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β-alanine: performance effects, usage and side effects
  1. Vincent Kelly1,2
  1. 1 School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 Brisbane 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}

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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.


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  • 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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