β-alanine supplementation to improve exercise capacity and performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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Abstract

Objective

To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence on the effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise capacity and performance.

Design

This study was designed in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. A 3-level mixed effects model was employed to model effect sizes and account for dependencies within data.

Data sources

3 databases (PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science) were searched using a number of terms (‘β-alanine’ and ‘Beta-alanine’ combined with ‘supplementation’, ‘exercise’, ‘training’, ‘athlete’, ‘performance’ and ‘carnosine’).

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies

Inclusion/exclusion criteria limited articles to double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies investigating the effects of β-alanine supplementation on an exercise measure. All healthy participant populations were considered, while supplementation protocols were restricted to chronic ingestion. Cross-over designs were excluded due to the long washout period for skeletal muscle carnosine following supplementation. A single outcome measure was extracted for each exercise protocol and converted to effect sizes for meta-analyses.

Results

40 individual studies employing 65 different exercise protocols and totalling 70 exercise measures in 1461 participants were included in the analyses. A significant overall effect size of 0.18 (95% CI 0.08 to 0.28) was shown. Meta-regression demonstrated that exercise duration significantly (p=0.004) moderated effect sizes. Subgroup analyses also identified the type of exercise as a significant (p=0.013) moderator of effect sizes within an exercise time frame of 0.5–10 min with greater effect sizes for exercise capacity (0.4998 (95% CI 0.246 to 0.753)) versus performance (0.1078 (95% CI −0.201 to 0.416)). There was no moderating effect of training status (p=0.559), intermittent or continuous exercise (p=0.436) or total amount of β-alanine ingested (p=0.438). Co-supplementation with sodium bicarbonate resulted in the largest effect size when compared with placebo (0.43 (95% CI 0.22 to 0.64)).

Summary/conclusions

β-alanine had a significant overall effect while subgroup analyses revealed a number of modifying factors. These data allow individuals to make informed decisions as to the likelihood of an ergogenic effect with β-alanine supplementation based on their chosen exercise modality.

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