Beta-alanine supplements may allow middle aged people to exercise for longer

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Twenty-eight days of supplementation with 2.4 grams per day of beta-alanine was associated with longer workouts for middle aged men and women, and improvements in cognitive function, says new data from SUNY University at Buffalo.

Beta-alanine supplementation significantly increased the average time-to-exhaustion by 45% in a cycling test, compared to baseline values, reported the researchers at the Experimental Biology 2016 Meeting in San Diego. The placebo group increased their time-to-exhaustion by about 4%, compared to baseline values.

The supplement also eliminated declines in cognitive function observed post recovery, said the researchers.

“Despite subjects suffering from sarcopenia, no noticeable change in lactate production during exercise, coupled with an increased average [time-to-exhaustion], indicates reduced physiological responses to exercise with beta-alanine supplementation,”​ they wrote in The FASEB Journal​.

“These effects may be beneficial for the aging population who are trying to remain active by providing a means to exercise longer.

“Furthermore, by countering exercise’s accompanying cognitive deficits, the aging population can benefit from improved safety during everyday tasks.”


Muscle loss is a natural part of aging, and researchers have estimated that, after the age of 50, we lose 1-2% of our muscles each year. Strength declines as well, at a rate of 1.5% per year beginning at 50 years and accelerating to 3% after the age of 60.

According to a monograph from the US Dairy Export Council, the direct health care cost attributable to sarcopenia were estimated to be $18.5bn in 2000 in the US, a number that represented about 1.5% of health care expenditures for that year.

“Beta-alanine supplementation has previously been shown to increase systemic carnosine concentrations in young adults,” ​explained the researchers. “Increasing systemic carnosine may result in enhanced antioxidant and pH buffering capabilities within its main storage sites of skeletal muscle and brain tissue. This enhancement may result in improved submaximal endurance exercise capacity and in the prevention of exercise associated cognitive decline.”

cycling sports nutrition energy
Time to exhausted was evaluated by a cycling test. Image: iStockPhoto

To test their hypothesis, the SUNY University at Buffalo researchers recruited six healthy, middle aged people with an average age of 57 to participate in their small randomized, double blinded, parallel arm study. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 2.4 grams per day of beta-alanine or placebo for four weeks.

Results showed that the average time-to-exhaustion increased from 17.3 minutes at the start of the study to 25.2 minutes for the beta-alanine group. Increases were also recorded in the placebo group but only from an initial average of 22.9 minutes to 23.8 minutes.

Cognitive function was measured using the Stroop Test. This was administered five minutes before exercise, immediately before and after exercise, and five minutes after fatigue. Results showed exercise resulted in significantly slower completion times in the placebo group five minutes after exercise compared to immediately after exercise. No such declines were recorded in the beta-alanine group, said the researchers.

The study was funded by the University at Buffalo Center of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.

Source: The FASEB Journal
Volume 30, Number 1, Supplement 692.22
“Beta-Alanine Supplementation Improved Workload Capacity and Cognitive Function of Middle Age Individuals”
Authors: T. Furst, et al. 

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