The standard training for both competitive wrestlers and football players on the collegiate level involves short high-intensity intervals followed by short periods of rest. For both sports, this is done to replicate the scenario of actual competition. This protocol for training is frequently followed in both skill-specific training and in supplementary resistance training sessions, to condition the athletes both mentally and physically.
There are three main energy pathways in the human body – phosphagen, glycolytic and oxidative. Periods of work lasting roughly ten seconds to several minutes in length fall within the glycolytic pathway. Therefore, the type of interval training done by wrestlers and football players is mainly anaerobic glycolosis. In addition, football has an emphasis on the phosphagen pathway, also known as the ATP-PC system, for intervals of work lasting only five to ten seconds.
One side effect of anaerobic glycolosis being the primary energy system is the collection of lactate in the blood. Lactic acid build-up and the associated lowered pH are thought to be a major factor in muscular fatigue. The debate over the actual effect of lactic acid build-up in the muscles and how to buffer its effects has been a long one. Beta-alanine supplementation comes into consideration because it is essential for the formation of carnosine, which acts in the body like an acid buffer, therefore delaying the fatiguing effects of lactic acid build-up.
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of beta-alanine supplementation on a population of college level wrestlers and football players. Subjects were tested over an eight week period and measurements were taken of anaerobic power and body composition (percentages of fat and muscle).
At the end of the eight weeks improvements were shown in both the wrestlers and the football players in all areas tested in the study. Anaerobic power was increased, as demonstrated by better scores on sprints and flexed arm hangs, and body composition improved, as demonstrated by lower body fat measurements and an increase in lean body mass. As a result of the study, researchers believe beta-alanine may be useful for assisting athletes in increasing their anaerobic endurance, increasing muscle mass and in particular, in the case of competitive wrestlers, maintaining muscle mass while cutting weight.