Purpose of review: The use of dietary supplements in sports is widespread as athletes are continuously searching for strategies to increase performance at the highest level. Beta-alanine is such a supplement that became increasingly popular during the past years. This review examines the available evidence regarding the optimization of supplementation, the link between beta-alanine and exercise performance and the underlying ergogenic mechanism.
Recent findings: It has been repeatedly demonstrated that chronic beta-alanine supplementation can augment intramuscular carnosine content. Yet, the factors that determine the loading process, as well as the mechanism by which this has an ergogenic effect, are still debated. On the basis of its biochemical properties, several functions are ascribed to carnosine, of which intramuscular pH buffer and calcium regulator are the most cited ones. In addition, carnosine has antiglycation and antioxidant properties, suggesting it could have a therapeutic potential.
Summary: On the basis of the millimolar presence of carnosine in mammalian muscles, it must play a critical role in skeletal muscle physiology. The recent number of studies shows that this is related to an improved exercise homeostasis and excitation-contraction coupling. Recent developments have led to the optimization of the beta-alanine supplementation strategies to elevate muscle carnosine content, which are helpful in its application in sports and to potential future therapeutic applications.