Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Beta-alanine boosts aging muscles

The amino acid beta-alanine [structural formula shown below] already had a good name, but the article by sports scientists at the University of Oklahoma will no doubt enhance its reputation further. The researchers showed that beta-alanine increases the working capacity of the muscles of people over the age of 55. And no, the study, which was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, was not financed by a supplement manufacturer.

Beta-alanine is a precursor of the dipeptide carnosine. This tiny little protein prevents the acid level in working muscles from rising too fast. Carnosine works as a buffer, which enables muscles to keep working longer before they become fatigued. The effect of beta-alanine is similar to that of creatine, but it works in a different way. That's why sports scientists suspect that a combination of creatine and beta-alanine could be a pretty effective mix.

The muscles of the elderly work less well, and one of the reasons may well be the declining beta-alanine concentrations in their muscles. The researchers decided to see if beta-alanine supplements had an effect on this group. They selected nearly thirty healthy elderly people, and gave half of them a daily supplement of 2400 mg of beta-alanine. They took an 800 mg capsule of beta-alanine with each meal, for a period of ninety days. The other half of the subjects were given a placebo.

At the end of the three months the researchers got their subjects to cycle. They attached electrodes to the subjects' leg muscles and then measured the amount of work they could do without becoming fatigued. The technical name for this measurement is the 'physical working capacity at the fatigue threshold'. [PWC-FT] The figure below shows what happened to the PWC-FT before and after the experiment.

Beta-alanine boosts aging muscles

So the supplement worked. It had an effect on all test subjects, as the graphs below show. These show the changes in PWC-FT in all individual test subjects.

Beta-alanine boosts aging muscles
Beta-alanine boosts aging muscles

The researchers used the supplement CarnoSyn which is manufactured by Natural Alternatives International. The company supplied the supplements, but there is nothing in the article to suggest that Natural Alternatives International financed the research.

J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Nov 7;5:21.

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