Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Enzyme supplement speeds up muscle recovery

Supplements containing enzymes such as bromelain and papain speed up muscle recovery after exertion, write sports scientists from Baylor University in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. In the study the researchers did a trial with 29 male students who exercised regularly in their free time.

After training, protease enzymes break down damaged tissues. If you help the muscles by taking oral protease supplements, then maybe the muscles will recover more quickly was the researchers' reasoning. This was the theory they wanted to test in their experiment.

The researchers got half of their test subjects to take about 6 g proteases every day for 24 days. For this they used a product manufactured by the sponsor of the research, the Transformation Enzyme Corporation. The Transformation Enzyme Corporation produces enzyme supplements. "The protease supplement consisted of 47.7 mg of papain, 99.9 mg of bromelain, 5.593 g of fungal enzymes and 86.4 mg of calcium citrate", wrote the researchers about the product they used. The other half of the test subjects were given a placebo.

After 21 days the test subjects had to run on a treadmill, which was programmed in such a way that the subjects got seriously sore muscles. For the remaining 3 days of the trial, the test subjects kept taking their supplements and the researchers tested their strength. The figure below shows that the supplement users regained their strength more quickly.

Enzyme supplement speeds up muscle recovery

Moreover, the supplement users had fewer inflammatory factors in their blood. The effects of the supplement on the interleukin-6 concentration are shown below.

Enzyme supplement speeds up muscle recovery

The concentration of interleukin-12 was also lower in the supplement takers.

After exercise, immune cells clear up broken muscle fibres. The figure below shows that the supplements users had fewer eosinophils circulating in their body. When the researchers looked at the basophils another kind of immune cells they found a similar relationship.

Enzyme supplement speeds up muscle recovery

The researchers suggest: "It seems quite possible that the positive effects of the proteases on muscle function are due to the activation of matrix metalloproteases that contribute to extracellular matrix remodeling and myoblast migration during periods of muscle regeneration."

We are not about to run off and buy a stack of protease supplement though. From fundament research on the effect of some anti-catabolic substances we know that it's inhibiting the protease that stimulates muscle growth. The jury's still out on this one.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Sep 2. [Epub ahead of print].