If there was an award for “Fastest Market-Infiltration of a Sports Nutrition Ingredient in 2009”, it could easily go to an amino acid named Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine’s use in sports supplements is at an all-time high as I type this blog. Does it make you faster, stronger, or more muscled? Let’s take a brief look to find out.
The Carnosine and Beta-Alanine Connection
Carnosine is a dipeptide (consisting of two amino acids) that’s present in high concentrations in human skeletal muscles. Carnosine is formed from both L-histidine and beta-alanine amino acids. However, beta-alanine is considered the more important of the two because it’s the rate-limited precursor of carnosine1. In other words, the availability of beta-alanine directly impacts the availability of carnosine.
Results of a 9-week placebo-controlled double-blind beta-alanine study. Fifteen untrained males supplemented for 5-6 weeks with either 4.8 g / day beta-alanine or placebo. Muscle carnosine was measured in soleus, tibialis anterior, and medial head of the gastrocnemius by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), before and after supplementation and 3 and 9 wk into washout3.
Why is Carnosine so Important?
Carnosine has been shown in numerous clinical studies to reduce fatigue by reducing the acidity of the blood through pH buffering action2. Increasing the pH buffering capacity during exercise can improve high-intensity output and performance2.
Beta-alanine is crucial for the synthesis of carnosine. Chronic elevation of carnosine seems to have a direct effect on reducing muscle fatigue from high-intensity training. Therefore beta-alanine supplementation could help you push through that grueling workout much easier with less fatigue. Beta-alanine doesn’t have the capacity to directly increase strength or muscle hypertrophy, but more productive workouts can indirectly impact these factors through other pathways.
1 Derave W, Everaert I, Beeckman S, Baguet A. Muscle carnosine metabolism and beta-alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Sports Med. 2010 Mar 1;40(3):247-63. doi: 10.2165/11530310-000000000-00000.
2 Sale C, Saunders B, Harris RC. Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine concentrations and exercise performance. Amino Acids. 2009 Dec 20. [Epub ahead of print].
3 Baguet A, Reyngoudt H, Pottier A, Everaert I, Callens S, Achten E, Derave W. Carnosine loading and washout in human skeletal muscles. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Mar;106(3):837-42. Epub 2009 Jan 8.