Carnosine is produced in skeletal muscle from beta-alanine and histidine, where beta-alanine is the rate limiting. When beta-alanine is available in surplus (i.e., supplemented) it elevates the body’s muscle carnosine levels. In fact, in past studies, it has been shown that dietary supplementation of beta-alanine for only 4-weeks can increase muscle carnosine levels by more than 60%.
The proposed mechanism by which high muscle carnosine levels aid in muscle function and performance is through its ability to potently buffer skeletal muscle pH (acidity) during high intensity/fatiguing exercise. Since one of the primary causes of fatigue during exercise is metabolically mediated decreases in pH (or acidosis), then it makes sense why increased intramuscular carnosine levels would be beneficial to strength athletes.
Recent work published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition sought to determine if beta-alanine supplementation would improve the adaptive response to a 5-week resistance training program. Subjects took 6.4 g of beta-alanine or placebo daily (split into 8 x 800 mg doses) and trained 3-times per week. Significant training improvements were observed, where those who took beta-alanine had approximately twice (2x) the improvement in average power at 1 rep maximum (1RM) and at maximum power, compared to those who received the placebo. It was concluded that beta-alanine’s improvements in exercise performance were due to increases maximal strength gain and exercise volume (number of sets completed) with beta-alanine supplementation.
ACTION POINT: If you are interested in boosting strength, power, and training volume, give beta-alanine a try. Performance benefits can be achieved with as little as 1.6 g per day, but it will take a little longer for muscle carnosine levels to peak. Take up to 6.4 g per day, but split this into 4-8 servings— with 1 serving taken 30-60 minutes preworkout and another immediately postworkout. Beta Alanine is safe to take in moderate doses; however high single doses (>800 mg) have been shown to cause harmless tingling/numbness (paresthesia) in hands and skin that disappear within an hour of ingesting.
José Luis Maté-Muñoz, et al. Effects of β-alanine supplementation during a 5-week strength training program: a randomized, controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2018 15:19, epub ahead of print.