The Physiological Roles of Carnosine and β-Alanine in Exercising Human Skeletal Muscle

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Oct;51(10):2098-2108. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000002033.


Carnosine (β-alanyl-L-histidine) plays an important role in exercise performance and skeletal muscle homeostasis. Dietary supplementation with the rate-limiting precursor β-alanine leads to an increase in skeletal muscle carnosine content, which further potentiates its effects. There is significant interest in carnosine and β-alanine across athletic and clinical populations. Traditionally, attention has been given to performance outcomes with less focus on the underlying mechanism(s). Putative physiological roles in human skeletal muscle include acting as an intracellular pH buffer, modulating energy metabolism, regulating Ca handling and myofilament sensitivity, and scavenging of reactive species. Emerging evidence shows that carnosine could also act as a cytoplasmic Ca-H exchanger and form stable conjugates with exercise-induced reactive aldehydes. The enigmatic nature of carnosine means there is still much to learn regarding its actions and applications in exercise, health, and disease. In this review, we examine the research relating to each physiological role attributed to carnosine, and its precursor β-alanine, in exercising human skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Carnosine / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Muscle Cells / metabolism
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Myofibrils / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • beta-Alanine / metabolism*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • beta-Alanine
  • Carnosine
  • Calcium