Beta Alanine, how it works and who should take it.
By Sean Burke:
I’ve written before about how I’m not a big fan of most supplements. I don’t take many myself, and I’m reluctant to suggest them to my athletes. Last year, I wrote about what I do take and I recommended two supplements; quercetin, and beta-alanine. This time, I’d like to explain how beta-alanine works and who should take it.
How does it work?
Most athletes understand that over a certain level, hard work creates an acidic environment in the muscle tissue, and that an increasingly acidic environment necessitates a reduction in neuromuscular output. At some point, no matter how robust the signals are from your brain to your legs, the low ph (increasing acidit) means that the physiological and biochemical reactions required for a that muscle contraction are can no longer occur. Basically you can only pedal so hard until you have acid buildup in your legs, and then you can’t pedal anymore. Anything that can keep the pH of the muscle closer to homeostasis ( buffer the acid) can help you pedal longer and harder before you have that acid buildup and reduced muscular contractions. The majority of the buffering that occurs in skeletal muscle is done b y immobile muscle proteins, but ~40% of the buffering capacity of muscle tissue is by two di-peptides*: carnosine and anserine. Theoretically if you can increase the levels of carnosine or anserine, you can increase the buffering capacity in the muscle and therefore do more work. In fact higher carnosine levels are found in sprint athletes where the athlete creates a low pH environment, and the ability to buffer the acid contributes to athletic success. We’ve established that a robust buffering system helps improve performance, and carnosine is an excellent buffer in the skeletal muscle. So how do we increase carnosine levels and therefore buffering capacity? [Read more...]