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Protease supplementation and improved muscle function

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are enzymes that break down proteins into their constitutive amino acids. For bodybuilders it should seem counter-intuitive to take a supplement that breaks down protein, but recent science tells us these supplements are very beneficial. In a double-blinded, randomized, placebo controlled study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, scientists at Baylor University investigated whether taking a protease supplement would decrease muscle damage and improve muscle function after heavy eccentric exercise. The scientists reasoned that protease supplementation would reduce inflammation and immune response after exercise. At the onset of the study, subjects had baseline blood samples and muscle biopsies taken, underwent isokinetic muscle (leg) function testing, and a VO2 max test. For 21 days following, subjects either took a daily protease supplement (consisting of 47.7 mg of papain, 99.9 mg of bromelain, 5.593 g of fungal enzymes, and 86.4 mg of calcium citrate) or a placebo. After 21 days of supplementation, subjects returned to the lab where another blood sample was taken and then completed a 45-min downhill (eccentric) treadmill running protocol (at 60% of their VO2 max). Over the following 48 hrs subjects had 4 more blood samples taken and completed 3 isokinetic muscle function tests. Compared to the placebo group, those who received the protease supplement had greater overall force production and decreased serum cyclooxygenase 2, interlukin 6, and interlukin 12 levels after eccentric muscle damage. These observations indicate that prolonged protease supplementation beneficially modifies the immune response and inflammation during exercise recovery.

Buford TW, Cooke MB, Redd LL, Hudson GM, Shelmadine BD, Willoughby DS. Protease Supplementation Improves Muscle Function after Eccentric Exercise Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Sep 2. [Epub ahead of print].