Determinants of muscle carnosine content

Amino Acids. 2012 Jul;43(1):5-12. doi: 10.1007/s00726-012-1233-y. Epub 2012 Feb 11.


The main determinant of muscle carnosine (M-Carn) content is undoubtedly species, with, for example, aerobically trained female vegetarian athletes [with circa 13 mmol/kg dry muscle (dm)] having just 1/10th of that found in trained thoroughbred horses. Muscle fibre type is another key determinant, as type II fibres have a higher M-Carn or muscle histidine containing dipeptide (M-HCD) content than type I fibres. In vegetarians, M-Carn is limited by hepatic synthesis of β-alanine, whereas in omnivores this is augmented by the hydrolysis of dietary supplied HCD's resulting in muscle levels two or more times higher. β-alanine supplementation will increase M-Carn. The same increase in M-Carn occurs with administration of an equal molar quantity of carnosine as an alternative source of β-alanine. Following the cessation of supplementation, M-Carn returns to pre-supplementation levels, with an estimated t1/2 of 5-9 weeks. Higher than normal M-Carn contents have been noted in some chronically weight-trained subjects, but it is unclear if this is due to the training per se, or secondary to changes in muscle fibre composition, an increase in β-alanine intake or even anabolic steroid use. There is no measureable loss of M-Carn with acute exercise, although exercise-induced muscle damage may result in raised plasma concentrations in equines. Animal studies indicate effects of gender and age, but human studies lack sufficient control of the effects of diet and changes in muscle fibre composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carnosine / blood
  • Carnosine / metabolism*
  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / chemistry
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • beta-Alanine


  • beta-Alanine
  • Carnosine