Heat shock proteins, also referred to as stress proteins, are found in all cells. Under normal conditions HSPs patrol the cells and correct changes in cellular protein structure and location. For example, they correct the shape of malformed proteins—what researchers refer to as restoring correct fold—which correspondingly restores the protein’s correct function. HSPs act like shuttle buses, carrying proteins from one site to another inside the cell. They also act as a waste disposal transport system, as they escort old proteins to cellular garbage disposal sites, more or less like the disposal bin found on your computer. Essentially, HSPs make protein synthesis and muscle repair much more efficient.
Recently, researchers in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo in Canada reported that heat shock proteins are involved in regulating relaxation cycles in skeletal muscle after intense workouts. That interaction also enhances the cell-to-cell signals between catabolic and anabolic hormones, which is very important to bodybuilders, as are most of HSPs’ jobs:
1) Correct damage to the size and strength of proteins.
2) Repair damage that occurs throughout the muscle cell.
3) Reduce the structural damage that exercise-induced stress can cause to muscle cells and tissue.
4) Assist in processes that convert new proteins into forms that muscle tissue can use.
5) Repair and replace damaged proteins.
6) Encourage the conversion of amino acids into muscle fibers.
7) Increase muscle protein density.
Item 7 refers to the process of pulling more protein into the muscle, which increases its size and hardness. Emerging data suggest that HSPs can improve the process by almost 20 percent. Also, HSPs significantly reduce catabolism with their repair functions. So how do you improve your HSP profile?
In a recent study researchers found that the amino acid acetyl-L-carnitine, via its ability to increase cellular energy by improving the performance of succinate dehydrogenase, greatly assists the preservation process. In other words, ALC improves heat-shock-protein performance, preventing both necrosis (the death of body cells and muscle tissue) and apoptosis (the destruction of cells including muscle cells). All that suggests that by priming your body with specific nutrients like acetyl-L-carnitine before your workout, you can substantially improve your body’s heat-shock-protein response.
Other supplements that appear to heighten HSP response are alfalfa, alpha lipoic acid, bilberry extract, L-arginine, L-glutamine, GABA, vitamin C, caffeine, ZMA (zinc and magnesium asparatate) and branched-chain amino acids.
Based on all the new scientific data concerning HSPs, it appears that they can regulate the repair and growth of muscle tissue when catabolic activity has reached its most destructive stage—very important for preserving muscle and building new muscle tissue. You may want to add acetyl-L-carnitine to your supplement arsenal, as well as other supplements that enhance anabolism and diminish catabolism so you get bigger and stronger faster.