Using beta-alanine to produce muscle carnosine is a way to increase anaerobic exercise potential, and is likely to add to the effects of creatine in some exercise settings. First discovered in the early 1900s, beta-alanine and histidine are the two components of carnosine. Histidine is already present in large quantity within skeletal muscles, so it is beta-alanine that acts as the rate-limiting factor in carnosine conversion.
During exercise, a buildup of metabolic waste limits muscle contraction, with hydrogen ions being the worst. This is primarily true of our fast fibers, which are most sensitive to hydrogen ions and extremely susceptible to fatigue. If hydrogen ions can be buffered, muscle strength can be maintained for a longer time before fatigue sets in. Anyone, including bodybuilders, involved in exercise where lactic acid buildup is a limiting factor, stands to benefit from supplementation with beta-alanine. In the gym, this benefit may translate into more reps at a given weight.
Carnosine is very effective at buffering the hydrogen ions responsible for producing lactic acid burn. Studies have shown that increasing muscle carnosine by supplementing with beta-alanine may delay fatigue and improve the muscular aspects of athletic performance.
Research also indicates that beta-alanine increases lactate threshold, improves the ability to maintain maximal power output during high-intensity exercise, and decreases neuromuscular fatigue. When carnosine levels are elevated, nerves fire at a faster rate. For example, instead of one’s body operating at 80% the day after exercise, carnosine may help it perform closer to the highest possible levels. Beta-alanine is primarily intended for athletes who are constantly using the same muscles, without the ability to take a break and recover for a few days.