Episode 152 of the Institute of Performance Nutrition's "We Do Science" podcast! In this episode, I (Laurent Bannock) discuss "Beta Alanine Supplementation and Exercise Capacity & Performance" with Professor Craig Sale (Nottingham Trent University, UK) and Dr Bryan Saunders (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil).
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WE DO SCIENCE PODCAST
JAN. 27, 2021
"Beta Alanine Supplementation and Exercise Capacity & Performance"
with Professor Craig Sale PhD and Dr Bryan Saunders PhD
[00:00:00] LB: Hi, and welcome to Episode 152 of the Institute of Performance Nutrition’s We Do Science Podcastand I am Laurent Bannock. Today, I have just finished another great conversation with another double act, which I aim to bring many of these double acts to you this year, in 2021 on the podcast series. Today, my double act consisted of Professor Craig Sale and Dr. Bryan Saunders. If you’re familiar with these guys, you’ll probably know that we’ll be talking about beta alanine today.
Boy, was it an interesting conversation! I have actually done a podcast with Craig about five years ago now with Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan, where we did get into beta alanine. Of course, one could and quite rightly could argue that not a lot has really changed in the world of beta alanine, at least not dramatically so. But we still managed to talk for 90 minutes today. I feel that we had an incredibly productive conversation about the state of the science and research, as it relates to beta alanine, what all that means with regards to carnosine and carnosine concentrations in the muscle. Why that’s relevant as it relates to what goes on within the skeletal muscle, particularly during high-intensity exercise and factors such as the accumulation of hydrogen ion accumulation, resulting of course in increased acidity and the impact that does has on fatigue, and the performance limiting impact that that can have on both performances of course, but also exercise capacity in general and of course training adaptations thereof.
You’ll find all of that of great interest where our focus is of course going to be on nutrition and in particular in this case, a supplement being beta alanine. So I can’t wait for you to get stuck into that conversation that we had today. Before we do that, I just wanted to plug what we do at the Institute of Performance Nutrition if you’re not aware of what we’re up to. We’re all about bridging the gap between science and practice. We have a number of endeavors that we focus on. The podcast is just one of those tools if you like, that you as students, or practitioners or researchers can use to assist in your acquiring of knowledge in the field of sport and exercise nutrition and related areas.
We have a number of other things that we do, namely our professional Diploma in Performance Nutrition, which is a level seven program. Level seven on the EQF framework being master’s degree level. But it is very much a practice focused program, so whether you are a nutritionist, or a dietician, or a sport scientist or a personal trainer even, you will hugely benefit from our 100% online diploma program if your interest is in becoming as effective as a practitioner as you can be. Where we also have our SENPRO platform system, which is software if you like for practicing sport and exercise nutritionist. And nutritionist working with active people, where we provide you with a suite of business tools and nutrition coaching tools to help you become awesome in your practice and get highly effective outcomes with your clients. Go check out our platform.
There are going to be a number of other things that we are going to be pushing out this year, including some short courses, some CPD and some new series of research as well. Very excited about all of that. But enough of plugging everything we do at the IOPN. The reason why you’re all listening to this podcast is you want to hear what we had to discuss today, all about beta alanine with Craig Sale and Bryan Saunders. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
[00:04:08] LB: Hi and welcome back to the Institute Performance Nutrition’s We Do Science Podcast. I am very excited to bring another double act to you today, where we’re going to be talking about beta alanine. That in itself may give you some kind of a hint as to some of the people that I could be talking to. But to save you the anxiety of trying to work it out, I am very happy to welcome Professor Craig Sale and Dr. Bryan Saunders. Hi, guys. How are you doing?
[00:04:38] CS: Yeah, good. Thanks. Laurent, how are you?
[00:04:40] LB: I’m excellent. I’m excellent. Craig, look, you and I have known each other for years now in many different capacities and we have actually done a podcast before on beta alanine, about five years ago. I know when we first talked about doing another podcast, it was a case of, well, not a lot has changed since those days. But there have been some developments, and that is why I’m particularly excited to get back into this topic because it remains a very important topic in sport and exercise nutrition, where there has always been a great deal of interest in ergogenic aids, and supplements and so on. But relative to the amount of excitement there is on that topic, there aren’t actually many tools in the toolbox. There aren’t that many supplements available. There is one of them.
Of course, Bryan, I’m welcoming you to the podcast, so I’m super excited to have you come join Craig and I on this conversation. You of course have also accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and research in this area. But let’s just start with Craig, give us a quick overview for those that haven’t listened to some of my previous podcast that you’ve been on then we go from there.
[00:05:56] CS: Yes, Laurent. Thanks very much for inviting me again, Laurent. I’m a professor of human physiology and the director for the Sport, Health and Performance Enhancement Research Group at Nottingham Trent University now. I guess my as far as this podcast is concern, my work on beta alanine started when I was a senior lecturer back at the University of Chichester where I was working very closely at that time and quite luckily as far as my future career is concerned, with a guy called Professor Roger Harris.
There we started to do quite a few of the sort of early studies, particularly early human studies around beta alanine supplementation and its effect on performance. Probably over the next — like I said, it was probably early 2000s, I think we published the first paper in 2006, 2007 with the rest of couple of papers. But we had some of that data around a little bit earlier than that, we’re just trying to accumulate enough data to decide what was and what wasn’t going on. But over the sort of next 10 or 12 years or so, I sort of conducted quite a bit of research on beta alanine supplementation. That’s quite a bit more in recent years, and Bryan and the group at São Paulo has really taken over the mantle with regards to the top end of the latest stuff in this area. So they are now sort of the world leaders in that area I would say, and I am sort of becoming service to requirements. I could at least talk historically about beta alanine.
[00:07:26] LB: You are not a service to requirements, Craig. We still find a use for your one way or the other.
[00:07:32] CS: At least someone can, Laurent.
[00:07:34] LB: Yeah. We’ll leave that one there. Bryan, tell us about yourself then. Craig has obviously done a pseudo intro there, but where are you first and what are you up to?
[00:07:43] BS: Well, first of all, thanks a lot for having me here, Laurent. It’s a pleasure. Currently, I’m a researcher and a lecturer in sports and exercise science at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo in Brazil. A lot of my research is on the effect of sport, nutrition and exercise physiology and with a specific interest in nutritional supplements to improve exercise performance and the mechanisms underpinning these improvements.
To my work in this research line, I actually started about 12 years ago now when I undertook a PhD at Nottingham Trent University under the supervision of Caroline Sunderland. And as it happens, the other man in the room here, Craig Sale. That’s where my journey with beta alanine began, and sort of ever since, after completing my PhD, I moved over here so it’s almost nine years I’ve been here. As Craig says, there was already a great group of researchers working on beta alanine over here and we’ve continued that process over the last few years. Don’t worry, Craig, we’ll still invite you onto the out paper or two.
[00:08:55] LB: Craig, you’ve mentioned Roger Harris there and of course, we did sort of dove over to Roger or Professor Harris back on the podcast five years ago. Because of course he is particularly relevant to this topic that we’re going to get into and has influenced both of you hugely over time. But when we start thinking about the amount of time that’s gone by, the amount of time that’s gone into researching this what could be thought of as a pretty small area in many respects. We take that back to when carnosine and or beta alanine were first identified, bear in mind, it’s 2021 now.
Craig and I are both from the UK. Bryan you’re out in Brazil. This is very much an international endeavor and yet the story continues. It’s still not a finished project. Craig, if it’s even possible to give us a quick one-on-one on the history of beta alanine, I think that would be great place for us to start.
[00:09:56] CS: I guess the important thing is really to realize that although we talk a lot about beta alanine supplementation, what we’re really interested in is the dipeptide carnosine. The idea really is that — well in fact, they’re not even that interested in carnosine as far as muscle performance is concerned. What we’re really interested in is the small part of the histidine molecule that makes up the carnosine molecule. I’ll sort of explain where we come from to that if that makes some sense.
It’s the carnosine molecule that is abundant in skeletal muscle. I’ll say millimolar concentrations in skeletal muscle. One of the things that it can do is to buffer the PH so it can control PH within reasonably tight limit up to a certain point. That is particularly important of course for the high-intensity exercise. But carnosine is basically made up of two amino acids. It’s made up of a beta alanine, which is the topic of interest specifically today, and also histidine.
In Germany, you can consume histidine, you can consume beta alanine, you can consume carnosine within the diet. One of the problems is, that there’s an enzyme in the plasma that splits that dipeptide into its two constituent amino acids. You need to then get those two constituent amino acids around the body and taken up into the skeletal muscle. But the problem that you’ve got is the limitation then to the transport and resynthesis of that dipeptide in the skeletal muscle is limited by how much beta alanine is available.
We showed that reasonably straightforwardly in that first 2006 paper that I mentioned in the introduction there, that’s how we got into beta alanine supplementation. Is that you’re not particularly interested as I said in the beta alanine. What we’re interested in is trying to increase the carnosine content in the skeletal muscle, which allows an improvement in the muscles ability to get a handle of the hydrogen ions that are produced when you exercise really hard. There are a number of other purported physiological mechanisms for carnosine in skeletal muscle but have a certain implication for performance or even why the healthy implication. But really, generally speaking, much of the evidence in the exercise field points towards a positive effect in PH regulation.
That’s really sort of the historical development of where the idea behind increase in the carnosine content in the skeletal muscle comes from and the reason for beta alanine supplementation specifically.
[00:12:33] LB: Craig, given you guys both come from the same background with regards to legacy provided by Roger Harris in this regard, I mean, how — so there’s more or less firsthand. How did this even come about? Was this sort of an accident which happens in research or was this a byproduct of a very long process of looking something very specific. How did this even come about?
[00:13:00] CS: Well, I mean my involvement in it came obviously a little bit later than Roger, because Roger had been involved particularly in looking at things that might improve the muscle performance, the exercise performance of horses at one stage. And obviously as you know, he’s very interested in creatine. Sort of by way of looking at other things in the muscle that might influence performance also came by this, this potential for carnosine to act as an intracellular PH buffer. Of course, when you talk about high-intensity exercise capacity in particular, the ability to be able to handle that hydrogen ion production certainly at that time was considered to be very, very important for the ability to continue that high-intensity exercise.
I think it sort of came from those comparative animal studies, and you can see that when — as a human, it actually got a reasonably small amount of intramuscular carnosine if you compare that to some of the species who exercise hard to hunt or exercise hard to avoid being killed by a hunter, a predator. For example, hunting dogs, deer, horses have much, much higher carnosine concentration or histidine containing dipeptide concentrations in their muscles than humans do. Some of that comparative physiology, there’s a nice paper that’s written relatively recently by a colleague of Bryan, Eimear Dolan, which looked at some of the history of those comparative studies that sort of underpin that rationale.
I came in really right at the start of the genuine, if you want, the human investigation in relation to the effect of beta alanine and carnosine. That was like say probably early 2000s. When I first met with Roger, we’re initially a plate of fish and chips believe it or not. That’s how it all started for me. It’s fish and chips on a Friday. We had a discussion about this and I recently just moved off to my PhD at John Moores Town at Chichester to start my first job and I was looking for something to get involved with as far as research is concerned. Then that discussion extended well beyond dinner, and pudding and a couple of hours about this topic, and it is quite clear that it’s going to be quite exciting and it was interesting to me. That’s then I said, “Look, I’m keen to get involved in this. Give me some jobs to do” and Roger was keen to do that. So yes, how it all started for me basically.
[00:15:37] LB: And many fish and chips later, here we are.
[00:15:39] CS: Yes, too many.
[00:15:40] LB: Bryan, with fish and chips being the segue to our next conversation, look, I know you’ve started off there and you are where you are now and we’re going to delve into what you found in your work and research during the course of this conversation. But I think one thing that would be rather useful given the variety of people we have as an audience, a sport scientist, and nutritionist, dietician, professional trainers and so on. We’re talking about something that’s referred to being an ergogenic aid or it has ergogenic properties. What does that term mean and what is the significance of that as it relates to this sort of area of science? And people like yourself, us, still spending so much time researching ergogenic properties of substances.
[00:16:29] BS: Sure. Obviously, the term ergogenic aid is something that suggest that it’s something that can improve exercise performance. Anything could potentially be an ergogenic aid, it could be a new set of shoes, it could be a supplement, it could be food, it could be — or training. But then obviously, when we get down to sort of maybe the finer details, that’s where these sorts of minor nutritional ergogenic aids come into play of which beta alanine is one.
If you actually look at a couple of years ago, the International Olympic Committee came out with sort of a consensus statement about guidelines for nutrition and supplements and what kind of role they could play on exercise performance. I think it was pretty groundbreaking because it was the first time that they actually made reference to supplements and that ergogenic potential. They only highlighted five supplements that could be considered sort of to have good to strong evidence that it could in some situations improve exercise performance. Beta alanine was in fact one of these. I supposed, the reason we continue to do this research, I think there is a good evidence base right now, but we can suggest that yes, it is one of those that works. But I think there’s always still more to be done. Now, we’re trying to delve into the details, in what specific kind of activities can it work, how can we maybe optimize its efficacy and the details like that. So that I think is what drives us to continue researching.
[00:18:13] LB: Craig, I remember having you — well, you’ve done lots of presentations for us over the years. But one topic you gave us which was particularly interesting was this concept of a supplement and what is a supplement and how do we differentiate supplements from an aid, ergogenic aid. And there’s other things people supplement that may not necessarily be legal, then of course, there’s this issue of a substance in isolation. It’s not necessarily the same thing as a combination of substances. I know, I said podcast in itself obviously. But what are your thoughts on that, Craig, since we are talking about something that ultimately is taken as a supplement?
[00:18:54] CS: Yeah. I think what that is really suggesting in some respect is that what you’re doing is supplementing, you’re adding something additional to what’s there available in the diet. Now, of course, under these circumstances as I said earlier, you can consume these things in the diet, particularly if you’re a meat-eater. So there are relatively high concentrations of these things in carnosine. I’m talking about histidine containing dipeptides in beef, chicken, pork, turkey, fish, since we go back to fish and chips.
I mean, I think that there are these dietary sources. It’s not necessarily something that isn’t provided in the diet. But what you are providing him — the same for creatine actually, of course. What you’re providing here is concentration in excess of the amount that you would normally be able to receive in the diet. Of course, there are rather supplements. It might not necessarily be immediately available in the diet or whatever, but I think what we’re talking about here is something that is available in the diet. And what you’re trying to do is additionally supplement it.
I sometimes sort of play devil’s advocate a little bit and sort of say, “Well, how using dietary supplementation any different to doping? How is that any different to taking EPO or stimulating your testosterone for example?” Those things are naturally occurring not in the way in which you give it, but then neither is beta alanine or creatine. Those things are considered different for some reason, but they’re both performance enhancing. I sometimes just sort of play devil’s advocate around that little discussion there a little bit in terms of, “Well, is there already a difference in terms of at least theoretically between what you’re trying to do with the nutrition of ergogenic aid, a nutrition supplement and the thoughts of enhancing drugs?” Sometimes actually, when you follow right the way through, it’s not as easy an argument as obviously you might initially imagine.
[00:20:53] LB: Yeah, that’s the issue there, isn’t it? This question of, are we supplementing? Are we normalizing? Are we compensating for something? There’s many different I guess rationales behind — well, we may argue the reasons for taking this over and above. Is it safe? Is it band? These are things that will unravel a bit in this conversation shortly.
Bryan, we’re talking about something a little bit loosely here, so let’s just focus into area of the body where this is particularly relevant, which is muscle. When we talk about nutrition, we do talk a lot about fueling, we talk about micronutrients, proteins, carbohydrates. And from a very reductionist perspective, I guess we talk about fuel as providing energy for locomotion, I’ll say. We talk about protein for building up the muscle, the size of the engine. But when we’re talking about something like beta alanine or carnosine specifically, it gets a little bit more complicated. Perhaps if you could just help us understand what it is we’re now starting to talk about and why is this relevant? Well, from a basic functional perspective as it relates to how the human body performs.
[00:22:09] BS: I think Craig almost alluded to it a little while earlier, it’s about sort of particularly during high-intensity activities is where we see that beta alanine might be of interest. Again, that’s because of carnosine in the muscle. When we look at high-intensity activity, what we see is that — what comes along side that is unfortunately a sort of increase in the amounts of accumulation of metabolites. In particular, hydrogen ions which cause an acidification of the muscle and muscle acidosis. We know from several studies, obviously there’s contrasting opinions, but I think in general, the majority of the research does point to a reduced muscle PH that can be associated with high-intensity exercise can impact upon exercise performance. This is because they hydrogen ions can interfere with the contractility of the muscle and interfere with energy production. So obviously, this can cause fatigue or loss of performance.
As Craig also mentioned, carnosine we know has a role in buffering in the muscle. It can actually sequester these hydrogen ions and better maintain the PH of the muscle. This is the body’s own intracellular buffering capacity. But if we can then increase the amount of carnosine within the muscle and therefore increase its buffering capacity, thereby minimizing even further a potential reduction in muscle PH, so maintain to a better extent exercise performance. I think from that aspect, I hope that’s sort of why we’re really interested in beta alanine and to increase muscle carnosine for performance.
[00:24:01] LB: Craig, why is [inaudible 00:24:02] from the perspective of supplementation. I mean, okay, look. We go through the diet, this is a perfectly natural thing within the body, within the muscle. The body is doing all the hard work so to speak in terms of managing this for the most part. Why would we even bother to supplement? What’s ultimately the argument for that?
[00:24:26] CS: I guess, ultimately, the argument is try to optimize or maximize depending on which way you’re looking at and what supplement you’re talking about, but trying to maximize and optimize the concentrations in the body. What was attractive about carnosine is one of the few ways that in theory, you can increase the buffering capacity of the muscles. There are number of different things in the muscle. Muscle proteins themselves, the bicarbonate concentration, phosphate concentration in the muscle that can help to buffer the acidosis produced during high-intensity exercise. But a lot of those things are quite difficult to change.
One of the things that you can do with carnosine is to increase its content in the muscle. Again, it’s kind of fairly analogous to the creatine story. People may or may not be more familiar with. But similarly, to creatine, what you’re trying to do is provide additional or you’re trying to supplement what’s available from the diet by providing additional, in this case, beta alanine to increase carnosine, or in that case, additional creatine. In order to be able to get the levels of which we’re supplementing from the diet, you’d have to eat a ridiculous amount of meat talking about keto and half, or something a list of meat to g et the source of concentrations that we’re talking about. Providing specifically as a supplement to the diet.
Of course, there are other groups. I mean, vegetarian and vegan athletes for example who may not be getting as much of these things in their diet as somebody who follows an omnivorous diet. It may well in theory be more important for them, because they consume very, very low levels of these things in their diet by comparison. Really what it comes down to is by trying to maximize and optimize the muscle concentration for this specific purpose, might I hasten to add, you’re providing much, much more than you could consume in the diet naturally at least unless you were a really, really a big fan of meat eating. Which I am, but even though, I would struggle with that to be honest.
[00:26:37] LB: Especially those folks in South America, they can consume vast constitutes, I’m aware of.
[00:26:44] CS: Yeah. If you can’t get nice levels in Brazil, you’re not going to get the base levels anywhere in my experience.
[00:26:49] LB: Exactly. Okay. This is what’s interesting, because whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, a fruitarian, breatharian, possibly might not enter into this conversation. But ultimately, this is something that’s going on within the muscle, and to a great, to a lesser extent, there is this acidification as you call it within the muscle. Then there is a need to budder that increase in these hydrogen ions. But Bryan, is this the same for everyone? How relevant actually is this to a spectrum of people that exist out there, from sedentary people to recreational, to elite athletes and of course, the many kinds of athletic endeavors that exist out there? What makes this relevant or not relevant to all of those areas?
[00:27:42] BS: Yeah, it’s a good point because as we said, if we think there may be alternate roles that carnosine plays within the muscle. But we believe, the one that’s undisputed is as a PH buffer. Then it only really becomes particularly necessary or important if you are incurring some sort of acidification of the muscle, this increase in hydrogen ions. Possibly, for that individual who’s a couch potato, just sat on their screen all day not doing anything, the relevance to this individual is obviously probably very, very low. Then as well, when you’re starting to look at those athletic individuals that ranges from anybody who might go for the [odd part 00:28:28] every day to maybe those physically active people, then going towards the more elite athlete, again, you’ve got a question. If it can improve your performance, if it can help you minimize fatigue a bit more, how relevant is it to you? If you’re not competing, does it really matter?
There’s obviously that question for maybe, it’s much more relevant only to the elite athlete where a gain of half a percent, one percent that you might get from a supplement makes a difference. But to the bloke who’s running five kilometers and he runs three seconds faster; does it really matter? Then within potentially that athlete population who it matters for, how relevant is it to feel sports and potentially, we’ll get into that a little bit more. But again, how necessary is improved increased buffering capacity to your particular sport? So there are definite considerations to make before sort of just running to the shop and buying this and taking on a daily basis.
[00:29:34] LB: Absolutely, yeah. [Inaudible 00:29:36] feels particularly relevant to those of us that are not just contemplating whether beta alanine has a value, but there are going to be times when perhaps you should take it. Then there might be times when you shouldn’t take it. Even in a group of people where it is something that’s going to be a value, there’s some issues there.
Craig, we’re talking about this idea of increased acidity, we’re talking about the way the body might deal with that through well-developed buffering mechanisms. But of course, when we look at why we train and the different types of training strategies that exist, we’ll be aware of course that there are ways to impact buffering and buffering capacity. I think it would be useful if maybe you could just quickly give us just a quick overview as to what’s going in there. I know you’ve already dipped into this, but I think since we’re talking about the impact that this has on performance and as I’ve just mentioned, there are scenarios where we do and then there are scenarios where we don’t necessarily want to be buffering his acidity perhaps or you can correct me if I’m wrong. What’s going on there and why is this such an important area for us to spend time on and for you guys to continue researching into?
[00:30:54] CS: Yeah. So like I said, I mean earlier on, there are number of different ways in which you could potentially, or a number of existing systems in which you could buffer the hydrogen ion production in muscle. The first port of call there is of course the physical and chemical buffers in the muscle. These like I said include the muscle protein themselves, it includes the histidine containing dipeptide, which in humans you’re talking about carnosine. There are others I should say in different species, but for humans, it is carnosine more specifically focused upon.
Of course, there is the bicarbonate pull in muscle as well that could contribute in the phosphate pull in muscle that could contribute. But one of the big things in why we focus in carnosine is, is because it’s one of the things that you can easily increase. Now of course, with different training modalities and things you could also increase your muscle proteins of course, by generating a muscle hypertrophic response. But of course, it’s difficult to significantly increase that muscle hypertrophic response, certainly it is for me as I’m getting older, it’s becoming harder and harder. But I mean, also trying to do that quickly creates a problem.
I think one of the things that we can see here in a relatively short period of time, a few weeks, you can reasonably significantly increase the ability of the muscle to buffer those hydrogen ions. Now of course, there’s also a dynamic buffering system, which transport these hydrogen ions out of the muscle, where they can also then get buffered in the blood. That’s a continued process at the same time. Because the intramuscular buffers at that sort of first port of call, and if you’re talking about for example isometric exercise, then the only option of course during dynamic exercise like I say, where you’ve got adequate profusion of the muscle, you’re also bringing this dynamic buffering systems into play.
Of course, that is where things like studying bicarbonate supplementation comes in, which is again a completely different topic. But you increase the extracellular buffering of these hydrogen ions by increasing the plasma bicarbonate concentration. And obviously, Bryan’s group also do quite a bit of work on this as well at the moment. It produces some nice recent papers.
That’s kind of where it is. It’s just an easy way. It’s not the only way, but it’s an easy way of quickly or relatively quickly increasing the buffering capacity of the muscle. Of course, the other thing to be said about inducing significant muscle hypertrophy is that there are certain elements where you wouldn’t necessarily want to significantly increase that muscle size. That’s kind of where the theory comes from for it. As well as it’s other purported to roles, but I think that’s a slightly different conversation as well. That’s the couple of reason for the supplementation as far as the intramuscular buffering aspect of it goes.
[00:33:56] LB: Bryan, what year — and I’m hanging around this topic, because I think it’s particularly relevant to understanding how why we’re not accepted to use beta alanine in terms of justifying it one way or the other in a performance nutrition strategy. It’s this concept of this accumulation of hydrogen ions, this is something that occurs within the muscles, it’s normal. But what are the implications of that increase in hydrogen ion accumulation and are we looking at this as something that is on a practical level highly impactful across all spectrums of exercise intensity, or are we looking at a particular area where this might have more ramifications, particularly as it might negatively impact performance. What are the areas that we should be paying attention to here?
[00:34:50] BS: Certainly, we see large accumulations or much larger accumulations of hydrogen ions in subsequently acidosis during those high-intensity activities, where there’s sort of predominant energy supply, is from anaerobic glycolytic sources. Those kinds of much longer duration exercises, maybe 10-kilometer running, marathon paced. These are much more aerobic activities where we see much lower accumulation of hydrogen ions in the muscle, and so hydrogen ion accumulation might not be particularly limiting to this kind of activity.
But when we go to sort of the much shorter duration activities in particular, what we see sort of exercise approximately sort of 30 seconds to 10 minutes in duration. These are the kind of activities, especially in competition where you can go all out or almost all out working at quite a high relative intensity. So a lot of the energy contribution will come from anerobic glycolysis and this leads to a subsequent increase in hydrogen ion accumulation. So particularly during these kinds of activities, where you’re working at a high relative intensity, we see large accumulations of hydrogen ions. These are particularly susceptible to potential changes in buffering capacity.
[00:36:22] LB: Craig, should we be aware or concerned with any potential influence of things like young muscle, old muscle and by that, I mean age, gender, those kinds of things? Like we see these things being relevant maybe in some areas like when I’ve spoken to you and Kirsty about bone for example. I know their implications for protein needs and the impact of things like loosing muscle in age, and so on. Is this an area that we see is also relevant with things like this hydrogen ion accumulation and the importance and role? I’m thinking things like storage and the overall management by the body within the muscle of things like carnosine. Is there anything there that’s relevant to this conversation?
[00:37:13] CS: Not so much really in terms of this. But I mean, I think generally speaking, males do tend to have higher whole muscle carnosine contents than females do. Normally, without supplementation, the males are around 20, 20 millimolar per kilogram of dry muscle and female is sort of down about 17 millimolar per kilogram dry muscle. But quite a bit of that might be accounted for differences in fiber type for example. Because we also know that these fast twitch type two muscle fibers, they contain more carnosine than the type one fibers. Which again, it kind of perfectly links into the whole role in intramuscular buffering and that kind of principle. Because obviously, these are the fast twitch fibers that are involved in the performance of high-intensity exercise activities.
For that, I don’t know really specifically a too much direct information that would suggest that males and females respond differently to supplementation for example. Both muscle fiber type seems to respond reasonably similarly to supplementation. As far as I’m aware, Bryan can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not aware of too much information that would suggest that the response would be different in males and females.
Anecdotally, there are few little bits and pieces that have suggested that maybe females experience a little bit more paresthesia, which were side effects of the supplement than males. But that might have something to do with the level of relative does between the two, kind of per unit body weight for example. I think certainly in terms of age, we’ve not shown any differences there in terms of tolerance to the supplement or response therein. So we’ve performed a couple of studies in older individuals and they seem to tolerate supplementation reasonably well, and there doesn’t seem to be too much difference in the way in which the muscle response to supplementation. Laurent, I don’t think really. There are too many issues there.
[00:39:22] LB: That’s a good thing. That helps simplify a few matters. And I’m simply mentioning it because that can be an issue across age and gender and various other things, which people are not aware necessarily could be a fact that’s worth considering.
[00:39:37] CS: I think the only thing that kind of, like I said, really accounts for some of the absolute difference is there is probably more related to the differences or the changes in the muscle fiber type rather than the actual carnosine responses themselves. I don’t know if Bryan would agree with me, but that’s kind of how I feel about it right now.
[00:39:56] LB: Look, if we’re talking about the muscle functioning and we’re talking about this in the context of exercise capacity, and performance and as you mentioned, this is the shorter events, but not necessarily less than 30 seconds and of course, anything more than 10 minutes. This is also and might lead to be of huge significance. Although of course, many events involved intermittent activities of course. This is where things get a bit complicated because there are many reasons that can result in reduced performance. Of course, we use a word that can be a bit vague at times like fatigue for example.
Bryan, what are the implications of carnosine and this whole hydrogen ion accumulation and this concept of fatigue within that sort of 30-second to 10-minute spectrum? Is there anything now that you think that is worth discussing at this point?
[00:41:01] BS: I suppose as we’ve mentioned, it might be sort of the optimal timeframe during which beta alanine might lead to performance improvement. So a few years back, we did perform a meta-analysis in which we kind of pulled all of the studies and the literature together, and we did show that for sort of specific activities, 30 seconds to 10 minutes in duration. Those high-intensity activities, these sort of most susceptible to improvements with beta alanine supplementations. If you think about the kind of modalities within that timeframe, you might think 2000-meter rowing, 4 kilometers cycling time travel performance, 100 and 200-meter swimming. During these events, probably towards the later stages of these events as the accumulation of hydrogen ions increases, they stop to become limiting to performance. Generally, not to complete total fatigue, but that individual is struggling to go just that little bit faster or go for that little bit longer. So beta alanine seems to allow those individuals within these specific kinds of timeframes to be able to just maybe push out that extra bit of effort for just that little bit longer. Meaning, they’ve gone a little bit quicker within their specific event.
[00:42:29] LB: It seems pretty clear that the advantages of delaying the onset of fatigue as it relates to work performance of bouts of all out performance, whether it’s a football pitch, or boxing match, or hill sprints on the bike. What I can see, I can see that. I think another area for this of course is during training, Craig. How should we be looking at this as a way of improving exercise capacity over a more chronic time period. Why is this relevant in that regard?
[00:43:05] CS: I think in body comparison, there’s not as much research on that sort of function as there is in terms of the sort of single application of exercise performance. But theoretically, you could see almost a bigger effect, an indirect effect if you like of being able to increase the amount of high intensity training performance, which would then subsequently have an effect on your exercise performance because you’ve been able to train harder for longer. I mean I think, it would be nice if there is a bit more research on this actually. But theoretically anyway, see where there will be a potential strong benefit of that, provided of course that you’re talking about untethered training. You’re talking about sort of maximal training that you’re not stopping at a said point.
The reason why I say that is because obviously, carnosine works best in allowing the exercise capacity to it to increase. Therefore, if you were untethering high-intensity training and you were saying, perform as hard as you can for as long as you can, that type of thing, then I could certainly see a benefit for supplementing with beta alanine to increase the muscle carnosine content for that type of activity. Of course, you may well then generate enough kind of effect for your performance. I mean, it could just as easily generate an indirect effect on performance as it might generate a direct effect in performance.
[00:44:38] LB: You guys have been using the terms capacity and maximal and of course, the other side of that is submaximal. There’s clearly in both training and performance, you go through rounds of submaximal and potentially maximal performance. Although there’s plenty of events which do not go to maximal lows of performance. Is that then, Bryan, something that really is an important factor here as it relates to beta alanine usage and what we can expect to get out of that? Given not everyone trains as hard as they possibly should, particularly if they’re recreational athletes. Whereas, certain kinds of elite athletes, although their event may be submaximal, their training may involve maximal training sessions in their periodization strategies and so on. Is there something there that we need to be bearing in mind? I know we’ve sort of touched on this, but I think I want to address it directly.
[00:45:41] BS: Yeah, it’s a good point, because I think — obviously, a lot of people bandy around the term exercise performance and maybe they don’t quite understand exercise capacity. Then within the literature, we use sort of term capacity test, sort of performance test. Generally, what we define as an exercise capacity test is as Craig said, sort of almost that untethered test where you allow an individual to go to the end. That could be any kind of intensity, but you’re asking that individual to go almost and blow out all they have in that exercise about — if you think about in real life, what does that equate to? Well, if you think about some of these domestiques cycling in the Tour de France, who are cycling, riding for their team leader. These are the kind of guys who are going to go all out, and so they really can’t go anymore, then they’ll drop off the front and they’ll sort of be going — they’ll finish the stage 20, 30 minutes down.
Then we have also called performance test, which then more people will recognize, where you try to do something as quickly as possible or do as much as possible within a set timeframe. For example, a 800-meter run, a full kilometer time travel where you try to finish these races as quickly as possible. Our research has suggested that exercise performance generally sees slightly lower benefits than exercise capacity. Again, this might simply be due to the actual amount or accumulation of hydrogen ions in the muscle, which in principle could be larger during exercise capacity test, because you are going to your maximum. Whereas, an exercise performance test, we might see a slightly lower increase in hydrogen ion accusation, perhaps, due to pacing.
[00:47:45] LB: I just wanted to, just because it’s in my head. I don’t want to ignore the difference between aerobic an anaerobic training, and of course, most events as we’ve already inferred is going to be a combination of these things. But the impact of beta alanine on strictly anaerobic training relative to aerobic training, is there something there Bryan that we should be looking at? Or is it purely this business of — it’s a combination of these activities and that’s the reality of real life and real-life training. Or given that science does like to reduce things to its simple parts. Is there something there we’re thinking about?
[00:48:25] BS: Yeah. Well, I definitely think some of our studies sometimes are too simplistic or we look at it in a far too simplistic way. By that I mean, a more aerobic activity then, so something like a 10-kilometer, 20-kilometer time trial. Then we supplement with beta alanine, we’ll have people perform pre- and post-supplementation and we see if they improve. Then generally we say, “Ah! We didn’t see an improvement.” This is because as I mentioned, aerobic activity is far less impacted by hydrogen ion accumulation than those shorter high intensity bouts.
But then if we think about as a whole and almost coming back to this concept of during training, I think we’ve got to think about, what do these people do on a day-to-day basis. Maybe their events are far more endurance-based, but most people’s training will comprise anaerobic and aerobic component. Potentially during those more anaerobic components, again, as Craig mentioned, perhaps as long as they go to their maximum and allow themselves to do more because they can do more. Then indirectly, via their training, that might lead to important adaptation or further adaptations would then improve their aerobic performance during their specific events for example.
[00:49:53] LB: Craig, as we’re talking about this, of course, we’re in danger of suggesting that it’s simply just a case of things like the accumulation of hydrogen ions and our body is going to try and buffer it in trying to increase this carnosine concentration and so on. But of course, there’s more going on there and it’s not the only buffering mechanism. Like Bryan is just suggesting, is that the danger of where some of these researches has gone is because it is very — it has isolated things down to that one method of buffering or is there other mechanisms that play here, that maybe other kinds of supplements could play a role with, or the diet or such? What are the things that we should be aware of in that regard?
[00:50:40] CS: Basically, there are two key things there in relation to sort of the carnosine topic itself. I mean, there are number of other imported physiological roles for carnosine. And two, where there might be some general relevance, is one, it’s purported ability to be able to regulate carnosine transient in the skeletal muscles, or the movement into and out of the sarcoplasmic reticulum and or the sensitive of the contractile operators to carnosine itself. Of course, that would directly impact upon muscle force reduction, muscle relaxation, which undoubtedly with in theory impact on performance. The other one is potentially, its ability to protect again reactive species production.
The later I think is a lot more speculative and particularly in relation to exercise performance, I don’t think carnosine’s role there is particularly pertinent. But certainly, the first one is, in terms of calcium sensitivity or mobilization, it is a potential interest. The only reason why I see — and there are a number of isolated muscle preparation studies, sort of where they’re sort of really reducing that balance of the performance of singular muscle fibers that showed that this is a plausible mechanism that carnosine and contribute to.
We go back a step. If that were the case and you scale that up to a whole human, then in theory, the potential performance effects of carnosine won’t be much, much wider than what we see. What we really see as Bryan said particularly in this recent meta-analysis in January that subsequent data have shown the same sort of thing, is that we’re seeing performance effects within a very, very narrow time and intensity window. That kind of does really put more towards an intracellular PH mediated effect, rather than something that — for example, if the calcium hypothesis were to be treated, you might even expect to see positive effects on one repetition max performance for example in really short activities like that. That’s not what we can really see.
It doesn’t of course role out that it could well be a contributory factor and if not, of course, it’s far more complicated than that. But generally, on whole human level, if you want to put it like that, we largely see most of the evidence pointing towards that intracellular PH regulation role. I forgot the second part of the question. What was the second part of the question, Laurent?
[00:53:20] LB: Well, actually part of this could segue as well into some of this conversation if someone had missed the references to beta alanine might think we’re talking about another kind of buffer like sodium bicarbonate for example.
[00:53:35] CS: Yeah, that was it.
[00:53:36] LB: Luckily, I stayed with you, Craig.
[00:53:40] CS: Testing. I was just testing to see if you’re still listening, Laurent.
[00:53:41] LB: Yeah, I know. I’m still there, so it’s good. I’ll carry this over to Bryan, because I know in your review, your 2018 review, you’re talking about the fact that you could actually combine this with something else like sodium bicarbonate. But again, as I was mentioning earlier, there’s more in one way the body tends to do certain things. Likewise, there’s more than one way that we attempt to for example delay the onset of fatigue, and you can even bring in the conversation of sport psychology in another conversation as it relates to this. There are some gray areas of course on what causes fatigue. Then are we talking about neuromuscular fatigue or other types of fatigue. I don’t want to open up to much of a hornet’s nets here, but what about things like sodium bicarbonate. I know it’s very difficult to look at these things combined. But what are the implications of these other buffering aids?
[00:54:38] BS: Sure. It’s certainly important because as well all know really, that most athletes will not just take one specific supplement, they’ll take many. Probably, a lot will take as many as possible. So we do need to kind of get a bit of an idea of how these in combination function. Now, there has been quite a bit of work now I believe with sort of beta alanine and potentially creatine. Craig touched upon creatine earlier. As you mentioned, sodium bicarbonate is another buffer. Actually, back during my PhD, myself and Craig, we decided to look at, if we take both beta alanine and sodium bicarb, could we get greater benefits than with either of those supplements alone when they’re combined? That’s because obviously, we have intracellular buffering, which we have carnosine and other potential compounds as well.
But then we also have the efflux of hydrogen ions out of the working muscle. The amount that goes out or the rate of which this goes out appears to be linked to the amount of circulating bicarbonate. If we supplement with sodium bicarbonate, we can increase bicarbonate in our blood and this leads to added efflux of hydrogen ions out of the working muscles. So theoretically, you’re doing even more buffering by not only just increasing carnosine, you’re also increasing that movement out of the muscle.
Our initial study suggested that there was something going on, but maybe sort of to round it off more completely within our meta-analysis as well. We had a look at all the available data at that moment, along the lines of seven or eight studies, I believe. And yeah, we did show that including sodium bicarbonate alongside beta alanine does seem to lead to greater exercise improvements than beta alanine alone. Obviously, again, everything will depend on a little bit more of around the type of exercise, et cetera. But it does suggest that these two can complement each other.
[00:57:00] LB: Look, there’s a lot to this and people can read about this in more detail in the various resources I’ll tag on to the podcast website page a series of notes and resources for this episode, which I highly recommend to everyone listens to because we can’t cover every topic on this. But inevitably, people are pretty convinced to take a pill, or a supplement or a drink or whatever if they feel it’s going to positively impact their performance. In fact, the more serious the athlete, the more motivated they are to do what they can legally hopefully to achieve that.
But of course, the are implications, Craig, of ingesting a substance. By that, I mean, not everything happens super-fast, like it might do of say, caffeine can be a pretty acute effect if we just focus on beta alanine of course supplementation. What happens when you consume it and what happens if you consume a bit too much, or not enough or what are the implications of ingesting beta alanine? Also, where the focus on it actually being of any benefit, which is an important consideration.
[00:58:20] CS: There are number of questions wrap up into one there, Laurent and I’m likely to forget half of it [inaudible 00:58:25] I’m going to be testing your listening again. The first thing is really, I think what seems to be important as far as beta alanine consumption is concerned and the amount of carnosine you then load, for a better word into muscle, is the total amount of beta alanine that you consume. So generally, a lot of our studies initially focus on sort of 6.4 grams, some 5 and 6.4 grams per day over a four-week period. There, we were getting about let’s say sort of 40 to 60% increases in the skeletal muscle content carnosine.
But equally, if you were to go to a lower dose than that, you would go to 3.2 grams per day and you would take that supplement for twice a long, you might reasonably expect a similar kind of increase in the skeletal muscle concentration or content I should say. If you have it down again and go for 1.6 grams per day but double the time again, the same sort of thing might be anticipated. In terms of that, it’s not a massive concern about does. In terms of significant outcomes, of course, beta alanine in really, really high doses is thought to be neurotoxic and we’re talking many folds higher than what we’re giving here. In terms of these amounts, there’s not much for risk of that.
The predominant side effect is something called paresthesia. The paresthesia is a bit like a tingling sensation, bit like a pins and needles supplementation that you normally get in the extremity. It’s sort of fingers and forearms, feet and toes, face, back side sometimes strangely. It’s kind of that sort of tingling sensation. That’s thought to be related to the appearance of beta alanine in plasma. So obviously, the more you give in theory, the greater and the faster the increase you get in the plasma concentration of beta alanine, the more chance you’ve then got of experience in paresthesia.
The first studies that we did again that’s published in that 2006 paper is to give 10, 20 and 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This was in free powder, I’ll come back to the distinction between free powder in a sustained release formulation in a minute. But in free powder, when you gave 10, you’ve got a small increase in the plasma concentration, but you didn’t really get to the people experiencing any of these symptoms of paresthesia. At 20, you start of get a bigger appearance and a quicker appearance in the plasma, but you’ve got a few more people with paresthesia. Then when you get to 40, then the paresthesia symptoms were significant, let’s say. You could really feel those pins and needles, it was much more sharper, it’s much more — rather than being a sort of a semi-interesting, semi comfortable feeling, it was quite a sharp short of paresthesia feeling.
That’s really what limited our approach to dosing at that time in free powder. We started to look at 10 milligrams per kilogram body weight. Because one of the other things of course, in a study, you don’t want paresthesia because you’ve been sort of double grinding your study if you’re giving the person paresthesia. They know they’re on the beta alanine. That’s where we work for that. Subsequently, there are sustained release formulations that have been developed. We’ve kind of put a physical barrier to the release of beta alanine into the circulation from the gut. Now, we can sort of give around 20 milligrams per kilogram body weight without generally significant symptoms. I hope that answered broadly the question. Have I missed anything there, Bryan?
[01:02:21] LB: Well, Bryan, you could quickly just — we could get a little bit more practical with this now as we draw this to an end. It’s not just the case of should you or shouldn’t you take it. I think that there’s an argument for those that are pretty serious with their training and performance, particularly high-intensity training and those that are operating in sort of the maximum side of that. But what actual training or sport scenarios, is there really a good argument for using beta alanine? Because we’re talking about from sort of 30 seconds to 10 minutes. But specifically, just so people can contextualize what that would be. What are the areas that you feel this has the greatest value?
[01:03:17] BS: I think we can actually be quite broad with what kind of athlete, what kind of individual could potentially get some benefits from beta alanine. Yeah, we’ve mentioned obviously that those kinds of 30 seconds to 10-minute activities, if an individual’s main competition is sort of 800-meter running, 15,000-meter running, 4-kilometer cycling time trial, 2,000-meter rowing. These are really sort of those kinds of activities that are slap bang in the middle that you would expect for beta alanine to potentially have a positive improvement.
As we’ve mentioned, I think we need to look at individual’s training. If you look at either side of those thresholds, so anything less than 30 seconds, that can be people involved potentially in strength. It could be 100-meter runner or 200-meter runner. Again, these people, their training doesn’t involve simply turning up at the track, run 100 meters and then go home. They’ve got high-intensity components to their training, which are intermittent, which also seems to be highly improved with beta alanine supplementation. Even these shorter durations, if they’re repeated, this can also benefit from beta alanine supplementation it seems.
Then again as I mentioned, you’ve got the other end and certainly sort of the more endurance sports like cycling, like a marathon. In cycling in particular, you’ve got moments of high-intensity activity as well during. You know, not only during training, but during these activities, you might have a hill climb, you have an intermediate sprint, a breakaway, a final sprint. So particularly during these moments as well, you would expect beta alanine to potentially have a benefit. I really think the implications are quite widespread. But then again, you need to look, “Are you that competitive athlete where a supplement that would potentially lead to half a percent, 1% improvement, that would be a real benefit for you. But if you’re just going out with your mates and cycling on the road and going for a beer afterwards or midway through, how much is that beta alanine really going to make a difference for you? Probably very little. You’re probably looking more towards those guys who really makes a difference.
[01:05:47] LB: Yeah. In the context of looking at it from a bigger picture perspective and the spectrum of recreational to elite athlete, yeah, it’s pretty clear. That’s why I like to use the phrase, “You can, but should you.” There are other things that you can do. Maybe you should bear in mind that you do need to be putting in the effort into the training to deserve the benefits that includes wanting the need for these additional support things.
But Craig, if somebody’s going to take beta alanine and bear in mind, you did mention before that the type of diet you habitually consume will have an implication for the determining the sort of the strength of your need for beta alanine supplementation. But of course, it is also dose dependent and it isn’t necessarily something that’s going to do anything for you one day prior to an event. What are the aspects of that look that we need to be aware of that the research have showed us to do?
[01:06:53] CS: To start in so to speak, it definitely isn’t going to do anything for you if you consume it one day prior to the event. You’re absolutely right. I mean, what it might do I suppose is give you a nice tingle of paresthesia and you might get a sort of placebo and belief effect, but that’s nothing physiological going on there. That’s what paresthesia is. But I mean, the performance enhancement effect is nothing physiological there. That’s a pure placebo effect. But placebo effect is still an effect, right? So I mean I guess there is that to be said for it.
But nonetheless, if you talk about it from the purest perspective, I would say — so you’re looking to load the muscle here. You have to load the muscle to get the kind of response that we’re talking about today in terms of increases in intramuscular buffering. Like I say, most of our studies really have played around with giving 6.4 grams per day over at least a four-week period or lower doses over longer periods. But Bryan has conducted a study of 6.4 grams per day for up to six months and looked to some of the performance effects that the muscle carnosine accumulations effect and also some of the safety effects of the supplement.
Because one of the potential problems that we’re particularly concerned with at the time is, whether — because basically, the beta alanine and [inaudible 01:08:20] share the same transport for uptake into the muscle. We’re a little bit concerned that giving these high-doses of beta alanine over time would reduce then the touring uptake into muscle. We’re a little bit concerned about in skeletal muscle, but more concerned if that becomes an issue in cardiac muscle. From what we can tell from these longer-term studies, there isn’t such a significant concern about that. At least you know that’s the sort of one of the high doses we intended to use in the studies that we’ve done over that six-month period. It seems relatively safe in those terms.
But certainly, I think, the longer you keep using it in theory, the slower the rate of accumulation in the muscle carnosine content becomes. If you look at Chester Hill’s study where we conducted a ten-week study, I think we’ve got something like a 60% increase in the muscle carnosine content after four weeks, and another six weeks of supplementation on top of that. I mean, increase that by about another 20%. In Bryan’s six months study, which he would be more qualified to talk about than I, there wasn’t really a very specific pattern in terms of the loading. If you look at it on the mean level, you kind of see what you expect to see. But if you look at it on an individual level, some individuals would still quite significantly be increasing their content between 20 and 24 weeks. Now, some of that might be confounded by multiple biopsies and other bits and pieces like that. But nonetheless, it was quite an interesting finding that the timing rates of accumulation weren’t completely consistent between individual.
To summarize briefly, the critical bit is that you need to load the muscle to get the types of effects that we’re talking about. Some studies have suggested that you could that if you’re talking at reasonably high does at 6.4 grams per day. You could get something worthwhile in a couple of weeks. I said, most of our studies have gone to four weeks at least. Obviously, like I said, if you reduce that does down lower because you don’t want the paresthesia or something like that, then you need to think about dosing over a longer period than that.
[01:10:37] LB: Thanks Craig for that. We’ve only got a few minutes here, so we need to end this. But Bryan, is this only for performance or is there are an argument for beta alanine supplementation in health? Is there anything quickly you wanted to cover on that?
[01:10:53] BS: Yeah. I mean, it certainly not my specific area, but obviously, I know Craig and colleagues here at the university do work in this area, primarily due to carnosine’s other potential roles as potentially an antioxidant or improving calcium sensitivity, inhabitation of sort of glycation end products. It has potential roles in health and disease. A colleague her at the university, she’s also leading sort of a fantastic project where they’re looking at carnosine knock out animals and seeing how these influences upon not only their exercise capacity, but also their health. It does seem to have sort of some drastic health implications when we see a loss in carnosine or no-carnosine or histidine containing dipeptides in muscle in hearts, because it’s also found in other tissues.
Now, how much that actually translates into benefits in humans, we don’t know. A lot of the studies looking at the health benefits provides sort of carnosine rather than beta alanine. But then as Craig mentioned, that’s sort of immediately cleaved in the blood and so how relevant that is. It’s probably curling up for debate. It’s certainly an area of interest and an area that a lot of people are focusing on now. Because I think we’re quite certain that there are a lot of positive performance outcomes, but I think a lot more work, a lot more in vivo work in humans needs to be done to really nail down its health potential.
[01:12:31] LB: Thanks for that. An elephant in the room on that, which one we haven’t got time to get into and maybe we shouldn’t anyway is obviously this business of people for various reasons would choose to admit a class of food like animal product for example. That has obvious implications for carnosine intake and creatine as well but another conversation. But Craig, for those that for whatever reason, they are not going to be consuming much of any animal product, particularly for athletes because this is our focus obviously. For those that have an interest in optimizing exercise capacity and performance is taking beta alanine, therefore a particular good idea. I know we sort of talked about that since we mentioned it here. Is that something that we feel that is another strong argument for?
[01:13:23] CS: I mean, far a bit for me to tell anybody what to consume and what not to consume. But certainly, if I take it from the perspective of the composition of a vegetarian or a vegan diet would be lower, no doubt about it in beta alanine and carnosine content. It would be lower in creatine content. If that individual is also looking to optimize their high-intensity exercise performance in capacity, then I would certainly suggest there would be something that they might at least want to strongly think about certainly. Because these are important compounds for that type of activity and there is no doubt that they would be getting less in their diet than even somebody who is consuming an omnivorous or a high meat containing diet and even in supplementing potentially on top of that.
Of course, supplementation alone, you can probably reach muscle saturation for something like creatine, but we don’t really know what that is for carnosine yet. We don’t really know whether there is a sealing. Well, it will be but we don’t really know what that sealing effect for the accumulation of carnosine is.
[01:14:42] LB: That just brings us right back to almost the beginning of this conversation, where we talked about the difference between a supplement or an ergogenic aid and of course, those people that don’t eat those foods that contain that. There is a risk of being nowhere near optimizing their levels. They might actually have a deficiency or an insufficiency, which in itself is interesting. But of course, that’s not really an area that’s being researches, is it because it’s will, is it? I mean, it’s not really something that I think is an area that has been a great — there’s not being much argument to focus on that, I guess.
[01:15:17] CS: No. I mean, there are other studies that have been done by our group and other groups have a collaboration between our group NTU and the guys in São Paulo. But generally speaking, is in an under researched area, particularly the vegetarian, vegan athlete is under researched in that area. It seems to be something that it’s becoming more and more popular and so it might becoming more important to conduct a few more studies in this specific area.
[01:15:52] LB: Yeah, it’s interesting the idea of levelling the field, so to speak, dietarily. Look, guys, we could go on for hours and hours in certain areas that we haven’t had time to get into. Of course, that’s why I’m going to have everyone look at your numerous contributions that we can find in some literature and sort of bits and bouts of accumulated, including our previous, Craig which we’ve got into a few things that we didn’t get into in this, so I think was a value to all of that. But Bryan, sort if I were to have a quick almost tweetable summary then, why should we take beta alanine? What’s your quick response to that question?
[01:16:29] BS: Oh, because you could potentially improve your exercise performance. That’s the main thing that we’re looking at here. That would be my main snippet. Take beta alanine chronically to be able to potentially improve your exercise capacity and performance.
[01:16:44] LB: Yeah, the cost of beta alanine there is hugely on the benefit, isn’t it? On veritable cost. I mean, even the financial cost of beta alanine isn’t particularly high compared to what we’re trying to achieve.
[01:16:57] BS: Yeah. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at how much beta alanine actually cost. But yeah, you know, for those of you who can afford it, who want to give it a try, go for it. As Craig said, who am I to stop you.
[01:17:09] LB: Craig, just finally then. Future perspective, where do we go from here. I know you’re thinking about these things already. Is there anything you wanted to share with us on that topic?
[01:17:21] CS: I mean, most of the things that our lab is doing now is going more down the health potential of beta alanine and carnosine supplementation. So you mentioned upfront that Joe Matthews is doing some work with me on this, looking up the potential for beta alanine and carnosine supplementation to improve the health of prediabetic and diabetic individuals with a new PhD student, Jay Croydon who’s come in to look at potential implications for cardiac function, cardiac muscle function. That’s kind of where our lab is going. Like I said, really, I’m not sure if the top-class performance work now in this area is being carried on by Bryan and the group over in São Paulo looking at the implications of different dosing strategies and things like this, looking for what the sealing might be for the accumulation in skeletal muscle, combining the beta alanine supplement with another supplement.
I mean, I think Bryan alluded to that point earlier where if you get an athlete, it’s quite — and I had this conversation with Jeni Pearce actually when she was working for the English Institute of Sport many, many years ago. She sort of said to me, “The question is not really whether beta alanine works. It’s whether beta alanine, plus sodium bicarbonate, plus creatine plus nitrates work?” Because that’s really half the time what many, many athletes will be actually doing. Of course, one of the things we didn’t get into is, that might not necessarily be the most sensible approach. You might be negating the effects of sometimes one supplement. You can’t just assume that more is going to be better.
[01:19:03] LB: And don’t complicate more is great.
[01:19:04] CS: Let’s put another slogan to finish off.
[01:19:10] LB: Looks, it’s been awesome. All sorts of gems came up in that. I know that one reached many people’s knowledge on this topic, whatever their level of education on this. There is much to be gaining from that. Like I said, I’ll attach notes and various other things. As well as, there will be a transcript to this conversation which I hope the transcriber will — we got to give them a nod, these people should be given a PhD by the time they transcribe all of my podcast. But if people want to find you and your work, I’ll put links to Twitter, PubMed and ResearchGate. But Craig, you’re reasonably consistent in your tweeting and so on. What’s the best way to follow you in terms of your outputs?
[01:19:52] CS: Yeah probably, for most of the things I’m on Twitter. That’s probably the best way. I tend to either put out my content or retweet interesting content. I’m becoming a grumpy old man on Twitter now, though so. But yeah, that’s probably the best way. ResearchGate as well. Most of the stuff goes onto there. They’re probably the two easiest ways, yeah.
[01:20:15] LB: That’s great. But look, there’s no fake news on Craig Sales’ accounts, so I highly recommend. Bryan, what about yourself?
[01:20:22] BS: Yeah. They can follow me on Twitter @Bicycle_Bryan. If you’re fancy following and see all the bicycle related things that I throw out there. Then obviously occasionally the work that comes out from our labs as well. That’s probably one of the best places to find me.
[01:20:39] LB: Brilliant. We’ll obviously do that. Thank you very much, guys. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation today and I appreciate. You’re busy, trying to mix that up with other crazy things that are going on in the world right now. But it’s good to escape the last hour and a half and talk about these things that we all love.
Like I said, I will link everything in this podcast episode. You can check that out via our website at www.theiopn.comand just follow the links to the podcast. I of course, am Laurent Bannock, and I look forward to bringing another episode of We Do Science back to you all very, very soon. Stay safe everyone and take care.
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