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Feel the Post-Workout Burn -- Less

"Feeling the burn" after a workout is really your body recovering from the stress and strain of exercise. It's a process that might get a boost from a new supplement.

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"The extract mobilizes your natural supply of heat shock proteins almost immediately after the body experiences stress - which in turn helps the repair process to begin right away," says Marilyn Booker, the clinical director of Perfect Equation, the company that distributes PrePair in the U.S.

It is because of that ultra quick HSP response that Booker says athletes are less likely to feel fatigue, and have a greater ability to workout harder and longer with less risk of muscle damage or post workout pain.

The key ingredient in PrePair is called Tex-OE, extracted from the skin of the cactus fruit. According Booker, what makes PrePair different from other prickly pear cactus sources is the patented process that separates the extract from the fibrous skin - intrinsic, she says, to obtaining results.

"Fiber prevents the extract from being absorbed by the body - so in order to gain the benefits we had to develop a patented process that separates the extract from the fibrous skin, " Booker tells WebMD.

It also allows the supplement to last in the body up to three days - but, says Booker, "If your muscles aren't under stress, the heat shock proteins won't rise."

And the company offers some human, cell culture, and animal studies to back up their claims. Human studies conducted by the company on divers, cyclists, and runners found those who took PrePair claimed to have roughly twice the strength, distance or stamina they did before.

Supplemental Information

But while results are impressive, it's important to note that PrePair's studies were small, and not published in any medical journal, which means they were not subject to review by experts who could verify either the results, or the conditions under which the testing was carried out.

Moreover, even if PrePair can elevate heat shock proteins after fitness activities, as it claims, some experts question whether that elevation is really key to the repair process - or just something that occurs simultaneously.

"The big question now is will the elevation of heat shock proteins following stressors - using this supplement or any other means - really reduce muscle damage or increase the recovery process," says Malachy McHugh, PhD, director of research, Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York City.

While McHugh remains intrigued with the link between heat shock proteins and exercise, he cautions that right now there is no science to show that they make a difference in recovery, or if they do, if speeding up production with a supplement has any real value.

"Ultimately, you need some measure of damage or disruption of the cells to see if those who take the supplement fare better than those who don't," McHugh tells WebMD.

Nutrition expert and author Shawn Talbott, PhD, agrees. "The question that needs to be answered is whether or not impacting heat shock proteins is going to impact the rate of injury or fatigue, or make fitness workouts safer - and right now we have no well controlled peer reviewed studies to tell us that," says Talbott, a professor at The University of Utah and the author of "The Cortisol Connection."

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