Resistance training is associated with periods of acute intracellular hypoxia with increased H(+) production and low intramuscular pH. The aim of this study was to investigate the possible adaptive response in muscle carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) in bodybuilders. Extracts of biopsies of m. vastus lateralis of 6 national-level competitive bodybuilders and 6 age-matched untrained but moderately active healthy subjects were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Significant differences were shown in carnosine (p < 0.001) and histidine (p < 0.05). Muscle carnosine in bodybuilders was twice that in controls. The carnosine contents measured are the highest recorded in human muscle and represent a 20% contribution to muscle buffering capacity. Taurine was 38% lower in bodybuilders, though the difference was not significant. Possible causes for the changes observed are prolonged repetitive exposure to low muscle pH, change of diet or dietary supplement use, or the use of anabolic steroids. The increase in buffering capacity could influence the ability to carry out intense muscular activity.