Whether you are a professional athlete, or just an avid exercise fan, you know the importance endurance has on performance. Many supplements are available to help, but one supplement has been gaining praise for its ability to successfully improve muscular endurance. A recent study examined the effects of four weeks of beta-alanine supplementation in isometric endurance of the knee extensors.1
Beta-alanine is a natural beta amino acid and is a component of carnosine and anserine, as well as vitamin B5. Beta-alanine is the rate-limiting precursor of carnosine, which means that potential carnosine levels are limited by the amount of Beta-alanine available in the body. Supplementing beta-alanine has been shown to increase the concentration of carnosine in the muscles, resulting in a decrease in fatigue in athletes.2
The duration of this newest beta-alanine study was four weeks, and involved thirteen males who were either given as placebo, or a dose of beta-alanine at 6.4 grams per day. Before and after the trial, each group performed an isometric knee extension test to fatigue, at an intensity of 45% of maximal voluntary isometric contraction. Two habituation tests were completed a week prior to the test done before supplementation, and a practice test was completed in the week before the post-supplementation test. The maximal voluntary isometric contraction, isometric knee extension hold-time, and impulse were all recorded from these tests.3
The results of the study showed that isometric knee extension hold-time increased by about 13.2%, and impulse increase by around 13.9% for the group who supplemented with beta-alanine. These increases were significantly higher than those in the group who were given the placebo. However, both groups did not experience any significant changes in maximal voluntary isometric contraction. Researchers determined that the increase in isometric knee extension hold-time as well as impulse likely resulted from an improved pH regulation within the muscle cell, which led to an increase in carnosine levels.4
This was not the only study done to prove beta-alanine’s efficacy. As previously covered on Breaking Muscle, a study conducted at Adams State College, Alamosa, Colorado, compared the effects of beta-alanine to a placebo group in two sports: wrestling and football. Both groups experienced lean mass gains, but in both cases the subjects who supplemented with beta-alanine experienced better results. The reason for the lean mass gains can possibly be attributed to increased muscular endurance, which resulted in more muscular work (volume).
Many athletes such as bodybuilders and powerlifters already supplement with beta-alanine. The benefits from using this naturally-occurring supplement are not just limited to those sports, however. This newest study provided convincing evidence that changes in exercise capacity following beta-alanine supplementation were related to the changes of the capability of the muscle to endure sustained intense isometric exercise. This indicate benefits of beta-alanine supplementation for many applications where isometric exercise is performed – things like lifting, carrying, sailing, climbing, and more. 5