, Volume 108, Issue 3, pp 495-503
Date: 16 Oct 2009

β-Alanine supplementation reduces acidosis but not oxygen uptake response during high-intensity cycling exercise

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Abstract

The oral ingestion of β-alanine, the rate-limiting precursor in carnosine synthesis, has been shown to elevate the muscle carnosine content. Carnosine is thought to act as a physiologically relevant pH buffer during exercise but direct evidence is lacking. Acidosis has been hypothesised to influence oxygen uptake kinetics during high-intensity exercise. The present study aimed to investigate whether oral β-alanine supplementation could reduce acidosis during high-intensity cycling and thereby affect oxygen uptake kinetics. 14 male physical education students participated in this placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Subjects were supplemented orally for 4 weeks with 4.8 g/day placebo or β-alanine. Before and after supplementation, subjects performed a 6-min cycling exercise bout at an intensity of 50% of the difference between ventilatory threshold (VT) and \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2{\text{peak}}} \) . Capillary blood samples were taken for determination of pH, lactate, bicarbonate and base excess, and pulmonary oxygen uptake kinetics were determined with a bi-exponential model fitted to the averaged breath-by-breath data of three repetitions. Exercise-induced acidosis was significantly reduced following β-alanine supplementation compared to placebo, without affecting blood lactate and bicarbonate concentrations. The time delay of the fast component (Td1) of the oxygen uptake kinetics was significantly reduced following β-alanine supplementation compared to placebo, although this did not reduce oxygen deficit. The parameters of the slow component did not differ between groups. These results indicate that chronic β-alanine supplementation, which presumably increased muscle carnosine content, can attenuate the fall in blood pH during high-intensity exercise. This may contribute to the ergogenic effect of the supplement found in some exercise modes.

Communicated by Susan Ward.