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Beta-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval training augments metabolic adaptations and endurance performance in college-aged men

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Background

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted to evaluate the effects β-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on endurance performance.

Methods

Forty-six college-aged men (Age: 22.2 ± 3.3 yrs, VO2peak: 42.6 ± 6.2 ml·kg·min-1, 3.3 ± 0.6 l·min-1) volunteered to participate. In a random fashion, all subjects were placed into one of three groups: placebo (PL – 16.5 g of flavored dextrose powder per packet; n = 18), β-alanine (BA – 1.5 g β-alanine plus 15 g of flavored dextrose powder per packet; n = 18) or control (n = 10) groups. Each treatment group ingested one packet 4 times per day (total of 6 g/day) for the first 21-day adaptation phase, followed by 2 times per day (3 g/day) for the subsequent 21 days. All participants performed a continuous VO2peak test on a cycle ergometer (Corval Lode, Gronigen, the Netherlands) which was further used to establish ventilatory threshold (VT), and total time to exhaustion (VO2TTE, seconds) at pre-, mid- and post-testing. Total work done (TWD) was also measured, calculated from the total time (T; seconds) completed at a workload corresponding to 110% of their maximal power output (watt, W) determined from the VO2peak test [TWD (kJ) = (T × W)/1000]. Following initial testing, all participants in the BA and PL groups engaged in a 3 week supplementing and training adaptation phase. Each training session in the adaptation phase consisted of 5 bouts of a 2:1 minute cycling work to rest ratio, introduced in an undulating progression starting at 90% VO2peak power output and reaching 110%. The second 3 week training phase progressed, reaching intensities up to 115% of VO2peak. Body composition was assessed using air displacement plethysmography (Bod Pod®) at pre- mid- and post-testing. Separate one-way analyses of covariance were used to identify and group (BA vs. PL. vs. CON) × time (Mid- vs. Post-) interactions, adjusting mean post-test values for differences in the mid-test scores, due to the supplementing and training adaptation phase.

Results

There was a significant difference among all post-test GXT variables (VO2peak, VO2TTE, and VT) and TWD, after adjusting for the mid-test adaptation values (p ≤ 0.000). However, there were no differences between treatment group means. Individual responses indicated a greater number of the BA participants improving in VO2peak (83%) and VO2TTE (72%) performance over the PL group (61% and 56%, respectively). Furthermore, bonferroni-corrected post-hoc pairwise comparisons indicated the significant increases in TWD were greater for the BA group than the CON (p = 0.029). There were no significant changes in body composition following training and supplementing.

Conclusion

Three weeks of combined β-alanine supplementation and HIIT, following a 21-day β-alanine loading and HIIT adaptation phase, significantly improves aerobic performance. The improvements in performance may be attributed to a greater reliance on aerobic metabolism due to chronic adaptations to HIIT, in combination with an improved muscle buffering capacity as a result of an increase in intramuscular carnosine levels.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank FSI Nutrition, 2132 South 156th Circle, Omaha, NE http://www.fsinutrition.com and RunFast Promotions, 8790 Wendy Lane South, West Palm Beach FL, 33411 http://www.runfastpromotions.com for supporting and funding this research endeavor.

Author information

Correspondence to Abbie E Smith.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Keywords

  • Carnosine
  • Adaptation Phase
  • Ventilatory Threshold
  • Carnosine Level
  • VO2peak Test