Beta-alanine is a naturally-occurring amino acid in the body. Beta-alanine works with histidine to form carnosine. Carnosine is a significant contributor to the maintenance of muscle tissue during exercise, by regulating intracellular pH. Increased consumption of beta-alanine increases levels of carnosine in muscle tissue, leading to improved muscular strength and stamina. Direct ingestion of beta-alanine, however, does not work well because it is broken down in the gastrointestinal tract.
Jeffrey Stout, PhD, of the University of Oklahoma, led a team of colleagues in the research. "This research could have importance in the prevention of falls, and the maintenance of health and independent living in elderly men and women," says Stout.
This double-blind, randomized controlled study involved giving 26 elderly men and women beta-alanine supplements or a placebo for 90 days. Participants' fitness levels were tested before and after the study, and the results showed that 67% of those who received beta-alanine supplementation showed a significant improvement in their fitness level, compared to 21.5% of those who received the placebo.
The researchers noted the importance of the results, particularly for elderly patients. "Our data suggest that 90 days of beta-alanine supplementation increases physical working capacity in elderly men and women. These findings are clinically significant, as a decrease in functional capacity to perform daily living tasks has been associated with an increase in mortality, primarily due to increased risk of falls."
Beta alanine can be consumed from protein rich foods like chicken, beef, pork and fish, and our bodies can synthesise it in the liver. However, additional supplementation of several grams of beta-alanine daily has been shown to deliver beneficial effects on fitness, now not only for athletes, but for the elderly as well.