A New Supplement with Promise for Masters Athletes Health and Performance


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.

Alcohol Consumption and Body Weight


Most masters athletes enjoy a quiet drink or two, some like a few loud one or three! For me, masters sport is about fitness, fun and friendship. Theoccasional drink with friends and fellow competitors is part of life as a masters athlete. At most masters games and indeed most competitions I go to, there is always the pre-event socialising and the post-event partying, both normally accompanied by a drink or three. Alcohol contains 29 kilojoules (7.1 Calories) per gram, almost as much as fat (37 kJ, 9 Cal), and more than carbohydrate (17 kJ, 4.2 Cal) or protein (17 kJ, 4.2 Cal) per gram. While I’ve always believed alcohol might tend to pack on the weight, recent research doesn’t confirm a positive relationship between alcohol consumption and weight gain – at least in light to moderate drinkers.

The Research

A recent review published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Reviews looked at all research studies published between 1984 and 2010 that had examined the effect of alcohol on body weight.  31 studies were selected to be relevant, with high quality research design and methods.

The Findings

  1. Overall results found no positive relationship between alcohol consumption and weight gain, except in studies on heavy drinkers (4 or more drinks / day).
  2. Light-to-moderate alcohol intake (1 or 2 drinks / day), especially wine intake, may be more likely to protect against weight gain.
  3. In contrast, consumption of spirits, was shown to be positively associated with weight gain.
  4. Red wine may reduce the effect of alcohol on obesity due to it containing polyphenols.

So What?

The research strongly suggests that light-to-moderate alcohol intake, especially wine, has no harmful effects on weight gain. However, drinking spirits, especially whan taken with soft drinks that are high in energy (e.g. rum and coke or scotch and dry) appears a no-no for masters athletes wanting to manage their weight. Chapter 17 of my recently published book The Masters Athlete has a chapter devoted to weight control in masters athletes. Biased as I am as the author, it’s the only information I’ve ever read that examines what science says about losing weight safely and effectively as an older athlete.

Looks like that regular Friday night bottle of (white!) wine with my beautiful wife Claire at the end of a working week is good for my health and will remain on the agenda!

Source: Sayon-Orea, C. et al. (2011). Alcohol consumption and body weight: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews, 69(8): 419-431.http://www.ajcn.org/content/81/1/215S.full

Mental energy supplements – do the claims stack up?

The IntroductionEnergy Drinks on Shelf

The marketers of certain food, drinks, and supplements convincingly claim their product will increase mental energy. Mental energy is a three-dimensional thing consisting of mood (transient feelings about the presence of fatigue or energy), motivation (determination and enthusiasm), and cognition (sustained attention and vigilance). Often, as in most things ‘too good to be true’, I wonder if the marketing claims are based on science or just marketing hype. Here is what science is saying about four of the most common mental energy supplements pushed onto the unsuspecting public. The bottom line is they appear to work, but only in certain groups of people.

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Nutrition strategies that maximise the immune system in masters athletes

Noticed a lot of publicity lately about red and processed meat increasing the risk of cancer and death?

The Introduction

Recent research is suggesting that high intakes of red or processed meat may increase death risk. A 2009 study  by the National Cancer Institute in America determined relationships between red and processed meat intakes and risk of total and cause-specific (e.g. cancer, heart disease) mortality.

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