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β-alanine: performance effects, usage and side effects
  1. Vincent Kelly1,2
  1. 1School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2Brisbane Broncos Rugby League Football Club, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Vincent Kelly, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia; v.kelly2{at}uq.edu.au

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What did I do?

β-alanine supplementation improves high-intensity exercise capacity. I investigated the influence of β-alanine supplementation combined with high intensity training on performance. I also examined the factors that potentially influence an athlete’s decision to use β-alanine including side effects and dosage compliance.

Why did I do it?

The aim was to consider factors that influence how the findings of β-alanine research relate to practice. Others have examined the efficacy of β-alanine1; however, its influence on repeated-sprint performance when combined with a structured training programme was unknown. Also I wanted to know if β-alanine would assist team sport athletes who are required to sprint repeatedly.

The current practices and level of knowledge relating to the benefits of supplementing with β-alanine among elite athletes are unclear. Poor knowledge of the benefits and correct dosages of β-alanine may influence adherence. As multiple daily doses of β-alanine need to be taken over several weeks to increase muscle carnosine levels,2 non-compliance is likely to reduce the potential of β-alanine supplementation to improve performance.

Oral free powder β-alanine doses >800 mg have been associated with paraesthesia.3 The extent of paraesthesia following ingestion may influence compliance. I aimed to investigate factors that influenced compliance with β-alanine supplementation.

How did I do it?

In this five-part thesis I

  • Examined the efficacy of β-alanine supplementation combined with repeated sprint and sprint interval training, on repeated-sprint ability and high-intensity cycling capacity.

  • Investigated β-alanine supplementation use and level of knowledge among 570 professional rugby union, rugby league and Australian Rules football players.

  • Examined the compliance levels to β-alanine supplementation of semi-professional rugby league players.

  • Explored the relationships between different β-alanine dosages and body composition on side effects.

  • Assessed whether the paraesthesia experienced following acute β-alanine supplementation improved high intensity exercise performance.

What did I find?

  • Sprint and high intensity training had a greater influence on performance than β-alanine supplementation. Cycling performance improved (repeat sprint ~5% and time to exhaustion ~40%) as a result of the sprint and interval training intervention and this may have outweighed any ergogenic effects of β-alanine. When β-alanine is supplemented by athletes who engage in repeat sprint and interval training, the ergogenic potential of β-alanine may not be as significant as previous research findings suggest.

  • The majority (>60%) of elite athletes were not using β-alanine in accordance with recommendations. Moreover, only 35% of the participants were able to correctly identify the potential benefits of β-alanine supplementation.4

  • Compliance with β-alanine supplementation in rugby over a 28-day period was only 59% and steadily declined over the 4 weeks.

  • Lighter individuals (<75 kg) experienced fewer side effects when they were supplemented with β-alanine as a relative dose; heavier individuals (>85 kg) experienced fewer side effects when they consumed an absolute dose of 1.6 g.

What is the most important clinical impact/practical application?

  • For athletes requiring enhanced buffering capacity for performance, sprint interval training (vs β-alanine supplementation) appears to be the most effective means of eliciting improvements in high-intensity exercise performance. However, some individuals (ie, responders) may derive further benefit from β-alanine supplementation.

  • Questionnaire responses showed that athletes are not well informed as to the efficacy of β-alanine supplementation in addition to individualised dosages recommendations based on body mass and personal preferences.

  • Side effects, even when supplementing with a slow-release formula, should be monitored long term as it may enhance compliance.

Figure 1

Before a repeat sprint and high intensity sprint training session.

Figure 2

After a repeat sprint and high intensity sprint training session.

References

View Abstract

Footnotes

  • Contributors David Jenkins, Michael Leveritt and Gary Slater supervised the thesis that this manuscript summarises.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval School of Human Movement Studies Ethics Committee, The University of Queensland.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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