Purpose: To critically review the methodological quality and synthesize information from systematic reviews and high quality studies on the effects of beta alanine (BA) on exercise and athletic performance.
Methods: A search strategy was developed in accordance with the standards for the reporting of scientific literature via systematic reviews. Five databases were thoroughly searched from inception to November 2012. Inclusion criteria were English language, human studies, used BA to increase exercise or athletic performance, systematic reviews or randomized controlled trials and were published in a peer-reviewed journal. Included studies were systematically graded for their methodological quality by rotating pairs of reviewers and the results were qualitatively synthesized.
Results: One systematic review and 19 randomized trials were included in this review. There is one systematic review with several methodological weaknesses that limit the confidence in its results. There are moderate to high quality studies that appear to support that BA may increase power output and working capacity, decrease the feeling of fatigue and exhaustion, and have of positive effect on body composition and carnosine content. The reporting of side effects from BA supplementation in the athletic population was generally under-reported.
Conclusions: There appears to be some evidence from this review that supplementation with BA may increase athletic performance. However, there is insufficient evidence examining the safety of BA supplementation and its side effects. It is therefore recommended to err on the side of caution in using BA as an ergogenic aid until there is sufficient evidence confirming its safety.