Carnosine loading and washout in human skeletal muscles

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009 Mar;106(3):837-42. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.91357.2008. Epub 2009 Jan 8.


Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) is present in high concentrations in human skeletal muscles. The oral ingestion of beta-alanine, the rate-limiting precursor in carnosine synthesis, has been shown to elevate the muscle carnosine content both in trained and untrained humans. Little human data exist about the dynamics of the muscle carnosine content, its metabolic regulation, and its dependence on muscle fiber type. The present study aimed to investigate in three skeletal muscle types the supplementation-induced amplitude of carnosine synthesis and its subsequent elimination on cessation of supplementation (washout). Fifteen untrained males participated in a placebo-controlled double-blind study. They were supplemented for 5-6 wk with either 4.8 g/day beta-alanine or placebo. Muscle carnosine was quantified in soleus, tibialis anterior, and medial head of the gastrocnemius by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), before and after supplementation and 3 and 9 wk into washout. The beta-alanine supplementation significantly increased the carnosine content in soleus by 39%, in tibialis by 27%, and in gastrocnemius by 23% and declined post-supplementation at a rate of 2-4%/wk. Average muscle carnosine remained increased compared with baseline at 3 wk of washout (only one-third of the supplementation-induced increase had disappeared) and returned to baseline values within 9 wk at group level. Following subdivision into high responders (+55%) and low responders (+15%), washout period was 15 and 6 wk, respectively. In the placebo group, carnosine remained relatively constant with variation coefficients of 9-15% over a 3-mo period. It can be concluded that carnosine is a stable compound in human skeletal muscle, confirming the absence of carnosinase in myocytes. The present study shows that washout periods for crossover designs in supplementation studies for muscle metabolites may sometimes require months rather than weeks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carnosine / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch / metabolism
  • Muscle Fibers, Slow-Twitch / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult
  • beta-Alanine / pharmacokinetics*


  • beta-Alanine
  • Carnosine