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Beta-alanine—Energy supplement for an active population

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Beta-alanine supports the needs of bodybuilders, hardcore athletes and active consumers, from young to old.

Wellness and healthy aging comprise a category that spans a range of health goals, from remaining physically active to maintaining mental sharpness, or what’s often called “energy.” More practically, especially with many recent stressors in everyday life, even healthy adults could use a well-being boost.

Beta-alanine supplementation can help consumers of any age take a positive step toward achieving these goals through a multitude of beneficial physiological mechanisms.

pH buffering

pH buffering not only delays fatigue but is critical for cells to function properly. When a person exercises, highly reactive hydrogen ions cause pH to fall in the muscle, a process also referred to as acidification. Throughout one’s workout, hydrogen ions can be actively transported from the muscle cells and into the circulatory system. However, at higher exercise intensities, the rate of hydrogen ion production becomes increasingly insufficient. Progressive acidification may then occur, especially in the strength-generating, fast-twitch muscle fibers. As the muscle pH falls, it exacerbates the onset of fatigue. This rise in acidity compromises the proteins responsible for power generation and shortening of the muscle fibers.

Basically, carnosine—a dipeptide comprised of histidine and beta-alanine—buffers that pH decline.1 The histidine half of the carnosine molecule acts as a buffer, but the beta-alanine half is equally important, as it prevents the histidine from combining with other amino acids to form proteins. As a result, high concentrations of carnosine accumulate in the muscle cells.2,3 In terms of the workout, that means more effective buffering and a delay—or prevention—of muscle fatigue.4

Antioxidant/anti-glycation

Beta-alanine also provides antioxidant protection at the cellular level, as well as on a systemic level, based on the role of carnosine.5 Ongoing beta-alanine research is investigating impact on mitochondria, which is where cellular energy is produced. Beta-alanine appears to increase cellular oxygen consumption, as well as the expression of several cellular proteins associated with improved oxidative metabolism, suggesting beta-alanine supplementation may provide additional metabolic benefit.6

Wide appeal

Beta-alanine supports bodybuilders and hardcore athletes to active consumers, from young to old.

Sports-focused authorities—including the International Society for Sports Nutrition (ISSN) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC)—have stated the importance of supplements like beta-alanine for performance, training and maintenance.4,7 ISSN further noted in its beta-alanine position statement that for older adults, supplementation works the same or even better than in younger adults.4

Daily consumption of beta-alanine results in increased carnosine levels in various body tissues, including muscle and brain.1 Carnosine has numerous positive physiological effects on the body that can result in overall improvements to health and energy. Studies in older adults have shown that daily beta-alanine ingestion for 10 weeks can improve strength levels and functional performance—one’s ability to stand from a sitting position and begin walking—as well as delay fatigue.8

In addition, beta-alanine ingestion has been associated with improved cognitive function in older adults and in soldiers during high-intensity military training.8,9 These benefits have been associated, in part, with increased carnosine levels acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in response to training.

The anti-oxidative effects of elevated carnosine levels have potentially interesting effects on health. Oxidative stress is part of the pathology associated with a number of health challenges. In 2015, scientists from China provided carnosine to mice afflicted with an acute lung injury.10 Carnosine was shown to increase survival and significantly ameliorate pathological lung conditions, including lesions in lungs. It decreased the lung wet/dry mass ratio in mice with this specific influenza strain by acting as an antioxidant.

Studies have shown that increased carnosine levels—within a number of body tissues—from beta-alanine supplementation reduced inflammation in a variety of animal models for post-traumatic stress, mild traumatic brain injury and heat stress.11,12,13 Additionally, these studies all reported greater resiliency in animals that were supplemented with beta-alanine compared to animals who were not. Similar results were found in human studies using beta-alanine.14,15 Healthy soldiers who consumed beta-alanine had elevated anti-inflammatory markers, despite being under extreme stress from drills simulating sustained military operations.

Delivery format considerations

More than 55 clinical trials have been completed with CarnoSyn and SR CarnoSyn beta-alanine. Based on the research, minimum dose recommendations include 3.2 g/d for the sports and performance category, and 2.4 g/d for wellness and healthy aging.

With doses of more than 600 mg of beta-alanine, paresthesia can occur—such sensations can indicate an underlying nerve issue (e.g., pinched nerve, central nervous system disorders, etc.), but in the case of beta-alanine supplementation, the sensation is considered mostly harmless and may result from the ingredient’s interaction with receptors specific to sensory neurons in skin responsible for itching.16,17  This typically harmless “pins and needles” tingling sensation is a welcome sensation to many sports nutrition consumers; however, for older adults and those who desire little to no paresthesia, SR [sustained release] CarnoSyn beta-alanine is recommended. The sustained-release delivery system allows the ingestion of higher levels of beta-alanine comfortably and with extended absorption. Higher dosage converts to faster increases in muscle carnosine and, as a result, much faster gains. It is suitable for all paresthesia-sensation threshold users.

To read additional articles on the sports nutrition energy space, visit the Energy ingredients with market buzz” digital magazine.

Mark A. LeDoux is founder, chairman and CEO of Natural Alternatives International (NAI) Inc., an organization established in 1980 with facilities in the U.S. and Switzerland engaged in the research, design and manufacture of nutritional supplement programs and products for multinational clients. He is a proud member and leader of many industry organizations.

Di Tan, Ph.D., is director of scientific affairs for CarnoSyn Brands. She works with clinical, regulatory and marketing teams within and outside the company, along with business partners, to ensure the data strategy, scientific communications and brand-partner programs are relevant, accurate and aligned with the strategic goals of each CarnoSyn brand.

References

1 Harris RC et al. “The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis.” Amino Acids. 2006;30(3):279-289.

2 Harris RC and Dunnett M. “Influence of oral beta-alanine and L-histidine supplementation on the carnosine content of the gluteus medius.” Equine Vet J Suppl. 1999;(30):499-504.

3 Hill CA et al. “Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity.” Amino Acids. 2007;32(2):225-233.

4 Trexler ET et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:30.

5 Schön M et al. “The Potential of Carnosine in Brain-Related Disorders: A Comprehensive Review of Current Evidence.” Nutrients. 2019;11(6):1196.

6 Schnuck JK et al. “Characterization of the metabolic effect of β-alanine on markers of oxidative metabolism and mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle.” J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2016;20(2):34-41.

7 Maughan RJ et al. “IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete.” Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(7):439-455.

8 McCormack WP et al. “Oral nutritional supplement fortified with beta-alanine improves physical working capacity in older adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled study.” Exp Gerontol. 2013;48(9):933-939.

9 Hoffman JR et al. “β-Alanine ingestion increases muscle carnosine content and combat specific performance in soldiers.” Amino Acids. 2015;47(3):627-636.

10 Xu T et al. “Carnosine markedly ameliorates H9N2 swine influenza virus-induced acute lung injury.” J Gen Virol. 2015;96(10):2939-2950.

11 Hoffman JR et al. “Behavioral and inflammatory response in animals exposed to a low-pressure blast wave and supplemented with β-alanine.” Amino Acids. 2017;49(5):871-886.

12 Hoffman JR et al. “Exercise Enhances the Behavioral Responses to Acute Stress in an Animal Model of PTSD.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015;47(10):2043-2052.

13 Belity T et al. “β-Alanine Supplementation Attenuates the Neurophysiological Response in Animals Exposed to an Acute Heat Stress.” J Diet Suppl. 2021;1-16.

14 Wells AJ et al. “Effect of β-Alanine Supplementation on Monocyte Recruitment and Cognition During a 24-Hour Simulated Military Operation.” J Strength Cond Res. 2020;34(11):3042-3054.

15 Varanoske AN et al. “Effects of β-alanine supplementation on physical performance, cognition, endocrine function, and inflammation during a 24 h simulated military operation.” Physiol Rep. 2018;6(24):e13938.

16 Liu Q et al. “Mechanisms of Itch Evoked by β-Alanine.” J Neurosci. 2012;32(42):14532-14537.

17. Perim P et al. “Can the Skeletal Muscle Carnosine Response to Beta-Alanine Supplementation Be Optimized?” Front Nutr. 2019;6:135.

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