JISSN study found that D-ribose supplementation that used dextrose as a control helped a less fit group of subjects (as measured by VO2 max) maintain exercise performance as well as show lower inflammatory blood markers. But there was no statistically significant effect observed in subjects with a higher VO2 max measurement. While there are natural physiological differences in baseline VO2 max measurements, this usually is a marker of being more fit.
Bioenergy, for its part, has expanded the indications for its D-ribose by offering it as a combination ingredient branded as RiaGev that is aimed at the healthy aging category.
Untrained cohort aiming at benefits in general population
In the present study the researchers deliberately chose a cohort of untrained college students. The goal was to investigate the effect of D-ribose supplementation on the development of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which occurs with the accumulation of tiny muscle tears following unaccustomed eccentric exercise. They used sorbitol with beta cyclodextrin as a control.
The researchers recruited 21 healthy male volunteers about 21 years of age who were all of average height and weight. They had done no more than two sessions of no more than 30 minutes of exercise per week prior to the study and were taking no other sports performance related supplements.
The DOMS-inducing protocol had the subjects do a warm up jog for 5 minutes on a track and then perform 7 sets of 20 frog hops (sort of like a squat combined with a small jump) with 90 seconds of rest between the sets. All of the subjects completed two full sessions, which came two weeks apart.
The subjects took the D-ribose or placebo at 1 hour before the exercise session and 1 hour, 12 hours, 24 hours and 36 hours afterward. The researchers used a dose of 15 grams of D-ribose, which was supplied by Cheng Zhi Life Science Co., Ltd. in Beijing.
The researchers found that D-ribose significantly attenuated DOMS in this untrained cohort, something that might be of benefit to people starting exercise regimens.
“D-ribose supplementation may safely help to alleviate DOMS induced by plyometric exercise in the general population. The supplementation with D-ribose reduces muscle soreness, enhances recovery of muscle damage, and inhibit the formation of lipid peroxides,” they concluded.
The research was supported by a grant from the National Key R&D Program of China.
Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
17, Article number: 42 (2020)
Effect of D-ribose supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness induced by plyometric exercise in college students
Authors: Wei Cao, et al.