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Ribose: A Rising Star on the Supplement Scene?

Ribose, relatively new to the nutritional supplement marketplace, seems to be following the same popularity and usage curves as creatine. Both substances occur naturally in food, and both lure active people with a suggestion that they may improve athletic performance.

Bioenergy, Inc, a Minneapolis company that has patented uses of ribose, claims that the substance helps increase power and restore energy after high-intensity exercise. The claims for ribose have caught the attention of academic experts and researchers; ribose was discussed in one symposium and in three posters (1-3) presented in June at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Does Ribose Work?

Ribose is a five-carbon sugar (D-ribose) that is needed to create and salvage adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (4). Ribose is synthesized by the body, and small amounts are available in the diet through ripe fruits and vegetables.

Because of its role in energy production, the ergogenic potential of ribose is being investigated. Researchers have also established ribose supplementation as a treatment for exercise-induced myocardial ischemia in patients who have coronary artery disease (5).

Matt Smith, vice president of marketing for Bioenergy, Inc, says that the benefit of taking ribose is quick restoration of the body's ATP stores. He notes that after short-burst exercise, supplemental ribose may recover energy levels in 12 to 36 hours compared with the body's natural rate of 7 to 10 days.

Ribose, a white powder, is mixed with water or other beverages. The recommended dose to maintain peak ATP levels is 2.2 g per day or more; for an ergogenic effect, the recommended doses should be taken before and after exercise. Ribose is widely available alone and in combination with other supplements such as creatine. Smith says ribose will soon be available in energy bars and sports drinks.

Nutritionists who have reviewed the medical literature on ribose say that scientific theories support the use of ribose as an ergogenic aid; however, they note that proven benefits in humans have not been documented in peer-reviewed journals. Melinda Manore, RD, PhD, professor and chair of the department of nutrition and food management at Oregon State University in Corvallis, addressed ribose in a presentation on nutritional supplements at the ACSM annual meeting. "The bottom line is there is no data to support that ribose is beneficial for athletic performance," she says. "And if it was proven to be beneficial, it would only be for people who participate in short-bout, high-intensity exercise." Smith counters that although current studies focus on short-burst activities, basic biochemistry principles, along with heart data (5), suggest that ribose is effective for recovery after endurance activity.

The 12-g daily dose, widely recommended on product labels, offers a small (50-kcal) energy benefit, Manore says, noting that the doses used for cardiac patients have been much higher (60 g). She notes that there's no harm in taking ribose at recommended dosages; however, the supplement currently costs about $1 per each 2-g dose. (The three studies presented in ACSM posters used dosages of 20 g/day.)

Manore says when patients ask about ribose, she asks them why they want to use it. "If they're fatigued, perhaps they should be eating better and might benefit from dietary improvements," she says. But if patients insist on taking ribose, she reassures them that the substance is legal and appears to be well tolerated at doses that don't exceed 60 g per day.

Lisa Schnirring


  1. Raue U, Gallagher PM, Williamson DL, et al: Effects of ribose supplementation on performance during repeated high-intensity cycle sprints, abstracted. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2021;33(5 suppl):S44
  2. Gallagher PM, Williamson DL, Godard MP, et al: Effects of ribose supplementation on adenine nucleotide concentration in skeletal muscle following high-intensity exercise, abstracted. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2021;33(5 suppl):S167
  3. Frelich AE, Seifert JG: The effects of gender on toxicology of 14 days of ribose ingestion, abstracted. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2021;3(5 suppl):S167
  4. Coleman E: Ribose: an ergogenic aid? Sports Med Digest 2021;22(5):54
  5. Pliml W, Von Arnim T, Hofmann H, et al: Effects of ribose on exercise-induced ischaemia in stable coronary artery disease. Lancet 1992;340(8818):507-510

Field Notes

Get Ready for Hip Hoppers
This holiday season the pogo stick is likely to be the next active toy to top young peoples' wish lists. But it won't be the same old bounce—the new generation of pogo stick enthusiasts is already embracing "extreme pogo sticking," and manufacturers are offering versions for adults who seek new cardiovascular workouts.

This summer, Los Angeles-based Razor USA, the same company that made scooters popular last holiday season, introduced a sleek new pogo stick design. The company's high-profile marketing efforts have benefited all pogo stick companies, says Irwin Arginsky, general manager of SBI Enterprises, the Ellenville, New York, company that invented the pogo stick in 1918. "Believe me, I'm thrilled," he says of the renewed buzz about pogo sticks, noting that the devices have great play value and can provide cardiovascular and balance benefits. Arginsky says his company is working on an "ultimate" pogo stick model that has a 300-lb capacity and can attain heights greater than 5 ft.

So far, no distinct injury patterns have emerged. SBI Enterprises offers several pogo stick safety tips on its Web site (, and Razor recommends that pogo stick users wear helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads. Razor also offers workout suggestions that were developed by a fitness instructor.