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Beta-Alanine Supplementation Increases Time to Fatigue to Yield Strength and Power Gains: A Short Review

Create: 05/24/2010 - 13:43
Beta-Alanine Supplementation Increases Time to Fatigue to Yield Strength and Power Gains: A Short Review
By: Mike Zourdos, MS, CSCS
Ph.D. Student – The Florida State University
Skeletal Muscle Laboratory
Introduction Fatigue is an unstoppable outcome to any intense training session or period of training. We can define fatigue as any drop in motor output during a session. Do not mistake fatigue for only something an endurance athlete feels during a run; fatigue includes a reduction in bar speed, falling short of a prescribed rep range, or performance decrements during a session of General Physical Prepardeness (GPP). A drop in motor output is inevitable and even failure will always eventually occur, however, we do have the ability to delay fatigue. As powerlifters delaying fatigue allows us to increase our total training volume or even perform a greater number of reps at a higher percentage of our max, thus leading us to greater strength and power gains. The Problem To Be Addressed The noted drop in motor output occurs as Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is depleted and metabolites (H+ ions and therefore lactate) accumulate. As Hydrogen ion (H+) concentration increases due to the degradation of ATP, intramuscular pH (the measure of H+ in a solution) decreases into an acidic range. Training also leads to a great deal of oxidative stress. Now, the acidic nature of intramuscular pH, due to the increase in H+ concentration, significantly decreases the force produced through a muscle contraction, as optimal force is produced at a neutral pH (about 7.1). Physiological Mechanisms To Delay Fatigue Clearly, to delay fatigue we must find a way to delay the accumulation of H+ therefore hindering the build-up of lactate, and even preventing oxidative stress so that we can operate under a neutral pH. This seems to be done with an increased concentration of intramuscular carnosine. Carnosine is a dipeptide of the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine and when increased in the muscle it serves as a physiological buffer to accept H+ ions and delay oxidative stress, which even leads to a release of Calcium ions (Ca2+). In short, this means that carnosine can hold hydrogen ions up to a certain point to delay the formation of lactate and the total accumulation of metabolites. Furthermore, this ability of carnosine to buffer H+ keeps pH neutral for a longer period of time. Remember, when pH levels drop our force production is compromised, thus increasing intramuscular carnosine delays time to fatigue and allows us to optimize our force output for longer periods of time at the neutral pH of 7.1. These increased levels have shown significant increases in strength and power among trained athletes. Dosage of Beta-Alanine First, relax I’m going to answer your question: Why not just take carnosine, if that is what’s doing the job? Carnosine itself does not increase levels to a greater extent then beta-alanine, therefore beta-alanine may be a limiting factor in carnosine synthesis and provide an increased bio-availability of carnosine. Beta-Alanine has been examined in doses from 1.6-6.4 grams per day with dose dependent increases in intramuscular carnosine. Thus, I recommend 6.4 grams per day to increase carnosine levels. These levels should increase between 4-10 weeks and remain elevated for up to nine weeks post-supplementation. One must be careful, however, when administering the doses as beta-alanine causes a flushing and significant tingling feeling upon the individual that is quite uncomfortable. This phenomenon can be lessened by channeling the dosage into four doses of 1.6 grams every three hours during the day. Applying Beta-Alanine Supplementation to Your Training First and foremost it is important to note that beta-alanine is most effective when concentration of lactate is high due to an excessive accumulation of metabolites. Thus, supplementation will be of greatest benefit working at 85% and below and with low rest intervals. Therefore, no, beta-alanine will not directly increase a max effort lift, but beta-alanine has been shown to be effective when training in the 6-8 rep range and also to increase total training volume. A repetition day or even a speed day that utilizes short rest intervals will likely reap the benefits of beta-alanine along with sprints, pulling the sled, pushing the prowler, and other types of GPP and the benefits of these type of training days to maximize strength gains in our sport are very well known. Always remember that the longer you can go at a given intensity the stronger you will be. It is also interesting to discuss that the addition of beta-alanine to creatine increases more indices of anaerobic capacity than each of them do alone, however, the synergistic or additive effects are unknown at this point. Finally, we know that we can’t prevent fatigue, however, beta-alanine allows us to delay it in a safe healthy way, which in the end only leads to more speed, power, and a greater total. Abstract of the full review published in the February 2010 Issue of the Strength and Conditioning Journal. Mike Zourdos, MS, CSCS Ph.D. Student The Florida State University Skeletal Muscle Laboratory “Preparation is the key that unlocks the door to success.”

Comments

Submitted by Glendy Randall on
Beta-A is awesome stuff, I have been using it now for 6 weeks and I have nothing but good things to say about it.

Submitted by jloenneke on
The full text of this article is really well done...great read Team Norton

Submitted by powerdoc on
Works very well. Much has been written about it in NSCA's research journals. I have used it since early January and report very good results. The tingling in my fingers after the 2 gram dose is interesting and I think caused by the increased uptake of histadine.

Submitted by Mike Zourdos on
[quote=powerdoc]Works very well. Much has been written about it in NSCA's research journals. I have used it since early January and report very good results. The tingling in my fingers after the 2 gram dose is interesting and I think caused by the increased uptake of histadine.[/quote] Yes sir, the flushing/tingling effect is caused by the release of histidine to form carnosine. In our full published manuscript we note that this is similar to the effect resulting from the release of histamines (a vasodilator), such as during an allergic reaction. Mike Zourdos

Submitted by HowardJWilk on
I've taken 6.4 g/d since I first read the research, but could someone tell me where they came up with amounts such as 6.4 g? It's not a whole number like 1.0 g or 5.0 g etc., and since the mw of beta-alanine is 89.09, it's not a whole number or simple fraction of moles (equivalents), as, say, 8.9 g would be. It's not g/kg bodyweight, because, if I recall correctly, subjects were not given amounts based on bodyweight. It doesn't seem to be based on volume either, because, e.g., 1 level tablespoon is 8.4 g and 10 cc is 5.7 g--I measured. Of course, mass/volume measurements of powders can vary, which is why you don't want to measure by volume anyway. So, where does "6.4 g" come from?

Submitted by Mike Zourdos on
[quote=HowardJWilk]I've taken 6.4 g/d since I first read the research, but could someone tell me where they came up with amounts such as 6.4 g? It's not a whole number like 1.0 g or 5.0 g etc., and since the mw of beta-alanine is 89.09, it's not a whole number or simple fraction of moles (equivalents), as, say, 8.9 g would be. It's not g/kg bodyweight, because, if I recall correctly, subjects were not given amounts based on bodyweight. It doesn't seem to be based on volume either, because, e.g., 1 level tablespoon is 8.4 g and 10 cc is 5.7 g--I measured. Of course, mass/volume measurements of powders can vary, which is why you don't want to measure by volume anyway. So, where does "6.4 g" come from?[/quote] Great question. Quite simply it's just what's been investigated. We do know that carnosine levels increase in a dose dependent fashion as Harris et al. (2006) reported a 42% increase in carnosine with 3.2g and Hill et al. (2007) showed a 61% muscle carnosine increase with 6.4g. So, would more beta-alanine have a greater effect on carnosine levels? Quite possible it would (I believe it would). Would it further increase buffering capacity? Possibly. However, small boluses need to remain at least 3 hours apart for beta-alanine to return to baseline and minimize the flushing/tingling effect, so it may be hard to get approval for a study which administers much more, but I believe it will happen. I definitely agree with you and would like to see it. Great questions and discussion. Mike Zourdos

Submitted by chris mason on
WWW.ATLARGENUTRITION.COM It works even better in combination with creatine, and then another level when HMB is added to the mix. That's why I put them together in our product RESULTS. I use it every single day.

Submitted by Mike Zourdos on
[quote=chris mason]WWW.ATLARGENUTRITION.COM It works even better in combination with creatine, and then another level when HMB is added to the mix. That's why I put them together in our product RESULTS. I use it every single day.[/quote] Great points man. Yes, a greater number of indices of anaerobic capacity are increased when beta-alanine is administered with creatine. Hoffman et al. (2006) reported increases in total training volume and strength with beta-alanine, however when combined with creatine lean body mass was also increased along with volume and strength. Very interesting findings. Also, creatine has been shown to decrease blood lactic acid accumulation and even act as a free radical (this would prevent oxidative stress) making it possible that even creatine increases carnosine and helps to maintain pH. Much more on this in the full review. HMB is interesting on so many levels. Currently our lab has muscle in the freezer and we are analyzing genes for 3 different HMB studies, I can't wait to discuss once the manuscripts are written.

Submitted by HowardJWilk on
Many years ago--I think years before anyone was investigating beta-alanine or carnosine as athletic supplements--I heard a talk about supplements by a US Department of Agriculture chemist. He didn't talk about beta-alanine or carnosine, but after his talk, I spoke to him, and mentioned to him that I was a vegetarian. He said I was missing out on some useful compounds, and mentioned carnosine. I said, "you mean carnitine?" (I had never heard of carnosine.) No, he said, carnosine. He was way ahead of his time! BTW, I am no longer a vegetarian, though I still don't eat meat or poultry (I do eat seafood, eggs, and dairy products). If there is anything useful in meat or poultry that might be deficient in my diet, I try to make up for it with supplements: whey, creatine, beta-alanine, taurine. Am I missing anything?

Submitted by HowardJWilk on
New hypothesis: someone started investigating it with 0.1 g, then kept doubling it: 0.2 g. 0.4 g, 0.8 g, 1.6 g, 3.2 g. 6.4 g. Could that be it?

Submitted by dwagman on
I think that as it relates to powerlifting and how the powerlifter actually trains, meaning much less than 60-seconds of movement or effort during a set, beta-alanine would show little benefit. Most of the studies looking at beta-alanine and high-intensity weight training looked at efforts of 60-seconds or more. With that in mind, perhaps the greatest practical use for beta-alanine exists for the strongman competitor, but not so much for a powerlifter or weightlifter. And Mike sort of makes that point in his original post. As it relates to an overall training effect, in other words, what might you expect long-term, one study found no benefit from beta-alanine via 10 wks of training and another, with football players (also over 10 wks), found essentially the same sort of benefits from creatine and creatine + beta-alanine. Unfortunately, they didn't look at only beta-alanine. I think that at the end of the day, the powerlifter should ask himself if beta-alanine is worth the money. Of course you should also consider that many supplements do not contain what the label claims and that they can be tainted with substances that can cause a positive in doping control (obviously not an issue for those powerlifters who compete in non-tested meets). Dan Wagman, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. Publisher/Editor in Chief Journal of Pure Power "Where Science = Peak Performance" Consultant Body Intellect Sports Performance Enhancement Consortium "Propel Yourself Into Excellence"

Submitted by R. Wassmann on
This is interesting but not easily readable. It would be nice if science articles were written in a more comprehensible manner. I do not want to spend my leisure time deciphering scientific language. Otherwise I might as well just read the original article. :)