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Effect of Beta-Alanine and Carnosine Supplementation on Muscle Contractility in Mice


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 1 - p 43–51
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31826cdb68
Basic Sciences

Purpose Enhanced carnosine levels have been shown to be ergogenic for high-intensity exercise performances, although the role of carnosine in the control of muscle function is poorly understood. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effect of long-term supplementation with increasing doses of carnosine and beta-alanine on muscle carnosine, anserine, and taurine levels and on in vitro contractility and fatigue in mice.

Methods Male Naval Medical Research Institute mice (n = 66) were control fed or supplemented with either carnosine (0.1%, 0.5%, or 1.8%) or beta-alanine (0.6 or 1.2%) in their drinking water for 8–12 wk. Soleus and extensor digitorum longus (EDL) were tested for in vitro contractile properties, and carnosine, anserine, and taurine content were measured in EDL and tibialis anterior by high-performance liquid chromatography.

Results Only supplementation with 1.8% carnosine and 1.2% beta-alanine resulted in markedly higher carnosine (up to +160%) and anserine levels (up to +46%) compared with control mice. Beta-alanine supplementation (1.2%) resulted in increased fatigue resistance in the beginning of the fatigue protocol in soleus (+2%–4%) and a marked leftward shift of the force–frequency relation in EDL (10%–31% higher relative forces).

Conclusion Comparable with humans, beta-alanine availability seems to be the rate-limiting step for synthesis of muscle histidine-containing dipeptides in mice. Moreover, muscle histidine-containing dipeptides loading in mice moderately and muscle dependently affects excitation–contraction coupling and fatigue.

1Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, BELGIUM; and 2Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Division of Physiology, Ghent University, Ghent, BELGIUM, and 3Department of Endocrinology, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, BELGIUM

Address for correspondence: Wim Derave, Ph.D., Watersportlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2012.

Accepted for publication July 2012.

©2013The American College of Sports Medicine