A New Supplement with Promise for Masters Athletes Health and Performance

Introduction

I’m not one for pushing supplements. There are just too many on the market that, to be honest, are ‘crap’ but get great coverage and uptake because the marketing gurus make you believe they will work through getting elite athlete testimonials or endorsements. We need the knowledge and skills to be able to ‘sift through the crap’ and to have those ‘automatic crap detectors’ up at all times. But here is some research published in a well-respected journal that suggests beta-alanine supplementation in older healthy people improves time to exhaustion and endurance capacity.

The Research

The aim of this collaborative Brazilian, UK and American study was to investigate the effects of beta-alanine supplementation on exercise capacity and the muscle carnosine content in elderly subjects. Carnosine is made up of two amino acid building blocks (beta-alanine and histidine) and highly concentrated in muscles. Carnosine is known as a powerful antioxidant and also for buffering the acidity of muscles. It is thus important for athletes who need both a strong antioxidant system and, in hard training or racing, to buffer the effects of changes in muscle acidity. Carnosine is lacking in athletes on vegetarian diets because the major food sources of beta-alanine and carnosine are poultry, beef and fish. Carnosine also decreases in concentration with aging. In this study, 18 healthy elderly male and female subjects (60–80 years) were randomly assigned to receive either beta-alanine (BA, n = 12) or placebo (PL, n = 6) for 12 weeks. The BA group received 3.2 g of beta-alanine per day (2 × 800 mg sustained-release Carnosyn™ tablets, given 2 times per day after lunch and dinner) for 12 weeks. The PL group received 2 × (2 × 800 mg) of a matched placebo so each subject, and the researchers, did not know what they were taking. Before and after the 12-weeks of supplementation, assessments were made of the muscle carnosine content, exercise capacity on a treadmill, muscle function, quality of life, physical activity and food intake.

The Results

After the 12 weeks of supplementation, there was a significant increase in the muscle carnosine content of the calf muscle in the beta-alanine group (+85.4%) when compared with the placebo group (+7.2%). Crucially, the time-to-exhaustion in the constant-load sub maximal treadmill test was significantly improved in the beta-alanine group (+36.5%) compared to the placebo group (+8.6%). Significant positive correlations (relationships) were also shown between the relative change in the muscle carnosine content and the relative change in the tests of endurance capacity. In summary, the results showed for the first time that beta-alanine supplementation may be effective in increasing the muscle carnosine content in healthy elderly subjects, with subsequent improvement in their exercise capacity.

So What?

One cloud that some could say hangs over this study is that the beta-alanine was provided by the manufacturers of the product used in the project (CarnosynTM). However, the study has been peer-reviewed, published in a respected scientific journal and created strong interest from sport scientists I know. As with anything like this, try it and see if it works for you. There has been shown to be minimal side-effects if used in recommended dosages.

Finally, in all matters related to supplements, check out these excellent and authoritative sources and book mark them for future use. They will tell you what science says about all supplements.

  1. Australian Institute of Sport Nutrition Supplement Program
  2. America’s National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements

 For more on the supplements that have been shown to work and exactly how to use them, see Chapter 18 (Performance-enhancing supplements and the masters athlete) of my book The Masters Athlete.

Source: del Favaro, S. et al. (2011) Beta-alanine (Carnosyn™) supplementation in elderly subjects (60–80 years): effects on muscle carnosine content and physical capacity. Amino Acids, Published Online 6th December, 2011, DOI: 10.1007/s00726-011-1190-x.