β-alanine is a common ingredient in supplements consumed by athletes. Indeed, athletes may believe that the β-alanine induced paresthesia, experienced shortly after ingestion, is associated with its ergogenic effect despite no scientific mechanism supporting this notion. The present study examined changes in cycling performance under conditions of β-alanine induced paresthesia. Eight competitive cyclists (VO2max = 61.8 ± 4.2 mL·kg·min(-1)) performed three practices, one baseline and four experimental trials. The experimental trials comprised a 1-km cycling time trial under four conditions with varying information (i.e., athlete informed β-alanine or placebo) and supplement content (athlete received β-alanine or placebo) delivered to the cyclist: informed β-alanine/received β-alanine, informed placebo/received β-alanine, informed β-alanine/received placebo and informed placebo/received placebo. Questionnaires were undertaken exploring the cyclists' experience of the effects of the experimental conditions. A possibly likely increase in mean power was associated with conditions in which β-alanine was administered (±95% CL: 2.2% ± 4.0%), but these results were inconclusive for performance enhancement (p = 0.32, effect size = 0.18, smallest worthwhile change = 56% beneficial). A possibly harmful effect was observed when cyclists were correctly informed that they had ingested a placebo (-1.0% ± 1.9%). Questionnaire data suggested that β-alanine ingestion resulted in evident sensory side effects and six cyclists reported placebo effects. Acute ingestion of β-alanine is not associated with improved 1-km TT performance in competitive cyclists. These findings are in contrast to the athlete's "belief" as cyclists reported improved energy and the ability to sustain a higher power output under conditions of β-alanine induced paresthesia.
Keywords: Belief; cycling; deception; performance.