Three studies have investigated the application of β-alanine supplementation as a training aid in team-sport athletes (50,51,60). Kern and Robinson (60) supplemented American football players and collegiate wrestlers with β-alanine (4.0 g·d−1) during an inseason 8-week period of high-intensity interval training. The authors reported larger gains in lean body mass and positive trends towards a superior performance in a 300-yard shuffle run and flexed arm hang time after the training and β-alanine supplementation period. Furthermore, Hoffman et al. (51) reported an increase in preseason training volume (∼9%) in collegiate footballers supplementing on β-alanine for 30 days. β-alanine supplementation may also be an effective training aid in the off-season period (50). Hoffman et al. (50) compared the combination of β-alanine and creatine with creatine alone during a 10-week off-season conditioning program in collegiate football players. The addition of β-alanine to creatine promoted superior adaptations in lean tissue accruement and body fat decrements, as well as enhancing training volume more so compared with creatine supplementation alone. However, the true effects of β-alanine were unable to be quantified because the study design did not include a β-alanine–only group. These results appear to support the efficacy of β-alanine supplementation as a training aid and highlight the requirement for longer-term well-controlled training studies.
One recent highly practical study sought to investigate the effectiveness of β-alanine supplementation on training in an applied real-world setting of swim training and competition (21). Chung et al. (21) supplemented 30 swimmers with β-alanine (4-week loading phase of 4.8 g·d−1 and 3.2 g·d−1 thereafter) or a placebo for 10 weeks. Swimmers completed 3 standardized training sets at baseline and after 4 and 10 weeks of supplementation. The training sets were distance-specific to each of the swimmers' competitive event (sprint, middle-distance, and distance) and consisted of repeated maximal 50-m efforts immediately followed by the distance-specific maximal effort. The authors noted a substantially greater improvement in training set performance after 4 weeks in the β-alanine group compared with the placebo group (−1.3 ± 1.0%; mean, ±90% CLs) but unclear effects after 10 weeks (−0.2%; ±1.5%). Despite the authors reporting weekly training volumes for the entire group of swimmers (40 ± 4 km·wk−1), the study did not control or provide measures for training volume between the placebo and β-alanine group. Therefore, it is difficult to interpret whether the β-alanine group was able to consistently train at the higher intensities observed after 4 weeks of training and β-alanine supplementation. Future research should be designed to examine whether elevated carnosine levels from β-alanine supplementation might enable athletes to modify their training load and train at a higher intensity and increase their training volume, and therefore, achieve greater training adaptations, and indeed, performance. This area clearly warrants future research.
In light of this, β-alanine has been combined with creatine monohydrate in an attempt to investigate any potential synergistic effect on performance compared with either supplement alone (50,97,113). Hoffman et al. (50) investigated the effects of 10 weeks of β-alanine (3.2 g·d−1) and creatine monohydrate (10.5 g·d−1) on muscular strength, power, and body composition in collegiate football players. The authors reported superior improvements in fatigue rates, training volume, and body composition after the combined supplementation of β-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation compared with creatine alone. The addition of β-alanine to creatine appeared to have the greatest effect on lean tissue accruement, reducing body fat composition, and enhancing training volume more so than supplementing with creatine alone, although this observation needs to be treated with caution because the study design did not include a β-alanine–only group. The effect of combined β-alanine and creatine monohydrate has been investigated on aerobic cycling performance in 55 untrained men (113). The participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups: placebo (34 g dextrose; n = 13), creatine monohydrate (5.25 g creatine monohydrate + 34 g dextrose; n = 12), β-alanine (1.6 g β-alanine + 34 g dextrose; n = 14), or β-alanine and creatine monohydrate (5.25 g creatine monohydrate + 1.6 g β-alanine; n = 16). The supplements were ingested 4 times per day for 6 consecutive days, then twice per day for 22 days before postsupplementation testing. The combined ingestion of β-alanine and creatine was reported to improve indices of aerobic capacity to a larger extent compared with creatine or β-alanine supplementation alone (113). Stout et al. (97) employed the same dosing regimen and found a significant improvement in the physical working capacity at fatigue threshold in 51 untrained men; however, there was no additive effect of β-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation.
Accordingly, β-alanine supplementation should thereby improve the capacity for glycolytic energy production given that muscle acidosis may impair activity of key regulatory enzymes of glycolysis such as phosphorylase and phosphofructokinase (40). However, a limitation of current research is the lack of invasive measurements that would provide insight as to the potential mechanisms underpinning the exercise performance improvements reported in some β-alanine studies. A number of studies have reported blood lactate measurement during various exercise performance protocols; however, it is difficult to make accurate conclusions on muscle lactate kinetics based purely on the measurement of blood lactate per se, especially considering that studies have observed conflicting postexercise blood lactate concentrations with some studies showing a decrease in blood lactate (21) and an increase (27) in postexercise blood lactate concentrations that have been unaffected by β-alanine supplementation (81,109).
The author has no conflict of interest. There were no external funding sources for this work.
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