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Intermittent bouts of high-intensity exercise result in diminished stores of energy substrates, followed by an accumulation of metabolites, promoting chronic physiological adaptations. In addition, beta-alanine has been accepted has an effective physiological hydrogen ion (H+) buffer. Concurrent high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and beta-alanine supplementation may result in greater adaptations than HIIT alone. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the effects of combining beta-alanine supplementation with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on endurance performance and aerobic metabolism in recreationally active college-aged men. Forty-six men (Age: 22.2 +/- 2.7 yrs; Ht: 178.1 +/- 7.4 cm; Wt: 78.7 +/- 11.9; VO2peak: 3.3 +/- 0.59 l.min-1) were assessed for peak O2 utilization (VO2peak), time to fatigue (VO2TTE), ventilatory threshold (VT), and total work done at 110% of pre-training VO2peak (TWD). In a double-blind fashion, all subjects were randomly assigned into one either a placebo (PL - 16.5 g dextrose powder per packet; n = 18) or beta-alanine (BA - 1.5 g beta-alanine plus 15 g dextrose powder per packet; n = 18) group. All subjects supplemented four times per day (total of 6 g/day) for the first 21-days, followed by two times per day (3 g/day) for the subsequent 21 days, and engaged in a total of six weeks of HIIT training consisting of 5-6 bouts of a 2:1 minute cycling work to rest ratio. Significant improvements in VO2peak, VO2TTE, and TWD after three weeks of training were displayed (p < 0.05). Increases in VO2peak, VO2TTE, TWD and lean body mass were only significant for the BA group after the second three weeks of training. The use of HIIT to induce significant aerobic improvements is effective and efficient. Chronic BA supplementation may further enhance HIIT, improving endurance performance and lean body mass.
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BioMed Central
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Journal of the International Society
of Sports Nutrition
Open Access
Research article
Effects of β-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval
training on endurance performance and body composition in men;
a double-blind trial
Abbie E Smith
1
, Ashley A Walter
2
, Jennifer L Graef
1
, Kristina L Kendall
1
,
Jordan R Moon
1
, Christopher M Lockwood
1
, David H Fukuda
1
,
Travis W Beck
2
, Joel T Cramer
2
and Jeffrey R Stout*
1
Address:
1
Metabolic and Body Composition Laboratory, Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019,
USA and
2
Biophysics Laboratory; Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019, USA
Email: Abbie E Smith - abbiesmith@ou.edu; Ashley A Walter - ashannwalter@ou.edu; Jennifer L Graef - jennifer-l-graef-1@ou.edu;
Kristina L Kendall - krissykendall@ou.edu; Jordan R Moon - jordanmoon@ou.edu;
Christopher M Lockwood - clockwood@muscleandfitness.com; David H Fukuda - david.fukuda@ou.edu; Travis W Beck - tbeck@ou.edu;
Joel T Cramer - jcramer@ou.edu; Jeffrey R Stout* - jrstout@ou.edu
* Corresponding author
Abstract
Background: Intermittent bouts of high-intensity exercise result in diminished stores of energy
substrates, followed by an accumulation of metabolites, promoting chronic physiological
adaptations. In addition, β-alanine has been accepted has an effective physiological hydrogen ion
(H
+
) buffer. Concurrent high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and β-alanine supplementation may
result in greater adaptations than HIIT alone. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate the
effects of combining β-alanine supplementation with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on
endurance performance and aerobic metabolism in recreationally active college-aged men.
Methods: Forty-six men (Age: 22.2 ± 2.7 yrs; Ht: 178.1 ± 7.4 cm; Wt: 78.7 ± 11.9; VO
2
peak: 3.3
± 0.59 l·min
-1
) were assessed for peak O
2
utilization (VO
2
peak), time to fatigue (VO
2TTE
),
ventilatory threshold (VT), and total work done at 110% of pre-training VO
2
peak (TWD). In a
double-blind fashion, all subjects were randomly assigned into one either a placebo (PL – 16.5 g
dextrose powder per packet; n = 18) or β-alanine (BA – 1.5 g β-alanine plus 15 g dextrose powder
per packet; n = 18) group. All subjects supplemented four times per day (total of 6 g/day) for the
first 21-days, followed by two times per day (3 g/day) for the subsequent 21 days, and engaged in
a total of six weeks of HIIT training consisting of 5–6 bouts of a 2:1 minute cycling work to rest
ratio.
Results: Significant improvements in VO
2
peak, VO
2TTE
, and TWD after three weeks of training
were displayed (p < 0.05). Increases in VO
2
peak, VO
2TTE
, TWD and lean body mass were only
significant for the BA group after the second three weeks of training.
Conclusion: The use of HIIT to induce significant aerobic improvements is effective and efficient.
Chronic BA supplementation may further enhance HIIT, improving endurance performance and
lean body mass.
Published: 11 February 2009
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6:5 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-5
Received: 8 January 2009
Accepted: 11 February 2009
This article is available from: http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/5
© 2009 Smith et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
),
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6:5 http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/5
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Background
High-intensity exercise results in diminished stores of ade-
nosine tri-phosphate (ATP), phosphocreatine (PCr) and
glycogenic substrates, and the intracellular accumulation
of metabolites (adenosine di-phosphate (ADP), inorganic
phosphate (P
i
), hydrogen ions (H
+
) and magnesium
(Mg
+
), each of which has been implicated as a cause of
muscle fatigue [1-3]. Excessive formation of H
+
results in
a decrease in intramuscular pH which may contribute to
fatigue in some models of exercise [1,4-6]. Enhancing an
individual's ability to buffer protons may delay fatigue by
improving the use of energy substrates and maintaining
muscular contraction [6-9]. When the time and intensity
level of exercise is sufficient, the majority of protons that
are produced are buffered by the bicarbonate (HCO
3
-
)
buffering system [10,11] in which they are exported from
the muscle [12]. Physiological buffering during dynamic
exercise is typically controlled by the HCO
3
-
system and is
also supported by direct physico-chemical buffering, pro-
vided mainly by phosphate, hisitidine residues of pep-
tides and proteins, and the small amount of bicarbonate
present in muscle at the start of exercise. However, during
short bursts of intense exercise, such as HIIT, physico-
chemical buffering will exceed that by HCO
3
-
mediated
dynamic buffering, calling on intramuscular stores of
phosphates and peptides.
Specifically, carnosine (β-alanyl-L-histidine), a cytoplasmic
dipeptide, constitutes an important non-bicarbonate phys-
ico-chemical buffer. By virtue of a pKa of 6.83 and its high
concentration in muscle, carnosine is more effective at
sequestering protons than either bicarbonate (pKa 6.37) or
inorganic phosphate (pKa 7.2), the other two major phys-
ico-chemical buffers over the physiological pH range
[7,13]. However, as a result of the greater concentration of
carnosine in muscle than bicarbonate in the initial stages of
muscle contraction, and inorganic phosphate, its buffering
contribution may be quantitatively more important.
Mechanisms for increasing muscle carnosine concentra-
tion have been somewhat disputed. While carnosine may
be increased in chronically trained athletes, the effects of
acute training are less clear. In one study, it has been
reported that eight weeks of intensive training may
increase intramuscular carnosine content [14]. In con-
trast, several other studies have shown that intense train-
ing, of up to 16 weeks, has been unable to promote a rise
in skeletal muscle carnosine levels [6,15-17]. Only when
β-alanine supplementation was combined with training
did an increase in muscle carnosine occur [16], although
the increase (40–60%) was similar to that seen with sup-
plementation alone [18].
While carnosine is synthesized in the muscle from its two
constituents, β-alanine and histidine [19], synthesis is
limited by the availability of β-alanine [18,20]. β-alanine
supplementation alone has been shown to significantly
increase the intramuscular carnosine content [6,18]. Ele-
vation of intramuscular carnosine content via β-alanine
supplementation alone, has been shown to improve per-
formance [6,14,21-24]. Recently, Hill and colleagues [6]
demonstrated a 13% improvement in total work done
(TWD) following four weeks of β-alanine supplementa-
tion, and an additional 3.2% increase after 10 weeks. Zoe-
ller et al. [24] also reported significant increases in
ventilatory threshold (VT) in a sample of untrained men
after supplementing with β-alanine (3.2 g·d
-1
) for 28
days. In agreement, Kim et al. [21] also reported signifi-
cant increases in VT and time to exhaustion (TTE) in
highly trained male cyclists after 12 weeks of β-alanine
(4.8 g·d
-1
) supplementation and endurance training. Fur-
thermore, Stout et al. [22,23] reported a significant delay
in neuromuscular fatigue, measured by physical working
capacity at the fatigue threshold (PWC
FT
), in both men
and women after 28 days of β-alanine supplementation
(3.2 g·d
-1
– 6.4 g·d
-1
). Despite the improvements in VT,
TTE, TWD, and PWC
FT
after supplementation, there were
no increases in aerobic power, measured by VO
2
peak [22-
24].
Although HIIT alone does not appear to increase skeletal
muscle carnosine content [17], training has been sug-
gested to improve muscle buffering capacity [25-27].
When repeated bouts of high-intensity intervals are inter-
spersed with short rest periods, subsequent trials are initi-
ated at a much lower pH [28]. Training in such a manner
subjects the body to an acidic environment, forcing sev-
eral physiological adaptations. Notably, HIIT has been
shown to improve VO
2
peak and whole body fat oxidation
in only two weeks (7 sessions at 90% VO
2
peak) [29]. Fur-
thermore, over a longer period of time (4–6 weeks), HIIT
has been reported to increase high-intensity exercise per-
formance (6–21%), muscle buffering capacity, whole
body exercise fat oxidation, and aerobic power (VO
2
peak)
[25-27].
The respective supporting bodies of literature for the use
of β-alanine supplementation alone and high-intensity
training alone have gained recent popularity. However, to
date, no study has combined and evaluated concurrent
HIIT with β-alanine supplementation. In theory, we
hypothesize that an increase in intramuscular carnosine
content, as a result of β-alanine supplementation, may
enhance the quality of HIIT by reducing the accumulation
of hydrogen ions, leading to greater physiological adapta-
tions. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to deter-
mine the effects of chronic (6 weeks) β-alanine
supplementation in combination with HIIT on endurance
performance measures in recreationally trained individu-
als.
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Methods
Subjects
Forty-six college-aged men, who were recreationally active
one to five hours per week, and had not taken any sports
supplement within the six months prior-, volunteered to
participate in this study (mean ± SD; Age: 22.2 ± 2.7 yrs,
Height: 178.1 ± 7.4 cm, Weight: 78.7 ± 11.9 kg). Subjects
were informed of the potential risks, benefits, and time
requirements prior to enrolling and giving written con-
sent. All study procedures were approved by the Univer-
sity's Institutional Review Board.
Study design
This double-blind, randomized study included two three-
week periods of HIIT and β-alanine supplementation. All
participants completed a series of baseline, mid- and post-
testing, including a series of cycling tests and body com-
position assessment using air displacement plethysmog-
raphy (BodPod
®
) at all time points. Following baseline
testing subjects were randomly assigned, in a double-
blind fashion, to one of two supplementing groups, β-
alanine or placebo, both with HIIT. Participant's initial
VO
2
peak power output values were used to establish the
TWD intensity and the training intensity for the six week
duration, with no modification to intensity following
mid-testing. The first three-week period of training was
completed at workloads between 90%–110% of each
individual's VO
2
peak, while the second three-week train-
ing peaked at 115%. While training, participants supple-
mented with 6 g per day of β-alanine or placebo during
the first three weeks and 3 g per day during the second
three week phase. Supplementing with 6.4 g per day of β-
alanine, for 28 days has demonstrated a 60% increase in
carnosine concentration [6,18], supporting the 21 day
phase, allowing for an adequate loading period for β-
alanine to elicit increases in intramuscular carnosine con-
centration. Furthermore, recent literature suggests even
greater increases in carnosine levels when combining
high-intensity training and β-alanine supplementation
[17]. Following the three-week adaptation phase, mid-
training and post-training tests were completed in the
same order as the pre-testing, allowing at least 48 hours
between each testing session. All subjects were instructed
to maintain their current diet throughout the duration of
the study and were asked to refrain from caffeine and vig-
orous activity 24 hours prior to any testing session. Food
logs were distributed to all participants and completed
(two non-consecutive weekdays and one weekend day) at
baseline-testing, mid-testing and post-testing, to evaluate
any changes in total kcal and/or protein intake.
Determination of VO
2
peak
At pre-, mid-, and post-training, all participants per-
formed a continuous graded exercise test (GXT) on an
electronically braked cycle ergometer (Corval 400, Gonin-
gen, The Netherlands) to determine VO
2
peak, time to
exhaustion (VO
2TTE
) and ventilatory threshold (VT). Pedal
cadence was maintained at 70 rpm, while the power out-
put was initially set at 50 W for a five minute warm-up,
and increased by 25 W every two minutes, until the partic-
ipant could no longer maintain the required power out-
put (cadence dropped below 60 rpm). Respiratory gases
were monitored breath by breath and analyzed with
open-circuit spirometry (True One 2400
®
Metabolic Meas-
urement System, Parvo-Medics Inc., Provo UT) to deter-
mine VO
2
peak and VT. The data was averaged over 15
second intervals. The highest 15 second VO
2
value during
the GXT was recorded as the VO
2
peak value if it coincided
with at least two of the following criteria: (a) a plateau in
heart rate (HR) or HR values within 10% of the age-pre-
dicted HRmax, (b) a plateau in VO
2
(defined by an
increase of note more than 150 ml·min
-1
), and/or (c) an
RER value greater than 1.15 [30]. Heart rate was also mon-
itored continuously during exercise by using a heart rate
monitor (Polar FS1, Polar Electro Inc. Lake Success, NY).
The amount of time to reach exhaustion (VO
2TTE
) during
the VO
2
peak was also recorded in seconds. Ventilatory
threshold (VT) was determined using standard software
(True One 2400
®
Metabolic Measurement System, Parvo-
Medics Inc., Provo UT) by plotting ventilation (V
E
)
against VO
2
as described previously [31]. Two linear
regression lines were fit to the lower and upper portions
of the V
E
vs. VO
2
curve, before and after the break points,
respectively. The intersection of these two lines was
defined as VT, and was recorded with respect to the corre-
sponding power output (W).
Test-retest reliability for the VO
2
peak protocol at the Uni-
versity of Oklahoma using twenty-one men, demonstrate
reliable between-day testing with an intraclass correlation
coefficient (ICC) of 0.975 (SEM 0.257 l·min
-1
) and a per-
cent of coefficient of variation (%CV) of 5.18%.
Total Work Done Cycling Test
Each subject performed a constant-load time to exhaus-
tion (TTE) test on an electronically braked cycle ergom-
eter, at a cadence of ~70 rpm. Participants performed a
five minute warm-up at 50 W, followed by a cycle to
exhaustion at their individual pre-determined workload,
established at 110% of the maximum VO
2
peak workload
(W). The subject's TTE was defined by the time (in sec-
onds), that could be maintained without dropping below
a cadence of 60 rpm. Total work done (TWD) was further
calculated as the primary variable of interest, using the
product of time (in seconds) and the power output (W),
divided by 1,000, and presented in kilojoules (kJ).
The reliability statistics for TWD reflect a strong ICC of
0.713 (SEM 25.2 kJ) and a %CV of 3.80%.
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Training intervention and -alanine supplementation
Training was performed on an electronically braked cycle
ergometer (Corval 400, Groningen, The Netherlands) to
maintain testing specificity. Participants began the super-
vised training session within two to four days following
testing. Following the baseline-testing and group rand-
omization, subjects began the first of two, three-week
training periods. Training followed a fractal periodized
plan to allow for adequate progression and to prevent
overtraining [32] and was completed three days per week.
The training intensity began at 90% of the maximum
power output (W) achieved during the baseline VO
2
peak
test and progressed in an undulating manner, reaching a
maximum of 115% by the end of the second, three-week
training period. The first three-week period consisted of
five sets of two-minute intervals with one-minute rest
periods. The second three-week session followed a similar
protocol, modifying the progression by increasing the rep-
etitions from five to six, during weeks six and seven and
still taking place on three days per week (Figure 1). A
training log was completed for each training session. The
total time (seconds) completed and workload (watts) was
used to compute total training volume (kJ) (Figure 2).
In addition to training, during the first three-week period,
the participants also supplemented with 6 g per day β-
alanine (1.5 g β-alanine, 15 g dextrose per dose) or pla-
cebo (16.5 g dextrose per dose). Supplements were mixed
with water in an orange flavored dextrose powder and
were consumed four times throughout the day. On the
three days that subjects visited the lab for training, they
consumed two pre-mixed doses, one 30 minutes before,
and one immediately after completion of the training ses-
sion. The remaining two doses were taken that day, ad libi-
tum. For the remaining four days of the week, participants
were instructed to mix and consume the four doses (6 g
per day) of their respective supplement, ad libitum.
Throughout the second three-week training period, partic-
ipants supplemented in a similar manner for on- and off-
training days, for an additional 21 days, at a dose of 3 g
per day, taken in two, 16.5 g doses (1.5 g β-alanine, 15 g
dextrose). The participants in the placebo group con-
sumed an isovolumetric flavored powder (16.5 g dex-
trose) identical in appearance and taste to the β-alanine.
Participants were asked to record each dose on a desig-
nated dosing log for each day and they were asked to bring
in the supplement packaging to allow investigators to
monitor compliance.
Determination of body composition
Body composition was assessed prior-to, mid-way, and
following training and supplementing by using air dis-
Training protocol for the first and second three-week training phases, respectivelyFigure 1
Training protocol for the first and second three-week training phases, respectively. Black represents five sets of
the 2:1 training, while grey represents six sets of the same 2:1 protocol.
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6:5 http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/5
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placement plethysmography (Bod Pod
®
). The subjects'
weight (kg) and body volume were measured and used to
determine percent body fat, fat mass (kg), and lean body
mass (kg) using the revised formula of Brozek et al. [33].
Statistical analysis
Separate two-way repeated measures ANOVAs (group [β-
alanine vs. placebo] × time [pre- vs. mid- vs. post-supple-
mentation]) were used to identify any group by time inter-
actions. If a significant interaction occurred, the statistical
model was decomposed by examining the simple main
effects with separate one-way repeated measures ANOVAs
for each group and one-way factorial ANOVAs for each
time. An alpha of p 0.05 was used to determine statisti-
cal significance. All data are reported as mean ± standard
deviation (SD).
Results
Table 1 presents the mean and standard deviation values
for VO
2
peak (l·min
-1
), VO
2TTE
(seconds), VT (watts) and
TWD (kJ) for both treatment groups at pre-, mid- and
post-testing.
VO
2
peak, VO
2TTE
, VT during GXT
Significant main effects for time resulted for maximal oxy-
gen consumption (VO
2
peak), time to exhaustion
(VO
2TTE
) and ventilatory threshold (VT) determined dur-
ing the graded exercise (p < 0.001). There were significant
improvements in VO
2
peak after three weeks of training
and supplementing across both treatment groups (p <
0.001; ES: 0.977). While there were no significant differ-
ence for the improvements in VO
2
peak at any time point
between groups, only the BA group demonstrated signifi-
cant improvements from mid- to post-training and sup-
plementing (p = 0.010) with no significant change from
mid- to post- for the PL group (p = 0.118). Similar results
for VO
2TTE
were also revealed with both groups demon-
strating significant improvements from pre- to mid-test-
ing (p < 0.001; ES: 0.983), with no difference between
groups. Significant changes from mid- to post-VO
2TTE
were only evident in the BA group (p = 0.043).
There were no significant differences among the improve-
ments in VT between groups. Improvements from pre- to
mid VT for both the PL and BA groups did not yield signif-
icance. However, the PL group was the only group to dem-
2AFigure 2
2A. The average ± SD weekly training load (2A; watts) and training time (2B; seconds) between the BA (black)
and PL (grey) treatment groups, across the six-week training protocol.
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onstrate significant improvements from mid- to post (p =
0.001).
Time to exhaustion test-TWD
The improvements in TWD were significant across all time
points, with no difference between groups (p > 0.05; ES:
0.898). While not significant, the delta values at both time
points were greater for the BA group [pre-mid: 30.6 ± 19.9
sec; mid-post: 42.3 ± 72.1 sec] when compared to the PL
group [pre-mid: 27.6 ± 22.1; mid-post: 18.6 ± 28.3].
Body Composition
The physical characteristics of the subjects determined at
mid-testing and after six-weeks of HIIT and supplement-
ing are presented in Table 2. Body mass did not change
significantly with supplementing or training. However,
the determination of body composition with the use of air
displacement plethysmography (Bod Pod
®
) revealed a sig-
nificant improvement from pre- to mid-testing in lean
body mass in only the BA group (p = 0.011; ES: 0.985)
and no change in the PL group (p = 0.138). Furthermore,
there were no significant changes in percent body fat (p =
0.287) or fat mass (p = 984) between treatment groups
after three and six weeks of HIIT and supplementation.
Dietary Analysis
There was no significant difference between groups for
their supplement or training compliance rate, represent-
ing a 6.4 -3.2 g per day intake for the BA group, for the
three and six weeks, respectively. Analyses of the dietary
recalls demonstrated no significant differences in caloric
intake (p > 0.05) between the BA (3120 ± 244 kcal) and
placebo (2775 ± 209 kcal) groups. Furthermore, there
were no differences in macronutrient daily intake, with
both groups consuming 47% of their daily calories from
carbohydrates, 34% from fat and 16% from protein.
Training Volume
There was a significant main effect for time (p < 0.01) for
both training volume (watts) and training time (seconds).
However, there was no significant difference between
groups for either volume (Figure 2A) or time (Figure 2B),
at any time point (weeks 1–6). Although not significant,
the BA group consistently trained at higher workloads and
for longer time periods.
Discussion
The current study is the first to examine the effects of con-
current high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and β-
alanine supplementation on a series of physiological and
performance variables. The primary findings support the
use of HIIT as an advantageous training tool. Further-
more, the current study also proposes the use of β-alanine
supplementation to enhance the benefits of HIIT, by pos-
sibly improving muscle buffer capacity after six weeks of
training and supplementing. The maximal oxygen uptake
and time to reach maximum oxygen consumption
(VO
2
peak, VO
2TTE
) and total work done (TWD) increased
significantly in both training groups (β-alanine and pla-
cebo) over a six week HIIT protocol (Table 1). However,
Table 1: Mean ± SD values for VO
2
peak (l·min-1), VO
2TTE
(s), VT (W) and TWD (kJ) at pre-, mid-, and post-testing.
Maximal Oxygen Consumption (l·min-1) Time to Exhaustion (s) Ventilatory Threshold (W) Total Work Done (kJ)
β-alanine Placebo β-alanine Placebo β-alanine Placebo β-alanine Placebo
Pre-test Mean 3.28 3.25 1168.2 1128.7 140.3 127.3 58.4 55.7
SD 0.57 0.63 163.6 166.9 35.5 42.6 19.2 13.8
Mid-test Mean 3.52* 3.56* 1304.9* 1258.7* 154.2 140.3 89.0* 83.3*
SD 0.49 0.56 153.7 204.5 36.6 52.3 30.1 25.7
Post-test Mean 3.67† 3.66 1386.7† 1299.6 172.2 188.9† 131.3† 102.0†
SD 0.58 0.55 234.9 164.9 65.2 58.3 81.7 36.7
*indicates a significant difference from pre- to mid-testing (p < 0.05)
†indicates a significant improvement from mid- to post-testing (p < 0.05)
Table 2: Mean ± SD values for body weight (kg), body fat (%), lean body mass (kg), and fat mass (kg) from pre-, mid-, and post-testing.
β-alanine (n = 18) Placebo (n = 18)
Pre-testing Mid-testing Post-testing Pre-testing Mid-testing Post-testing
Weight (kg) 78.8 ± 12.8 80.1 ± 13.0 79.8 ± 12.4 78.5 ± 11.3 79.3 ± 12.3 79.8 ± 11.9
Body Fat (%) 13.7 ± 6.3 13.7 ± 6.4 13.7 ± 5.6 16.1 ± 7.5 15.9 ± 8.3 16.0 ± 7.9
Lean Body Mass (kg) 67.6 ± 8.9 68.6 ± 8.6* 68.4 ± 8.4 65.5 ± 8.1 66.1 ± 8.5 65.8 ± 8.4
Fat Mass (kg) 11.3 ± 6.5 11.5 ± 6.8 11.3 ± 6.0 13.0 ± 7.1 13.1 ± 8.0 13.0 ± 7.8
*indicates a significant difference from pre- to mid-testing. (p < 0.05).
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6:5 http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/5
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β-alanine supplementation appeared to have a greater
influence on VO
2
peak and VO
2TTE
, resulting in a signifi-
cant (p < 0.05) increase during the second three weeks of
training, while no change occurred in placebo group. In
addition, TWD significantly (p < 0.05) increased during
the last three weeks by 32% and 18% for the β-alanine
and Placebo groups, respectively. Improvements in VT
were also reported for both training groups, however the
placebo group demonstrated significant improvements
during the last three week training phase (Table 1). Lastly,
the present study also identified a significant change in
lean body mass for the β-alanine supplementing group
after three weeks, with no change in the placebo group.
Enhanced VO
2
peak, VO
2TTE
, and VT after training
A series of HIIT interventions have suggested that interval
exercise (> 80% VO
2
max) elicits greater gains in aerobic
capacity than moderate-intensity exercise [34-36]. Conse-
quently, the improvements reported in cardiorespiratory
fitness in the current study were similar to most studies
that have employed short-term (2–9 weeks) endurance
interval training programs in untrained and recreationally
active individuals [25,29,34,37-40]. Specifically, the aver-
age reported increases in VO
2
peak have ranged from 6–
20% in male and female populations. Although the train-
ing regimens utilized have varied slightly, all supporting
studies applied a similar protocol. The use of a 1:1
[37,38,40] and a 2:1 [29,34,39] work-to- rest design (1–4
minutes) have been the most effective for promoting an
increase in aerobic capacity. Our data supports previous
literature, suggesting a 7–10% increase in VO
2
peak during
the first three week training phase and a 3–4.5% increase
following the second three week session. While both
groups significantly improved in VO
2
peak and VO
2TTE
from pre- to mid-testing, only the β-alanine group dem-
onstrated significant improvements from mid- to post-
testing (Table 1).
The use of high-intensity exercise as a training modality
has been shown to stimulate acute and chronic physiolog-
ical adaptations (cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory
and neural), which ultimately lead to improved perform-
ance [34,37,41]. The increases in VO
2
peak, VO
2TTE
, and
VT reported in the current study are in line with other
studies, which have suggested that the improvements in
aerobic performance are attributable to a reduction in
anaerobic ATP production, resulting from an increased
contribution of aerobic energy production at higher inten-
sity workloads [42,43]. The greater reliance on aerobic
metabolism for energy has been further linked to an up-
regulation of various glycolytic enzymes (phosphofruc-
tokinase, hexokinase, citrate synthetase, and sodium
potassium ATPase) [42,44-47], as well as with increased
mitochondrial density and improved blood flow due to
increased capillarization [44,45]. These improvements, in
combination with an enhanced ability to buffer H
+
, may
provide some explanation into the greater improvements
in the second three-week training phase, in the BA group
only. Although blood pH levels were not measured
directly, support from training volume (Figure 2A) and
training time (Figure 2B), demonstrate that participants
supplementing with β-alanine engaged in longer, more
intense training sessions, possibly leading to greater adap-
tations.
Improvements in TWD
In addition to augmenting VO
2
peak, VO
2TTE
and VT, the
HIIT program utilized in the current study demonstrated
significant improvements in TWD (Table 1). Interestingly,
the increases in total work performed in the current study
were greater than in previously reported improvements in
TWD following HIIT alone [48-50], with both groups
demonstrating a 50–53% improvement during the first
three weeks of training and the β-alanine group showing
a 32% increase compared to the 18% increase in the pla-
cebo group, after the second three-week training phase. In
support, Kim et al. [21] demonstrated significantly greater
increases in TWD in highly trained cyclists after a 12-week
β-alanine supplementation and endurance training pro-
gram, compared to training only. In addition, Hill et al.
[6] also demonstrated significant improvements in TWD
(13%) on a cycle ergometer following four weeks of β-
alanine supplementation, without training. While the
data appear to support the use of β-alanine supplementa-
tion to augment TWD, with and without training, the pre-
viously mentioned studies utilized highly trained
participants, compared to an un-trained population in the
current study.
Scientists have suggested the use of β-alanine may
enhance training adaptations [6,18,23], by increasing
ability to train at a higher intensity without fatigue.
Recently Harris et al. [18] and Hill et al. [6] have posited
that increasing skeletal muscle carnosine concentration
with β-alanine supplementation may improve the ability
to stabilize the intramuscular pH during intense exercise
by buffering accumulating H
+
. Offsetting the indirect
effect of proton accumulation on contractile function
with the use of β-alanine, has been shown to be effective
in delaying neuromuscular fatigue, improving VT and
time to exhaustion in both trained and untrained individ-
uals [6,21,23,24]. Furthermore, Kim et al. [21] reported a
significant increase in VT after 12 weeks of endurance and
resistance training while supplementing β-alanine in
highly trained cyclists. However, our results demonstrated
no added benefit of combining β-alanine supplementa-
tion and HIIT to elicit increases in VT, greater than train-
ing alone. The differences in training status (elite vs.
recreationally trained) may have resulted in the conflict-
ing results between the current study and Kim and col-
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2009, 6:5 http://www.jissn.com/content/6/1/5
Page 8 of 9
(page number not for citation purposes)
leagues. Additional research examining the effects of
concurrent β-alanine supplementation and HIIT in
trained versus untrained men and women would provide
additional insight toward the current findings.
Augmented Lean Body Mass
Interestingly, the improvements in performance over the
six-weeks of training also demonstrated concomitant
gains in lean body mass in the β-alanine group only.
Recent evidence suggests that intense exercise may elicit
intramuscular acidosis, potentially augmenting protein
degradation [51], inhibiting protein synthesis [52] and
thus hindering training adaptations. Another theory pos-
ited suggests that β-alanine supplementation may have
allowed for greater training volume thus providing a
greater stimulus, resulting in significant gains in lean body
mass, as observed in the current study. In support, Hoff-
man et al. [53,54] reported significantly higher training
volume for athletes consuming β-alanine during resist-
ance training sessions, which they hypothesized lead to
significant increases in lean body mass. In short, minimiz-
ing the acidic response from HITT, and/or increasing
training volume with β-alanine supplementation, may
help to increase lean body mass and lead to improve-
ments in performance.
Conclusion
Our findings support the use of HIIT as an effective train-
ing stimulus for improving aerobic performance, in as lit-
tle as three weeks. The use of β-alanine supplementation,
in combination with HIIT, appeared to result in greater
changes in VO
2
peak and VO
2TTE
, during the second three
weeks of training, while no significant change occurred in
placebo group. In addition, TWD significantly (p < 0.05)
increased during the last three weeks by 32% and 18% for
the β-alanine and Placebo groups, respectively. While
more research is needed, the current study suggests that in
untrained young men, the use of β-alanine supplementa-
tion may enhance the benefits of HIIT and augment
endurance performance.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Authors' contributions
All authors contributed equally to this work. All authors
have read and approved the final manuscript.
Acknowledgements
A sincere thanks is given to Dr. Roger Harris, University of Chichester,
Chichester, UK, for his time and input he contributed to reviewing this
manuscript.
The authors would also like to thank FSI Nutrition, 2132 South 156th Cir-
cle, Omaha, NE http://www.fsinutrition.com
and RunFast Promotions,8790
Wendy Lane South, West Palm Beach FL, 33411http://www.runfastpromo
tions.com for supporting and funding this research endeavor.
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... In another review study, its beneficial effects on exercise homeostasis and excitation-contraction coupling have also been indicated [6]. Taken together, most of the literature has focused on beta-alanine's effects on exercise performance [6][7][8][9][10][11]. However, its effects on body composition are less studied. ...
... It has been hypothesized that beta-alanine supplementation could lead to improvements in lean mass by increasing the volume of training, although evidence is equivocal. For instance, beta-alanine supplementation increased lean mass after 3 weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in recreationally active college-aged men [11]. On the other hand, Kern et al. did not report changes in body composition or lean mass after betaalanine supplementation for 8 weeks in previously trained athletes [12]. ...
... The 20 included studies [11][12][13][14][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43] contained a total of 25 intervention arms, which are shown in Table 1. These studies were published between 2008 and 2021, and in total, 492 participants were included. ...
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Purpose: Previous studies have suggested that beta-alanine supplementation may benefit exercise performance, but current evidence regarding its effects on body composition remains unclear. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to investigate the effects of beta-alanine supplementation on body composition indices. Methods: Online databases, including PubMed/Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, and Embase, were searched up to April 2021 to retrieve randomized controlled trials (RCTs), which examined the effect of beta-alanine supplementation on body composition indices. Meta-analyses were carried out using a random-effects model. The I 2 index was used to assess the heterogeneity of RCTs. Results: Among the initial 1413 studies that were identified from electronic databases search, 20 studies involving 492 participants were eligible. Pooled effect size from 20 studies indicated that beta-alanine supplementation has no effect on body mass (WMD: −0.15 kg; 95% CI: −0.78 to 0.47; p = 0.631, I 2 = 0.0%, p = 0.998), fat mass (FM) (WMD: −0.24 kg; 95% CI: −1.16 to 0.68; p = 0.612, I 2 = 0.0%, p = 0.969), body fat percentage (BFP) (WMD: −0.06%; 95% CI: −0.53 to 0.40; p = 0.782, I 2 = 0.0%, p = 0.936), and fat-free mass (FFM) (WMD: 0.05 kg; 95% CI: −0.71 to 0.82; p = 0.889, I 2 = 0.0%, p = 0.912). Subgroup analyses based on exercise type (resistance training [RT], endurance training [ET], and combined training [CT]), study duration (<8 and ≥8 weeks), and beta-alanine dosage (<6 and ≥6 g/d) demonstrated similar results. Certainty of evidence across outcomes ranged from low to moderate. Conclusions: This meta-analysis study suggests that beta-alanine supplementation is unlikely to improve body composition indices regardless of supplementation dosage and its combination with exercise training. No studies have examined the effect of beta-ARTICLE HISTORY alanine combined with both diet and exercise on body composition changes as the primary variable. Therefore, future studies examining the effect of the combination of beta-alanine supplementation with a hypocaloric diet and exercise programs are warranted.
... BA binds with histidine to form carnosine which is stored within skeletal muscles. There is some evidence that several weeks of BA supplementation increases anaerobic work capacity and decreases muscular fatigue [8,13]. Carnosine itself can be supplemented; however, it is hydrolyzed in the stomach producing BA and histidine. ...
... Carnosine is a naturally occurring compound found in numerous tissues, including skeletal muscles, where its concentration is the highest. It has several significant functions in the human body including buffering, antioxidant properties, enzyme regulation, and calcium (Ca 2+ ) regulation [4,13]. The concentration of carnosine is significantly higher in fast-twitch muscle fibers, which justifies the fact that animals exposed to sprints or dynamic fighting have higher carnosine muscle content than those with a prevalence of slow-twitch muscle fibers subjected to endurance activities [14]. ...
... However, results from previous studies have given unequivocal results. It seems that the outcome of BA supplementation studies depends on the time and intensity of the exercise protocol, the duration and dosage of the supplementation, and the type of participants (trained and untrained) [11,13,16]. Considering the above, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of BA supplementation over 4 weeks on the anaerobic performance of highly trained judo athletes. ...
... Die beobachteten Steigerungen der Ausdauerleistung betrafen in multiplen Studien die Parameter von der physischen Arbeitskapazität an der Erschöpfungsschwelle (PWCft), der Zeit bis zur Erschöpfung (TTE) und der höchsten erreichten Sauerstoffaufnahme (VO2peak) [71,72] . So konnten Verbesserungen der PWCft um 14,5% bei untrainierten jungen Männern [73] und um 12,6% bei jungen Frauen gemessen werden [72] . ...
... Der größte Effekt von Beta-Alanin auf die TTE wird hierbei für Belastungen unter 270 Sekunden definiert [77] . Verbesserung von VO2peak, TTE und insgesamt verrichteter Arbeit konnten außerdem während eines hochintensiven Intervalltrainings beobachtet werden [71] . Die durchschnittlich durch Beta-Alanin induzierte Verbesserung der Ausdauerleistung beträgt 2,85% gegenüber einem Placebo [68] . ...
... Da das größte ergogene Potenzial von Beta-Alanin bei hochintensiven Belastungen zwischen 60-240 Sekunden liegt, profitieren primär Belastungen mit gleicher Dauer von einem leistungsbezogenen Mehrwert [62,68] . Insbesondere für den Fitnesssport von Nutzen sein können die Verbesserungen der Arbeitskapazität, Zeit bis Erschöpfung und Sauerstoffaufnahme im Rahmen einer hochintensiven Ausdauerbelastungen wie einem Fahrrad-Ergometer-Intervalltraining [71,72,73,75,77] . Zusätzlich zu den Verbesserungen der Ausdauerparameter werden zudem Erhöhungen an fettfreier Körpermasse und Verringerungen an Fettmasse begünstigt [79] . ...
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... Then, the daily dose of 6 g of beta-alanine supplement (3 g before and 3 g after exercise) was given to the supplement group for 20 days (13), and the placebo group received 6 g of dextrose powder daily in packages similar to beta-alanine packages. The subjects of the present study performed chest press and leg press movements on the 20st day similar to an exhausting exercise session before receiving beta-alanine, and the second blood sample was performed immediately after exhausting exercise (14). ...
... Journal of Sports Physiology and Athletic Conditioning. 2021; 1 (1):[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] ...
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