USP Questions Beta-Alanine's Athletic Benefits

<p>Beta-alanine does not enhance athletic performance and improve recovery, according to a literature-based review of dietary supplements by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP).</p>

ROCKVILLE, Md. Beta-alanine does not enhance athletic performance and improve recovery, according to a literature-based review of dietary supplements by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP). The review, published in Nutrition Reviews, is the first in a series analyzing dietary supplements often used by military personnel.

The non-essential amino acid that helps produce carnosine and therefore limits fatigue. As a result, beta-alanine is commonly formulated into sports nutrition dietary supplements, including pre-workout products. The amino acid's fatigue-minimizing effects have been documented in numerous publications. In 2010, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found supplementation enhanced sub-maximal endurance in cyclists by delaying blood lactate accumulation. A review in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found "Supplementation with beta-alanine has been shown to increase muscle carnosine content and therefore total muscle buffer capacity, with the potential to elicit improvements in physical performance during high-intensity exercise" (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1162-73.). Study authors also wrote through beta-alanine supplementation, "some aspects of endurance performance, such as anaerobic threshold and time to exhaustion, can be enhanced."

However, USP researchers were not impressed with the available data on the amino acid. In the review, a collaboration between USP, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) and the U.S. Department of Defense, the study authors wrote, "Overall, the strength of evidence in terms of the potential for risk of bias in the quality of the available literature, consistency, directness, and precision did not support the use of beta-alanine by military personnel."

According to the Institute of Medicine, approximately 60 percent of military members use multiple dietary supplements.

With a large population of active-duty military consuming dietary supplements, it is critical that we are able to accurately judge the potential for benefit or harm," said Patricia Deuster, Ph.D., director, USUHS Center Alliance for Dietary Supplement Research, in a statement. Our military personnel operate under highly challenging conditionsenvironmental, physical and mentaland we must utilize the best scientific knowledge available to help guide recommendations related to their health and nutrition to ensure their safety and performance. This comprehensive USP review is a wonderful step, and future research will look at other dietary ingredients relevant to the military."

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