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SECRETS OF MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT: L-CARNOSINE

I have used the dipeptide (two linked or bonded amino acids) carnosine to help the world-class athletes I counsel heal from sports injuries, boost their endurance, stimulate their immune systems, and recover faster from grueling competition and intensive training. To my surprise, every coach, trainer, and sports-medicine physician I have talked to has displayed an ignorance of the manifold and remarkable effects rendered by this simple dipeptide.

Even though scientists have long known about carnosine (it was discovered at the turn of the century) research studies have revealed many of carnosine's beneficial properties, I rarely find anyone who appreciates its nutritional powers.

Carnosine contains the biologically active amino acids L-histidine and beta-alanine. Each amino acid performs important biological functions that I will discuss shortly. The fact that carnosine is highly concentrated in muscle tissue belies its important role in controlling muscle contractility (carnosine derives its name from the Latin word for meat, or flesh).

Carnosine also possesses impressive antioxidant activity. Because of its ability to deactivate free radicals, the great Biochemist in the Sky saw fit to place high concentrations of this antioxidant dipeptide in the crystalline lens of our eyes to help protect against cataracts. As was just mentioned, muscle tissue is richly supplied with carnosine, and research has shown that carnosine (the histidine portion is the active amino acid in this case) protects against exercise-induced free-radical damage to muscle tissue. Carnosine can thus prevent unnecessary muscle breakdown and soreness after intensive training.

Even though carnosine isn't directly involved in the synthesis of ATP, it is intimately involved in increasing the concentration of enzymes that allow ATP to supply muscles with the energy to contract. Here's a simple version of how it does so.

Skeletal muscles have filaments (actin and myosin) that must slide across each other for a muscle to work or contract. ATP is required as an energy source for this contraction. Specific enzymes split off a phosphate group from ATP (the "P" in ATP stands for the phosphate molecule— there are three of them—attached to the nucleotide adenosine—the "A" in ATP), which releases energy used for muscle contraction. That's where carnosine comes in. It helps to activate the enzymes that split the ATP molecule to provide muscles with the energy they need to contract. Bodybuilders and power lifters would be weaker than the weakest 98-pound weakling at the beach without their carnosine and ATP. Let Popeye have his spinach; I'll eat my carnosine.

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