Carnosine occurs in high concentrations in human skeletal muscle and assists working capacity during high-intensity exercise. Chronic beta-alanine (BA) supplementation has consistently been shown to augment muscle carnosine concentration, but the effect of training on the carnosine loading efficiency is poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to compare muscle carnosine loading between trained and untrained arm and leg muscles. In a first study (n = 17), reliability of carnosine quantification by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H-MRS) was evaluated in deltoid and triceps brachii muscles. In a second study, participants (n = 35; 10 nonathletes, 10 cyclists, 10 swimmers, and 5 kayakers) were supplemented with 6.4 g/day of slow-release BA for 23 days. Carnosine content was evaluated in soleus, gastrocnemius medialis, and deltoid muscles by (1)H-MRS. All the results are reported as arbitrary units. In the nonathletes, BA supplementation increased carnosine content by 47% in the arm and 33% in the leg muscles (not significant). In kayakers, the increase was more pronounced in arm (deltoid) vs. leg (soleus + gastrocnemius) muscles (0.089 vs. 0.049), whereas the reverse pattern was observed in cyclists (0.065 vs. 0.084). Swimmers had significantly higher increase in carnosine in both deltoid (0.107 vs. 0.065) and gastrocnemius muscle (0.082 vs. 0.051) compared with nonathletes. We showed that 1) carnosine content can be reliably measured by (1)H-MRS in deltoid muscle, 2) carnosine loading is equally effective in arm vs. leg muscles of nonathletes, and 3) carnosine loading is more pronounced in trained vs. untrained muscles.
Keywords: histidine-containing dipeptides; muscle contractions; sport supplements.