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

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.

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Acknowledgments

This study was financially supported by grants from the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO 1.5.149.08 and G.0046.09). Audrey Baguet is a recipient of a PhD-scholarship from the Research Foundation—Flanders (FWO). We thank Dr. John Wise and Natural Alternatives International (San Marcos, CA) for generously providing the β-alanine (CarnoSyn) and placebo supplements. We thank Peter Van Mossevelde and Tim Decleir for their practical contributions and Dr. Jacques Bouckaert for his valuable advice. The experiments of this manuscript comply with the current laws of Belgium.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Wim Derave.

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Communicated by Susan Ward.

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Baguet, A., Koppo, K., Pottier, A. et al. β-Alanine supplementation reduces acidosis but not oxygen uptake response during high-intensity cycling exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 108, 495–503 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-009-1225-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-009-1225-0

Keywords

  • Ergogenic supplements
  • High-intensity cycling
  • Acidosis
  • \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{2}\) kinetics