Introduction: We aimed to manipulate physiological determinants of severe exercise performance. We hypothesized that (1) beta-alanine supplementation would increase intramuscular carnosine and buffering capacity and dampen acidosis during severe cycling, (2) that high-intensity interval training (HIT) would enhance aerobic energy contribution during severe cycling, and (3) that HIT preceded by beta-alanine supplementation would have greater benefits.
Methods: Sixteen active men performed incremental cycling tests and 90-s severe (110 % peak power) cycling tests at three time points: before and after oral supplementation with either beta-alanine or placebo, and after an 11-days HIT block (9 sessions, 4 × 4 min), which followed supplementation. Carnosine was assessed via MR spectroscopy. Energy contribution during 90-s severe cycling was estimated from the O2 deficit. Biopsies from m. vastus lateralis were taken before and after the test.
Results: Beta-alanine increased leg muscle carnosine (32 ± 13 %, d = 3.1). Buffering capacity and incremental cycling were unaffected, but during 90-s severe cycling, beta-alanine increased aerobic energy contribution (1.4 ± 1.3 %, d = 0.5), concurrent with reduced O2 deficit (-5.0 ± 5.0 %, d = 0.6) and muscle lactate accumulation (-23 ± 30 %, d = 0.9), while having no effect on pH. Beta-alanine also enhanced motivation and perceived state during the HIT block. There were no between-group differences in adaptations to the training block, namely increased buffering capacity (+7.9 ± 11.9 %, p = 0.04, d = 0.6, n = 14) and glycogen storage (+30 ± 47 %, p = 0.04, d = 0.5, n = 16).
Conclusions: Beta-alanine did not affect buffering considerably, but has beneficial effects on severe exercise metabolism as well as psychological parameters during intense training phases.