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

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Beta-alanine improves stamina in over-sixties

Beta-alanine isn't just interesting for healthy strength-athletes who want to train better. The amino acid can also help elderly people who want to stay fit, sports scientists at the University of Sao Paulo discovered.

The researchers will soon publish an article in Amino Acids describing an experiment in which 18 people aged between 60 and 80 participated. Six of them were given a placebo every day for 12 weeks; the other twelve were given 3.2 g beta-alanine to take every day.

The preparation used was Carnosyn, manufactured by the American Natural Alternatives International, which also partly funded the study. The subjects took half of their daily dose after lunch and the other half after the evening meal.

After 12 weeks of supplementation the researchers measured the carnosine concentration in their subjects' muscles. Carnosine is a dipeptide that enables muscle cells to contract for longer. It's a buffer that neutralises the hydrogen ions that are released during physical exertion. Muscle cells synthesise carnosine from beta-alanine and the amino acid L-histidine. Our bodies contain masses of L-histidine, but only have a limited amount of beta-alanine available. That's the rationale behind taking beta-alanine.

Taking this as a supplement boosts carnosine synthesis by 60-80 percent. In young adults. [Amino Acids. 2006 May; 30(3): 279-89.] And also in the elderly, the Brazilians discovered.

Beta-alanine improves stamina in over-sixties

Beta-alanine improves stamina in over-sixties

The researchers subjected their subjects to two physical exertion tests, before supplementation started and again at the end of this period. For the first exercise the subjects had to run on a treadmill for as long as they could [TLIM]. The researchers noticed that the performance of the subjects in the beta-alanine group improved. The greater the increase in carnosine concentration in their muscles, the longer they could keep up the physical exertion.

The researchers also got their subjects to walk on a treadmill and gradually increased the speed [TTE]. The beta-alanine group showed progression in this test too. Again, the subjects whose muscular carnosine concentration had increased made more progress.

"Benefits in maintaining a high muscle carnosine content may be both immediate and long-term, if this encourages subjects to maintain a more active life", the researchers conclude. "Beta-alanine supplementation possibly represents one of the few evidenced-based dietary interventions which may help delay the decline in muscle function with ageing."

Amino Acids. 2011 Dec 6. [Epub ahead of print].

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