The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 11 No.
7 • December 2008
Beta-alanine Supplementation Augments
Muscle Carnosine Content and
Improves Muscular Performance
Carnosine (a dipeptide synthesized from the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine) is present in relatively high concentrations in muscle and the brain. Several studies have suggested that muscle carnosine is a determining factor in high-intensity dynamic and isometric exercise performance in both trained and untrained men and women. One recent paper reported that beta-alanine is the rate-limiting factor required for endogenous (in the body) carnosine synthesis.
One problem with taking carnosine orally to improve muscular function is that it has a very short half life due to the presence in the plasma of the enzyme carnosinase that breaks it down into its two amino acid constituents. However, supplements of beta-alanine, acting as the rate-limiting carnosine precursor, increases intracellular carnosine levels and has beneficial effects on muscle fatigue, especially on the fast-twitch (glycolytic) type of muscle fibers associated with maximum power (such as sprints).
In a recent paper, men who took 4 grams to 6.4 grams of beta-alanine a day (in divided doses) for 4 weeks had significantly improved exercise performance, including increased ability to sustain power output in the final 10 seconds of a 30 second Wingate test (high-intensity exercise). There was a 13.0% increase in TWD (Total Work Done) after 4 weeks, with a further 3.2% increase at 10 weeks. TWD was unchanged at 4 and 10 weeks in the control subjects. The 4 to 6.4 grams of beta-alanine used as supplementation in this study was estimated by the researchers to be 1–2 times greater than that found in some human diets. In this paper, the authors attributed the beneficial effects of beta-alanine-induced increases in carnosine to carnosine’s buffering capacity of acid produced in muscles by exercise.
Another recent paper reported that beta-alanine supplements (4.8 g. per day) in trained male sprinters increased muscle carnosine content and slightly but significantly attenuated fatigue in repeated bouts of exhaustive dynamic contractions. Endurance (400 meter race time) did not improve.
A different recent paper reported that 28 days of beta-alanine supplementation in women in a cycle ergometry test increased the time to fatigue and ventilatory threshold (a measure of the respiratory response to the increased production of carbon dioxide with exercise) and increased the time-to-exhaustion at submaximal workloads. Maximal aerobic power was not affected by beta-alanine. 3.2 grams/day of beta-alanine was taken by subjects during days 1 to 7; 6.4 grams/day of beta-alanine was the dose ingested during days 8 to 28.
The Bottom Line
“Currently it would appear that a minimum effective dose of 65–86 mg/kg/day is needed for performance enhancement in young men and women.” [Emphasis added] Our FoldRight™ contains 2 grams of beta-alanine in the recommended four servings a day. That plus the amount of beta-alanine from dietary ingestion of protein, especially meat, could reach this estimated minimum effective dose range.
- Derave et al. Beta-alanine supplementation augments muscle carnosine content and attenuates fatigue during repeated isokinetic contraction bouts in trained sprinters. J Appl Physiol 103:1736-43 (2007).
- Hill et al. Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids 32:225-33 (2007).
- Stout et al. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation on the onset of neuromuscular fatigue and ventilatory threshold in women. Amino Acids 32:381-6 (2007).