Beta-alanine has proven its worth for a wide range of sports/applications because despite their classification as endurance of team sports, each one invariably contains periods high-intensity (lasting between 1-4mins) which ultimately have a large impact on the outcome of a given race or game. But the most recent study confirming the beneficial effects of beta-alanine supplementation on performance comes from a relatively lesser known sport in Australia – namely, alpine skiing. The characteristics of this sport (races last 45 to 150 seconds & tax both the anaerobic and aerobic systems as well as demanding a high level of isometric muscle work)
Because there is such a rich amount of literature on beta-alanine supplementation, whenever a new study is published, it’s always interesting to zero in on the specific supplementation parameters such as total dose per day, dose frequency, length of supplementation, and timing of supplementation (i.e. with meals or apart). Such details serve to refine the art of supplementation and help users get the most benefit.
In the case of the current study, nine male elite alpine skiers were randomised to receive either 4.8g/day of beta-alanine for 5 weeks or placebo. The beta-alanine came in the form of 400mg capsules and subjects were required to take 3 capsules three times a day with meals. This point about timing is important as there is research suggesting absorption of beta-alanine may be superior when ingested with insulin-stimulating macronutrients such carbohydrate and protein. The fact that subjects took beta-alanine in divided doses may also have conferred an advantage as studies also suggest overall absorption and uptake is better with this mode of dosing. Lastly, a dose of 4.8g/day is near the upper-limit of optimal dose. There has been a trend for recent studies to use between 3.2-6.4 g/day in contrast to earlier studies, which used between 1.6-3.2g. These points are discussed in detail in an accompanying article; they are important to keep in mind if you want to get the best out of your beta-alanine supplementation.
When it came to testing the effects of beta-alanine, rather than have the subjects do time trials down a step alpine mountain, the researchers devised a series of tests that combined plyometric exercise with anaerobic-based exercise. These consisted of countermovement jumps, a 90-s cycling bout at 110% VO2max and a maximal 90-s box jump test.
Only the subjects receiving beta-alanine performed superiorly in all three test following the 5-week supplementation period. The improved performance in the test measures collectively reflected improved explosive and repeated jump performance. The authors theorised these improvements were mediated in part by enhanced muscle contractility afforded by beta-alanine supplementation. They also reasoned that beta-alanine could have improved aerobic energy capacity as well. Whatever the case, it’s more runs on the board for this ergogenic nutrient that is shaping as the best ergogenic of the 21st century.
Gross M, et al. Beta-alanine supplementation improves jumping power and affects severe-intensity performance in professional alpine skiers. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2014; 24:665 -673.